Headlight Adjustment Stepper Motor calibration - Bimmerfest - BMW Forums



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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 12-17-2011, 09:42 AM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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Headlight Adjustment Stepper Motor calibration

Is there a way to calibrate the Headlight Adjustment Stepper Motors? They are found with this feature:

LWR: All 1999 model year systems are also equipped with LWR (Headlight Beam Throw
Control). This system automatically adjusts the vertical position of the headlight beams to
compensate for vehicle loads ensuring optimum beam throw. LWR components and func-
tion is described further on in this section.

One stepper motor is located inside each headlight assembly.



Here are the details:

2002 e39 540i, HID headlights (apparently the factory units)

1) both headlights move in tandem when switched on.
2) both headlights settle into their final position
3) the passenger-side is aimed too low
4) the passenger-side manual adjustment is as 'up' as it will go
5) both headlights have the aluminium manual adjustment parts upgrade (i.e., broken internal parts are replaced)

Having eliminated all but one potential cause for the light beam to be too low, it seems reasonable that the adjustment stepper motor is the ultimate culprit. It must be calibrated too low.

Searching this forum plus the web in general, one finds everything *except* how to calibrate the final position of the auto light beam alignment feature.

Photos reveal that the stepper motor might be inside the headlamp capsule. If so, am I sunk? If not, can these motors be calibrated?
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2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

....-------------------.
[ /.....................\ ]
.|(oOO)\(lll)(lll)/(OOo)|
. \o\0=======|=======0/o/
...|__|.............|__|
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  #2  
Old 12-17-2011, 06:54 PM
windsmith windsmith is offline
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Maybe the adjuster for that side or was installed incorrectly? (not fully seated in the socket). Barring that, perhaps you can simply disassemble the headlight assembly and move the nut on the stepper motor shaft enough to allow for more adjustment on the upper adjuster. The servo won't know the difference.

Last edited by windsmith; 12-17-2011 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 12-17-2011, 07:22 PM
Solo12 Solo12 is offline
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I don't have an answer about the motor, but I do have some other ideas. First I am assuming you have oem hella xenon headlights. Did your car come with xenons from the factory? If so there was a control module and a level sensor in the rear (attached to the part of the suspension) and maybe also one in the front. What if one of those sensors is sending an incorrect signal making the headlight point low? Or perhaps the control module is malfunctioning. Not exactly sure how to diagnose those, but just saying the issue may not be calibrating the motor.

If these are oem hellas that you added to a car that originally did not have factory xenons then the sensors and control module will not be issues because most people do not retrofit them. I believe in those cases the auto level feature is just disabled.

Also you say the head light has new metal adjustors did the headlights function properly after those new adjustors were installed or did this issue occur after the new adjusters were installed?
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Old 12-17-2011, 07:30 PM
windsmith windsmith is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solo12 View Post
What if one of those sensors is sending an incorrect signal making the headlight point low?
That should affect BOTH headlights, no?
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Old 12-17-2011, 08:27 PM
Steve530 Steve530 is offline
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If you look at the parts diagram on realoem, the stepper motor is available.
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  #6  
Old 12-18-2011, 07:05 AM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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The low-aim symptoms existed prior to the installation of the replacement manual alignment parts. I had hoped that the upgrade to the aluminium parts would correct it.

I cannot find where the system can be calibrated at all, whether electronically or mechanically. It seems that it relies entirely on the manual headlamp adjustments.

How does one disassemble the headlight in order to access the stepper motor?
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2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

....-------------------.
[ /.....................\ ]
.|(oOO)\(lll)(lll)/(OOo)|
. \o\0=======|=======0/o/
...|__|.............|__|
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  #7  
Old 12-18-2011, 07:47 AM
JimLev JimLev is offline
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The connector for the stepper motor on the back of the light is plugged in all the way, right?
Make sure there are no bent/broken pins in it.

