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Tail Light Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Tail Light Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

1 hour1 hr

Tab:

$20 to $200

Talent:

**

Tools:

8mm socket

Applicable Models:

BMW Z3 Convertible (1996-02)

Parts Required:

Taillight assembly, taillight bulbs, taillight bulb sockets, taillight electrical connector pigtail

Hot Tip:

Tape body so you do not scratch it

Performance Gain:

Replace faulty taillight lens. Replace faulty taillight bulb.

Complementary Modification:

Replace third brake light bulbs

In this tech article, I will show you how to replace the taillights on your BMW Z3. The taillight is in the rear fender and includes all of the bulbs for the rear lights.  When replacing the bulbs, be sure not to touch them. Wear a glove or use a clean rag / cloth to keep it clean. 

If you have intermittent rear light problems, inspect the bulb sockets and the pigtail. The connectors can wear over time causing heat and melting. Once the electrical connector on the harness side or the taillight socket has melted, you will have a poor connection and rear bulb faults or failures.  If you find the connector is melted, you can repair it by installing a new plug pigtail and / or replacing the bulb socket assembly. If you have a water leak in your trunk, check that the lens is sealed well and it is not the source of the water leak. Also inspect the third brake light for water leaks.

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

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're 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.

The procedure given below is for earlier Z3 models. In later Z3 and M Coupe models, after you remove a cover over the taillight socket (working inside the trunk), you will find the taillight bulb sockets twisted into a printed circuit board. Rotate each socket 1/4  turn counterclockwise to remove it.

The taillight on Z3 models is mounted in the rear fender, left side shown on this photo.
Figure 1

The taillight on Z3 models is mounted in the rear fender, left side shown on this photo.

Working in trunk, rotate knob 90° counterclockwise to loosen.
Figure 2

Working in trunk, rotate knob 90 degrees counterclockwise to loosen.

Once loose, lift bulb panel off of tail light.
Figure 3

Once loose, lift bulb panel off of tail light. You now have access to the main tail light bulbs. There is one side marker bulb I will show you how to access in the following steps.

To remove a bulb, wear gloves or use a clean rag and twist bulb 90° counterclockwise; once unlocked, remove bulb from socket.
Figure 4

To remove a bulb, wear gloves or use a clean rag and twist bulb 90 degrees counterclockwise; once unlocked, remove bulb from socket. Reverse steps to install new bulb.

To remove side marker bulb, pull it straight out of tail light.
Figure 5

To remove side marker bulb, pull it straight out of tail light.

To remove a bulb from socket, wear gloves or use a clean rag and pull bulb straight out.
Figure 6

To remove a bulb from socket, wear gloves or use a clean rag and pull bulb straight out. Reverse steps to install new bulb.

To remove bulb panel from vehicle you have to disconnect the electrical connector.
Figure 7

To remove bulb panel from vehicle you have to disconnect the electrical connector. Disconnect electrical connector by squeezing release tabs and pulling off.

If you need to replace the tail light lens, you will have to remove the nuts, then pull the lens out of the fender.
Figure 8

If you need to replace the tail light lens, you will have to remove the nuts, then pull the lens out of the fender. First, remove two 8mm mounting nuts (green arrows).

Then push tail light out of fender from inside trunk while supporting it from the outside.
Figure 9

Then push tail light out of fender from inside trunk while supporting it from the outside. Then remove from vehicle. When installing new taillight lens, check that taillight seal is in good condition, replace if necessary. If this seal leaks, water can leak into the trunk or taillight lens. Reverse steps to install new lens.

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Page last updated: Wed 12/7/2016 02:07:56 AM