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Thread: Touring Tail Light Housing Issues: This Applies To All Tourings!

  1. #1
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    Touring Tail Light Housing Issues: This Applies To All Tourings!

    So, a little while back, last summer, we got a week of two or three days of solid rain, raftel, here on the forum had water come into his wagon. It flooded the left rear corner. He had called me up, to let me know that the water fried the four channel Alpine amp that I gave him. It sucked because the amp was a really good one. He didnt have a chance of mounting it on the stock amp plate, instead, it was sitting on the corner platform, kinda held in place with some velcro.

    Well, water got high enough to short the power wire, and the magic smoke puffed out of the amp, sealing its fate. His other complaint, cruise control, and the climate control stopped working. Cant remember if the fuses were bad, and just kept blowing the replacements, but I went straight to the obvious, the rear of the car. Pulled the dead amp out, and snooped around.He had dried it up as good as he could, but it was still a bit of water here and there, I had a funny feeling, and sure enough, I found the culprit, the old CD changer wire harness was still wet, with water dripping out of it when I pulled it up. So we blasted it with WD40, and blew some compressed air at it to dry it out, The fuses did blow, and when he put another one in, this time, it didnt blow. It was weird, but now, the climate control unit came on, and the cruise control was now engaging. Odd, that it was blowing the circuit due to the CD changer wire harness being wet. So I zip tied the wire up high, on to another wire loom back there.

    So now that that part of the Scooby Doo mystery was solved, it had nothing to do with old man Evans screwing the butchers wife, out back on top of the compost heap, but when we did the water test with a hose, that was when I saw a water gushing in, just like a crack in a dam, spraying in. It was coming in through the corner tail light. The fixture had a huge gaping crack up in the upper corner, through the housing, right next to the upper turn signal bulbs location. The seal was just fine. As I got out of the cargo section of his wagon, I looked at the tail light, and up there, right through the red lens, you could see that the chrome section behind the lens had a gaping crack, when I pulled the tail light off the car, it had the crack all the way through the rear of the housing, so with all that crazy rain we had gotten that week, water just gushed right into his tail light, the crack had gone all the way through right next to where the upper bulb goes, the bulb holder plate isnt really waterproofed, as the design had the seal around the area sealing the whole bulb plates location on the tail light. So water was just free to come in and take Gilligans three hour tour. So his Sienna Red wagon is a 2000 528, pre facelift tail lights, I took a look at his other tail light, that would be the right side. And it had the telltale crack behind the red lens too. Pulled that off, the crack was started where that upper bulb sits, just like the other side, but it was not as bad as the left side was, it was still sealed, but you could make out the section where it would be cracking through, sometime soon. I glued up the left sides crack with epoxy, just to seal it up until he found some replacements. He got lucky finding a clean set off of ebay.

    So I checked my silver wagons tail lights, it is a 2003 wagon, so facelift tail lights, and they are showing the tell tail cracks, inside of the red turn signal lenses, same exact locations, the passenger side being worse than the drivers side. But not all the way through to the top side of the rear section of the housing. But I need to pull them again to see if it is getting any worse. So this is happening to both prefacelift, and facelift tail lights. I have a spare pre face lift corner tail light here, from my green 2000 528, and it too, has the same issue, actually is really bad, in a different way. Slightly different, the crack is not visible through the lens, but the crack migrates from the top bulb location, skips through the section where the tail light bulb goes through, but continues underneath that center section to the top side of the lower bulb hole. I have not checked my 2000 green wagons facelifted tail lights which were new, back in 2018. That wagon is in a storage facility out at the beach, in South Jersey. Ill check them next time I go out there. But I looked at a whole bunch of used tail lights for sale on ebay, and most of them have the same cracks shown through the lenses! Its a pandemic!!! Check your tail lights!
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  2. #2
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    Set the controls for the heart of the sun

  3. #3
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    Wow - thanks for the PSA. Will have to check that out

  4. #4
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    Touring Tail Light Housing Issues: This Applies To All Tourings!

    Checked mine last night. No signs of cracking up top there but I see what could be some cracking about halfway down will pull to inspect.


