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E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 05-23-2015, 02:15 PM
Hatrod76 Hatrod76 is offline
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Stock Headlight Troubleshooting

Hey guys, I have searched high and low and haven't founded any threads about this issue so posting now.

1995 325i 4door I purchased about six months ago, recently the headlights (low beams) have been real lazy coming on. Here's what happens: I start the car and turn on the lights. The parking and fog lights come on but not the low beams. Eventually the low beams will come on whenever they feel like it. Used to be a delay of a second or two, now it's gradually gotten to a couple minutes average, maybe longer. The other night I sat in a parking lot for 15 minutes waiting for them to come on. While waiting for them to come on, I can pull back on stalk to activate the high beams, and they work, but that doesn't help the lows to come on. One night the lows wouldn't come on at all so I just drove home holding back to keep the high beams on.

I have swapped the low beam relay with the horn relay. The horn still works and the low beams are still the same. I tried leaving the fog lights off, it doesn't make a difference. Tapping on the relays, wiggling on them, switching lights on and off, nothing seems to help, I just have to wait until they're ready to come on.

The headlights are stock, but I did replace the taillights with LEDs a few months back. I'm pretty sure the car was doing this before I switched to LEDs, and I already chunked the rotted out old ones, so I can't try putting them back in.

The other thing I noticed is that once the low beams come on, they stay on. I can pull on the stalk to activate high flashers and everything is fine. HOWEVER, if I push forward to switch to high beam only, everything goes dark except parking lights and fog lights. Usually if I pull back to low beams, they come back on, but once they didn't and I was left driving down the road with parking and fogs only until I could pull over.

Seems like maybe a bad ground, but I have looked around and not seen any problems unless someone can tell me a specific place I maybe missed. Or possibly a switch or stalk switch problem? Any ideas or experience with this issue? Thanks in advance and sorry if this has been covered and I didn't find it.
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  #2  
Old 06-02-2015, 09:23 PM
Hatrod76 Hatrod76 is offline
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Any ideas or help world be appreciated, thank you.
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  #3  
Old 06-02-2015, 11:30 PM
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hornhospital hornhospital is offline
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Sorry I didn't see your posting when it was originally put up.

First, welcome to Bimmerfest!

I believe the problem is your headlight switch on the dash. Does it feel vague when you change from off to park to on? Like it doesn't have crisp clicks between the positions? The headlight switches in E36s (and maybe other models, but I know for sure the E36 group of cars) have an internal plastic piece that has the detents that maintain the positions. That plastic breaks down after 12-15 years, and the pieces restrict movement of the contacts inside the switch. They can retard or completely prevent the contacts from making a circuit, or in other cases they can jam the contacts so they cannot break and turn off the lights when turned to off. I've personally had both happen.

The switch is easy to get out. There is one screw under the AC vent/switch panel. Remove it and the entire vent/switch panel will tilt out. Unplug the headlight and fog light switches and the assembly will come free of the dash. Pry the headlight knob off with a small screwdriver (careful you don't mar the panel or knob). Behind the knob is a thin nut deep in a recess. You can reach it with a pair of needle nose pliers or if you have a thin wall deep socket (IIRC it's a 15mm nut), it can be removed with that. Test from terminal 4 to 12. You should have continuity with the switch in the "headlights on" position. Cycle the switch between the three positions to see if it consistently makes and breaks contact.

Good luck.
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Old 06-03-2015, 11:48 AM
Hatrod76 Hatrod76 is offline
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Thanks so much for your reply, I will let you know what I find out.
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Old 06-03-2015, 10:06 PM
Hatrod76 Hatrod76 is offline
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I pulled the switch. It has crisp detents, not vague or worn out feeling. Good continuity between terminal 4 and 12 with switch on, cycled a few times, it's consistently good.

Maybe next I should look at the turn signal/high beam activator?
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Old 06-03-2015, 10:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatrod76 View Post
I pulled the switch. It has crisp detents, not vague or worn out feeling. Good continuity between terminal 4 and 12 with switch on, cycled a few times, it's consistently good.

Maybe next I should look at the turn signal/high beam activator?
I honestly do not believe that the high beam switch would affect the low beams at all. At this point, I personally would check each of the wires from switch to fuse box, to headlights themselves.

This manual will tell you what voltages to expect on each wire.

http://wedophones.com/Manuals/BMW/19...g%20Manual.pdf
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Last edited by jonesin; 06-03-2015 at 10:21 PM.
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Old 06-03-2015, 10:28 PM
Hatrod76 Hatrod76 is offline
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Ok, I'll keep digging, thanks
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Old 06-03-2015, 10:37 PM
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jonesin jonesin is offline
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(You don't have to follow each wires' entire path, just do a continuity check at either end. The manual will tell you what colours to look for, and where they connect each location).
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Originally Posted by hnaz View Post
I grew up in a time when the internet was just a baby. Grammar back then versus now... holy cow. You could watch the degradation of society as the internet became more mature.

HAS KEN HAD HIS MEDS YET?
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  #9  
Old 06-22-2015, 11:47 PM
Hatrod76 Hatrod76 is offline
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It was the switch after all. I finally took the switch apart and the plastic piece that forms the detents had cracked and some little pieces were floating around wreaking havoc. It works for now , all issues solved, new switch on the way as I'm sure more pieces will eventually break off. Thanks for your help, guys! I would paste a picture here if I knew how.
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Old 06-22-2015, 11:51 PM
Hatrod76 Hatrod76 is offline
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You were 100% right with your original diagnosis! I shall not doubt you again.

Last edited by Hatrod76; 06-22-2015 at 11:52 PM.
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  #11  
Old 06-23-2015, 08:09 AM
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amancuso amancuso is offline
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Glad to hear it's all sorted!
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