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Lighting Forum
Angel Eyes, DDEs, lighted rings, Clear Turn Signals, LEDs, Xenon, HID, or Bi-Xenon. If it lights up and you want to discuss it, post here!

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Old 06-03-2012, 08:04 AM   #1
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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

http://e46fanatics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=840919


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

http://e46fanatics.com/forum/showthr...t=fxr+retrofit

http://e46fanatics.com/forum/showthr...t=fxr+retrofit

http://e46fanatics.com/forum/showthr...t=fxr+retrofit


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.

http://www.hidplanet.com/forums/show...bout-HID-bulbs.


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 www.ebay.com
- 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:



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Last edited by Solidjake; 09-11-2013 at 03:50 PM. Reason: Auto-save 1378932650
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Old 06-07-2012, 04:58 PM   #2
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Finally someone with an extremely helpful post. Thx man

Ps. Those tailights other than depo and ee are disgusting anyways..
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Old 07-17-2012, 09:00 PM   #3
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this is very good ! thanks man, just got me e46 and obvs one of the first thing everyone wants to do is the headlights haha ! thanks again !
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Old 07-17-2012, 09:30 PM   #4
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No problem! Post up some pics when you do the retrofit
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Old 07-17-2012, 09:41 PM   #5
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Wow, I can't believe that you took all the time to test all those headlights and tail lights.
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Old 07-18-2012, 01:39 PM   #6
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Make it pop up as a visitor message on all new members visitor message board thing.
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Old 08-02-2012, 03:19 PM   #7
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Hey Jake,
I noticed you said No EE projectors.Curious,what issues do they have?
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Old 08-03-2012, 01:11 PM   #8
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Another source - we offer the same projectors and shortly will be offering every style of shroud and adapter and plug.
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Old 08-12-2012, 01:55 AM   #9
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are the morimoto h1's the best ones to buy if you're looking to convert? i'm looking to do the retrofit, no p46's for me, or are the fxr ones best? i'm always on the retrofit website but sorta get confused with the amounts of options haha never quite sure which ones to order for my 2003 325ci.
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Old 08-12-2012, 07:24 AM   #10
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Thanks for this, Jake!

I'm still confused, though. I have halogens. So the only safe way for me to get brighter lights is replace housings for ones with projectors and then I can add HIDs...(and then I need to add auto-leveling?)...or is there just nothing more I can do?

I don't want to blind anyone, of course.

Anyway, Jake, I do remember your telling me to just leave them the way they were when we met, so didn't mean to doubt you...though, in my defense, no one is perfect, and new solutions do come out.
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Old 08-15-2012, 03:28 AM   #11
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Solidjake- PLEASE, Tell people not to clean the mirror housings as the chrome wipes away! Learned that the hard way.. Thx
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Old 08-15-2012, 03:53 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattyschwarz1 View Post
are the morimoto h1's the best ones to buy if you're looking to convert? i'm looking to do the retrofit, no p46's for me, or are the fxr ones best? i'm always on the retrofit website but sorta get confused with the amounts of options haha never quite sure which ones to order for my 2003 325ci.

FXR is the best but requires trimming, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmax View Post
Thanks for this, Jake!

I'm still confused, though. I have halogens. So the only safe way for me to get brighter lights is replace housings for ones with projectors and then I can add HIDs...(and then I need to add auto-leveling?)...or is there just nothing more I can do?

I don't want to blind anyone, of course.

Anyway, Jake, I do remember your telling me to just leave them the way they were when we met, so didn't mean to doubt you...though, in my defense, no one is perfect, and new solutions do come out.
You will keep the headlights that you have, the halogen ones. The only thing you are doing is popping in projectors and the bright bulbs. It is plug and play and reversible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grease_Monkey View Post
Solidjake- PLEASE, Tell people not to clean the mirror housings as the chrome wipes away! Learned that the hard way.. Thx
Sure will!
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Old 08-15-2012, 08:39 AM   #13
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Thanks again, Jake! It's on my list, but there are a few things ahead of it right now. Reading all the threads on lights gave me overoad...but your saying 'projector, bulbs, and reversible' really makes me want it bad!

Just please don't tell anyone I've done a mod!
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Old 10-17-2012, 10:07 AM   #14
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Hey Jake,

I had a question for you about my 04 325CI vert. I am finding out that my car has kind of a unique headlight design and my options are somewhat limited. I have stock halogen headlights which are pretty sand blasted and look weathered. I'd like to replace them. I checked out Khoalty and they have the E46 DEPO Projector46 headlights which they offer an upgrade option of high power LED angel eyes.

