In this tech article I will show you how to replace the tail lights on your BMW X3. The tail light is in the rear fender and tail gate 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 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. 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 X3 models. Other models are similar.
The tail light is in the rear fender and tail gate and includes all of the bulbs for the rear lights. Red arrow: turn signal. Blue arrow tail light. Purple arrow: brake light. Yellow arrow: reverse light. Green arrow: rear fog (if equipped).
You now have access to the main tail light bulbs. Turn signal (yellow arrow), stop and parking light (red arrow) and tail light (green arrow). To remove a bulb, wear gloves or use a clean rag and twist bulb socket 90 degrees counterclockwise; once unlocked, remove bulb from socket. Reverse steps to install new bulb.
Then push tail light out of fender from inside the vehicle while supporting it from the outside (red arrow). Then remove from vehicle. Check that tail light seal (green arrow) 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.
To service the tail gate mounted lights, start by removing the tail gate trim panel. See our tech article on tail gate trim panel removal. Too replace a bulb, green arrow: rear fog, red arrow: reverse light. Rotate bulb holder 45 degrees and remove. Then, twist bulb to remove from socket. Reverse steps to install new bulb.
When installing, be sure hooks on tail light (red arrows) are on tail gate correctly, then fold into place. Check that tail light seal (blue arrow) 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.