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Moisture in head lamps

Discussion in 'E39 (1997-2003)' started by AJWhite, Aug 7, 2009.

    • Member

    AJWhite

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    RE: 2000- 540; I have beading water droplets inside my head lamps. Not inside the actual beams, but inside the outer covering. Do not see any visible cracks, cannot figure out how to dismantle and clean or repair. I do know that the headlamps are zenon and I should disconnect the battery when twiddling around those things.
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    102929

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    You do not have to disconnect the battery when working on the headlights - just do not turn them on.

    Moisture inside the headlight cover is normal - to some extent.

    If the car is in warm humid air and then is exposed to cooler conditions that chill the headligh cover (cool rain, car wash, etc) then the water vapour in the air inside the headlights will condense on the back of the plastic cover. This will normally clear within a day or 2.

    If not then you need to inspect the 2 curved black rubber vent tubes that are on the back side of the headlight (there is one at the top and one at the bottom - you almost have to remove the lights to access them - the tube outlet must point downward).

    They simply pull off and you should check inside them for anything that has plugged them (insects will build in them).

    If they are OK, and if you are still getting a lot of water into the lights (when in heavy rains( then it is possible that the seal is leaking betwen the front and back sections. The headlights would have to be removed and inspected.

    Cheers
    Jim Cash

    ViolinARC guest

    Post Count: 178
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    Easy to do IMO...

    I've successfully removed my headlights (Xenon) several times to change the covers to clear corners, add AE's, etc. so you can DIY. BTW, I never disconnect the battery to work on them but you can if it makes you feel safer. As stated, just don't turn them on...LOL!

    You're going to encounter three electrical connectors to the back of the housing and one that goes to the corner marker, they are a bit tricky to unclip at first but once you see how the connectors have a securing clip, they come right off. I use a flathead screwdriver between the connector and harness while I lift the clip with my fingernail using the screwdriver in a gentle twisting motion to help slide the connector free since the connection is snug.

    Now look for four screws, two up top and two down near the back. That's everything that holds the units in place besides a little "hook" at the end (near the marker), which catches the bodywork. Be careful as this portion of your trim piece can break easily. Mine was already broken and I figured out how to reattach it securely enough to be functional again. As you begin to pull the housing free, slightly angle the non-marker end outwards first to unhook the bottom trim piece from the bodywork. (WHEW) Hopefully, your light should be freed from your vehicle at this point...

    Look at the housing carefully and you are going to see two clips on the top, one clip on either end and three clips across the bottom (total of 7 clips). The top two are most likely "welded" into place but this is easily fixed by taking a very sharp blade and carefully cutting along the original path of the clip before it was melted (worked like a charm). CAREFULLY lift clips one at a time using a large flathead screwdriver. The two halves will separate quite easily and you should now have access to the "cover" with the glass lenses held in place by metal clips. Remove the metal clips and the glas lenses lift right out. You can now access the inner plastic and can clean/treat with something that will help prevent the moisture from sticking to the plastic.

    GL if you decide to give this a try...

    P.S. I believe there is a DIY w/PIX at BimmerForums.com...:cool:
    • Member

    AJWhite

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    Thanks for the advice. Will give it a try tomorrow. It is warm and humid along the coast here in Delaware, but this has just started recently. And it affects only the drivers side headlamp. There are many bugs along the country roads here, plus I have many trees above my parking pad.

    ViolinARC guest

    Post Count: 178
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    Well???

    Any luck getting those puppies out? While you have them disassembled, make sure to treat the inside of the plastic lens with something hydrophobic (i.e. FogX or equivalent) to prevent moisture from sticking to the inside of the lens. If you need any other assistance, please feel free to contact me...

    Also remember to check out the sticky thread at the top of our forum to the BF.c DIY section for our e39's as you will find a detailed write-up w/pix there as well. ;)
    • Member

    AJWhite

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    I have not had the time yet...very busy time of the year...plus discovered I have the dreaded wet floors in the back like everyone else with an E 39 that gets exposed to the elements. So I will need a half a day to set aside for the whole project...I guess I need to order new vapor barriers or use the ones in the car if they seem ok. This all may have to wait till Sept. when the tourists go home. Did get a chance to read some of the links. The detailed pictures and descriptions by you all are fantastic. Owe everyone a cold beverage when visiting Bethany Beach DE. Thanks.

    Alex
    • Member

    AJWhite

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    Got the lens out today, (drivers side), everything went fine. However I noticed some pieces of white plastic that were knocking around inside the lens. It was a broken section of the lens aiming system, that breaks after time. I also was wiping around with a towel and knocked off one of the bottom (two) plastic mounts. The top two mounts survived my "assault". I was amazed that those high tech and expensive lights are mounted with four plastic mounts, now three, and can handle the high speed forces these cars are designed for. I was also amazed at the large amount of plastic around the front of the car, and the radiator. Just like the toys we played with when we were kids, except much more expensive, and more important to my personal safety and the safety of my passengers and the other vehicles on the road.

