DIY : Replace headlight vertical aim adjuster motor (xenon headlight) - Bimmerfest - BMW Forums



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X5 E70 (2007 - 2013)
E70 BMW X5 produced between 2007 and 2013. Discuss the E70 X5 with other BMW owners here.

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Old 10-25-2014, 06:58 PM
rpoitras rpoitras is offline
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DIY : Replace headlight vertical aim adjuster motor (xenon headlight)

I posted last week that I had an issue with my passenger side headlight not moving up/down with the leveling sensor (see here: https://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=803467). Horizontal movement was working correctly but vertical movement was not. I also needed to adjust the light upwards using the adjustment screw on two separate occasions. The second time, which was last week, I feared something was wrong because it shouldn't have moved since the last time. I performed some tests in Rhinegold which included: a) verifying the leveling sensors were ok, and b) activating the aiming of the headlight to the corners (upper-right; lower-left, I think). The sensors were both reading 2.xx volts so I assumed they were ok since both readings were fairly close. Running through the aiming steps showed only horizontal movement, no vertical, so obviously there was an issue with the stepper motor.

Searching online I saw the E90's had an issue where the ball joint at the end of the motor would pop out of it's socket when hitting a big bump or pothole and the fix was to simply pop it back in. In looking at the repair steps in Rhinegold for the E70 I saw that the headlight housing is sealed so you need to cut the back of it to access the motor (wtf?!?). I think the E90 is readily accessible since I saw no mention of cutting anything. For the E70, BMW has a repair kit which contains the motor, cover, and 3 screws to hold the cover. The kit is around $40. Part #63123448961.

I wanted to have the images hosted here so I added them as attachments instead of inline in a step-by-step fashion. I attached the images in order so it should flow correctly.

The procedure is as follows:
  • Lift the front end of vehicle and secure. Use jack stands, not the jack (!!!), to support the vehicle.
  • Remove the wheel on the side you need to work on.
  • Remove the wheel well lining and wheel arch cover (see photo; yellow is the lining to be removed and red is the arch). To remove the arch I drilled out the plastic rivets (see photo) but left the rear two in place since they don't go through the front lining. The lining is fastened with no less than 4 different fastener types: screws, plastic nut, re-usable pop-rivets, and torx screw. The fasteners are all over including under the bumper so just be careful and don't force anything.
  • Once the lining is removed you will see the back of the headlight assembly and will quickly realize that even thought it's accessible from the wheel well, it's still a bit cramped. See the photo which shows the area that needs to cut and the connector I disconnected to get better access. There is also a wire tie-in (you can see the two heavier red wires in the photo) block that you can loosen to push that block out of the way. It is held by two plastic nuts.
  • To cut the headlight assembly I used a Dremel with a flexible extension and a side-cutting bit (see photo). I first tried to use a regular cut-off disc but it's too cramped to get in there so I opted for the side-cutting bit. I really didn't want to use this because I knew it makes a lot of dust and I was worried about all the debris getting inside the assembly and it's also not the cleanest way to cut something as you'll see. There's a photo showing the outline that needs to be cut. It's basically the inside of the raised lip. You don't have to be totally accurate because the cover will hide it but keep in mind you need to get the motor out as well. I wanted to clean up the cut afterwards but figured this would introduce more dust and debris in the headlight assembly so decided to leave it. Ugh.
  • After cutting you will see the back of the motor. The motor is held by two torx screws which are a pain to get to. Make sure your bit/screwdriver/whatever is magnetic because you don't want to drop those screws inside the headlight. Remove the two screws.
  • At this point I found the problem. I barely pulled on the motor and half of it came out (see photo) while the rest with the ball stayed inside. I used pliers to grab the remainder of the motor and removed it. I realized at this point that the ball slides into a plastic track inside the headlight assembly. This track is open on the bottom so what you need to do is pivot the motor so the front/ball portion is aiming downwards so you can remove it. I didn't know because you literally can't see anything inside with the motor in the way so I just somewhat gently pulled it out. Once the motor is out of the headlight assembly disconnect it from the connector.
  • Installation is reversed. Before I installed the new motor I used my fingers to get out as much debris from the cutting process that I could access. I thought about using compressed air but I was worried about forcing little plastic bits into places where it shouldn't be so I just cleaned it the best I could.
  • When installing the new motor look at the slot the ball needs to fit into. I have a photo but it's a bit blurry. The slot has an opening at the bottom so what I did was pivot the motor downwards as much as I could so the ball could slide into the opening. When the motor is level the ball will slide upwards and hopefully cannot slide back out the opening once the motor is screwed into place. I tried adjusting the vertical adjustment screw in the engine bay to see if it would help but I didn't see any change so don't think the adjustment takes place there. It's doable but may take some time to "fell it". Also, don't forgot to plug the connector back into the motor before doing so because once it's in the slot it's hard to get back out (which is good). I, of course, forgot so it took about 20 minutes to get the connector in using needle nose pliers and a lot of swearing.
  • Once the motor is in place fasten it in place with the two torx screws. It's a pain because there is very limited space to work in and you can hardly see anything. Use a magnetic driver otherwise you will be sorry.
  • At this point I temporarily reconnected the cable that goes to the headlight assembly and turned the vehicle on to verify the motor was working. It was so I continued to put everything back together.
  • Now it's time to install the cover. The cover has a rubber seal that goes over the lip that you cut against. There are three screws but on mine only two holes in the headlight assembly were drilled out. Once again, of course, the one that wasn't drilled was the hardest one to get to. I used the same Dremel with extension and a small drill bit to poke a hole where there should have been one. Using the supplied screws, fasten the cover so that your terrible looking cut-out job is now hidden from view.
  • Re-install the wheel lining and arch. This actually took me the longest even though it looks straightforward. I had a problem with the cheapo Harbor Freight plastic rivets for the arch where they just wouldn't tighten. I bought the additional assortment of plastic rivets even though the one review on them said they were crap. Well, they are crap and don't fit the gun properly as the shaft is too narrow so the gun doesn't catch on them. The included rivets worked fine and I should have used them to begin with.
  • Re-install wheel and torque the lugs.
  • Have beer(s).

