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Third Brake Light Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Third Brake Light Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

1 hour1 hr

Tab:

$20 to $100

Talent:

**

Tools:

Flathead screwdriver

Applicable Models:

BMW Z3 (1996-02)

Parts Required:

Third brake light lens assembly, bulbs

Hot Tip:

Tape body so you do not scratch it

Performance Gain:

Working third brake light

Complementary Modification:

Replace tail light bulbs

In this tech article, I will show you how to replace the third brake light bulbs and lens assembly on your BMW Z3. When replacing the bulbs, be sure not to touch them. Wear a glove or use a clean rag / cloth to keep it clean. The lens on the third brake light wears and becomes dull over time. I find replacing it improves the look of the vehicle and visibility of the light. 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 taillight for water leaks.

When dealing with repeated bulb failure, inspect the electrical connector and bulb holder. The connectors can wear over time causing heat and melting. Once the electrical connector on the harness side or the bulb socket has melted, you will have a poor connection and 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.

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. 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.

The third brake light on Z3 models is mounted in the trunk lid.
Figure 1

The third brake light on Z3 models is mounted in the trunk lid.

Working in trunk, pull plastic cover off trunk lid (green arrow).
Figure 2

Working in trunk, pull plastic cover off trunk lid (green arrow).

Once the cover is removed, there are seven separate bulbs for the third brake light (green arrows).
Figure 3

Once the cover is removed, there are seven separate bulbs for the third brake light (green arrows).

To remove a bulb, twist socket 90° counterclockwise.
Figure 4

To remove a bulb, twist socket 90 degrees counterclockwise. Once removed from assembly, remove bulb from socket. Wear gloves or use a clean rag when handling bulb. Reverse steps to install new bulb.

If you are replacing the lens assembly, start by disconnecting the electrical connector.
Figure 5

If you are replacing the lens assembly, start by disconnecting the electrical connector. Pull the electrical connector straight off the light.

Next, working at each side of the light, remove both T8 Torx screws.
Figure 6

Next, working at each side of the light, remove both T8 Torx screws. Right side shown, repeat step for left side.

Then remove the three Phillips head screws from the socket electrical panel (green arrows).
Figure 7

Then remove the three Phillips head screws from the socket electrical panel (green arrows).

Next, remove the bulb electrical panel from the third brake light by lifting it off.
Figure 8

Next, remove the bulb electrical panel from the third brake light by lifting it off. Store it in a safe place.

To release the lens from the trunk you have to detach the reflector.
Figure 9

To release the lens from the trunk you have to detach the reflector. There are three sets of release tabs that run along the reflector. Squeeze them to release as you pull the reflector away from the lens.

Working your way across the reflector, detaching it from the lens until it is free.
Figure 10

Working your way across the reflector, detaching it from the lens until it is free.

Once the reflector has been removed, you can remove the lens from the trunk lid.
Figure 11

Once the reflector has been removed, you can remove the lens from the trunk lid.

Thoroughly clean the trunk lid and lens mating surface.
Figure 12

Thoroughly clean the trunk lid and lens mating surface. If there is any wear (green arrow) touch it up to prevent rust. Once you prepare the mating surface. Install the new lens, then snap the reflector into place. It can be tricky to align the two, sometimes having a second pair of hands really helps. Once the two snap together, install the electrical panel and remaining items. Check operation of the light when complete.

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Comments and Suggestions:
chickenhead Comments: how do you know if it is a bulb or lens assembly? if its a bulb will just one go or blow the lot?
September 6, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: One will got out, if a bulb is faulty. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
MikeSwing Comments: Shouldn't there be a gasket around the red lens? I'm about to replace my lens and bulbs and I thought a gasket was used or needed.
June 14, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It is part of the lens. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
richierich Comments: Hi, I did this a few months back but I still get a leak and condensation inside of the boot lid. I've checked again to ensure it was correctly fitted and to my knowledge it is.. Any help?

Rich
January 10, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Possible tail light or trunk seal leak. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Doclip Comments: How is this procedure different for Z3 Coupe?
November 19, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: On the Coupe, the spoiler has to be removed. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Tbone Comments: Your articles are better than any Chilton's Auto Manual!
October 13, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 

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Page last updated: Tue 10/17/2017 02:09:36 AM