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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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Old 06-29-2009, 05:28 PM
jcourcoul jcourcoul is offline
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Location: Mexico
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 5,192
Mein Auto: 2006 325Ci
An HID headlamp DIY adventure...

Awhile back, I got a lamp out dash warning and discovered that the little pilot bulb in the high beam reflector had fallen off. In that headlamp I had previously discovered a piece of plastic that nobody guessed what it was. Turns out it was part of the autolevelling "suspension" for the headlamp and the little bulb had been pushed out by the reflector because the whole thing was shakin' loose in the wind. This is the story of how I repaired it for now. Tried to document all that transpired in the process so that the pics may be of use for other 'festers having troubles in these areas. This is for a 2006 325Ci coupe, the kind that has sealed one-piece headlamps and the problem lies in the driver's side headlamp. This car came with Bosch/ALS headlamps.

Step 1. Remove the Headlamp

Figure 1: Remove the lower trim piece by releasing the hook next to the fans, pivoting the piece out and unlatching the piece from the fender. Be careful not to break the little tab that latches to the fender sheet metal!

Four screws need to be removed, figures 2 & 3. While you're at it, unclip the cable harness and remove the air cleaner top cover, otherwise you will have very limited room.

Now you need to disconnect six (6) different electrical connectors. All have a little locking tab that needs to be pushed to release, as seen in figure 4. Next to the fender is the yellow turn signal connector, fig. 5., disconnect this first. Next are two connectors on the top edge of the headlamp (including the pilot bulb that had fallen out in my car), in fig. 6. Lastly, slide the headlamp out to disconnect the three connectors on the bottom edge, fig. 7. The gray connector is a major bitch, since the locking tab is very difficult to reach. At the end, the headlamp is free, as seen from the tail end in figure 8.

Step 2. Diagnose and repair the problem.

We had no clue to what the piece of plastic found inside was for, figure 9. However, the levelling mechanism requires the low and high beam reflectors to be mounted on a pivoting assembly, so let's examine the pivots.

First, let's take out the HID components to make room, figure 10. Unclip the wire going to the red igniter, then rotate it 30 degrees counterclockwise, which releases the connector. Lift the igniter carefully out. Rotate the black retaining ring counterclockwise until it releases and take out. Finally, with care extract the HID "bulb" out. Do NOT touch glass with bare fingers, fingerprints will bake in and cause premature dimming and failure. If contaminated, clean with microfiber cloth and isopropyl alcohol. The three pieces are in figure 11.

Looking from the rear end of the headlamp, the left pivot is attached to the horizontal aiming screw, and looks ok, figure 12. The right pivot would attach to the vertical aiming screw and the levelling servo, but there seems to be something wrong here! See figure 13 and 13a.

AHA! So that's where the mysterious piece came from!! Let's put it carefully in place with very long nosed pliers, figure 14. How to keep it in place? Dare not put glue in there for fear of sticking a moving piece and because of the high temp. Ok, lets WIRE it in place, using a convenient piece of copper (magneto) wire I had at hand, figure 15.

Step 3. Success!

Now we have to close the headlamp up, replace the dropped minibulb and slide everything in its receiver, figure 16.

Putting everything back in reverse order of extraction was fairly straightforward. The lower trim piece under the headlamp is somewhat ornery to fit, so don't tighten the four retaining screws till you get that in. Success is at hand, last figure.

Things to do:
  • A better repair could be done by going from the front. This is easy if you have a sedan, cause the lens unclips and removes easily.
  • If and when I bake my headlamps to install Angel Eyes, the piece will finally get glued and wired properly.
  • It was also a good time to polish the lens, but that will wait for the Angel Eyes as well.
  • In case of trouble on the other side, just remember it is a mirror setup. You have to take out the windshield washer bottle on that side.
  • While the headlamp is out, there are a number of other things you can do,which I will show in the next message (18 pic limit...)
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2006 325Ci
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