Edited to add: I just found that you can see the ball and slot that it goes into if you remove the cover to access the angel eye bulb so if you have difficulty inserting or removing the motor take a peek in there.

After everything was done I needed to adjust the light vertically, hopefully for the last time. I just matched it up with the driver's side and it seems to be perfect. I know there is a procedure for this and all but if you use some common sense you should be ok. I don't normally get flashed with high-beams on the road so I think the driver's side was ok to go by.

All in all it's not a terribly difficult repair to do but it's just a bit time consuming when you've never done it before. The fix was cheap at $40 so it's not all that bad. The worst part is that you can't really see anything and the area is very tight to work in, in case I haven't mentioned that already. My cutting job was not that great and my OCD was kicking in (lol) but, eh, nobody will see it.

Edited (again) to add: I took two additional photos and attached them to this post. The first shows the vertical adjustment screw for the right side of the car. The screw is located just above the cover for the angel eye bulb and it's white or light grey so pretty easily found once you look in the correct area. It is adjustable using a 6mm hex bit/key. Off the top of my head I don't recall which way to turn for up/down but that's easily figured out. You do have to turn the adjustment quite a bit to see the effect. i.e. one complete turn and you should see the light move up/down 'maybe' just a tiny bit. The second photo shows the cover for the angel eye bulb removed (right near the vertical adjustment screw). I didn't know until after I completed the job that from there you can see the shaft of the motor with the ball (black plastic) on the end and the slot (white plastic) that the ball slides into. I tried to outline in blue where the motor would be inside the housing to give a better idea. It definitely could have helped me figure out how to remove and install the motor. If you look into this hole while someone turns on the headlights you should see whether the motor is working or not. The shaft should move in/out while the car runs the quick diagnostic check (lights move down, then slowly back up to level).
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Last edited by rpoitras; 11-10-2014 at 05:08 PM. Reason: Added additional info.
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  #2  
Old 10-27-2014, 09:49 AM
ninja_zx11 ninja_zx11 is offline
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Good job!! thanks for sharing...
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Old 10-27-2014, 10:40 AM
lpcapital lpcapital is offline
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Regarding the HFT rivets, did you actually buy the kit the rivet gun? Plastic rivets don't fit the regular rivet gun.

