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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Left xenon headlight failed about 9 months ago...replaced bulb and got erratic performance...would not come on with Auto. Reading this forum told me that I probably needed a new ballast and/or ignitor. I found some new OEM parts on eBay, and had everything ready, including a new Philips bulb.

Read up on replacing the ballast (and viewed the videos many times), and finally did the deed yesterday. This is a short post about the experience from a novice mechanic. Before starting, I taped a piece of kraft paper under the assembly to prevent scratching the bumper. Also, I made sure the headlight switch was OFF.

First, loosened screw to take out left turn signal...no one mentioned how hard it would be to get the socket disconnected...finally used screwdriver and popped it off, after breaking a small piece of the connection.
Second, removed four screws holding headlight assembly. Used magnetic pointer to remove bottom left...so far, so good.
Third, had to disconnect three electrical sockets. Nobody mentioned that you would have to use a screwdriver upside down to lift the tab! Being careful, I finally got this done.
Fourth, I carefully unhooked the trim piece without ruining the paint by using a piece of cardboard.
Fifth, I slowly pulled the entire assembly out...wow...what an exhilarating feeling...me, working on a BMW.
Sixth, carefully placed assembly upside down, and there was the ballast. I carefully removed the three screws, took off the old, and installed the new ballast. The part numbers matched for the first 2 or 3 sets, but that was the best I could do.
Seventh, I was mortified to see that the ignitor was no where to be seen...it was buried inside the headlight assembly. I quickly decided that was a no go, so I decided to hope for the best and assume the ballast would fix it.
So far I am about an hour into the project, and so far, so good.
Eighth, I carefully attempted to put the headlight assembly back in; but first I hooked up the three electrical connectors. Much to my horror, it would not line up with the holes, nor would the trim piece fit. I pushed, pulled, lifted, all to no avail. After working up a nervous sweat, I decided to take the assembly out...and that meant disconnecting those three connection...OMG. Sweat is now running down my brow (and it is 50 degrees in the garage), but I did it. I carefully placed the assembly down, and stopped for lunch.
Ninth, I returned to the task. I carefully placed the assembly in the space, and saw that something was keeping it too high from fitting. Just by accident, I finally figured out that the low left screw lsupport had a channel on the bottom of the assembly (they never mentioned that in the video), and had to slide on the screw support. Viola', it all lined up...you have got to be kidding me!!
Tenth, I carefully put all four screws back in, taking care to tuck in the trim piece which now magically fit. I also hooked up the three connectors for the second time.
Eleventh, I reattached the connector to the parking light, and screwed it down. I am not satisfied that it is a water tight fit, but I will work on that later.
Twelfth, carefully removed the ignitor socket from the old bulb, and replaced the bulb with the new Philips bulb. Put the ignitor socket back on and stood back!!! Carefully checked all connections one more time, and closed the hood!!!!
Thirteenth, I started the car in order to "charge" the ballast, and let it run for a few minutes. Good news was that the DRL came on. Next, I turned the lights to Parking, and the turn signal came on, and worked. Finally, I got up the nerve to turn the lights to ON, and the xenon bulb came on!!! I cannot print the happy words I said, but needless to say, little ol' me was amazed that I had repaired my BMW!!!!

Sorry this turned out so long, but if one person decides they can do this based on my experience, it will be worth it!
 

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I've been through the forums on this and many sites over the past 9 months but still looking for an answer to our Dual Xenon issue...

Bulbs are replaced, no flickers, no issues with the lights when they work. I'm wondering if this is a software issue, non-OEM BMW battery (but within specs) issue or what?
At first I suspected a ground but have checked end to end and even paid my BMW Certified Mechanic to review end to end electrical for a grounding issue... no grounding issues.

The problem: It's a crap-shoot every time I start the e46 and turn on the lights. We may get both lights, we might get the right or the left or nothing.
I let my son drive to school (on permit) and I drive it home. Winter and summer and everything in between we get the same issue.
While driving I sometimes lose both lights. I can pull over, turn the car off and on (sometimes 3 - 7 times) and then both lights will come on.
I disconnected all lights and reconnected each light and it worked consistently for 4 days or so. I used dielectric spray on all components and it worked for 2 days.

When the lights work (either one or both), they are full strength and not a hint of flickering so I do not believe this is ballast or component related.

I'm strongly considering replacing the dual Xenons and looking for options; e.g. LED or back to old school (this is a 2003 e46 with high miles purchased for my 16 year old because I want him driving a manual transmission. Please understand that this car is not perfect, it leaks a little oil and has some rust on the a-pillar. I do not want to pass our issues on to someone else as was done to me by the previous owner).

I'm at a loss here and hoping someone on the forums has had an issue such as this.

Options I'm considering:
1) swap out the Xenons for non-Xenons
2) mount a couple KC Highlights in rally fashion on the bumper (just kidding)
3) reconsidering #2 (I already have these from a WRX... could be fun)
4) re-terminate all socket connections ($?)
5) swap out the battery for a BMW battery ($350)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Update on my Xenon bulb fix...new bulb with new ballast worked a couple of times, and then would not come on in Auto position. After several tries, I finally tried one of my earlier work-around options: I did not use the Auto position. Instead, I put the switch on Off, and then, when I need the headlights, I carefully turn the switch to Parking lights, and after about 30 seconds, I turn it to ON. This has worked for the past 6 out of 6 times, but as you said, it a "crap-shoot" each time I turn the lights on. For me, I do not drive this car at night, as it is my fun car. However, it still pisses me off that I cannot depend on it. I think this two-step process lets the ballast "charge up," whereas going from being Off to having to instantly come on from Auto position just will not work with a weakness in one of the components mentioned below, and maybe even more I don't even know about!!

Based on my experience and others on this forum, I would change these bulbs out to a normal halogen bulb if I this was my only car, or I had to drive it at night. A headlight should need so many interconnected parts such as ballast, ignitor, headlight control unit, etc.
 

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Fixed!!! Both headlamps have been working for 7 weeks or so...

Dielectric spray didn't get the results I was hoping for. Dielectric gel applied 1 - 2x a week over the past few weeks to each light socket and the lights have been working consistently.

I've been turning on the lights every time I drive the car day or night and even quick drives light pulling it in the garage at night and both headlamps have worked just like new.

Sorry for the delay in posting but I wanted to give it enough time to ensure it was fixed.

Best of luck!
M
 
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