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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 10-13-2010, 10:17 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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List options available (sorted by cost) for 2001-2003 E39 broken headlight adjusters

What tribal-knowledge options are available when a fellow 2001-2003 E39 has broken headlight adjusters?
- REFERENCE: Broken headlight adjusters (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) (18) (19) (20) (21) (22) (23)

Specifically, this thread should cover E39's built after September 2000, namely the post-facelift 2001-2003 model year with either the Hella HID (aka xenon gas-discharge low beam with self-leveling motor) or Hella conventional (aka halogen headlights with the H7 base, 9005 holder, 9006 connector, no ballast, no self-leveling motor).
Note: The cost for a complete set of adjusters for E39's older than September 2000 is only $15 at EAC (compared to $160 for newer adjusters); so the older adjusters are not expected to be the topic of this discussion.

The headlight adjusters that are the subject of this thread should fit:
From the 09/2000 build date:
528i, 528it (wagon touring), 530i, 540i, 540it (wagon touring), M5
520d, 520i, 523i, 525d, 525i, 525td, 525tds, 528i, 530d, 530i, 535i, 540i, 540iP

I realize most of this information is known, but it's scattered about (as I found a dozen confusing options just by googling) ... and some of the information was unknown until now (e.g., the materials used); so the main intent of this thread is to consolidate the known & newly recommended options in some sort of ordered usable decision-making list.

As usual, I'll stick my neck out to show my ignorance (headlights are soooo confusing to me but I learn a lot about any problem I run into so this is my starting point)!

Here are the materials used for headlight adjusters:
- PBT (aka polybutylene terephthalate, the Hella OEM brittle polyester thermoplastic)
- Delrin (aka polyoxymethylene, i.e., the polyformaldehyde thermoplastic from odometergears & EAC Tuning)*
- Nylon-6 (aka PA6 or polyamide 6, from the Russian guys in Palatine IL on Ebay, Craigslist, & bimmer.netne.net)
- HDPE (aka high density polyethylene, i.e., I made mine out of HDPE from Tap Plastics, by hand)*
- Teflon (aka polytetrafluoroethylene, some users fabricated BMW E39 headlight adjusters out of PTFE)
- Aluminum (either nicely molded from EAC Tuning or beautifully machined in Great Britain)*
- Brass (one guy I listed makes brazed brass BMW E39 headlight adjusters; but he dropped out of sight)
Note: Items with asterisks are those materials I've had personal experience with for my headlight adjusters.


As a first stab, here are what I think are the main options available to us for a complete set:
1. New Hella headlights:
- OEM (~$710/pair for Halogens, left 63 12 6 900 199/right 63 12 6 900 200, from EAC, ~$1,520/pair Xenons from ECS, PN left 63 12 6 912 433/right 63 12 6 912 434) or
- New Hella headlights, OEM (~?/pair for Halogens, ~$900/pair Xenons from Umnitza).
Note: I do not know if you end up with the same brittle PBT plastic headlight adjusters; if so, this would devalue this choice.

2. New Depo headlights:
(~$550/pair, PN E39 "Depo Projector39 Headlights (HID & Angel Eyes Included)") Note: considered ugly by many.
Note: I do not know if you end up with the same brittle PBT headlight adjusters; if so, this would devalue this choice.

3. New DJ Auto headlights
(~$550/pair, PN E39 "DJ Auto Projectors Hella Style (HID & Angel Eyes Included)")
Note: I do not know if you end up with the same brittle PBT headlight adjusters; if so, this would devalue this choice.

4. Modified-new DJ Auto "FXR" upgraded headlights
(~$?/pair for Halogens, ~$500/pair of "DJAuto Projector 39 Hella Type" Xenons, and ~$700/pair for "DJAuto Projector39 FXR-modified Hella Type" Xenons from Matt at UmNitza.
Note: I do not know if you end up with the same brittle PBT plastic headlight adjusters; if so, this would devalue this choice.

5. Salvage yard headlights
(~$250/pair)
Note: You can sell your old headlights on Craigslist for about ??? to partially recoup your losses.

Note: You'll probably end up with the same brittle plastic PBT headlight adjusters; if so, this would devalue this choice.

