So you want to install HID headlights into your BMW? Here are some resources to help guide you on your way:
Getting an HID Retrofit Kit
UPDATE: Don't be cheap here. Buy a good quality kit. If you take anything away from this webpage, please learn from my experience and DO NOT buy a cheap HID kit. The headaches are not worth it. (See the comparison of the two kits I used.)
The first kit (Korean made, approx $449 from ProCarParts in LA, CA) I purchased was a nightmare. Poor wire insulation, defective bulbs and flakey ballasts had me removing and installing the headlights eight times to repair various problems. (None of which were due to installation error.)
I finally found an excellent kit from Supreme Power Parts that I am extremely happy with. It was more money, (approx $200 more) but there is simply no comparision to the previous HID kit I had. I didn't have arcing problems (because the kit was insulated correctly from the factory) and the light output is easily double that of the Korean HID kit I had. Again, get a quality HID setup with genuine Philip's ballasts and bulbs. (The Korean kit did not have Philips bulbs.) And buy it from a company that will stand behind the warranty and not give you the run-around. (Nah, I' didn't have a bad experience at all with my first kit.) ;)
Whats an E36 and E39 BMW? Click here to find out.
Installing an HID Kit into your Euro ellipsoid headlights
One thing I did differently than Jim is route my HID bulb wires towards the bottom of the headlight rather than straight out of the light housing. Here are pictures of my mounting technique:
|HID bulb installed in headlight Euro headlight housing||Notch made with circular file provides a perfect hole for HID wires to exit from the bottom of the headlight for a neater install||With cover replaced, a nice tight seal without undue stress on the HID wiring for a neat installation|
UPDATE:The new kit had genuine Philips HID bulbs that were longer than the ones shown above. Because of this, the back cover would not close. To get around this, you need to make a "bulge" in the back cover to provide clearance for the bigger bulbs. I used a a heat gun to heat up the cover (placed in a vice) and once the cover was hot and malleable, I used the back of a Mag-Lite flashlight to "bulge-out" the plastic to provide additional clearance. Take your time here, you don't want to ruin your covers.
Possible E36 Installation Gotchas
UPDATE:If you get a quality HID kit, you probably will not need to do this as the factory has probably already properly insulated the connections. Again, buy a quality kit. (Ok, last time I'll say it.)
Eliminating "Low Beam Failure" Messages on your E36 Check Control and/or On Board Computer
UPDATE:Since writing this article, I have heard from other people that their CCM is nothing like mine. It seems that the CCM on 95 M3's and Canadian E36's don't look anything like the CCM depicted here. (Which was from my 1998 M3/4 with OBC.)
You may or may not get a "low beam failure" message on your E36 On Board Computer when you turn on your headlights with a Xenon retrofit kit installed. Some people never get the message. Others get it sometimes. I got it ALL THE TIME and it was driving me nuts. I even got it when I installed my original H1 bulbs back into my ellipsoid housings with the HID ballasts disconnected. Just having the extra feed wire for the HID ballast bridged onto the low beam lead caused a low beam failure message. (Even though it was disconnected.) This is how sensitive the check control module is.
You might be asking yourself check control- whats that? Check control is a monitoring system on E36 cars that looks for, among other things, malfunctioning light bulbs on your car. All wiring for monitored bulbs (like tail, brake and license plate lights) passes through a box called the "Check Control Module" (or CCM). This module contains electronics that detect when a bulb may be bad by measuring current flow across a known resistance. If current flow is too low, then the CCM thinks that the bulb may be bad and posts an error message to your On Board Computer (or message display for non-OBC equipped cars). Because of its design, the CCM only detects failures when power is applied to a bulb. (For example, when you turn on your headlights.) Other non-E36 BMWs (like the E39) may use a more sophisticated check control system that checks the condition of the bulb when off and on. (See the next section for fixes for these cars.)
But, you've got an E36 with a "Low Beam Failure" message and you want to get rid of it. My solution involves making modifications to the CCM. If you are not comfortable making modifications to this unit, another solution from RICH328 is available. However, my lights were already installed in my car using the factory wiring, and I really hate cutting and/or modifying factory wiring. I've seen a lot of problems arise from modified wiring. (Especially as the car ages.) Also, I wanted a modification that could be completely reversed if I ever removed the HID lighting from the vehicle and wanted to return to stock. My modification (described below) addresses these concerns.
Note: Making the modifications described herein may void your car warranty, cause hair-loss or worse. Know what you are doing before doing it. Information that is provided here is for
informational purposes only. I provide this information to help BMW owners get more enjoyment (and less headaches) from their cars.
I cannot be held responsible any damages caused to you or your vehicle when utilizing these instructions.
|The CCM is in the dash on the drivers side of the car. Note arrow #3. (These pictures are from a 1998 M3/4 with OBC)|
|Here's what the book says it looks like.||And here is reality.|
Once you have located the module, follow the steps below:
|The CCM module, removed from the car.|
|When reassembling the CCM, note the position of the plastic snap tabs in relation to the harness plugs on the circuit board. If not followed correctly, the connectors will be facing the wrong way when you place the module back into the car and you will not be able to plug the wire harnesses back into the module.|
If you have any questions, corrections or comments, email me. I hope this information helps fellow BMW enthusiasts.
Eliminating "Low Beam Failure" Messages non-E36 cars
The check control systems on other non-E36 cars (like the E39) use a more sophisticated bulb monitoring system than the check control unit fitted to E36 cars.
Luckily, Lefty offers a solution for non-E36 cars.