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  5. #5
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    Yeah, it’s gonna be the same for most touring tail lights, I’m afraid. We can thank BMW for having the plastic housings made so thin. The heat from the bulbs are what is causing this issue. Like I said, my pre facelift spare that I have here, it does not have any cracks showing through the lens, but you all saw how bad it was on the inside/backside. Everyone needs to pull their lights out and inspect. Like I said, it’s an E39 pandemic!
    Set the controls for the heart of the sun

  6. #6
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    Aww crap!
    Another thing to worry about. For the taillights to leak, the crack has to travel past the foam seal.
    Checked all of mine, 5 cracked, 5 uncracked. Each car only had one cracked, with no side prevalence.

  7. #7
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    I wonder if switching to LED bulbs would help


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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by wagons ho View Post
    Aww crap!
    Another thing to worry about. For the taillights to leak, the crack has to travel past the foam seal.
    Checked all of mine, 5 cracked, 5 uncracked. Each car only had one cracked, with no side prevalence.
    Yep! At this age, the flaws are all manifesting here and there. I’m also thinking through the years, some people maybe used the wrong bulbs that put out more heat? There are many different bulbs that have the same profile, but put out brighter, filaments that burn hotter than the specified bulbs these tail lights use. My brother being one of them, just because it fit, he thinks it was fine. Next thing I know, I’m out junking and one of the items on my list, a third brake light housing for his 540, because he used the wrong bulb.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottieducati View Post
    I wonder if switching to LED bulbs would help
    I was thinking of finding good LED bulbs for my cars for this reason, just make sure you place those resistors in line for each bulb so that the LCM doesn’t throw the bulb warning on the dash. I have a whole bunch of them, sourced from the the cycle dealership, they were like $7 each, by Bike Master. Not sure if these would work properly with the LCM, but they were made to slow down the blink rate on the bikes.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by BimmrMeUpSnotty View Post
    I was thinking of finding good LED bulbs for my cars for this reason, just make sure you place those resistors in line for each bulb so that the LCM doesnt throw the bulb warning on the dash. I have a whole bunch of them, sourced from the the cycle dealership, they were like $7 each, by Bike Master. Not sure if these would work properly with the LCM, but they were made to slow down the blink rate on the bikes.
    would be interested in seeing your results. Ive thought about doing something similar with mine but havent had the time to tinker yet.
    Shes the last of the V8s, she sucks nitro...phase 4 heads, twin overhead cams...600 horsepower through the wheels, shes meanness put to music...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twistytee View Post
    would be interested in seeing your results. I’ve thought about doing something similar with mine but haven’t had the time to tinker yet.
    Same here, time being my biggest foe, maybe a bit of laziness too. I don’t really start new threads. This thread in particular, meant to put this up last summer when I found out about the issue, after helping raftel with his car. Looked it up again, the day I put this thread up, and still couldn’t find another thread about this, all I found that was related, was an ebay sale on used tail lights that had the same issue, and the seller actually had the decency to post pictures of the same crack, up on the top of the housing. But that was it.
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  12. #12
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    Touring Tail Light Housing Issues: This Applies To All Tourings!

    Also curious if new, genuine parts have updated design or plastic formulation. I got brand new inner tails but not outer tails might just grab a new set of outers too for after paint. Gonna get new headlights modded for LED as well. Already did fogs.


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  13. #13
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    I think it was an "Owner/Installer" issue to start with...

    I picked up a set of sedan lenses a few months ago (preface lift). Finally got the headlamps installed in the 528i. Pulled and waxed all the pockets.
    Last edited by StephenVA; 04-28-2022 at 05:08 PM.
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  14. #14
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    Stephen, did you check your wagon’s corner tail lights?
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  15. #15
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    Reviving this thread for those that missed it. Dennis in the UK posted about a trade of Euro tail lights for our US ones, people need to made aware of this issue. Its due to BMW using very thin plastic walls in the housings, and the bulb being too hot.

    https://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/s...your-US-lenses
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  16. #16
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    This would be a non-issue if the crack didn't result in a water leak. But if a crack is contained within the perimeter of the water gasket, wouldn't that render it harmless? Just make sure your lenses have contained cracks. Only cracks outside of that would be a concern, right?

