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Xenon Upgrade

Discussion in 'E39 (1997-2003)' started by dscottgibson, Oct 19, 2009.

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    I would like to upgrade the xenon headlights on my 2002 540i. Does anyone have any experience with the PIAA DS2 Super Cobalts that are available at BavAuto. They are expensive($450), but the Kelvin rating at 6600 seems to be an improvement over the OEM at 4000....whatever that means. Just checking before I spend the money.
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    Read up on it at Daniel Stern's site. I know of no one as knowledgeable of automotive lighting.

    anomal guest

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    I installed some "super bright" H7 bulbs for low-beams. They made a decent improvement, IMHO. They are whiter and brighter than the stock bulbs. I also added a bright, LED bulb for the angel eyes. I am in the process of a DIY HID retrofit for my 2002 530i.

    The numbers 4000 and 6000 refer to the color temperature of the bulbs. Warmer temperatures are redder and cooler temperatures are more blue. 4000 will be somewhat yellowish. 6000 is white. 6500 will be slightly white with a blue cast.

    Xenon can be HID (high intensity discharge) or not. Newer xenon bulbs are more efficient than the stock bulbs. The new ones are marketed as super bright and cost more. You will get more light output (measured in lumens). HID bulbs are even more efficient. For a given wattage, they produce more light than standard low-voltage bulbs. HID bulbs require a ballast. That is, a step-up transformer. HID bulbs should only be used with a projector assembly. In the case of e39's, that would be for low beam only if you are using OEM headlight assemblies.

    upsyes guest

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    Hey Anomal! H-Lamp Problem

    Anomal, Do you know anything or does anyone else know how to diassemble an E39 headlamp assembly that has the FACTORY OEM HID's with angel eyes. The adjuster shaft inside the headlamp assembly next to the projector portion that controls up and down movement of the lamps is broken in half. Can that part be had(the adjuster)??? Thanks anyone!

    anomal guest

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    Oh yeah, I know. I know. I cry.

    I have been meaning to write up my experiences on this. Here ya go. I do not have a short version or many pics...

    First, leverage others who have documented the procedure. Here is a good one: www.odometergears.com/subpages/E39_Headlight_FAQ.pdf. This procedure has step-by-step instructions and the part numbers for the adjusters. Though, I did not find it necessary to remove the projector assemblies like this person did. I backed out the broken adjuster piece by loosening the adjustment screw and simply put a new one in.

    You can find more tips in other BMW forums.

    -- PART 1 - Prep --

    Look for inexpensive assemblies on ebay and use them for donors. I was able to use a donor assembly to replace an adjuster, delete the egg yolks on the side, and replace the lens on my OEM Hella assemblies. Caveat: some assemblies are not compatible!

    Wear a work shirt as you will get glue on it.

    Remove the headlight assemblies from the car.

    Carefully remove all trim pieces, soft and hard, from the assemblies. There is a small clip on the end of the bottom trim strip. Squeeze this and push the end out. The neoprene trim should come off fairly easily.

    -- PART II - Separation --

    As per the procedure I referenced, heat the assembly on a wooden plank at 200-250 degrees for about 4-6 minutes.

    Don't overbake. The glue was not loosening up well on mine. I put them back in while still warm and kept going. The lens got misshapen. (Good thing I was going to replace the pitted lens anyway.)

    You may need to heat the assembly around the two screws that hold the lens together near the corner reflector. The after-market assemblers managed to fully coat the threads with glue. I snapped off the heads and had to extract the shafts with pliers and heat gun later.

    Use a heat gun or hair dryer to supplement the oven. Working from whichever point will separate best, keep heating adjacent areas for 4 inches or so and work your way around.

    -- PART III - Disassembly Details --

    Don't be afraid to pull hard to get things separated. The lens and the housing are quite durable. You will occaisionlly hear a loud snap and probably faint. This is usually just the glue letting go. Pray it is so.

    After you have successfully disassembled the lens from the housing, you are left with two large pieces covered with very sticky "German glue." Removing this glue will make it much easier to reassemble the part or, for example, to fit new side-reflectors in place. How do you get yourself out of this sticky situation? [bad pun intended] Read on.

    Heat the glue until it is just the right temperature. Too hot and the glue is runny and will just smudge. It can also stick to you and burn quite effectively. Not hot enough and it will not budge. Using a little laser-based thermometer, I found the ideal temperature to be between 95-105 degrees. You might be able to push it to 110 but it starts to get uncomfortable to handle.