See also:
- What is the plastic in the OEM Hella and aftermarket DJAuto & Depo BMW E39 headlights?
- What is the PRACTICAL difference of post-facelift halogen Hellas vs non-filament HIDs

6. Buy adjusters & have the supplier install them for you
- (~$430 for both headlights installed by bmwheadlightrepairs for the Delrin adjusters, and assuming $30 shipping)
- (~$350 at EAC for aluminum adjusters, includes $30 shipping to Mark (800-208-6448 x704) for both headlights)
Note: That link is: "http://www.m5board.com/vbulletin/m5-e39-group- buy -forum-sponsor-discussion-offerings/98376-2001-e39-headlight-adjusters.html#post1874860 where you have to remove the spaces above due to asterisks automatically inserted by this forum into the URL).
- (~$220 + shipping) for bimmer.netne.net to fix your headlight adjusters for you.
- (~$140 for odometergears adjusters on both headlights by Palatine from Craigslist, cost includes the adjusters and installation)

7. Buy the "20% glass-filled Delrin" thermoplastic or "Nylon-6" polyamide adjusters:
- (~$210 at bmwheadlightrepairs for both headlights, PN ODO-E39-LITE) or
- (~$170 at Bavauto for both headlights, PN E39 HLA AE) or
- (~$170 at Pelican for both headlights, PN ODO-E39-LITE) or
- (~$161.50 at EAC for both headlights, PN 098816001) or
- (~$150 at fcpgroton for both headlights) or
- (~$60 from Hetpe3b, aka bimmer.netne.net on Craigslist for both headlights) or
- (~$58 + $6 shipping from Hetpe3b, aka bimmer.netne.net from their web site)
- (~$63, including $10 shipping from Hetpe3b, on Ebay for both headlights again from bimmer.netne.net).

8. Buy the aluminum adjusters
(~$160 at EAC for both headlights) <=== THIS IS THE MOST-OFTEN RECOMMENDED OPTION HERE
(~$102 on Ebay for both headlights) <=== (50 GBP for both headlights + 12 GPB for shipping all four to the USA)

9. Buy the brass adjusters
- (~$80 from biliff for both headlights)

10. Fabricate your own adjusters, either molding or fabricating out of Teflon or HDPE or Delrin & a steel screw & cap:
- (~$5 for both headlights, where you open the headlights for access)
- (~$5 both headlights, where you cut a square in the top of the headlights for access)

Note: I bought two hefty bars of suitable plastic for under $6 including tax at Tap Plastics:
- Black, 3/4" thick, 1 1/4 x 7 1/2 inches long, Seaboard UV Stable HDPE, $16/square foot (cost was $1.00 + 10 cents tax)
- White, 1/2" thick, 7/8 x 10 1/2 inch long Delrin, $57/square foot (cost was $4.50 + 45 cents tax)


The fabrication of two headlight adjusters took just about an hour with nothing more than a vise, a saw, and a 5/32" drill bit. It was actually trivial to make, surprisingly to me (and at a total cost of less than $6 sufficient for three or four vehicles). More details in this thread.

11. Use two zip ties per headlight & adjust by clicks (~$5 for both headlights)

12. Shove a spare length of metal under the lens assembly to keep it rigid in place (~$0 for both headlights) Note: This is what I've done, for now, while I research what permanent solution I'll choose. Interestingly, the light aim is better now than it has been in years!

I'm sure this list is incomplete/inaccurate so please help improve it so that we can update it and then others can refer to our collective tribal knowledge.

BTW, here are some of my favorite threads on the headlights and the headlight adjusters:

Summary of useful DIY Headlight threads:
- Broken headlight adjusters (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) (18) (19) (20) (21)
- How to buy new headlight adjusters (EAC E39 prior to 9/2000) (EAC aluminum E39 after 9/2000) (EAC plastic after 9/2000) (odometergears) (UK)
- How to make your own headlight adjusters (0) (1) (2) (3)
- A list of your options when your headlight adjusters are broken (1)
- Headlight aiming DIYs (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
- Headlight replacement H7 bulbs (1) (2)
- Headlight plastic polishing & refinishing DIY (1) (2) (3)
- Headlight autopsy DIY (1) (2) (3)
- What's the flat spot on the USA spec headlights (1) (2)
- Explanation of HID versus conventional and why the high beam is always a halogen H7 bulb (1) (2) (3)
- How to replace your headlight bulbs (1)
- DJ Auto or Depo headlights (1) or OEM (1)

