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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 05-11-2013, 02:06 PM
Dking078's Avatar
Dking078 Dking078 is online now
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Mein Auto: 2003 BMW 540i
DIY: E38 Illuminated / Lighted door handles into E39

I take no responsibility if you break your car or self, use this DIY only as a document of reference!

Yet another Dking DIY!

This is going to show how to retrofit illuminated door handles from an E38 in an E39 (Specifically one with the updated front handles)

Whats Needed?

A Dremel Drill Set
Wire, splices, connectors, crimpers, etc
OEM E38 lighted door handles
Heat shrink tubes (optional)
Patience!


I'm dividing this DIY into 2 parts, Part 1 is retrofitting on the rear doors which is 95% identical for the fronts IF you car doesn't have the updated door handles. Part 2 is for people with the updated door handles and want to custom retrofit the illumination strips.

The lighted door handles themselves look pretty decent, but I urge people to not spend a fortune on them (100+ is what crazy ebay people want). After the retrofit i noticed the rears are brighter than the fronts, not sure if this is from what I did or just how they work. I actually like the fronts being dimmer since it wont distract me too much at night.

Part 1 Retrofitting Rears (all years) and fronts prior to 03/2001


First, remove the rear door panels.
With the door panel off, locate the window control wires. From these wires, we will use the Brown (ground) and Grey/red stripe (power) for the handles. This will only turn on the handles when the parking / headlights aka mood (orange) lights are on. (TIP) The 2 wires on the E38 door handle LED cords are the same colors as the window switches we are tapping!


General comparison


To remove the old door handle, firmly pull towards the front of the car or parallel to the door you're working on and slide the handle AWAY from the cord.
You must do this simultaneously since the handle has a cone like shape that "locks" the sheet covering the wire in place. (see pic)


Once you get the cord out simple slide the hook off the hole, not too hard . Installation of the E38 handle is in reverse order.

Time to wire it up!
This is where i encountered a bit of a problem. The OEM wire is about 20gauge and the crimp can cut through it but not very well. This may be the crimp i used or a general problem. This poor crimp resulted in flickering if the contact point is moved/vibrated. My solution was to expose more wire and solder the it to the crimp. This kind of worked for the most part, but the best way would be to just hard wire it in with a 18-22 gauge connector (same used to link the new wire to the E38 wire).


Once tapped, just crimp either the E38 wire (if long enough) or the new wire to the connector. Then crimp the new wire to the E38 wire (if needed) and heat shrink wrap it if you want to prevent any vibration/clattering.


Once you got that done, it should work! Turn on the parking lights / headlights to test it out. lastly, I tapped the connectors in a small pocket (seen in pic) and one piece of tape by the armrest to support the cable. (Duct tape works best)


Finished pics!


Really long shutter time


More realistic pic.


The same procedure applies to the fronts. The only difference I did was on the drivers door. Instead of messing around with all the wires on the main window control module, I tapped into the Seat memory cord.
Note (The seat memory is wrapped with the door puddle light cords) To make sure you have the correct GROUND wire, pull on one and see which one retracts, either the light one or seat memory one.


Part 2 Retrofitting Fronts for post 03/2001 cars

This where it can get very technical. You have 2 options about doing this:
1. Retrofit your existing updated front handles.
2. Change the bowden cord that connects to the door handle.

For #2 changing the bowden cord may save some time & problems, but to me it was updated for a reason and I like to keep it like that. (Refer to a DIY on changing a bowden cord) and the follow Part 1. The cords themselves run $15-30 each (est).

To remove the updated dor handles, first release a small tab on the side towards the rear of the car and pullout. Installation is reverse.

Okay, to retrofit the existing updated handle (see comparison), you need to make a template and cut it out.


To remove the old lighting element from the E38 handle, you need a good heat source, a soldering gun with a fine tip works best. I don't have any pics, but all you need to do to remove the light element is start from the far point (away from bulb) and put pressure up from inside the handle while heating the contact point. Don't use too much pressure! The strip should slowly loosen as the plastic is melted. I wont fully come out until the rest are released. Repeat this for the rest of the tabs. A fine tip iron works best to preserve the lighting elements mounting points.


Once removed, sand down the contact points where the element meets the door handle. The E38 handle has small dips for the light strip, this must be remade on the E39 one (A sanding bit works best). I had to sand down the Light element a bit to sit completely flush.

To cut out a hole on the E39's existing handle, what I did was hold 1 old handle and 1 new handle (opposites) side to side and I traced a line to find the OEM "center" for the furthest mounting point. One tip to mounting the light element in the correct position is to drawn a line from the plastic line on top the goes to where the screw meets the door and use a ruler to extend it upward. This will give you a vertical reference for the 2 middle mounting points. (TIP) The distance from the tip of the plastic mounting mounting point to the plastic ridge (tip) should be 1cm.

Once you find a position that works, trace and outline of the light.


Use the dremel tools and get cutting! Also use a sanding / big grinding tool to fit the 2 middle mounting tabs and furthest tab. (Test fit to set!!!!!) You know it sits perfectly, when the transition from door handle to light on the INSIDE of the handle is very smooth.


Fitted!


To cover up any holes left inside the door handle, i used black silicon caulking ($4 from lowes)
You can use super glue to fill the mounting holes on the back of the handle or any good adhesive.