    I am a little dismayed by the cheapness of the whole headlight system.
    (My other car is an old Nissan)

    I will make an attempt at the leaky back passenger side door later this week.

    Thanks to both of you guys (102929 and ViolinARC) for your time and very helpful descriptions.
    • Member
    • Technical Service Advisor

    mooseheadm5

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    odometergears.com has replacement headlight aiming bits. I also have a spare set of lenses if the one with the broken tabs doesn't hold.

    I don't replace the vapor barriers for the doors- they are usually perfect. The sticky stuff that holds them there is what goes bad. I use 3M strip caulk from Napa to reseal these and I place it right up to the edge of the openings in the door panel to prevent water pooling between the vapor barrier and the door panel. Make sure you clean everything really well.

    auto_x_addict guest

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    HID condensation - I do not see the light

    I have a 2000 E39 with factory Xenon setup. My production date is 5/00. I have condensation in my light all the time. I have looked for the vents that you refer to but I cannot locate them. Can someone attach a pic. Also, I was told that if I want to replace the headlight, I have to remove the bumper. I verified this with an autobody shop and a mehanic. Any comments?
    I would rather fix the current headlight, than buy a new one. If I have to replace it, I would like to replace both headlights with the 'Angel Eye' look. I have looked at these headlights and I am totally confused what type I should be purchasing. There are so many websites with so many choices and the price range is wide as well. I like the look but I am not sure I understand if the lights will show the rings when I have my low beams on or my high beams.
    I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel...yet.
    • Member

    AJWhite

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    I did get the vapor barrier repaired. Thanks Moosehead! I used the 3m stuff from NAPA. The older "gunk" (glue) holding the vapor barrier in place was pulled off with my fingers.
    My headlight assembly is still getting water inside. You do not have to remove your bumper. It is the passenger side that is wet, the driver side headlights are fine. I think the lights need a new rubber barrier to keep water out. I though Bav auto sold a gasket kit that I may try.

    The lights still work, but I am getting worried that the moisture may get into the electronics of the lights and cause a short or fire...

    ViolinARC guest

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    You do NOT have to remove the bumper...

    I have replaced the "covers" on my 07/00 xenons and you do NOT have to remove the bumper so you are being misled for a fleecing IMO. It is a fairly simple procedure to remove the headlight housings since there are only 4 set screws and the actual electrical connectors. From there you only have to unsnap the clips that hold the housing together and then it can be removed and replaced for around $99 a pair. I used the DEPO clear corner replacements because the Hella covers were too expensive...GL! :cool:

    BTW...I also added the AE's for $50 so you really don't have to buy any cheap aftermarket lights (I discourage the cheap aftermarkets as they are inferior) or an expensive Hella replacement...

    Z-Toy guest

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    Look for (and fix) cracks in the lens access cover

    I found that the cover on the back side of the light assembly (the one that allows access to the bulbs) suffered several cracks - and I used some very viscous "crazy glue" to wick into them - then spray painted both sides with primer, then painted them with the silver "chrome paint" - hoping that it would seal the thing.

    Oh, and I dried out the water by blowing in air from a hair drier (took about an hour).

    The car (a 2005 Z4 - with 23K miles) is never intentionally driven in the rain - and it filled (like it was spray inside with a windex sprayer) with moisture after parking it at a campground overnight in rain after a long drive.

    Hopefully, only my cover door is cracked - and not the rest of the assembly. The black plastic (about the size of your hand) cover was surprisingly deteriorated/cracked - and I doubt that it's something that can be sourced by itself - but I'll check in 1,400 miles when its in for scheduled service.
    • Member

    dms540i

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    You might want to post this also to the E36(?) page for response from fellow model owners with similar situations.
    • Member

    bcweir

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    BMW already thought of that. No electronics (strictly speaking) in headlamps.

    Nothing that would cause a fire anyway. Worst that could happen is you cause a bulb to short out and die early, or induce corrosion in the contacts (Don't worry -- rust isn't flammable). Any electronics are quite a safe distance away in the headlight ballasts, LKM, and the fuse box.

    What you do need to do is get rid of any water vapor trapped in your headlight assembly. You can do that by running your headlights for 15 to 20 minutes before sealing it. Then seal up the headlights so that no water vapor is still trapped in there.
    • Member

    CRKrieger

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    Use an alcohol rinse before heat. The alcohol will evaporate much faster.

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