Some of my favorite headlight adjuster threads:
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Last edited by bluebee; 11-28-2010 at 05:28 PM.
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  #2  
Old 10-14-2010, 07:28 AM
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TemporarySanity TemporarySanity is offline
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I bought mine on eBay from Palatine and installed them myself. I think I paid $60. They appear to be of better quality than the original ones. I was able to heat up my lights and remove the lens. Overall, it wasn't a bad job.
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  #3  
Old 10-14-2010, 09:08 AM
Mark@EAC Mark@EAC is offline
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I see a few new options popping up. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

I have personally been repairing these lights for years and not only can EAC help you get the absolute best quality replacement adjusters, I would be glad to repair your lights for you. Feel free to PM me or email me at mark@eactuning.com for more info.
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  #4  
Old 11-20-2010, 10:13 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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I just found and added yet another option for headlight adjusters:
- BMW E39 HEADLIGHT ADJUSTER REPAIR SERVICE $220 + shipping (for both headlights)

These Russian guys say:
"WE ARE NOT OPENING THE LENS, WHILE WE MAKE THIS PROCEDURE!!!"

They're in Chicago, and the phone number is +1-773-715-7398

I'm pretty sure this is probably the "Palatine" guy on Ebay & Craigslist because he says:
"We are located in Palatine, IL, 1(773) 715 7398, autoinfo@inbox.lv"

The web site is http://bimmer.netne.net/headlight_adjusters.html

They seem to be Russians and this is what they seem to offer:
- They say they fix MID pixels for $189 + $24 shipping.
- They fix the cluster pixels for the same price.
- They sell the cluster ribbon cable for $30 & the MID ribbon cable for $33.
- And they sell the (plastic, probably Delrin) headlight adjusters for $58 for both headlights, plus $6 shipping.
- They say they fix the headlights without opening them up, for $220 for both headlights, including shipping.

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Last edited by bluebee; 11-20-2010 at 10:52 PM.
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  #5  
Old 11-28-2010, 02:33 PM
HETPE3B HETPE3B is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
I just found and added yet another option for headlight adjusters:
- BMW E39 HEADLIGHT ADJUSTER REPAIR SERVICE $220 + shipping (for both headlights)

These Russian guys say:
"WE ARE NOT OPENING THE LENS, WHILE WE MAKE THIS PROCEDURE!!!"

They're in Chicago, and the phone number is +1-773-715-7398

I'm pretty sure this is probably the "Palatine" guy on Ebay & Craigslist because he says:
"We are located in Palatine, IL, 1(773) 715 7398, autoinfo@inbox.lv"

The web site is http://bimmer.netne.net/headlight_adjusters.html

They seem to be Russians and this is what they seem to offer:
- They say they fix MID pixels for $189 + $24 shipping.
- They fix the cluster pixels for the same price.
- They sell the cluster ribbon cable for $30 & the MID ribbon cable for $33.
- And they sell the (plastic, probably Delrin) headlight adjusters for $58 for both headlights, plus $6 shipping.
- They say they fix the headlights without opening them up, for $220 for both headlights, including shipping.

It's not a delrin. It's polyamid.
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  #6  
Old 11-28-2010, 09:47 PM
sealbeach740 sealbeach740 is offline
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bluebee,

First, let me tell you how impressed I am not only by your skills at problem solving, but even more by your ability to gather & sort info/links into very helpful order & sharing them with everyone.

In your original post above, you mentioned the ($5) temporary broken headlight adjuster fix using zip ties (one click at a time). Would you happen to have a picture to show me how this looks/what you wrapped the zip tie around? Also, do you have a picture of where/how you placed the metal piece to prop up the headlights on your e39? My 2003 540 has the same problem (headlights point to low, can't adjust them up), and for now, I'd be very interested in doing the temp fix until I can get them corrected.

BTW, thanks very much for starting this post. Very timely (& helpful) to me.

sealbeach740
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2003 540iS. MKIV, 16x9, PDC, CWP, TV tuner, backup camera with 'on demand' switch, paddle shifters, windows/sunroof close via remote, iPod video & audio.

Last edited by sealbeach740; 11-28-2010 at 09:53 PM.
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  #7  
Old 11-28-2010, 10:44 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sealbeach740 View Post
impressed I am not only by your skills at problem solving
Don't be impressed. I have only three basic skills.
a) I can type (probably better than your average admin can);
b) And I can read (they put me in special speed reading classes when I was a kid because I read all my books so quickly);
c) And I can search (as well as anyone can, I guess).

Pretty much that's all there is to it.

In fact, when I started this quest, I didn't even know where the headlight adjusters were ... and now I've built three sets of them.
- Can you show me where my headlight adjusters are?

