DIY - Convert X3 NA model front turn lights to EU requirements
Here is what I did to convert my Canadian X3 model to street legal in Finland regarding front turn signal and parking lights. The same instructions can be used if you only want to get rid of the yellow front parking lights without adding white parking lights.
Also note that I am not involved in any way with BMW so any information here should be used at own risk and could and may be incorrect too. Everything is based on measurements and experiments.
How to convert NA spec E83 front lights to EU spec
The job can be split into two different tasks:
1. Remove yellow front parking light
2. Add extra parking light to OEM location
NA model has combined front parking light with the turn signal light. The goal is to get rid of the yellow parking light completely and have the yellow front turn signal only. Then add separate white parking lights to the front into OEM locations. This is a typical conversion that needs to be made in many countries in EU when a vehicle is exported from NA to EU.
The Light Control Module on 2006 X3 and before is different in NA and EU models. There are also pin-out differences so it may not be possible to convert the lights by just reprogramming the unit. Also the EU model has some more cables going into the headlight housing to feed the additional parking lights. So to do it the proper way, the conversion will become expensive. In Finland it has been done to couple of E46s, but an authorized BMW service told me they will not convert them anymore since there is no guarantee it will work (they have not been able to convert X5 without additional complications with for example instrument cluster).
The way E83 manages the parking light for North American models is that LCM pushes pulsed voltage to the bulb. The voltage is at 12V about 4ms and then 8ms at 0V. The bulb cannot manage this frequency thus dim light. When the turn signal is enabled, the voltage fluctuates between 12V / 0V as usually with any turn signal. Since both of these cases are using the same wire it makes it a bit tricky to separate these two functions into two different lights.
1. GET RID OF THE YELLOW PARKING LIGHT
· Check this out for parts
· side turn signal bulb holder: 63138382104 qty 2
· connector that fits the bulb holder: 61138365340 qty 2
· connector bushing contact for the connector above: 61130006665 qty 4 (I used 0,75mm2)
· wire, I used yellow 0,75mm2
· yellow led bulbs: 67-A15 1156 base at http://www.superbrightleds.com, qty 2
· zip ties, silicon, tape and other stuff that might be useful
· voltage meter / gauge
The easiest way to make the front turn signal work without parking lights is to eliminate the original signal from the bulb and get a new signal from the turn signal on the side of the car and feed it into the head light housing connector.
When working on the right side, it is handy to remove the windshield washer reservoir.
1.1 Cut the original wire
To begin with, the original front turn signal / parking light wire in the main light harness has to be cut. Find the correct cable by removing the headlight main cable connector and switch on your turn signal. Then measure the pins on the cable where the turn signal is. I cannot recall the pin number.
Remove some of the black tape in order to get access to the cables. Do not cut it right at the connector since you need to reuse the leftovers. At this point you lost your front turn signal and parking light completely. Also now that you did this there is no reason for turning back :)
Also make sure the cut cable end coming from the LCM does not ground itself to anything!
1.2 Add a new wire from the side turn signal to the front
There is a way to run an extra wire from the side turn signal to the front of the car. It is a bit tricky….. I used antenna cable to find the path for the actual wire. So try to feed the antenna or similar first where you think there might be a path for the cable. It might be a bit easier to insert the antenna cable from the small turn signal hole towards front. Try to keep the antenna cable from falling down and as towards up. In any case, it is doable without drilling any holes.
Once you have the antenna in place, tape the actual wire to the antenna and pull out the antenna to get the wire into place.
Below you can see the new yellow wire zip tied right next to the original side indicator connector:
And below you see where it comes out in front. I used some tube (see the red circle) in the front end because of sharp metal edges to make sure the cable is safe. I also tried to indicate the route for the wire.
1.3 Grab the signal from the side turn signal
The goal is to minimize the violence to the original cabling since it may be quite difficult to replace or fix. I did not want to splice into the original side turn signal wire because it is so thing. Instead I bought extra connectors, cables and bulb holder to be used.
1.3.1 Remove the side turn signal
Watch out that the cable connector won't slip inside the car. It could be tricky to find it inside the panels. Use tape or something to hold it outside the car.
1.3.2 Create a 'cable extension'
Find out from the side turn connector which one is +12V. Then take the new bulb holder, and solder the new front turn signal wire (yellow in this case) and BMW 'connector bushing lead' inside the bulb holder pin to the +12V pin. Then solder the other 'connector bushing contact' into negative pin. Below is what I mean by connector bushing lead:
I also filled the bulb holder with silicon to make sure the wires will stay there and will not short circuit. Below you can see what it will look like once connected to the car's turn signal connector.
