Replacing headlight covers/adjusters on E39
Disclaimer: Note this is for my 2000 BMW 540i with HID and adjustable beams. From 2001-2003 a different and much harder procedure is needed.
A fellow BMW owner (Vince) wrote this several years back, but with few photos:
Replacing broken headlamp adjusters ...
Although his descriptions were spot-on, I decided to redo it with with a "lot" more pictures to make it more clear to follow - so to be clear, my goal is to make his procedure clearer - kudos to him for figuring this out and putting the document together.
In addition, since after 8-9 years the actual headlight covers/lenses were blurry, I decided to install new DEPO covers with the European-style clear turn signals at the same time, which takes no extra time since you have to remove the originals anyway - why not put new ones for just $99 for the pair?
So the adjusters were broken. How can I tell? Besides the lights pointing down and being downright dangerous and almost useless at night, I had no effect by turning either adjuster (side to side or top/down). Now, the lenses: this is how they look before the “operation”:
Here is the box with the new DEPO units:
So to remove the driver’s headlight, there are 4 screws, just like Vince points out in his excellent write-up. Two on top:
And two more screws on the bottom of the headlight assembly (one is easy to spot, the other is a tad harder to see):
To get the one that is hidden, I used my newest buddy/tool from Sears – this little magnet is rated to lift up to 5 pounds, and it has an LED at the end which you can turn on/off when you need it!:
OK, enough with the tool porn. Once you get the 4 screws out, you can slide the assembly out, but don’t pull out completely yet as you have 4 connectors to remove (high beam, low beam, turn signal, and the servo/control for the adjustable feature in my car):
Here are the 4 connectors:
And here is the part that we have to open and repair. Note that since I am replacing the lens I just have it on the ground. If you are re-using the lens, put the assembly on some soft cloth or similar to prevent “new” scratches:
Here is the new lens for the driver’s side just below the original assembly:
OK, now to remove the original lens. Start by gently pulling of the top tabs:
Now, note that the other one was actually “welded” in place – they melted the plastic on purpose!:
There are a few more on each side, and on the bottom, and then the lens/covers is free:
Note that the actual glass lenses on the old assembly were dark/dirty/whatever – the following photo shows the new ones. Which one should I put back in my car?:
Remove the connector for the HID and the high beam bulb:
Then remove both of the rubber seals:
Now comes the scary part. You have to simply pull up at the metal piece holding the reflectors in order to access the broken adjusters. Pull hard, and pull straight up while holding the outer part of the housing – only the servo is holding it together at this point (note also that the HID lens is dirty!):
Normally the high and low beams are held in place by 3 points: one from the servo adjuster, and two from the actual adjusters. Since both adjusters were broken, this is the adjuster servo that was keeping things together:
OK, now on with the problematic adjusters. You can see here that both are broken:
Of course each of these adjusters has a ball and a corresponding socket. Here is the socket for the servo adjuster:
Here is one of the balls, broken inside the socket:
And same with the other one:
These are the new parts. Note that the white one was the older material, and that they are now pink, which is OK with me since only real men are comfortable wearing pink!
The problem with these adjusters is not only that they are broken – they are completely brittle. As soon as you touch it, it disintegrates!. So to remove the broken heads inside the socket, pulling them out was not an option. For the first one, I started by removing the holder:
I then drill a small hole from the opposite side and was able to break the remaining piece into smaller pieces and finally out of the socket:
For the other one, I was lucky in that it has a big hole on the opposite side of the ball/socket, so I just found something of the “right” diameter to “persuade” the broken piece of plastic out:
With the broken heads/balls out of the sockets, now we can remove the main body of each of the broken adjusters:
Once you get them both out, you are just looking at the long screws:
You can then start screwing the new adjusters in place. I went ahead and used synthetic grease to lightly coat the friction surfaces, all three sockets, and the screw, which greatly improved fitting the new pieces in, and adjusting the beams once everything was completed:
I did not like how the “hex” adjuster worked, so I cut them off – it is now much easier to adjust the beams just using the single, large knob:
Just like Vince stated, screw the adjusters all the way down. Then comes the scary part again, but this time, you have to press down the reflector assembly into all 3 of the heads. The one for the servo was somewhat easier, but the two for the adjusters were thought, even with the grease in place. Remember that the adjusters are plastic, you can break them again here in this step if you are not careful:
Edit: Additional info from SteveE39 in post #29.
Originally Posted by StevE39
Once in place, you are done with the new adjusters. You can now re-assemble the lens (or better yet, install your new, clear DEPO pieces like I did). Of course, I did clean the HID lens first – it looked much better after this!:
Another close-up of the old and new cover/lens:
Start by removing the color trim from the old cover/lens, since you will need it for the new cover/lens. It is held in place at 3 places:
Last edited by jamesdc4; 05-28-2009 at 06:04 PM.
Reason: Additional info added from later post
You then also have to remove the holder for the turn signal. If you are un-lucky as I was, it was also brittle, so it broke when I removed it. After a trip to the dealer (they had “one” in stock!), I was able to finish this part:
Put back the rubber seals – be careful not to press/push too much of you can break the adapters again!. Once you have those back in place, reinstall the high beam bulb and the HID connector.
Here is the completed assembly, ready to be put back in my car:
Here on the driver’s side I have the new one, and still have the old one on the passengers’ side:
Once I turned them ON, look at how bad the old assembly looks like compared to the new one:
Then do the other side. Seriously. It took like 3 hours to do the first one, but only about 1 hour to do the other side.
Later that night, I used my wife’s 330i to set some markers on the ground and in our fence, and I used those to adjust mine:
I then drove around (since it was at night), and after I came back I did some minor tweaking. They are now perfect, but the best part is that I can now actually see at night – that alone was reason enough to call this a job well done.