Once done, just follow the same wiring procedure as Step 1.
The only difference I did was on the drivers door. Instead of messing around with all the wires on the main window control module, I tapped into the Seat memory cord.
Note (The seat memory is wrapped with the door puddle light cords) To make sure you have the correct GROUND wire, pull on one and see which one retracts, either the light one or seat memory one.
__________________
2003 BMW 540i [Sterling Gray / Gray]
[Msport] [DSP] [AUX] [ICE V6] [BSWs] [DINAN Trans & Strut Bar] [M Audio Subs] [E38 lighted int. door handles] [E46 Paddleshifters] [Cubic Trim] [EURO Dash] [KONI's] [Two-tone Interior]


For Sale:
1 Set of E39 OEM Technical graphite trim (No TPMS):
1 Set of E39 OEM Matt-Chrome trim (TPMS):

For Sale SOON: [PM for info!]
2 Sets of E39 OEM Maple wood "Muschelahorn" trim (No TPMS)
1 E39 OEM Maple wood " Muschelahorn" Steering wheel (w/o airbag)


Last edited by Dking078; 06-01-2013 at 11:01 PM.
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  #2  
Old 05-12-2013, 06:39 AM
JimLev JimLev is offline
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Mein Auto: 540/6, S60 Volvo, Tribeca
Nice info.
I suppose you could just get some .29 cent LED's and do the same thing?
It won't be OEM correct, but it should still work.
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  #3  
Old 05-12-2013, 07:10 AM
Dking078's Avatar
Dking078 Dking078 is online now
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Location: Southern California
 
Join Date: May 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimLev View Post
Nice info.
I suppose you could just get some .29 cent LED's and do the same thing?
It won't be OEM correct, but it should still work.
Yay same process. I'm just an OEM lover
__________________
2003 BMW 540i [Sterling Gray / Gray]
[Msport] [DSP] [AUX] [ICE V6] [BSWs] [DINAN Trans & Strut Bar] [M Audio Subs] [E38 lighted int. door handles] [E46 Paddleshifters] [Cubic Trim] [EURO Dash] [KONI's] [Two-tone Interior]


For Sale:
1 Set of E39 OEM Technical graphite trim (No TPMS):
1 Set of E39 OEM Matt-Chrome trim (TPMS):

For Sale SOON: [PM for info!]
2 Sets of E39 OEM Maple wood "Muschelahorn" trim (No TPMS)
1 E39 OEM Maple wood " Muschelahorn" Steering wheel (w/o airbag)

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  #4  
Old 05-12-2013, 07:28 AM
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Doorman Doorman is offline
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Location: Chicago
 
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Posts: 519
Mein Auto: 2000 528iT
DIY: E38 Illuminated / Lighted door handles into E39

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimLev View Post
Nice info.
I suppose you could just get some .29 cent LED's and do the same thing?
It won't be OEM correct, but it should still work.
I read a write-up about someone doing this. The light was a bit "harsh" compared to the e38 handles


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  #5  
Old 05-12-2013, 11:13 AM
GreenTiger GreenTiger is offline
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Let's say the lights burn out on those handles. Are they a pain to replace? Are they LEDs or halogens?
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  #6  
Old 05-12-2013, 01:34 PM
Dking078's Avatar
Dking078 Dking078 is online now
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Location: Southern California
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,310
Mein Auto: 2003 BMW 540i
DIY: E38 Illuminated / Lighted door handles into E39

They are LEDs, i checked on ECS tuning, and they sell it the same way the ebay people do. It comes with the led light and a certain length of cord attached to it.


Heres the link. Though it's REALLY overpriced.
http://www.ecstuning.com/Search/63316907750/ES175254/


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__________________
2003 BMW 540i [Sterling Gray / Gray]
[Msport] [DSP] [AUX] [ICE V6] [BSWs] [DINAN Trans & Strut Bar] [M Audio Subs] [E38 lighted int. door handles] [E46 Paddleshifters] [Cubic Trim] [EURO Dash] [KONI's] [Two-tone Interior]


For Sale:
1 Set of E39 OEM Technical graphite trim (No TPMS):
1 Set of E39 OEM Matt-Chrome trim (TPMS):

For Sale SOON: [PM for info!]
2 Sets of E39 OEM Maple wood "Muschelahorn" trim (No TPMS)
1 E39 OEM Maple wood " Muschelahorn" Steering wheel (w/o airbag)


Last edited by Dking078; 05-12-2013 at 01:47 PM.
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  #7  
Old 05-12-2013, 03:23 PM
GreenTiger GreenTiger is offline
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^Thanks for the info.
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  #8  
Old 05-14-2013, 11:25 AM
overwerked1 overwerked1 is offline
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DIY: E38 Illuminated / Lighted door handles into E39

What about the lit exterior door handles??


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  #9  
Old 05-14-2013, 12:24 PM
Dking078's Avatar
Dking078 Dking078 is online now
Nor genius Nor ignorant
Location: Southern California
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,310
Mein Auto: 2003 BMW 540i
DIY: E38 Illuminated / Lighted door handles into E39

Quote:
Originally Posted by overwerked1 View Post
What about the lit exterior door handles??


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Totally different mod. In short, it's much more worth it to use a generic led strip. OEM may be though to retrofit as E38 handles are not the same shape.


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__________________
2003 BMW 540i [Sterling Gray / Gray]
[Msport] [DSP] [AUX] [ICE V6] [BSWs] [DINAN Trans & Strut Bar] [M Audio Subs] [E38 lighted int. door handles] [E46 Paddleshifters] [Cubic Trim] [EURO Dash] [KONI's] [Two-tone Interior]


For Sale:
1 Set of E39 OEM Technical graphite trim (No TPMS):
1 Set of E39 OEM Matt-Chrome trim (TPMS):

For Sale SOON: [PM for info!]
2 Sets of E39 OEM Maple wood "Muschelahorn" trim (No TPMS)
1 E39 OEM Maple wood " Muschelahorn" Steering wheel (w/o airbag)

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