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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 01-10-2013, 09:44 PM
R1150RS R1150RS is offline
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Question Automatic Headlight Height Adjustment (LWR) behavior

Hi folks,
I'm having some headlight woes here...

This is for a 2002 540i

My passenger side headlight is droopy - that is, it's aimed lower than the driver side. I've repaired the adjusters (twice on that side - once a few years ago for both lights, and the passenger side, again, a few days ago, basically enhancing the repair I did the first time - didn't help my problem), and I've run into a problem where I don't seem to have enough adjustment range to get it to point high enough. I hit the end of travel, and I've actually made one of the balls pop out of the sockets by going too far. (That's no fun to fix.)

My suspicions lie with the LWR (the automatic height adjusters, which user stepper motors to adjust height of beam throw). But I don't really know what proper behavior for the system is. I'm hoping someone here can provide (or provide link to) a set of steps to follow to determine if the LWR system if functioning correctly.

First, a bit of background to save folks typing the standard answers. I've spent a few hours searching this site, and the web in general. Haven't found what I'm looking for. Most posts have to do with broken adjusters - not my problem, I assure you. More importantly, not what I'm asking for help with here. So, background:
  • My headlights are stock, except for the repaired adjusters - I have angel eyes, HID, LWR, all stock. I have replaced one ballast (driver side IIRC, if you care)
  • The LWR does the little down-up bobble when I turn the lights on. Both lights move. They move in sync, appear to move the same distance, and both lights sound about the same when I listen to them when my wife helps with the light switch.
  • I'm pretty sure both front and rear suspension sensors are connected (some folks report broken levers, balls popped out of sockets, etc). I KNOW the rear is - I checked last night. I will double-check the front tomorrow.
  • No errors on the dash related to the lights (or anything else). I think the car thinks everything is Ok with the LWR.

So, I'm suspicious of the LWR system because I haven't seen it do any auto-adjusting other than the turn-on bobble in...oh...I don't know how long. I tried standing in the trunk to weigh down the back end. No reaction. Other than the neighbor's dog barking at me. Nothing from LWR - the lights just aiming slightly higher as you would expect from me standing in the trunk. I've tried sitting on the front fender. No reaction. (I should specify that I mean no reaction from the LWR to compensate for the motion you get from a 200lbs sitting on the front or back of a car) I pulled the back wheel, disconnected the sensor lever, and moved it around while the lights were on. No reaction from the lights. Should there be? I would think so. While I had the wheel off, I decided to unplug the sensor. I expected the car to complain. No complaint. Is that a clue the LCM may be having issues? I would think it would complain, but who knows. (All other lamps are behaving fine, as far as I can tell.)

So, can someone tell me of a test that I should be able to do that will 'prove' to me that the system is working? If 'You' turn your ignition on, lights on, and sit on your trunk or front fender (please don't dent your car doing this!) does your LWR compensate for the motion? Because right now it seems like the car has no idea what's going on, suspension-wise. But the fact that it's only one light acting wonky makes me wonder if there are other issues as well.

Any ideas?

Thanks folks,
Jason
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Last edited by R1150RS; 01-10-2013 at 09:45 PM. Reason: subscribing to thread
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  #2  
Old 01-11-2013, 07:39 AM
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johnstern johnstern is online now
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I have just one suggestion and it is sort of mundane. There is quite a bit of play in the headlight mounting tabs and bolts. The Bentley manual instructs to install both headlamps assemblies by pushing them as much to the front of the car as possible and then tighten the bolts. I believe that this position makes the headlamp assemblies seal against the hood best possible.

While my adjusters were broken and before I replaced them, I adjusted my headlights by loosening the mounting bolts and moving the assemblies so the lights pointed in the correct direction, etc.

Perhaps you could use the above info to move the headlamp assemblies so they both were aimed the same.

Edit: I believe your headlights are adjusting themselves correctly. Someone may correct me, but I've never seen my headlights adjust themselves actively as the load in the car changes while they are on. It's just a one shot deal when they are turned on IMHO.

Last edited by johnstern; 01-11-2013 at 07:45 AM.
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:56 AM
R1150RS R1150RS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnstern View Post
While my adjusters were broken and before I replaced them, I adjusted my headlights by loosening the mounting bolts and moving the assemblies so the lights pointed in the correct direction, etc.
Thanks for the suggestion. Actually, I tried this just a couple hours before posting. I couldn't get enough play to make the adjustment work. Only about 25% of what I needed.

I do have a hack in place right now that allows me to get them aligned, but sacrifices the automatic adjustment. Basically, I pulled the motor out of the headlight, disassembled it, spun the magnetic 'nut' to extend the control ball much further out than I found it, reassembled the motor, put it back in the headlight, put the headlight back in the car, but I left the motor unplugged. I was then able to use the manual adjusters to get it where I wanted it.

But this is all beside the point of my post. I'm really looking for a way of diagnosing/troubleshooting the LWR system. Does anyone know enough about how it behaves when it's working properly to explain a process I could use to be sure mine is working? Or conclusively prove that it isn't (ideally with an idea about what part is misbehaving)? For starters, if I sit on the trunk or hood of my car while the lights are on and car is on, should I see the LWR compensate? Or is that not enough weight/not how the system works?