Well, I hope this helps others. Thanks again to Vince for the original writeup. Good luck!
I usually disconnect first, cuz its hard to do while holdin the light...
(Call me lazy )
BTW, roffle @ tool porn...
Good clean Pics too...
Absolutely fantastic. Well done.
I will add this to the DIY section.
Now IMA gonna do mine...that is an excellent write up with very clear photos. You have inspired me. Guess I should also do the adjusters, I know that e39dream has access to some so I'll have ta hit 'em up.
He has an excellent GB going on aluminum adjusters. Here it is:
Originally Posted by 12CoolDude
group buy: 2001+ aluminum headlight adjusters
Great DIY article. A couple of things worth mentioning. One could be life-saving. The other money-saving. As told to me by a dealer service tech, these headlights have 250 volts passing through them as illustrated on the warning label found on the back of the lamp housing. It would be a real good idea to cut the power to these headlights. Trouble is there is no dedicated fuse for headlamps on my '00 528iT. What to do?
The other smaller mention is that you should never touch the headlight bulbs with your bare hands. Use cloth gloves or hold them with a paper towel. I've Xenons ($200 per bulb!) I want those babies to last as long as possible. If I think about it, I'll get all ticked off. So I daydream about old Baywatch episodes.
If someone knows a practical way to cut power to the headlights, short of disconnecting the battery,I've love to hear about it.
I'm also in the market for replacement lenses as my are all pitted white.
Thank you guys - I am glad this seems to be helpful
Yes, you are right in not touching either one of the bulbs (the glass envelope) with your bare hands. This deposits grease/oils from your skin and will cause the glass to heat unevenly which will then cause it to explode - therefore needing to put new ones, not to mention cleaning debris.
Originally Posted by gimmefive
However, your tech is only partially right. Those HID's indeed have very high voltage through them (which actually it is closer to 20,000 volts, not just 250 volts!), but only when they are ON, and he is right, that when they are ON, you should in fact be extremely careful of anything you touch near the ballast circuit and HID bulb. HOWEVER, when the HID's are off, there is absolutely ZERO voltage on all of those modules. Doing this swap/fix with the car off and the hid's off is indeed safe and there is no worry of high voltage - just make SURE the HID's are not ON, OK?
Last edited by wquiles; 12-20-2007 at 09:08 AM.
for those looking for instructions on replacing the headlight adjusters for '01 and later lights:
note that some headlights have a black goo holding on the lens, which are relatively easy to work with, while others have some kind of stronger sealant, which is very difficult to work with.
Originally Posted by 12CoolDude
Originally Posted by jamesdc4
Guys- the aluminum adjusters are for the 2001-2003 lights only. The earlier lights have adjusters readily available from the dealer or pelican parts. I know it's confusing, that's why I make it a point to correct the info so that no one buys these for 125.00 and then realizes they will not fit 97-00 lights.
Can anyone recommend a place/vendor that sells these replacement headlight lenses?
Originally Posted by e39dream
That IS kind of important.
Last edited by jamesdc4; 03-12-2008 at 10:51 AM.
Originally Posted by gimmefive
Ebay. Just do a search for them
So, it got really cold a few days ago here in Atlanta (20s), and I hit a speedbump a little harder than I normally would... well both xenon headlights dropped their angle so that they now point about 25ft ahead of the car. Sounds like I have the broken adjustor problem! I will attempt to adjust the headlights first, just to make sure (I'll do it tomorrow night), but if they truly are broken, I'm a little nervouse, but I am going to try to do this myself and save my $1200 for something better.
NOTE: If I'm right, I'm thinking that living in a normally hot climate and then jarring the car in very cold climate can limit the lifespan of these plastic parts.
I'll be back for an update.
I wanted to show my appreciation to the wquiles. I just swapped all 4 adjusters for both my headlights. It was a major pain, without this DIY I would just bought new headlights. Thanks again.
2003 E39 M5 www.mym5.net
Sold: 1997 E39 540
Sold: 2004 E60 525
You are very welcome. Glad I was able to help out
Originally Posted by Busta
E39 Xenon Bulb replacement
This may sound like a silly question, but I am trying to remove
the Xenon bulb in my E39 to replace and it seems stuck.
I removed the ballast plug and the bulb seems stuck. Tried to turn it
to the left or right and it's not budging. Any ideas? It's the drivers side and the light turned bright pink for about a week before it went out.
Just trying to replace it.
E39 Xenon Bulb replacement
I've got exactly the same problem, the light turned pink and died. Can the Xenon bulbs just be replaced or is there alot more to it? I can't see how these are held in place once the wiring is removed from the light. I'm hoping it's not a case of removing the whole headlight assembly to access it from the front. I've got a 2003 540i, is there any advice out there?
Are Xenon adjusters different??
I am getting conflicting information. My headlights look exactly like the ones pictured in WQuilles DIY. I can see the part numbers he used end in 924. If you look at Bavauto, they say these 924 adjusters are NOT for Xenons, but they do not list anything else for Xenon cars. In realoem.com they just show one adjuster and it is part # ending in 924 as well. They don't say for Halogen only. I called Bill Dodge BMW and he called me back and said the adjusters are different for Xenon cars and so he corrected ny parts order.
How can I tell for sure that I have xenons as they look just exactly like the DIY pictures show, but I'm being told by BMW parts that 924s are not the right ones. Can someone shed some truth to this?
Originally Posted by 540iman
Even though it is good to post this in this thread so the answers are listed here, you might get more responses if you post this in the main forum and link to this DIY thread. If you would like, I can copy your post and make it a new thread in the e39 forum for you, then copy the info back to this DIY thread later. Let me know.