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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 01-08-2011, 05:35 PM   #1
dcaron999
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DIY- Headlight Washer Leak Troubleshooting

First, I recommend you troubleshoot your leak with tap water in your container, because you are going to lose gallons of it in the process. You can purge the remaining water if any, when you are done, and refill with fresh cleaning fluid.

Also, for those who are unhappy with the overspray to the hood area and beyond, I hope you realize that the nozzle jets (part #8) are adjustable (there are two of them per nozzle). BMW makes an adjustment tool for this but a small screw driver can accomplish the same results.

In my case, I had two leaks (cracked pump, and stuck open driver side nozzle), probably due to the previous owner who did not care to replace/purge his summer windshield fluid when winter came around (transition from warm to freezing weather up here in Canada).
I decided to take the plunge and take the nozzle, headlight, lower trim piece, and telescopic unit out. I then switched the nozzles from passenger to driver side, and the leak pointed to the nozzle! I noticed that by blowing air through the nozzle, air passed right through on the faulty one, but was blocked on the functional one. I went ahead and blocked the faulty nozzle by pouring hot glue inside the tube, and put everything back together, while I order a new driver side nozzle.

As mentioned earlier, one of my leaks occured with the headlight washer pump (sitting at the front of the washer fluid container), the other with my driver side headlight washer nozzle. I confirmed that the tiny internal pressure regulator on the nozzle was stuck in an opened position with no way to retain the fluid. (The nozzle leaked even without the pump pushing liquid to it and exerting the required pressure for nozzle regulator to open normally under this pressure condition.)

So my suggestions to test for this headlight area leak are the following:
  1. Have a helper sit in the car, and turn the ignition to the position prior to starting the engine. Ask him/her to turn on the headlights to pull the wiper arm once. This should trigger the headlight washer spray on the first try. To repeat, turn off the ignition, and repeat this sequence. While the telescopic arms extends (part #6), grab it and hold it out. This step is optional but will prevent breaking the flimsy headlight washer cover (part #9 & #10) when you attempt to pull it out yourself. You may want to wear safety goggles and old clothing before doing this! ;-)
  2. Use one hand to hold the telescopic arm, and the other to pull out the nozzle (part #8) straight out with force but extreme care, it will pop off the telescopic arm (part #6), and fluid will squirt out while the arm slides back into its "resting place". Dont worry about the "disappearing arm" as the nozzle pops back onto it easily, even with the arm secluded.
  3. Now to test the nozzle, stick your lips on the input opening (where fluid flows in), and blow air through it. If air comes right out of the two jets, your nozzle is faulty and needs to be replaced. If air does not pass thought the nozzle, your problem is elsewhere, such as the actuator/telescopic piece itself, various junctions, etc. In this case, you need to dismantle your headlight(s), turn light, and lower trim, to access/replace telescopic device, tubing, couplings, and junctions. There are several good DIY's on this board and others, and the BMW TIS can help you also to remove the headlight(s).
  4. Take your time to avoid damaging anything. The telescopic device is particularly tricky to dismount from its support. Use a towel on your bumper just under your headlight to prevent scratching your paint if you need to dismount your headlight(s) to unmount/replace the telescopic device.


See embedded pictures for reference: 1st pic is the RealOEM exploded diagram. 2nd pic is the nozzle. 3rd pic is the cover. 4th is the telescopic arm.

Here's a great suggestion from member "Throck"
Quote:
It seems that there are down sides to the headlight washer system, in that it consumes large quantities of fluid, the need for headlight washing is not consistent, and it messes up a good detail job. The removal of fuse 51 will de-activate the pump, but that's a bit tedious, so I am thinking about installing a small waterproof switch in line at the pump wiring, to provide selective activation of the system. Maybe leave it off for the warm months.
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Last edited by dcaron999; 02-04-2011 at 03:15 PM.
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Old 01-29-2011, 12:35 PM   #2
IrocThe325i
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great post. I just took out the pump for the headlights and plugged it problem solved! What is the point of headlight washers anywho!?
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Old 01-30-2011, 06:47 PM   #3
dcaron999
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Originally Posted by IrocThe325i View Post
great post. I just took out the pump for the headlights and plugged it problem solved! What is the point of headlight washers anywho!?
Depends what you put your car through, and how long your drives are. I find they are useful when driving at night in messy winter conditions. I live in Quebec Canada, and things get messy on our roads with all the calcium and sleet. At highway speeds, its nice not to have to stop regularly to clean your headlights in those conditions.

I think the headlight washers are part of the Cold Weather Package. Probably useless to owners who are not exposed to these weather conditions. We are stuck with these conditions for about 5-6 months here in Quebec, Canada.

Last edited by dcaron999; 02-04-2011 at 02:58 PM.
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Old 02-04-2011, 02:28 PM   #4
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dcaron999 nice post, I was looking and searching and the only serius answer are yours.

Once I read your post I decided to test my headlight washer and notice the sound on the sprayer but it did not come out.

