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BMW E36 Headlamp Switch Replacement

Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E36 Headlamp Switch Replacement


30 minutes30 mins






22mm deep socket or pair of needle-nose pliers,

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)
BMW E36 3-Series (1992-99)

Parts Required:

Headlamp switch and bulb

Performance Gain:

A headlamp switch that works

Complementary Modification:

Replace your headlight bulbs
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It is not uncommon to experience a failure of your headlamp switch. Years of repeated use and abuse have a tendency to take their toll on the switch. Some symptoms of a faulty switch include headlamps that won't turn on, inoperable fog lamps, and strange chimes coming from the dashboard, just to name a few. In addition, there'Â's a small light bulb that'Â's contained within the switch itself that often burns out.

Replacement is very easy and only requires about 30 minutes of your time. See Photo 1 for the breakdown of the replacement procedure. The only tricky part for some people may be removing the plastic nut that fastens the switch to the vent housing. If you have a 22-millimeter deep socket, you can simply place this socket on the nut and turn it by hand. If you don'Â't have access to a deep socket this size, you may have to resort to a pair of needle-nose pliers to remove the nut.

The part number for the replacement switch is 61-31-1-393-395. The part number for the mini-light bulb contained within the switch is 61-13-8-360-844.

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Figure 1

This photo shows the sequence for removal of the headlamp switch on the E36.

The switch and vent are attached to the dashboard via one screw (yellow arrow) and a clip behind the dash. Remove this screw, and the vent/switch assembly should simply pull out.

This photo shows the switch after the vent has been pulled out. Remove the wire harness connector (green arrow) by turning the retainer counterclockwise. The knob simply pulls off of the switch.

With the connector disconnected from the wire harness, the entire assembly should be able to be pulled out. The blue arrow points to the 22-millimeter plastic nut that secures the switch to the vent housing.

Shown here is a replacement switch, along with a new mini-light bulb. Most owners donÂÂÂÂ't even realize the switch is supposed to light up when itÂÂÂÂ's turned on.

Comments and Suggestions:
Douth Comments: I have a 1991 320i e36, I have fitted a new headlight switch and it now turns on the emergency flashers instead of the headlights. It works on the first notch for the park lights so I am at a total loss Can you please help?
March 9, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Possible you installed the wrong switch or the switch was not faulty. It could be an issue with a short. I would get a repair manual and check the circuit. Confirm if the switch is sending the right voltage when the lights are turned on. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
John27 Comments: I have a 2003 bmw 330ci. Just replaced the headlight switch and now the tail lights don't come on when the switch is activated. Did I miss something or does the computer need to recognize that new switch? Thanks, John
January 4, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The switch should not require programming. I would assume you still have a fault. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
00will Comments: The backlight on mine is coming on when the ignition is on, all other backlights work as the should when you turn the lights on and off and the buzzer sounds as it should but not on the light switch? Faulty switch or bad wiring?
February 21, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: What is the vehicle? What backlight are you referring to? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bill Comments: Do you have a headlight switch removal tutorial for a 2011 328i?
September 28, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not right now. If we get the chance to perform the procedure we will be sure to document it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Adam Comments: "wattage on the 2721 is 1.2W, which is over triple the wattage specified for the switch light .36W. " - or use the 1,2W bulb with a 100Ohm min. 0.5W resistor in series.
If you have only 1/4W resistors, take two pieces of 200 Ohm in paralell:

-bulb-two 200resistor in paralell--
August 20, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
ultimate-tester Comments: I am wondering if this is a specific BMW product you'll have to buy, or if there are alternatives aftermarket suppliers, like universal stuff.. I have absolutely no idea what the term is for this exact bulb, can anyone help me out?
May 31, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Are you looking for a headlight switch? I am not sure if there is an aftermarket option. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
E36man Comments: The Sylvania 2721 is NOT a replacement for the headlight switch bulb - wattage on the 2721 is 1.2W, which is over triple the wattage specified for the switch light .36W. You'll end up melting the bulb enclosure - stick w. the 61138360844 bulb.
December 1, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Tim Comments: The bulb type is a 2721. Sylvanna makes a Long Life edition, and AutoZone usually has them. A pack of 2 costs about five bucks.
October 1, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Make sure the bulb is the correct wattage.
- Nick at Pelican Parts

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Page last updated: Mon 1/15/2018 02:06:40 AM