    Start on the lens to learn the following technique. It is easier than cleaning out the channel in the housing.

    Heat about a 4" section with a heat gun on a low setting. Get it to where the glue is pliable but not runny. Use a scraper or your fingernail and get some glue to pull away from the lens. It needs to be maybe 1/32" or 1/16" thick for this part. Get enough gathered together that you can grip and pull on the glue. [Rejoice that you have opposable thumbs.] Pull the glue and hopefully you will get off a sizable strip. If the glue cools while you are working it, hit it with the heat gun for a few second. The better you get at this, the bigger the sections you clear off at once.

    After you have gotten off as many pieces as you can with your fingers, it is time to employ my secret method. Use glue to remove glue!. [Feel free to send me money on paypal for this tip.] You have been no doubt building up one large or many small balls of glue. Select one the size of a marble. You will want to warm it up to a workable temperature and keep it there. I have used two methods. One is just to keep it in your palm and never put it down. The easier way is to put it on a clean surface with a light bulb above it. I used a clip-on paint light with a 100 watt bulb.

    Have you ever cleaned a lint screen on a dryer? We're using the same principal here. You just get a small piece of material in your hand, lint or glue, and use it to remove the remaining material. Again, gently warm up the glue on the lens using the heat gun. Then press your warm glue marble to the glue on the lens. Pull away and the glue leaves the lens as it is now stuck on your marble. Continue this around the lens.

    Cleaning out the channel in the housing is a bit more challenging. You need to get heat into the channel without melting and deforming it. Use a smaller piece of glue for this. Flatten the glue so that it fits into the channel. Heat, stick, and pull.

    You will probably have some stringlets of glue fall onto your lens or refectors at some point. I cleaned this up with some Ooops adhesive and latex paint spill remover.

    -- PART IV - Reassembly --

    You can get the original glue from BMW or an online supplier. Before you do this you might want to ask yourself, do I ever want to go through this again? And, will the lens and housing stand up to another disassembly?

    A tech at an independent BMW shop and the guy at the parts counter of a local BMW dealer both recommended using silicone rather than the OEM glue. I opted for this solution. I used black silicone caulking. Time will tell whether or not this was a good choice.

    Take care of the internal assembly before you start the silicone flowing. For example, replace any broken adjusters and secure the internal pieces to the outer housing. Dry fit the lens.

    Use a few pea-sized pieces of the original glue to hold the side reflector in place on the lens. Pre-warm the glue a bit and put it between the reflector and lens. Then apply pressure to the joint while simultaneously heating the junction. The glue will flow, the pieces will mate. Back off the heat but maintain pressure until the glue cools and hardens. It will take just a few seconds.

    Repeat this tacking procedure for all the junction points of the inner assembly to the outer housing.

    Lay the down housing with the channel pointing up. Fill the channel in the housing about halfway with black silicone caulking. Put the lens on the housing. Insert and tighten the screws to secure the lens to the housing.You will have to tilt the assembly but the silicone will stay in place.

    Heat the clear plastic tabs on the lens and bend them around the nubs on the housing. The lens will probably not be pressed in adequately. Hold the lens to the housing somehow, e.g. with quick clamps. Let the caulking fully cure.

    Trim away excess silicone.

    Put the neoprene pieces back in place and the bottom trim strip.

    Install the headlights.

    -- Final Notes --

    It is scary to commit to this procedure. Accidents can happen. A number of parts can be ruined with heat or force that is incorrectly applied. But if you brave the procedure and are careful, you can save hundreds of dollars and get your lights exactly like you want them.

    I ruined one of the donor side reflectors on my project. I applied heat to dry a film I had applied. This made the silver crinkle. The reflector was useless. I could not find a source for individual reflectors and I did not want to buy another headlight assembly. So, I sprayed the amber OEM reflector Plasti Dip. This ended up looking pretty decent. The Plasti Dip has a subtle texture and just the right (lack of) sheen that makes it blend in perfectly with the internal parts of the assembly.

    Here are a few pics of the result. Hopefully you can tell that they have new lenses, blacked-out side reflectors, and the angel eyes are lit with "super bright" LED's. The car looks a lot younger and a bit more aggressive. After these pics I put in stealth bulbs thus removing all amber from the front.

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