Read the manual so many times an do the procedure but nothing, the I read on the Bentleys Manual that " To turn on headlight washer jets, turn
on ignition, lights and windshield washer system. To repeat spray procedure, turn off ignition, then back on again. Otherwise the headlight washers are disabled for 3 minutes. "

How I know whats wrong on my system ?
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:07 PM   #5
dcaron999
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Originally Posted by Ivanhoe View Post
dcaron999 nice post, I was looking and searching and the only serius answer are yours.

Once I read your post I decided to test my headlight washer and notice the sound on the sprayer but it did not come out.

Read the manual so many times an do the procedure but nothing, the I read on the Bentleys Manual that " To turn on headlight washer jets, turn
on ignition, lights and windshield washer system. To repeat spray procedure, turn off ignition, then back on again. Otherwise the headlight washers are disabled for 3 minutes. "

How I know whats wrong on my system ?
By the "sound on the sprayer", I assume you are referring to the pump located closest to the front of the car. If you are handy, and have access to a 12VDC source (battery charger or other), you can disconnect the wiring connecting to this headlight pump, and with thin alligator clips, test to see whether the pump is actually spinning freely and not projecting liquid at all. The pump does not require any tools to be removed from the fluid container, but be prepared to lose all you container's fluid, if you dont block the opening where the pump sits into.

If you prefer not to mess with wires for whatever reasons, you need a partner to sit in your car, and turn the ignition on and off. Do this after each washer liquid activation to allow your headlight washer pump to be activated every single time. Be careful and wear eye protection when you do this.

You may also have a blocked conduit from your pump to headlight telescopic arm and nozzles. Did you notice if the telescopic arms pop out when you acticate the system? I have a fealing they do not, and your pump is most likely defective. Very inexpensive part that can be found on eBay, or OEM parts supplier ...

Last edited by dcaron999; 02-04-2011 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:15 PM   #6
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No the telescopic arms don't pop out. As soon as stop raining I would ask my son to help me and do what you said, Thanks.
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:34 PM   #7
dcaron999
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This is the headlight washer pump I bought for $14 from eBay. Working good so far ...

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eB...8016&viewitem=
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Old 02-08-2011, 04:15 PM   #8
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Hey dcaron999 I currently noticed my headlight washers don't work at all. You think it is the pump?
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Old 02-08-2011, 06:17 PM   #9
dcaron999
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Originally Posted by 92luder View Post
Hey dcaron999 I currently noticed my headlight washers don't work at all. You think it is the pump?
Hard to say, but that is a fair chance. Did you inspect the washer pump (closest to the front of the vehicle) for a tiny crack due to ice expansion?

Find someone to assist you by activating the pump (see my first post), while you stand next to the pump, and listen for two short bursts of the motor spinning. This should occur upon the first winshield wash cycle, while your ignition key is in the position prior to starting the engine, and your headlights turned on.

If you care to inspect the pump closely, it is really easy to remove without any tools (disconnect electrical connector on top, and then disconnect the tubing leading to both of your headlight nozzles). Doing so will drain your entire fluid container. You can also inspect the associated fuse in your glove compartment to see if its burnt, but that is unlikely.

It is easy to forget about purging your headlight washer plumbing prior to winter. You should empty your summer fluid entirely, replace it with anti-freeze fluid, and activate your headlight washers for one or two cycles so that the anti-freeze liquid circulates to that area, and prevents any ice formation and thus damage to any of these seldomly solicitated parts.

Last edited by dcaron999; 02-08-2011 at 06:21 PM.
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Old 02-13-2011, 07:18 PM   #10
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I have been going nuts over this for the past few weeks. How can the washer jets leak fluid to the point where the tank is bone dry? Did a leak test on the tank,both pumps work but I noticed moisture under my passenger side headlight under the hood ( oh yeah and down my driveway every morning too). How can it leak without pump activation?
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Old 02-13-2011, 08:33 PM   #11
dcaron999
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Originally Posted by odaveplz View Post
I have been going nuts over this for the past few weeks. How can the washer jets leak fluid to the point where the tank is bone dry? Did a leak test on the tank,both pumps work but I noticed moisture under my passenger side headlight under the hood ( oh yeah and down my driveway every morning too). How can it leak without pump activation?
Very simple. Same problem as I had. I would lose the all fluid in the tank within a few hours. The only item stopping your fluid from leaking out completely, are you washer nozzles. The whole thing is an open circuit. The pump will not retain fluid when powered off - fluid flows right through it. The telescopic devices to which your nozzles are attached, will not retain fluid either. Only the nozzles do that, and when they are defective, and their internal pressure regulator likely has failed, air or fluid will pass right through it, even though the pump is not activated. Read 3rd bullet point on my first post again, and look at the pictures. You need to order a new passenger side nozzle for about $40.

3rd bullet pasted here for your convenience : "Now to test the nozzle, stick your lips on the input opening (where fluid flows in), and blow air through it. If air comes right out of the two jets, your nozzle is faulty and needs to be replaced. If air does not pass thought the nozzle, your problem is elsewhere, such as the actuator/telescopic piece itself, various junctions, etc. In this case, you need to dismantle your headlight(s), turn light, and lower trim, to access/replace telescopic device, tubing, couplings, and junctions. There are several good DIY's on this board and others, and the BMW TIS can help you also to remove the headlight(s)."

