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Old 06-03-2012, 08:04 AM   #1
Zero. Leaks.
Solidjake's Avatar
Join Date: May 2008
Location: NYC
Posts: 31,005
My Ride: '02 330i 6MT
Exclamation *** Official E46 Lighting Guide ***

- Hello hello. I hope all of you with lingering questions on your lighting are reading this thread.

- This thread is meant for sedan owners (1999-2005) and coupe owners (until 2003)

I. What is the difference between halogen and xenon headlights?

- Halogen headlights use a filament inside the bulb, just like a regular light bulb in a house lamp.
- Xenon headlights have a projector which is a bowl specially designed to concentrate the light output of a specially made bulb with a xenon gas inside of it. To power a xenon bulb a ballast is needed because a certain amount of power is needed to keep them running.
- Below is a good youtube video explaining the two. It is in German but if you watch it you will understand a lot more.

II. So I have halogen lights, what can I do to improve them?

- You can either get different halogen bulbs or do a projector retrofit for xenon bulbs.
- If you just want to upgrade the bulbs you can look into bulbs such as Sylvania Silverstars, Philips X-treme Power, Philips Vision Plus, etc. I recommend Sylvania or Philips halogen bulbs.
- Projector retrofit see below:

Morimoto H1 Projector retrofit is a plug and play application for halogen lights which can be done at the cost of around $255 before shipping cost for the projectors, bulbs and ballasts. For $30 more you can get the H1 wiring harness which I recommend. WWW.THERETROFITSOURCE.COM

- Morimoto H1 Mini Projector with bulbs $145

E46 hid retrofit

- Morimoto 35 watt ballasts $110

retrofit HIDs for E46

- H1 wiring harness $30

E46 HIDs

Here is the DIY

III. So I have xenon lights, what can I do to improve them?

- There are two types of OEM projector headlights for E46's which are AL (Automotive Lighting) or ZKW
- AL projectors are made of a material that does not burn up after many hours or use and hold their lighting output well.
- On the other hand ZKW lights have poorly made projectors which burn out. BMW is aware of it but a recall is not in the works unfortunately.

- For AL lights I highly recommend installing ZKW clear lenses from TRS. Simple install which till take about two hours taking your time and adding/removing washers for spacing purposes.
- ZKW clear lenses $40 or $25 for value ones with a few imperfections.
- You can use my DIY video to install the lenses

- My lighting before with cheap low beam bulbs and a HID kit in the fogs

- My lighting afterwards with Nokya 2500k fogs, Philips 85122+ D2S bulbs and ZKW clear lenses

- For ZKW lights the only thing you can do is replace your lights with halogen headlights with the Morimoto retrofit, get a set of OEM AL headlights or just put in a different projector all together (see section IV below)

IV. The highest level of lighting?

- Now, you want something better? That can be done. There are many people who go all out on their lighting setups to get the best possible light output possible.
- Arguably the best projector is the FXR. It has a far depth and wide diffusion which is everything you would want. It is possible to install this projector onto either your halogen or xenon headlights, but you will have to do some cutting and modifying the housing.
- Here are some DIY's that might help

V. What's up with all of the different bulb colors and K numbers being thrown around?

- You've probably seen either halogen or xenon bulbs being sold stating 4300k, 5000k, 6000k, etc. The list goes on.
- These numbers are the color of light output in Kelvin which measures temperature/light temperature.
- Rule about this is that the lower the number (the more yellow) the more you will see and the more that will be illuminated on the road. Not only this but it is much easier on your eyes especially if you do a lot of night time driving.
- The higher you go, 8000k, 10,000k, etc the less you will see.
- Lumens, how much light output is generated, varies depending on the temperature of the bulb and the brand. Example: if you get 4300k Philips xenon bulbs that would be considered the best of lighting. On the other hand if you get some 10,000k ebay bulbs expect to see nothing.
- Here is a color chart to explain:

- Bulbs that you should buy should be Sylvania or Philips as stated previously.
- Here is a great thread explaining the various versions, temperatures and the lumens.

VI. Do's and Don'ts for your lighting setup.

- Do not put an hid/xenon kit into your halogen headlights/foglights. It is illegal, blinds other drivers and has poor light diffusion.
- Try to stick with 4300k or 5000k bulbs for your low beams for best lighting.
- For fogs try to stick with 2500k or 3000k bulbs. Nokya bulbs are excellent for fog lights and cost $20-25 USD shipped on
- Try to run a wiring harness if you retrofit in an hid kit into your car. The initial surge from the ballasts CAN harm your LCM module which will result in the gauge cluster resetting, mileage being completely screwed up, on-board computer stalk being fried (happened to me) and many other electrical problems.
- Do not buy cheap ebay headlights and tail lights. These lights are of extremely poor quality, ebay sellers will not help you when they fail and the overall quality sucks on those lights.
- If you want to buy new tail lights, side markers and corner lights stick with OEM where possible, if not... DEPO is the only other way to go for side markers and corners and for tail lights Eagle Eyes (tail lights only, EE is not recommended by me for headlights)
- Examples of bad headlights and tail lights:


Last edited by Solidjake; 09-11-2013 at 03:50 PM. Reason: Auto-save 1378932650
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