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Xenon Headlight Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Xenon Headlight Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

1 hour1 hr

Tab:

$150

Talent:

**

Tools:

Phillips & flat-head screwdriver, plastic prying tool, 8mm nut driver, T20 Torx driver

Applicable Models:

BMW E46 3-Series (1999-06)

Parts Required:

Xenon headlight bulb, Xenon headlight transformer and module

Hot Tip:

Be sure key is out of ignition and headlights are off before servicing

Performance Gain:

Repair faulty Xenon components

Complementary Modification:

Replace headlight lenses while headlight assembly is removed

BMW E46 vehicles with optional high intensity discharge (HID) or xenon headlights utilize a special high voltage bulb and control unit for low beam headlights. Conventional halogen bulbs are used for high beams. The aim of the xenon low beams is controlled by stepper motors in the headlight assemblies, which respond to vehicle loading as detected by the headlight vertical aim sensors at the front and rear suspension.

If the vehicle is equipped with optional adaptive headlights, the bi-xenon headlight is equipped with an electrically activated shutter that directs the low beam cone of light in the same direction as the high beam. Bi-xenon headlights are also equipped with an adaptive headlight control system, which uses stepper motors to rotate the headlights slightly as the front wheels are steered, providing an enhanced lighting path as the vehicle travels through a turn. 

The headlight assembly seals can wear out over time resulting in water leaks and repeat bulb failures. On models with xenon lights, the HID module is located at the bottom of the headlight. Water can enter the module electrical connector causing headlight faults. If this happens to you, you will have to replace the headlight, the electrical harness and the HID module. The procedure below highlights xenon style bulb replacing. Halogen bulb replacement is similar, but not covered in this tech article.

Replacing xenon headlight components is different than standard halogen bulb-equipped models. The parts are much more expensive, so be extra careful when working with them.

You can test your xenon components by swapping parts side to side. For example, if you have a bulb that is not turning on, you can swap the bulb side to side. If you find the bulb is not the problem, you can then swap the xenon module side to side. This will help to avoid replacing parts that have not failed. The bulb and xenon module are the most common failures with BMW E46 xenon headlights.

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. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability. 

Vehicle models change and evolve, as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. 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.

Xenon Headlight Bulb Replacement:

Remove key from ignition switch and wait five minutes. Be sure headlights are switched OFF.

Working at rear of headlight assembly, remove Xenon bulb cover by pressing tab (green arrow) and pulling cover up and off headlight assembly.
Figure 1

Working at rear of headlight assembly, remove Xenon bulb cover by pressing tab (green arrow) and pulling cover up and off headlight assembly.

Next, rotate Xenon headlight bulb ignition unit counterclockwise and remove (green arrow).
Figure 2

Next, rotate Xenon headlight bulb ignition unit counterclockwise and remove (green arrow).

Next, rotate Xenon headlight bulb retainer counterclockwise then pull out of headlight assembly with Xenon bulb.
Figure 3

Next, rotate Xenon headlight bulb retainer counterclockwise then pull out of headlight assembly with Xenon bulb.

Replace bulb (green arrow) and reverse removal instructions to reassemble.
Figure 4

Replace bulb (green arrow) and reverse removal instructions to reassemble.

Xenon Headlight Transformer Replacement:
The driver side xenon headlight repair is highlighted. For the passenger side, remove the washer bottle from the vehicle for access to the headlight assembly.
Remove the air filter housing assembly fasteners (yellow arrows) and disconnect air flow meter electrical connector (green arrow).
Figure 5

Remove the air filter housing assembly fasteners (yellow arrows) and disconnect air flow meter electrical connector (green arrow).

Loosen air flow meter clamp (green arrow), then disconnect duct from air flow meter and remove air filter housing from engine compartment.
Figure 6

Loosen air flow meter clamp (green arrow), then disconnect duct from air flow meter and remove air filter housing from engine compartment.

Working at back of headlight assembly, disconnect headlight electrical connectors (green arrows).
Figure 7

Working at back of headlight assembly, disconnect headlight electrical connectors (green arrows).


Models with headlight washers: Next, remove the headlight washers.
Figure 8

Models with headlight washers: Next, remove the headlight washers. To do this, use a plastic prying tool and lever washer out.