    Frankie
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  17. #17
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    Frankie, right where that crack that can be seen through the lens? The housing plastic is only about two to three millimeters thick, what’s happening is, the heat from the bulb melts into the plastic, and eventually cracks its way open. But as you can see in my first post, the early tail light I had from my old 2000 wagon, you couldn’t see anything happening there through the lens, but it had bad cracking up on the top sections, and a massive fault line running all the way down to the bottom bulbs location.

    A good thing to do would be to reinforce the housing’s back sections with JB weld, I guess. But who’s got the time? I know I don’t. Hell, with the cracking that can be seen on my silver wagon’s tails, I have not even bothered to remove them and do an official peek to see how bad they really are. All I know is, I don’t have any water coming in to the rear…. Yet. Haha! I’ll deal with it if I get some time, or deal with it after water gets in, that a good motivator.
    Set the controls for the heart of the sun

  18. #18
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    I forgot to add, that section where you can see the cracks through the lens? It’s all outside of the gaskets zone, so in raftel’s case, his drivers side tail light crack was so huge, that crazy three days of rain that we got, had water just cascading into the tail light bulb compartment and then it was free to gush right into the rear quarter panel area of his car. I need to pull my tail lights and inspect, and most probably seal the cracks, eventually, if I remember, order some new tail lights. The inner tailgate tail lights on my silver wagon are all faded, rough looking, and when I tried to re polish them, the clear back up lenses are all riddled with stress cracks, if you push in too hard, it will probably cave in, so I was thinking of wicking in my super thin superglue into the cracks to stiffen it up some, then wet sand the surface from 600 on up to 2000 grit, lightly, and then polish, they look so bad. I have one good solid one in my garage, so eventually, when I order new ones, I will just need the other side. My green wagons lights are in good shape.
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  19. #19
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    Still have not pulled my lights, maybe this coming week.
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  20. #20
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    Jeeezuz, it is October 2023, I still have not pulled my corner tail lights out to inspect and patch up with epoxy, or silicone. I thought I did, but nah…. I did patch raftel’s tail lights though at the time, found him an identical replacement for the Alpine amp that I gave him too!
    Set the controls for the heart of the sun

  21. #21
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    Bumping this to bring back to the top.
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  22. #22
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    Adding to this, as I lost an LED in the right running light, and sure enough, the
    inexpensive used one from ePay had cracks forming on top
    (100% credit to seller- they fully disclosed this and it was priced accordingly)
    So I siliconed it up with some RTV, and pulled out mine,
    to find it was about half full. And well cracked.
    I laughed, and then looked at the left housing.
    Sure enough, it's full of water too.

    Guess I'll pull that tomorrow and do likewise.

    Of course, the heat from the taillamps will crack it again, but maybe by then, some for your
    motivation will have rubbed off on me, Snotty, and I'll silicone some metal plates
    on top of there so that it takes longer to melt, next time.
    And deflects warter bettah, too.

    The defeatist way is to drill a tiny hole in the bottom of the housing, underneath,
    so that water will drain right back out again
    before it has a chance to build up and flood things.

    Might do that, too. I'm curious to see how the RTV holds up to the heat, first.

    t

  23. #23
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    Like I said, it is an E39 touring pandemic. Skip the silicone, use the best stuff that JB Weld makes, mix it up equally, place it on and seal the cracks all up, then mix up a second batch and do up the whole side, then forget about it.
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  24. #24
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    Funny thing is i saw this post awhile ago, and we've had rain here in Dallas recently with no problems until two days ago after which i discovered both of my rears were cracked. filled in the cracks with ABS filler sheet and Permatex plastic weld.

    Good post, glad I saw it before disaster
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  25. #25
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    I found the same issue on my 2000 touring. The red lenses passed visual inspection, and "there was no way the back side could be leaking", until I pulled my left taillight and found several cracks that appeared to be heat induced. I was never wild about the all red lights, so I ordered up some Depo euro outer taillights from Umnitza that were on sale and they seem to be holding up well for the past 3-4 years.
    Andrew

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