Then snap the new hanging BMW 'connector bushing contacts' (red/white above) into the extra connector you bought. Now you have an extension cable. Then connect the new extended connector to the bulb holder that actually will hold the bulb and the 'extension bulb holder' to the connector coming from the car. See below:
Now you have an extension that also feeds the turn signal into the front turn signal wire. And everything is reversible just by unplugging the connectors and removing the extra piece. You can test that your side turn signal still works. BUT make sure the end of the new front turn signal cable will not ground itself since it will also have 12V. And of course you can also use a gauge to measure the voltage at the front turn signal cable to see that it will work too before connecting it. Below complete assembly connected.
I also changed the side turn indicator bulb into LED at this point.
1.4 Connect new wire to the original wire in the front lamp connector
Replace the original front turn signal 21W bulb with the LED bulb. Then connect the new front turn signal wire to the leftover cable in the main front lamp housing connector that you cut previously. Test your setup and see if the front turn signal will work. It should.
At this point you have gotten rid of the yellow parking light and have a turn signal again. BUT you will get a 'bulb out' warning in the instrument cluster. We need to add extra load into the original front turn signal wire to get over this issue.
1.5 Fix bulb out warning
I used a 5W 33 Ohm resistor to fool the car's monitoring. Of course you can use an extra 21W bulb and place a holder somewhere too.
Take the resistor and solder cables to both ends of it. The other end is connected with the original front turn signal wire (I used red wire for this one), and the other end is grounded (I used black wire for this). Attach the resistor somewhere safe. I put them inside plastic boxes with some drilled holes for air. It will become a bit warm but not hot. This should take care of the 'bulb out' warning light. Below are pics from both sides to give you an idea where I mounted them.
And right side. NOTE: If you want to do step 2 to add parking lights using the original signal, the right side front turn cable needs to both fool the bulb out watch and feed into the 'LCM Add-On board.
DONE for step 1.
2. ADD EXTRA PARKING LIGHTS
Check this out for parts
- bulb holder: 63128380205 qty 2
- connector bushing contact for the bulb holder: qty 4
- black and red wire (0,75mm2 or 1,5mm2)
- a fuse holder
- a fuse
- components for the circuit
- PNP transistor
- NPN transistor
- some circuit board for components
- bulbs 5W or LEDs, qty 2
There are at least two ways to get the signal for the parking lights. You can run a wire from the backlights of the car to the front and use that signal for the parking lights with or without a relay. Or you can use the original signal with some manipulation (since you already cut the wire in the previous step 1.1).
Option 1: using the signal from the back light.
There are couple of downsides in using the rear light signal. Pulse voltage is also used in the rear lights. The dim rear running lights are pulsed with an average voltage around 3,7V. This is too little to be used with a relay since it won't connect. So you need a transistor together with a relay if you want to use this approach.
The alternative is to just connect parking lights parallel with rear lights. But the 5W bulb will be very dim because it is not receiving constant 12V. Also BMW has brake force lights so the front parking lights will become brighter if your rear lights' brake force activates (since those bulbs will get constant 12V instead of pulsed 3,7V average).
I chose to take the original front parking light / turn light signal and used that to control the parking lights. The benefit is that you can turn on the parking lights with your light switch and there is no need to add new switches. There is some additional work that is needed to manipulate the signal.
The problem is that when the turn signal is enabled the parking light will blink as well, if you just connect the original wire to the new parking lights. To avoid this, I had to add a circuit that will handle the cut in signal when turn signal is on and bulb not lid.
2.1 Add new bulbs to the head light housing
Start by adding the new bulb holders and 5W bulbs (could use LEDs too) into the original head light housings. You can see the holes in the daytime running lights reflector.
Snap the connector bushing contact into the bulb holders.
On the right side of the vehicle, just open the clamp, remove the black plastic and put the bulb holder in. Cut a small piece off the black plastic cover for the parking light wire. Once done, reassemble.
On the driver's side you need to first remove the air filter case to get access to the clamp and plastic cover. There are couple of screws and the hose to remove. Once the air filter box is out of the way, repeat the same things here as on the other side.
2.2 Run extra wires
A new circuit board will be installed into the empty area on the right side of the vehicle. This is where most of the cables will end.
Prepare the left parking light first. Connect one black wire to the other parking light connector lead and ground it.
I grounded it into the same location where other headlamp stuff has been grounded, right behind the headlight. Follow the cables and you will see it. Below, the brown ones are original, mine goes under the nut.