Calibration is done by the BMW shop computer, but you should check the back of the light that is not working properly.
Grip the big rubber boot on the back side of the low beam with 2 fingers and see if it will easily move up and down more than 1/8".
Be very careful as you could break the plastic adjuster inside. (for those of you that don't have aluminum adjusters)
If it moves more than 1/8" the adjuster is broken.
Taking apart '01 and newer headlights is difficult, they need to be put in an oven to soften up the adhesive.
There wasn't an adjusting nut on the stepper motor of mine.
Before you start tearing things apart you need to make sure the stepper motor is working.
Disconnect the adjuster arm on the front pass side level sensor and move it up and down.
You should be able to hear if the stepper motor is running when you pivot the level sensor arm. (key and headlights on, engine not running)
If you can hear the stepper motor operating the plastic on the end of the shaft may not be locked into place properly.
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Last edited by JimLev; 12-18-2011 at 07:48 AM.
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  #8  
Old 12-18-2011, 08:08 AM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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JimLev,

The manual adjusters in photo 2 were replaced with upgraded, aluminium parts. Photos 3 and 4 are the items of interest.

I'm wondering if parts 6, 7, and 13 on RealOEM can be adjusted to cause the stepper motors to 'seat' where the motors project the beams higher. If so, then I can simply use the manual adjustments on the headlight capsules to more properly align them.

As it is right now, the lights 'seat' in a position where the passenger side is manually adjusted all the way 'up' and is still too low. The driver side is the same but to a lesser degree. I'd like to lift both sides to project farther down the road. (Even the brights are a little low.)
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2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

....-------------------.
[ /.....................\ ]
.|(oOO)\(lll)(lll)/(OOo)|
. \o\0=======|=======0/o/
...|__|.............|__|
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  #9  
Old 12-18-2011, 08:11 AM
Solo12 Solo12 is offline
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Before you start taking apart the lights check to see if you can move that light down with the manual adjuster (I know you said it won't go up). I ask because the aluminum adjusters don't come pre tapped/threaded. I believe the proper procedure to tap them is to use a drill or nut driver to run through the adjustment range effectively tapping the new aluminum adjuster. If that was not done it could be the manual adjustment will seem like it does not move as it is too difficult to turn.

WARNING connect the drill using a 10mm socket (or can use 10mm nut driver) behind and below the white adjustment knob/screw. DO NOT attach or use the white adjustment screw to tap/thread the new adjusters. see 2nd link pdf#2 slide 5. I attached a small cut out of the full article for illustration.

Search the best links thread it as tons of info on this. But here is an example of some

remove lights from car
http://www.bmwtips.com/tipsntricks/t.../headlight.htm

open lights/ install adjusters
https://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=179156
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  #10  
Old 12-18-2011, 08:22 AM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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Great tip, solo. Except that the capsules are already in the car.

The manual adjustments move the alignments just fine. It is simply that the passenger is now in the extreme 'up' of its range and still isn't high enough.

My car, while being a 2002, might have been upgraded with a 2003 upgrade M-tech kit and aero package. If so, the suspension might have been lowered. You'll notice on the RealOEM page that part 9 is the 'M' adjuster for lowered suspension. I'm wondering if this could be the cause. (I'll get under the car this afternoon to confirm which sensors are on the axles.)

I'm hoping the sensors can be manipulated where I can still see the headlights projected on the wall.
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2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

....-------------------.
[ /.....................\ ]
.|(oOO)\(lll)(lll)/(OOo)|
. \o\0=======|=======0/o/
...|__|.............|__|
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  #11  
Old 12-18-2011, 08:35 AM
Solo12 Solo12 is offline
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It is my understanding that the motor makes adjustments to the beam based on how level the car is depending on how the vehicle is loaded. As you know items 6,7,13 that you mentioned are what give the signals as to car nose pointing up, down or being level. However if you were to install (as many have done) oem hella xenons onto an e39 that came from the factory with halogen (non xenons) then the auto level function is disabled as the car would not have sensors and a control unit to send signals to the motor. I would have to search through posts, but I believe people who do the retrofit do not have issues with the self level feature. Do you know if your car had those sensors and control unit?

