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Exterior Light Bulbs Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Exterior Light Bulbs Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

1 hour1 hr

Tab:

$10

Talent:

**

Tools:

Flat-head and Phillips-head screwdrivers

Applicable Models:

BMW E46 3-Series (1999-06)

Parts Required:

Light bulbs, sockets if needed, license plate light lens

Hot Tip:

Do not touch bulbs with bare hands.

Performance Gain:

Working exterior lights

Complementary Modification:

Change headlight and brake lenses

BMW E46 exterior bulbs are monitored by the Light Switch Center (LSZ), which also controls instrument panel dimming. LSZ is also capable of switching lighting functions in case of a fault. For example, in the case of a taillight bulb failure, brake light bulbs are used as a substitute.

Bulb monitoring by LSZ is done both cold and hot (unlit or lit). In cold monitoring, LSZ sends brief current pulses to unlit bulbs to measure their resistance. The pulses are too short to illuminate bulbs but serve the purpose of evaluating whether an individual bulb or bulb circuit is defective. In hot monitoring, LSZ measures the current to individual lit bulbs to determine overload or a break in the circuit.

There are a number of exterior light bulbs around your BMW E46 that require maintenance. The front side marker lights are located in the front fender and work in conjunction with the turn signal light next to the headlight. The license plate lights are located in the trunk lid or tailgate. These provide the most trouble from water intrusion, often ruining the electrical socket.

To avoid marring the trim if you need to pry anything, work with a plastic prying tool or wrap a screwdriver tip with masking tape before prying out trim panels, switches or electrical accessories.

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches. 

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If you are working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Never work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability. 

Our vehicle may vary slightly from yours as models do change and evolve, as they grow older. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

Side Marker Bulb:
Grab side marker lens and push toward front of vehicle while pulling rear of lens out of fender.
Figure 1

Grab side marker lens and push toward front of vehicle while pulling rear of lens out of fender.

Rotate bulb holder counter-clockwise and remove from lens.
Figure 2

Rotate bulb holder counter-clockwise and remove from lens. Then replace bulb and reinstall lens.

Turn Signal Bulb:
Working at top corner of fender, insert a Phillips screwdriver into hole and remove turn signal lens fastener; some models do not have a screw
Figure 3

Working at top corner of fender, insert a Phillips screwdriver into hole and remove turn signal lens fastener; some models do not have a screw--Â--they will have a retaining tab instead. To release this style, insert a flat-head screwdriver into same hole, and release tab while levering turn signal lens out.

Slide turn signal lens out of fender, rotate bulb holder and remove from lens.
Figure 4

Slide turn signal lens out of fender, rotate bulb holder and remove from lens. Replace bulb and reinstall lens.

License Plate Bulb:
There are two separate license plate bulb lenses (green arrows).
Figure 5

There are two separate license plate bulb lenses (green arrows). If you are having trouble with water intrusion or corrosion on one, replace both as a set.

Using a small flat-head screwdriver, lever out license plate lens at small square opening (green arrow).
Figure 6

Using a small flat-head screwdriver, lever out license plate lens at small square opening (green arrow).

To remove bulb (green arrow), pull out of bulb electrical socket.
Figure 7

To remove bulb (green arrow), pull out of bulb electrical socket. Inspect socket for corrosion. Replace if necessary. If needed, see our tech article on trunk release handle replacing. This covers license plate socket replacement also.

Inspect seal on lens, if seal is worn, dry rotted or shows signs of water entering light, replace with new lens.
Figure 8

Inspect seal on lens, if seal is worn, dry rotted or shows signs of water entering light, replace with new lens.


Reassemble license plate light in reverse order. When installing lens, feed in opposite you the way you levered out first, then snap into place.

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Comments and Suggestions:
ricky Comments: The article was very helpful in removing the front bumper. Great job!!
January 8, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 

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Page last updated: Mon 12/5/2016 02:20:24 AM