All from the simple ability to read, ask questions, and search for answers.
Go figure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sealbeach740 View Post
you mentioned the ($5) temporary broken headlight adjuster fix using zip ties (one click at a time). Would you happen to have a picture to show me how this looks/what you wrapped the zip tie around?
I didn't do it so I won't have a picture of it.

The explanation I read was to loosly zip tie around one of the bulbs' rear-facing wires. Then, with the second zip tie, wrap it through that first (upper) zip tie, and then around anything LOWER than the headlight bulb rear-facing wires. Once you have that figure eight, you simply click the lower zip tie as it pulls the rear of the headlight bulb down, which forces the front of the inner headlight assembly (both bulbs) up. You click until you get it just right. It's the same principle as the bar of metal under mine except it's non invasive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sealbeach740 View Post
do you have a picture of where/how you placed the metal piece to prop up the headlights on your e39?
See the picture below which shows where I had placed the bar.

For me, it was simply a temporary measure until I received my aluminum headlight adjusters. Were I to do this again, I'd just make my own (<$10 in parts for both headlights) or buy the least-expensive plastic (Nylon-6 or Delrin) adjusters.

As it was, I took a hit for the team by ordering the aluminum adjusters from England; but I only did that so I could measure them and report back to the team so the team could create a CNC/CAD diagram based on those measurements.

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Last edited by bluebee; 11-28-2010 at 10:46 PM.
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  #8  
Old 11-29-2010, 12:02 AM
sealbeach740 sealbeach740 is offline
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Thanks, bluebee.

Don't sell your skills short.... gathering & organizing posts that tend to wander all over the place is a skill. Yeah, the info is out there, but collecting it in an organized manner that makes sense is definately a skill to be proud of.

Thanks for the info on the zip tie temp fix. I'm going to try that. I didn't realize the metal piece (the temp fix you used) went inside the headlights - my e39 is a 2003, so I don't think I'd be able to take the headlights apart.

I'll be following this thread to see how your quest for cheaper adjusters for the board to benefit from turns out.

Definately 2 thumbs up ( ) for all the work & effort you're putting into this - it's appreciated!! Again, thanks.
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2003 540iS. MKIV, 16x9, PDC, CWP, TV tuner, backup camera with 'on demand' switch, paddle shifters, windows/sunroof close via remote, iPod video & audio.
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  #9  
Old 12-06-2010, 04:49 PM
Mark@EAC Mark@EAC is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark@EACTuning View Post
I see a few new options popping up. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

I have personally been repairing these lights for years and not only can EAC help you get the absolute best quality replacement adjusters, I would be glad to repair your lights for you. Feel free to PM me or email me at mark@eactuning.com for more info.
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  #10  
Old 02-22-2011, 01:02 PM
guardodoc guardodoc is offline
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reverse retrofit

Would these headlights that are on sale at ecs tuning work on a 2001 530i ?
I called there and thay did not know why it wouldn't work. The connectors or the fit ?
They do fit 97- Sept 2000.
Thanks
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Old 02-22-2011, 01:37 PM
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AnotherGeezer AnotherGeezer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guardodoc View Post
Would these headlights that are on sale at ecs tuning work on a 2001 530i ?
I called there and thay did not know why it wouldn't work. The connectors or the fit ?
They do fit 97- Sept 2000.
Thanks

That date range suggests they're made for pre-face lift cars that I believe are wired a little differently than the post-face lift cars due to the addition of angel eyes versus parking lights.

Your car is like mine. Post-face lift.
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Old 02-22-2011, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by AnotherGeezer View Post
That date range suggests they're made for pre-face lift cars that I believe are wired a little differently than the post-face lift cars due to the addition of angel eyes versus parking lights.

Your car is like mine. Post-face lift.
Thanks
I've got one headlight with a cloudy cover that won't polish out and thought these would be an option.
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Old 02-23-2011, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by guardodoc View Post
I've got one headlight with a cloudy cover that won't polish out
Never did it myself but these folks seem to be satisfied with polishing:
- Headlight plastic polishing & refinishing DIY (1) (2) (3) (4) & polishing yellowed taillights (1)
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Old 03-17-2011, 11:22 AM
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Thanks to RDL pointing me to it, there is a new option for replacing broken headlight adjusters, especially for those with 2003 sealed headlights:

See this DIY from BenPRunkle over in bimmerforums:
- DIY - 2003 Sealed Headlights Adjuster Replacement

The approach used was arthroscopic surgery through the self-leveling motor stalk hole of the HID headlights.