I'm asking because I recently replaced the pumps for the windshield washer that were leaking and had to remove the wheel arch. The HFT rivet gun and rivets works perfectly and I was actually going to recommend it.

This is what I bought which is p/n 97757. The largest rivets are exactly like the one you would buy from BMW. Without this tool I was having trouble tightening the rivets too.

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Old 10-27-2014, 03:46 PM
rpoitras rpoitras is offline
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Yes thats the one I bought. The rivets that came with it worked well but the separate plastic rivet assortment pack (about $10) didn't, at least the one size that I tried. If you look on the HF website there's one review and the guy said they don't fit. I should've listened, ha ha.
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Old 10-30-2014, 10:08 AM
lpcapital lpcapital is offline
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Added to the DIY and How-to sticky
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Old 11-10-2014, 03:33 PM
ThreadJockey ThreadJockey is offline
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Can you show me where the adjustment screws are?

I have the same issue as you but on my driver's side. It cost me $139 for them to tell me it would be a $2700 repair for the whole light housing. The way it was described to me is that they checked to make sure it was not the control boxes (which are presumably under the warranty) by swapping them from left to right. When the light still failed to level, they were able to conclude it is a stepper motor failure. I still think it could be something loose...

I'm a little scared of taking apart my car and drilling holes. Maybe in the Spring when it warms up a bit more. In the interim, it would be nice to adjust the light as it is aimed low enough to hamper my vision at night.

Additional question: Did you have to do any "programming" for the new motor? I told my service guy i'd go pull a part from a junkyard before i'd pay them 2700. He said that would be fine but there is still programming required... maybe just for the control boxes?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 11-10-2014, 05:11 PM
rpoitras rpoitras is offline
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I just updated the OP with two additional photos and description of what they show. You should be able to check the motor shaft operation pretty easily if you remove the cover for the angel eye bulb (see the OP).

There is no need for programming when changing the motor only and I'm not positive if there is if you swap the entire assembly. I would think not because I believe the control module is outside of the assembly but I'm not positive.

Last edited by rpoitras; 11-10-2014 at 05:15 PM.
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Old 11-17-2014, 10:55 AM
ThreadJockey ThreadJockey is offline
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I'm a little confused... Is there a way to remove the angel eye bulb without pulling the wheel and removing the wheel well trim piece?
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Old 11-17-2014, 11:00 AM
Masoe Masoe is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThreadJockey View Post
I'm a little confused... Is there a way to remove the angel eye bulb without pulling the wheel and removing the wheel well trim piece?
YES, from the engine compartment...itís a little tight if you have big hands..lol. This is about replacing the motor for the Main Headlight...not the Angel Eyes.
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Old 11-18-2014, 08:52 AM
racasey racasey is offline
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Rpoitras you are a breath of fresh air! My 08 E70 has exactly the same problem, no verticle leveling on the right side.

Your instructions are clear, concise, and very well written. Thank you!

Before I try to build this ship in an eye dropper, I'd like to verify that the problem is most likely in the stepper motor. Your instructions make reference to Rheingold. I'm assuming it aided you in verifying the various electronic packages that send the command to the stepper motor.

What is and where can I learn more about Rheingold?

If you completed the above mentioned task once more, would you approach the task in the same manner as above?

Thank in advance,
Dick Casey
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Old 11-18-2014, 10:06 AM
rpoitras rpoitras is offline
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Rheingold is the software that BMW dealers use to diagnose and program their vehicles. It's a pretty big topic and one that I'm no expert in so you would just need to search the web and read on. But, for this particular fix you don't really need it anyway since the vehicle will perform a quick diagnostic check when turning on the lights which moves them enough to determine if there's a problem.

I don't see any other way of getting to the motor so to answer your question I'd have to do it the same way again. The only difference which I learned later was what I noted above and that you can see the end of the motor shaft and slot/track it rides in from the AE bulb access hole. I would definitely check there first to see if you notice anything wrong, such as the ball end fell out of the slot, which I believe is what happens on the E90/92. It's easy to just pop off the cover and check while someone turns the lights on and off a few times (check the good side and see what's supposed to happen). If there is absolutely no motion then assume a problem with the motor or to the power source feeding the motor. I haven't seen one post on this or other forums where someone had a bad motor like mine so there's just not enough data to say that it's probably that.
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