If your car does have those sensors and the motors are active I wonder how much they can actually adjust the lights. I am wondering if the self leveling feature would even be able to adjust the lights to where yours are now.

I am guessing if your car does have that rear sensor you could play around with it to see if the lights respond and level. Not sure if it has some sort of level in it or if the sensor measure suspension compression. But I suppose if you try raising the rear of the car with a jack and see if the lights compensate.

Also like I said earlier if you car does have all those sensors you could be dealing with a sensor/controller issue vs. a mechanical issue with the motor in the lights. I think a dealer or well equipped indy could probably verify those items using a computer.
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  #12  
Old 12-18-2011, 08:44 AM
Solo12 Solo12 is offline
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Re your lowered suspension theory. I wonder if the motor goes back to 0 after you turn the car off or does it simply hold the last position it was in when you turned off the car? If if goes back to 0 then when you turn on the lights they should initially be aimed higher (relative to where they are now) and then it would get its signal form the sensors and lower the lights. It would all happen pretty quick, but you could have a friend turn on your car while you watch the lights to see if they move way down.
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Old 12-18-2011, 09:27 AM
JimLev JimLev is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UsedBits View Post
JimLev,

The manual adjusters in photo 2 were replaced with upgraded, aluminium parts. Photos 3 and 4 are the items of interest.

I'm wondering if parts 6, 7, and 13 on RealOEM can be adjusted to cause the stepper motors to 'seat' where the motors project the beams higher. If so, then I can simply use the manual adjustments on the headlight capsules to more properly align them.

As it is right now, the lights 'seat' in a position where the passenger side is manually adjusted all the way 'up' and is still too low. The driver side is the same but to a lesser degree. I'd like to lift both sides to project farther down the road. (Even the brights are a little low.)
There is no adjustment in 6, 7, or 13. You should be able to get a little from bending the mounting bracket where the rod attaches to the suspension.

So, did your car originally have HID's? If not you have no auto level adjusting.
Solo12, the lights do re-adjust themselves everytime you turn them on.
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Old 12-18-2011, 10:46 AM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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The stepper motors go through their power on self test (POST) routine. The lights (in tandem), move down, up, then back down again into their 'default' or 'resting' position. That tells me that there is leveling (so called) in the headlight capsules.

When changing the brake rotors, a friend noticed what he called the headlight adjustment on the right-front suspension.

Technically, these are not 'levelers' as there is no actual detection of 'level'. What it does is adjust the beams up or down relative to the positions of the front and rear body positions relative to the axles.

My understanding is this. A very heavy load in the trunk will cause the back end to droop, thus lifting the headlights. The adjusters compensate for this position and tip the lights back down.

It is leveling in a relative sense, not an absolute one. Therefor the the lights do not re-adjust ... they simply return to a default setting. I'm trying to modify that default setting, more for the passenger's side than the driver's.
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2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

....-------------------.
[ /.....................\ ]
.|(oOO)\(lll)(lll)/(OOo)|
. \o\0=======|=======0/o/
...|__|.............|__|
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Old 12-18-2011, 10:52 AM
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Get a GT1. That's the only thing that would recalibrate if it's possible. Level sensors on the suspension may need to be recalibrated.
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Old 12-18-2011, 11:14 AM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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Quote:
Level sensors on the suspension may need to be recalibrated.
That's the point of this thread. Do you know how? If not, can you point us to where we can learn how?
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2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