Models with headlight washers: Then grab and pull straight out of headlight.
Figure 9

Models with headlight washers: Then grab and pull straight out of headlight. When nozzle is pulled out a small squirt of washer fluid is ejected; be careful, it may squirt you.

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, they will have a retaining tab instead.
Figure 10

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, 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, disconnect electrical connector and remove turn signal lens from vehicle.
Figure 11

Slide turn signal lens out of fender, disconnect electrical connector and remove turn signal lens from vehicle.

Pull out and remove lower headlight trim.
Figure 12

Pull out and remove lower headlight trim. You can release the retaining tabs by hand or using a small flat-head screwdriver.

Remove four 8mm headlight mounting fasteners (green arrows) then remove headlight from vehicle by pulling straight out toward front of vehicle.
Figure 13

Remove four 8mm headlight mounting fasteners (green arrows) then remove headlight from vehicle by pulling straight out toward front of vehicle.

Place the headlight on a work bench.
Figure 14

Place the headlight on a work bench. To replace Xenon transformer, remove three T20 Torx fasteners (green arrows).

Then lift Xenon module off headlight to replace.
Figure 15

Then lift Xenon module off headlight to replace. To install Xenon module and headlight, reverse removal instructions.

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Comments and Suggestions:
G-Mac Comments: Is there any way to put regular halogen aftermarket assemblies in place of the xenon lights?
It would be a lot cheaper to maintain and a hell of a lot more simple. Thank you.
November 28, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You would need an aftermarket retrofit kit for a different style of light.

otherwise you would need all the BMW halogen parts, plus the lighting control module.
Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Daniel Comments: I just purchased my first E46. It's a 2006 325Ci. The adaptive xenon work correctly without any issue when I turn them on in the "on," position thereby disabling the adaptive function. When in the "auto," position where the adaptive function works the passenger light works for 3-4 min, flickers and dies. When I turn it off and restart the vehicle it does the same thing. When I turn the headlight switch, "on," they stay on with zero issues. Any thoughts on what part I will need to order from you guys?
November 7, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like the transformer / ballast. Best bet is to swap the left to the right and see if the problem follows. Be sure to disconnect the battery first, it is a high voltage system. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
chris Comments: I have a 2005 xi with al Xenon Xenon lights. Drivers side went out and warning light came on in the check control area on the dash. Bought 2 new bulbs Replaced both but divers side still not working. Passenger side ok with new bulb. Few days later passenger side goes out but no check control light. removed both headlights and started part swapping as recommended above. Final result is that both lights don't work and now check control for both left and right headlights are on. In doing some research, i have read that the circuit may have to be reset via programming. is this the case? Multimeter indicates that I have power going to the ballast when low beams are on and all wires/harness look really good, I am stumped. for an 11 year old car it seems a little silly to invest in new ballast, igniters and bulbs without knowing what the real problem is but it seems like my only solution
November 2, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Unlikely both ballasts failed. I would grab a wiring diagram and confirm the ballasts are being turned on. DO NOT test the high voltage line, you can be injured. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Kevin Comments: I have a 2003 325ci. The left side low beam is out while in Automatic mode, but comes on when headlight switch is moved to the on position. In the on position the left side is more of a yellow color than the right side light. They have always bee the same till this started. Any ideas on what the problem might be? Thanks
October 7, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Could be the LCM. I would check power and ground to the bulb, which one is missing when the problem is present? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Karen Comments: 1 have a 2004 BMW 325Ci Convertible. Right headlight comes on but goes out. The wires going to the igniter are frayed. If I bought an igniter, will it come with the wires. I was told there are 4 wires, but when I look up the part, it looks like there are only 2. Please help. My car has been in the shop for 2 months because the mechanic thinks I must buy the complete headlight assembly.
March 29, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Can you share a photo of the wires? I wouldn't know without seeing them.

For an instant response, give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Greg Comments: I have a 2001 325ci with xenon headlights. The passenger side light flickers momentarily when I turn them on and goes out. All connections appear secure. Before I start swapping out parts from one side to the other, I was wondering if there was any way to tell if it's the bulb, the igniter, or something else. I'd prefer not to have to take both sides apart just to see what's wrong on one.
Thanks!
March 24, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You can monitor the low voltage signal to the faulty light. If the signal to turn on is present at all times, you then have to replace the igniter or bulb. No way to test the high voltage parts, personal injury can occur if you try. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Fri 12/9/2016 02:21:04 AM