Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Amazing E39 Headlight Adjusters Writeup By William @ Roadfly.com

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:

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:

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!

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