....-------------------.
[ /.....................\ ]
.|(oOO)\(lll)(lll)/(OOo)|
. \o\0=======|=======0/o/
...|__|.............|__|
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Old 12-18-2011, 11:54 AM
JimLev JimLev is offline
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Pretty sure your problem is mechanical.
You should be able to adjust both lights with the knob at the back of the light so they are both shining at the same point on a wall ~25 feet away. Can you do that? If not there is some problem inside the headlight.
I could be wrong but I think the computer calibration will do both at the same time, so you need to mechanically have them set to the same position before you mess with the computer calibration.
I assume your plastic adjusters were broken and you had aluminum adjusters installed.
My guess is that they are either wrong for your lights (too long) or the threaded shaft that connects to the back knob isn't screwed in to the aluminum adjuster far enough.
The balls and sockets require a lot of muscle to pop them together, maybe one of them was never seated properly.
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Old 12-18-2011, 12:04 PM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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Mark at EAC Tuning (I might have the company name wrong) installed the replacement aluminium adjustment parts. I seriously doubt he did it wrong, i.e. I seriously believe the headlight adjustment mechanism, itself, is not the issue.

The manual adjusters actually adjust the lights up, down, left, and right, on both capsules. There is nothing wrong with them. That said, I have not 'exercised' them by adjusting them to and fro with a drill.

The issue is that the passenger side cannot be adjusted 'up' far enough. It is at the extreme 'up' adjustment and can go no farther. Less so with the driver side, i.e. it, too, is too low, just not as low as the passenger side.
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2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

....-------------------.
[ /.....................\ ]
.|(oOO)\(lll)(lll)/(OOo)|
. \o\0=======|=======0/o/
...|__|.............|__|
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Old 12-18-2011, 12:55 PM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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I was able to loosen the top two bolts holding the bulb capsule to the front end. The top of the passenger side capsule actually moved back a noticeable amount. The effect raised the headlight beam. Now, when shining on the wall, the two beams are almost even with one another. Later tonight I'll take it out on the road to see, first hand, the difference it makes.

I also jacked up the car and looked at the front leveling device. It is there and hooked up (as was expected). It also looks as if it cannot be adjusted. Because I could not lift the front high enough to get the front jacks behind the front wheels, I did not dare crawl under far enough to inspect for part numbers.

(The lift problem is that my AutoZone 2-ton lift isn't low enough to fit under the engine. I have to drive up on planks of wood. Because I don't have enough wood, there is barely enough room to get the jack under the engine AND have room to move the handle up and down, plus, the jack is so far under the car that the pump handle is also completely under the car in the wheel well. Such is the life of an idiot DIY'er who buys major tools like a 2-ton lift at Auto Zone.)

I'm beginning to wonder if the headlight alignment issue can be resolved on both sides simply by removing them, perhaps shimming them to tilt up just a bit, and reinstalling them.
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2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

....-------------------.
[ /.....................\ ]
.|(oOO)\(lll)(lll)/(OOo)|
. \o\0=======|=======0/o/
...|__|.............|__|
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Old 12-18-2011, 01:03 PM
rdl rdl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UsedBits View Post
That's the point of this thread. Do you know how? If not, can you point us to where we can learn how?
EDIT: looks as though there have been some developments while I was composing my post. :-) Good luck with your repairs.

I have DIS (BMW software) on my computer & OEM Hella HID with the "self leveling" LWR. I had faults some time ago due to a damaged plug on one of the suspension sensors. I never found an LWR calibration function in DIS. I also never found anything that suggested different right vs left control; both sides are given the same position to move to. (DIS was though helpful in finding the sensor plug fault.)

When the low beams go through their start up down/up/down motion, do they each move downward and upward the same amount on the wall? Note that this is not the same thing as going down (or up) to the same position on the wall.

If they do move down and then up by the same amount, it implies that both stepper motors are functioning properly through their full range of motion. It then has to be:
1 one or other of the adjuster parts isn't seated to it's headlight component. Since the manual adjusters are on the upper portion of the reflector assy, a part not fully seated will push the reflector top forward to point downward.
2 the manual adjuster can't provide enough "up." The screw isn't advancing far enough into its mating part to pull the top of the reflector backward, i.e. beam upward.
3 the stepper motor is not seated in the headlight body. Since the steppers attaches to the bottom of the reflector, an unseated stepper will pull the bottom of the reflector rearward and point the light beam low.
4 the passenger headlight assy body is "crooked" in the car body, physically pointing downward. Either the headlight assy is not seated or the front cowl is bent.