Last edited by dcaron999; 02-13-2011 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 02-16-2011, 05:29 PM   #12
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Wow I think my headlight and windshield washers pumps are both out cause nothing happens
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Old 02-17-2011, 02:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcaron999 View Post
Hard to say, but that is a fair chance. Did you inspect the washer pump (closest to the front of the vehicle) for a tiny crack due to ice expansion?

Find someone to assist you by activating the pump (see my first post), while you stand next to the pump, and listen for two short bursts of the motor spinning. This should occur upon the first winshield wash cycle, while your ignition key is in the position prior to starting the engine, and your headlights turned on.

If you care to inspect the pump closely, it is really easy to remove without any tools (disconnect electrical connector on top, and then disconnect the tubing leading to both of your headlight nozzles). Doing so will drain your entire fluid container. You can also inspect the associated fuse in your glove compartment to see if its burnt, but that is unlikely.

It is easy to forget about purging your headlight washer plumbing prior to winter. You should empty your summer fluid entirely, replace it with anti-freeze fluid, and activate your headlight washers for one or two cycles so that the anti-freeze liquid circulates to that area, and prevents any ice formation and thus damage to any of these seldomly solicitated parts.
Well I bought a new pump and installed it, but still nothing comes out.
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Old 02-18-2011, 01:35 PM   #14
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@dcaron999: Since you have experience with headlight washers (and with removing them), how would you attempt xenon headlight housing removal from a car equipped with headlight washer system? I'm only interested in this washer nozzle part, since lower headlight trim removal is needed for the whole headlight removal? Would you just take off nozzle like in your steps #1 and #2 and from that point continue like the car didn't come with this system at all (i.e. do you think that in that case there would be no other obstacle to remove lower headlight trim the same way it's done on cars with no headlight washers)?

I have naver done anything on e46, nor have I owned one... I'm interested in specific one and it is equipped with xenon+headlight washers and one of the first mods would be FX-R retrofit (or ZKW lens on Bosch projector retrofit) any of which requires headlight removal. I have done a lot of simple DIYs on my E36 but have never touched E46. I am in no way expert, but I've done a thing or two on my E36...
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Old 02-18-2011, 11:30 PM   #15
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Just as a quick fyi I had the same problem right when I picked up my car. My dealer was able to fix it for me by putting a new pump in for free (+1) but they unhooked the line from the front of the windshield washer tank (its in the front right corner down towards the base of the tank- just a little black clip with 2 small lines running into it) and I had no leaking until the part came in.

I will say that because I never got into the pump itself, they may have done more to prevent the leak, but this will at least cut off the power to the headlight washers so that you can stop the leak at the pump and still use your windshield washer until you get it fixed.

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Old 08-24-2011, 05:42 PM   #16
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DIY- Headlight Washer Leak Troubleshooting

i followed the procedure up to removing the jet. is there a trick? I exerted enough force that I feared breaking the actuator but it didn't budge.
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Old 08-24-2011, 06:11 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by web331 View Post
i followed the procedure up to removing the jet. is there a trick? I exerted enough force that I feared breaking the actuator but it didn't budge.
See embedded pictures for reference: 1st pic is the RealOEM exploded diagram. 2nd pic is the nozzle. 3rd pic is the cover. 4th is the telescopic arm.


When referring to the jet, I assume you mean the nozzle in the 2nd picture. Grab it with both hands, and be careful to pull it straight out with good force. You need to grab the back of it, right next to the tube, and use both thumbs and indexes, to help you control your movement, with sufficient force. It's really easy to break the decorative plastic tabs off of the cover (pic#3), so remove it prior to pulling out the jet. Take your time and look and analyse everything before actually doing the work ...

Last edited by dcaron999; 08-24-2011 at 06:14 PM.
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Old 08-24-2011, 07:54 PM   #18
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Yes, I meant the nozzle. Many thanks. I will proceed with confidence.
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Old 11-19-2011, 01:35 PM   #19
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The passenger side unit developed a leak, so had a garage cap the headlight washer system off. However, as of next year it'll be a legal requirement for them to be working if you have xenons. So i got to fix my leak. Is it a bumper off job, to re-connect the tube from the washer bottle to the headlight washer? And to plug the power feed to the washer unit?
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Old 11-20-2011, 10:51 AM   #20
dcaron999
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Originally Posted by mjn77 View Post
The passenger side unit developed a leak, so had a garage cap the headlight washer system off. However, as of next year it'll be a legal requirement for them to be working if you have xenons. So i got to fix my leak. Is it a bumper off job, to re-connect the tube from the washer bottle to the headlight washer? And to plug the power feed to the washer unit?
No need to remove the bumper! Worst case scenario is when the telescopic arm has a leak, and you need to dismantle your headlight to get access to the arm, sitting underneath it. See first post pictures for reference: 4th is the telescopic arm.

See exploded diagram in 1st post to help you identify the tubing junctions. The electical connection is also relatively easy to access without having to remove anything. Your mechanic probably disconnected the electrical connection, and capped off the fluid output ... Can you provide pictures?

Last edited by dcaron999; 11-20-2011 at 10:53 AM.
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