Thanks,
Jason
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:16 AM
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doru doru is offline
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Here's a post that is similar to yours. maybe it helps.
And another similar one.
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TMS underdrive pullies - Stewart WP - PSS9 - Beisan Vanos seals - Zimmerman cross-drilled & Akebono Euro - Deka 649 MF - 55w HID headlights - 35w HID foglights - Hualigan double din - ACS (rep) alu pedals - Euro central storage console - Breyton Magic Racing staggered wheels - M5 bumper - M5 steering wheel - Tint
Stable: e39, e53, e46 & Tribby

Last edited by doru; 01-11-2013 at 08:25 AM.
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:25 AM
R1150RS R1150RS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doru View Post
Here's a post that is similar to yours. maybe it helps.
And another similar one.
Thanks! Those were both helpful - unfortunately, they kinda contradicted each other on one point. One says that if the car isn't moving diddling with the sensors can take around 30 seconds to have an effect. The other says it responds quickly. Either way, more good info to consider as I continue this.

I intend to pull the front right wheel tonight and double-check / futz with the front sensor.
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Old 01-11-2013, 10:16 AM
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doru doru is offline
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So, yes, basically my understanding is this: once the headlight is bolted up correctly, you turn on the headlights and your adjustments. Then start the car. if the headlights don't adjust, then it might be a sensor issue if all connections are right.
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Looking for a DIY? Parts? Check this out, it might be your ticket
TMS underdrive pullies - Stewart WP - PSS9 - Beisan Vanos seals - Zimmerman cross-drilled & Akebono Euro - Deka 649 MF - 55w HID headlights - 35w HID foglights - Hualigan double din - ACS (rep) alu pedals - Euro central storage console - Breyton Magic Racing staggered wheels - M5 bumper - M5 steering wheel - Tint
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Old 01-11-2013, 04:40 PM
rdl rdl is online now
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The start-up reference cycle of up-down-up is still performed even with a bad level sensor &/or a broken wire. A faulty sensor &/or wiring/plug problem will set a DTC that a fully BMW compatible scanner will read. E.g. INPA or DIS / EasyDIS. The voice of experience on both of these.

INPA and DIS (others too I'd imagine) can show live suspension level sensor readings to verify the sensor & LWR, i.e. jack the car & watch to see if the sensor reading changes appropriately and smoothly.
DIS (& INPA too I think) can command the LWR to cycle the lights up and down to check system functionality.

I've checked in the past and loading or jacking the car does cause the headlight aim to change. Same with rotating the arm on the sensor (rod disconnected) On my 2003 530, the response is not instantaneous, there is a delay of ~10 or more seconds.

FWIW, the documentation on LWR describes that it receives engine load and braking information which implies that the LWR does respond quickly to squat or dive. I've never tested though. I don't fancy driving toward a wall at speed to jam on the brakes while watching the beam pattern on the wall, or explaining to the cop that Murphy's Law says would inevitably be "in the neighborhood" at just that moment
OTOH, I've never noticed the aim changing while driving, for example over speed control bump strips when the suspension is exercised through a large range of motion.
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:10 PM
R1150RS R1150RS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rdl View Post
The start-up reference cycle of up-down-up is still performed even with a bad level sensor &/or a broken wire. A faulty sensor &/or wiring/plug problem will set a DTC that a fully BMW compatible scanner will read. E.g. INPA or DIS / EasyDIS. The voice of experience on both of these.

INPA and DIS (others too I'd imagine) can show live suspension level sensor readings to verify the sensor & LWR, i.e. jack the car & watch to see if the sensor reading changes appropriately and smoothly.
DIS (& INPA too I think) can command the LWR to cycle the lights up and down to check system functionality.
Very good! I have a couple code scanners - a Scan Gauge, and some other generic code reader - I doubt either is "fully BMW compatible"... I'll check into prices for those, and verify that the Scan Gauge isn't.


Quote:
Originally Posted by rdl View Post
I've checked in the past and loading or jacking the car does cause the headlight aim to change. Same with rotating the arm on the sensor (rod disconnected) On my 2003 530, the response is not instantaneous, there is a delay of ~10 or more seconds.
Sad face... Then I probably do have some sort of problem with the system, but I'm not calling it just yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rdl View Post
FWIW, the documentation on LWR describes that it receives engine load and braking information which implies that the LWR does respond quickly to squat or dive. I've never tested though. I don't fancy driving toward a wall at speed to jam on the brakes while watching the beam pattern on the wall, or explaining to the cop that Murphy's Law says would inevitably be "in the neighborhood" at just that moment
OTOH, I've never noticed the aim changing while driving, for example over speed control bump strips when the suspension is exercised through a large range of motion.
I've tried a few tests like that, with inconclusive results - a related issue I have right now is the driver-side ballast (I suspect) is weak, so I'm not getting great light output right now. That makes it hard to be really sure about what you're seeing as you drive down that dark road and stomp on the brakes. Aggressive acceleration is even more ... undesirable A large part of my investigation here is to determine if replacing the headlights is gonna make everything better, or if I'm still gonna have issues due to a faulty LWR component.

Sigh. Sometimes plain ol' halogen headlights seem like a pretty good idea.

Thanks for the great input!
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