I read your info above about staying away from using HID bulbs in halogen projectors. Khoalty has the headlights available in halogen (which is what my car has now) or the additional options of auto leveling, Bi-Xenon projectors, and a CANBUS HID kit. What is your experience with HID upgrades? Would I be better off sticking to halogens or can I expect a good result spending the additional $140 of so to upgrade the auto level, Bi-Xenon projectors, and HID kit? I am looking for a plug and play upgrade and can live with halogens but the HID's sure would be nice and the time for me to decide would be when I buy the new headlight assemblies.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:24 AM   #15
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Since we have been performing more and more retrofits both on BMWs and other cars, please allow us to reply.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Retrax View Post
Hey Jake,

I had a question for you about my 04 325CI vert. I am finding out that my car has kind of a unique headlight design and my options are somewhat limited. I have stock halogen headlights which are pretty sand blasted and look weathered. I'd like to replace them. I checked out Khoalty and they have the E46 DEPO Projector46 headlights which they offer an upgrade option of high power LED angel eyes.

Your headlights are 1 piece and sealed closed. They are not clipped together like the sedan of your same year. You have 4 choices:
1) Find a used set on eBay with clear lenses and bake both sets of lenses off in an oven, then simply swap the lenses. You're looking for the cheapest most broken headlights on eBay because you only need the lenses.

2) You can purchase a brand new set of headlights, here:
http://www.umnitza.com/index.php?mai...oducts_id=1231

These have many options for you, angel eyes, bixenon projectors, xenon output, new lenses, plug and play, etc.

3) You can do a full buff and polish on your existing lenses and retrofit a set of projectors into them, far easier than it sounds and we even have a video that shows you how to bake your headlights open now on www.youtube.com/umnitza

Here's the link to the projectors you can retrofit:
http://www.umnitza.com/index.php?mai...oducts_id=6139

4) Combination of #1 or #3, but with a simple Canbus HID kit:
http://www.umnitza.com/index.php?mai...oducts_id=1179

Contrary to many opinions, dropping an HID into these halogen projectors isn't the worst thing you can do. They provide a decent light pattern and since they are projectors, they have distinct cut offs.

You have many choices and from above.
Hopefully this answered your questions, and this guides you better. For more information, please call us or email.
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Old 10-17-2012, 03:13 PM   #16
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Avoid at all costs lights on EBAY.

Besides their sheer hideousness, what are some other reasons not to purchase these lights, quality, output, error codes?
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Old 10-18-2012, 06:40 AM   #17
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Thanks for a great informative post, what about just upgrading the HighBeam H7 bulbs with 100w and leaving everything else stock ? Will the additional current draw cause errors or fry something ?

Thanks

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Old 10-18-2012, 11:05 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reddirtranch View Post
Thanks for a great informative post, what about just upgrading the HighBeam H7 bulbs with 100w and leaving everything else stock ? Will the additional current draw cause errors or fry something ?

Thanks
Upgrading your high beam to an H7 bulb poses many issues:
1) the wiring isn't really designed to handle 100W for too long
2) bulbs that are rated for 100W usually last no more than 50-100 hours of use and it degrades significantly with instant on and off like for the high beam.
3) they are usually poor quality bulbs with thinner glass

it's best not to worry about high beam bulb upgrades as a source for additional light and consider them momentary add-ons in unique circumstances - flashing (informing other drivers of danger or passing) or occasional usage in extra dark areas.
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Old 10-18-2012, 12:13 PM   #19
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Thanks for the reply. Being new to BMW i would rather err on the side of caution. I have always used 55/100 H4s or H1s and still do in my Tacoma and my old 280SL (which I never drive at night anyway) , always using hella bulbs and where required drop in Hella e-code housings to replace sealed beams, I never had one burn out even after a couple of years of use. No inspections here in TN. I've done this with my old VWs, MBs and Volvos, had to add relays to my 89 Volvo though. I live out in the country and bright lights are a necessity.

What would be a good upgrade for an 03 325xi ? I like the looks of the AngelEyes but don't want to go ricey at all. I need alot of light driving these dark windy country roads at night.

My V70R with bi-xenon were the worst lights I ever had but my wife's Minis with xenons seem to do OK. hence the Halogen question.

Thanks

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Old 10-18-2012, 12:28 PM   #20
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If you must have the brightest output possible, the current generation train of thought is higher quality projectors with retrofits.

Admittedly, we've been a little slow to adopt this approach since we're predominantly a headlight supplier, but we do see the value and have begun offering our own retrofit kits.

Depending if you have xenons now, there are several choices we recommend:

1) If you have Xenons, then we highly recommend removing your current projector and replacing it with the FX-R we carry.
Link here:
http://www.umnitza.com/hid-projector...1197_1212.html

2) If you do not have xenons, you can retrofit the H1 or D2S mini projectors, you'll get a little less width on your pattern, but much better light output anyways or
2a) If you do not have xenons, you could simply purchase a full headlight package with angel eyes and projectors. higher cost, but greater reward with minimal work on your part.

As always, options, quality, value varies based on needs/wants/desires. You could do what you want for as little as $175 with a canbus HID kit into non-Xenon headlights and get better light output than your wife's Mini by a long shot, but it will take you about 3-4 hours or more to do in most cases.

Feel free to give us a call if you need to go over some questions in greater details.
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