Connect a red wire to the other connector lead and run it all the way to the right side of the vehicle where a new circuit board will be located. This will become the signal for the parking light.
Then prepare the right side. Again connect one black wire to the right side parking light connector lead and ground it. Then connect a red wire to the other connector lead and run the wire to the same location with the left side wire. This will become the signal for the right side parking light.
Extend the right side original turn signal / parking light cable to the same location with both red wires in previous steps. Mark this cable with something so that you know it will be the control signal to trigger parking lights to be turned on.
2.3 Build a circuit board
The principle is to take the original turn signal to control the power to the parking lights. The actual power to the parking lights is taken from the jump start nut. The idea is that when ever there is voltage in the original turn signal wire, light up the parking lights, and keep them lit even when the source signal is off for a while (when turn signal is enabled). So in principle this will be an additional switch with a little delay and utilizes external power source.
The board controls both left and right side parking lights.
Below is a picture of schematics for the board (no guarantee, develop your own at your own risk). Also verify the sizing of resistors and capacitor, and of course transistors.
Now that I look at this 2 months later, I think the 10 Ohm resistor was changed to the 33 Ohm 5W resistor to fool the bulb-out watch and is not included on the board.
Parking light represents both left and right side. The +12V external constant power source is connected to the jump start positive nut. Ground is connected to the ground nut. Also include a fuse in the power cable. Connect all the cables to the board and test.
I enclosed the board into an old backup tape box to keep it away from dirt and moisture.
There are some things that could be improved. For example, now that you lock or unlock the car, the parking lights will light up and stay lit for about 2 seconds until the capacitor is empty. Also the parking lights will illuminate when you turn on your right signal since that controls them.
DONE for Step 2. Ready to go to the inspection for street legality approval :D
I hope this will give some ideas for those who need to convert the lights. This way it is cheap to do too without changing bunch of modules without any assurance that it will work.
Thanks for the post! I am about to do a small conversion for the "city lights" myself but not for legality purpose, just to look cool. Actually, I would use them as my daytime running lights so I suppose that it would serve a slight purpose. I have purchased the 63128380205 bulb holders already. I looked everywhere and no place had that part number specifically for an X3. At realoem that part is #12 and it gives no part number or anything for it, plus in the illustration it shows a bulb holder that would not be long enough to protrude into the headlight housing. Anyhow, since I already have the 63128380205 what bushing contacts did you use with that connector? Was it the 61130006624? Also, when I tested the 63128380205 holder and my LED bulb, everything inserted fine but it never actually clicked in or locked into the hole. It seems like such a tight fit with the black plastic cover right behind it that it might hold itself in place, but that is even without the bushing contacts connector. Am I missing something? Or, how does yours fit or secure? I plan on running my wires to the fuse box (a fuse that is active with the car on) with an "add a fuse" jumper and then put in a switch under the dash in case I want to turn them off. Here is a pic of what it looked like when I was testing it in the passenger side location.
I guess I could stop by a dealer one day to see how the lights are installed on EU models at the factory. But if you install LEDs you most likely will never need to change them.
Mods, could you sticky this DIY?
DIY - convert NA x3 to Euro specs
Thanks for all of your information. I have heard of people blowing their LCM because they simply slaved the front lights off the side lights. I like your idea of using LEDs to lower the current draw on the LCM. Did you consider using the signal from the side light to switch a relay for the fronts and keep the original bulbs? How long have you had your set-up working? Just curious. Also, people underestimate how hot a dummy bulb used to fool the dash light can get. A friend almost started a fire in his car using a dummy bulb instead of a resistor designed to dissipate the heat.
FYI - I slaved the fronts off the sides and used dummy bulbs painted with high temp paint to fool the dash circuit. I then tied the new parking lights to my old blinker wires. They blinked, but it wasn't noticed at the inspection. I have DRL's on, so it is hard to see them anyway. I did it all with jumper wires after disconnecting the original connectors and un-did it right after the inspection and put it back to US spec. I'm only in Europe for a short time and didn't want to make any permanent changes to the wiring. Besides, there are tons of US spec BMW's running around Germany just fine.
Thanks again for all your info - very interesting.
Not sure what Fuse I will tie into, just something that comes on at least when the car is in accessory mode or turned on.
Thanks again for the DIY.
Bumping this thread because I'm doing some modifications related to the standing lights.
After looking onto the headlight component parts website, I found that there is a part number for the parking light socket for the X3, but the folks at Crown Auto took a pic of it and it's definitely too large to be easily assembled unless one did some major surgery with the headlamp unit. Looks like I'll be ordering the bulb socket part number given above (which is for a E46).
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