On the other hand, say the driver's side moves through say 2 feet of vertical on the wall while the passenger side moves through only 9 inches of vertical:
1 the stepper motor assy is jamming at part motion, i.e. it can't get to its target position & the manual adjuster can't compensate. The stepper motors are replaceable if defective.
2 the light and reflector assy inside the headlight is being jammed even though the stepper is OK. Perhaps on a piece of the old broken adjusters hung up inside?

Note that stepper motors are not positive displacement devices. Rather they attempt to advance a fixed X degrees of rotation with each pulse from the LWR, which then advances the push rod Y mm through a gear mechanism. But the torque is relatively weak, in which case the rotor "slips" and does not move. While sophisticated controllers might be able to detect a motor slip due to jamming, I doubt that the LWR is capable. This though is guess based on experience, not a fact that I know for certain.
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Last edited by rdl; 12-18-2011 at 01:05 PM.
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Old 12-18-2011, 01:10 PM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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RDL,

Quote:
When the low beams go through their start up down/up/down motion, do they each move downward and upward the same amount on the wall?
Yes. See the original post, detail 1).

Quote:
Here are the details:

2002 e39 540i, HID headlights (apparently the factory units)

1) both headlights move in tandem when switched on.
2) both headlights settle into their final position (the same position with each POST cycle)
3) the passenger-side is aimed too low
4) the passenger-side manual adjustment is as 'up' as it will go
5) both headlights have the aluminium manual adjustment parts upgrade (i.e., broken internal parts are replaced)
I believe you have nailed it with your comment:
Quote:
4 the passenger headlight assy body is "crooked" in the car body, physically pointing downward. Either the headlight assy is not seated or the front cowl is bent.
__________________

2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

....-------------------.
[ /.....................\ ]
.|(oOO)\(lll)(lll)/(OOo)|
. \o\0=======|=======0/o/
...|__|.............|__|
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Old 12-18-2011, 01:24 PM
rdl rdl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UsedBits View Post
RDL,

Yes. See the original post, detail 1).

I believe you have nailed it with your comment:
I did see your detail 1 but it wasn't clear if "tandem" meant together & synchronized & by the same vertical or together but different distances.

In any case, it appears you have found a solution, which is always nice
I now notice in your signature block that bumpers have been retrofitted. Perhaps this is the cause of the headlight assemblies being pointed down/low.
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  #23  
Old 12-18-2011, 02:29 PM
Steve530 Steve530 is offline
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Location: Knoxville, TN
 
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Mein Auto: 2001 530i
Quote:
Originally Posted by UsedBits View Post
Mark at EAC Tuning (I might have the company name wrong) installed the replacement aluminium adjustment parts. I seriously doubt he did it wrong, i.e. I seriously believe the headlight adjustment mechanism, itself, is not the issue.

The manual adjusters actually adjust the lights up, down, left, and right, on both capsules. There is nothing wrong with them. That said, I have not 'exercised' them by adjusting them to and fro with a drill....
I just want to note that the aluminum adjusters I bought from EAC Tuning were already tapped, so there was no need to "exercise" the adjusters.
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2001 530i/5 S+P CDV delete/Akebono ceramic pads
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  #24  
Old 12-18-2011, 02:40 PM
Steve530 Steve530 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UsedBits View Post
I was able to loosen the top two bolts holding the bulb capsule to the front end. The top of the passenger side capsule actually moved back a noticeable amount. The effect raised the headlight beam....

I'm beginning to wonder if the headlight alignment issue can be resolved on both sides simply by removing them, perhaps shimming them to tilt up just a bit, and reinstalling them.
You might want to check the brackets under the lights.
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  #25  
Old 12-19-2011, 08:16 AM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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Location: Central Arkansas
 
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Mein Auto: 2002 540iA with sport pkg
Alas, the passenger headlight beam is still way too low. I'll work on the premise that the capsules, themselves, may need to be shimmed up.
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2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

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