This stalk hole also exists on the halogens, except the stalk is not as easily removed because it's not screwed in (by most accounts); it's glued in (by most accounts).

I have my doubts that it's glued in (aka ultrasonically welded I was told); and if I were to do the job this way on a 2003 halogen, I'd simply twist out the permanent self-leveling stalk backplate to see if it just twisted out.

(On my 2002 Hella halogens, I tried to keep the self-leveling stalk intact, but it broke in the process so I never did figure out the RIGHT way to remove it. In the future, I'd attack it directly simply by twisting it to see if it twists out).

To the next person who fixes halogens (with the permanent stalk); please let us know if the self-leveling stalk on the halogens simply twists out or if it is indeed ultrasonically tack-welded in place.

EDIT: Link updated as per helpful advice from gtxragtop.

Last edited by bluebee; 03-26-2011 at 07:47 PM.
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Old 03-21-2011, 09:39 AM
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Today, interesting pictures were posted of exactly where to cut holes in headlights if you can't or don't want to open it up.
- 2002 530i headlight adjusters - one epoxied headlight and one not?!

To summarize, you have three options for opening the 'sealed' headlights:
- Bake & open <-- this is what I did
- Cut new rectangular holes <--- I'd try this the next time
- Go through the existing circular leveling motor hole <--- great new idea!

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Old 03-21-2011, 01:12 PM
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There is no need to cut the housing over the adjusters nearest the low beam. All you have to do is flip the light upside down and slide that one in place through the hole where the projector sticks out the back of the light. You take the ball socket end off the reflector with a torx socket and extension and remove the old ball from there. When I do these epoxied 2003 lights I am making one small hole to work through, and it is not big enough to fit the adjusters through, just a couple tools. Then the hole gets sealed with rubber grommet and silicone.



Just sharing a little advice for those who don't care to send the lights in.
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Old 03-21-2011, 01:15 PM
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Just sharing a little advice for those who don't care to send the lights in.
To anyone new reading this thread for your options, NOBODY has ever been dis-satisfied with Mark's work at EAC Tuning. You just can't go wrong with those guys!
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Old 03-26-2011, 06:42 PM
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Just now, gtxragtop kindly informed me the links were wrong in post #14 so I updated them (many thanks to Dave!).

Last edited by bluebee; 03-26-2011 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 03-26-2011, 06:46 PM
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EDIT:

Original reply here was REMOVED by me due to erroneous assumptions I made regarding this thread:
- What is the WIDTH adjustment for the headlights?

Last edited by bluebee; 03-26-2011 at 06:48 PM.
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Old 03-28-2011, 07:48 AM
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Just an FYI, i think hes lithuanian, his name is Eurie. And he did one of my headlights, for $60 bucks. Still works... he doesnt open the headlight, he has these surgical tools and he pulls them out with long extensions etc.
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Old 03-28-2011, 09:10 AM
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http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...php?p=21609941
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Old 04-02-2011, 02:54 PM
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Along the topic of what your options are, a lot of people are apparently buying new headlights because of a combination of faded lenses and broken adjusters.

While we've solved the broken adjuster options, some options for 'repairing' faded lenses are as shown below:
- Headlight plastic polishing & refinishing DIY (1) (2) (3) (4) & polishing yellowed taillights (1)

And, some options for 'replacing' faded lenses are as shown in this post today from this thread:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > Headlight Assembly Replacement



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Old 04-25-2011, 10:28 PM
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For the cross-link record, a user posted today on a source for aluminum headlight adjusters but which was already covered in this thread above:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > This is a really good price on metal headlight adjusters

Since the supplier is in the UK, the USA-equivalent price fluctuates but I paid the same 50 GBP for both headlights + 12 GPB for shipping all four adjusters to the USA) as shown in option #8 of the first post in the thread above (at the time, that came to $102 USD).


Last edited by bluebee; 04-25-2011 at 10:30 PM.
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Old 04-26-2011, 06:47 AM
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Old 04-26-2011, 06:50 AM
Mark@EAC Mark@EAC is offline
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http://www.eaceuroparts.com/catalog/product/467

Note those ebay jobs don't even look the same as the parts you are replacing. Do it once, do it right and enjoy. If you want to save a dollar on something you rely on to see at night, I can't stop you. I personally will not recommend it.
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