Exterior Lighting update for older BMW's
I am starting this thread as a resource to aid myself and others on the path to "conservatively" upgrade the now dated-looking amber colored light lenses as found on older BMW's to the more modern-looking clear lenses. Perhaps, I should call this thread the Baby Boomers Guide to Upgrading Out-Dated Amber Colored BMW Exterior Light Lenses. Any and all comments are welcomed and encouraged!
My goal is to make my near-mint 1997 E39 528i a "beautiful" looking and classy updated vehicle and not a tricked-out pimped ride. "Modern" is the key word here.
I started with the least expensive option first: the side marker lights. I surfed the web for several hours and ended up calling Matt, the owner, at Umnitza and ordered the crystal clear side markers (344-1402PXBEVS). Matt suggested that I also order his Predator Titanium chrome bulbs. I did. These bulbs are chrome in color but light up amber. (I believe that white is also an option with the chrome coating also but be advised that these would not be street legal, for "shows" only. ( PLEASE NOTE:I do not represent Umnitza nor do I receive any sales commissions. I just found Matt to be most helpful by taking his time to explain all the options to me based on his personal experiences. He will even tell you if one of his items sucks!).
The side markers arrived today. They are made by DEPO and supplied by Umnitza. I went out and removed one original amber side marker from my vehicle. This was a head scratcher at first but several blogs like this helped me tremendously. Some suggested a screwdriver (paint scratch visions danced in my head!) and some suggested a credit card to press on the side of the light fixture to move it sideways. At least I knew what was in store for me. Examining the new crystal clear fixture, I saw a big metal spring clip on the side that obviously needs to be compressed to hold in the fixture against something (I later found out that this is the sheet metal opening that is indented somewhat in the body).
Anyway, I grabbed the fixture with my hand and moved it sideways to see which direction it moved in. Each side of the vehicle was different, left side moving to the rear and right side (passenger) moving to the front. Once moved, I slid my fingernails under the backside (side without the spring clip) of the fixture and lifted it directly up and out and then carefully twisted out the white bulb.
I then set the two fixtures (old amber and new crystal claer) side by side on a table and hit them both with a flashlight beam from a distance. The original amber fixture is not a very good light reflector when reflecting incoming light, if at all. The crystal clear fixture bounced the light right back brilliantly! This is a great safety feature in my book).
I then installed the chrome bulbs in the new fixture and put them in by reversing the take-out procedure. I learned that if you just put them in this way they will flop around loose. What I ended up doing was permanently bending the new spring inward with hand pressure to match the compressed bend on the old fixture. This new bend angle gave the spring clip some surface area to hook against the body sheet metal to keep the fixture in place. Worked perfectly!
Upon lighting up the chrome bulbs, I noticed a somewhat reduced lumen output over that of the original white bulb that came through the original amber fixture, in comparison. However, the chrome bulbs do throw off a nice "sparkly" amber light that is generated by the crystal style fixture! When off, there is no egg yolk look to the fixture (no amber center caused by an amber colored bulb). This is indeed very modern looking. The slight reduction in overall lumens is therefore worth the addition of the chrome bulbs, at least that is my opinion. What do others think? I can always put the amber bulbs in that were included with the new DEPO fixtures.
I will install the crystal tail light assemblies that are coming this weekend and update this blog with those results and some finished pictures eventually, both before and after. I hope they are as satisfying as the side marker replacements!
The headlights will be my last adventure with the exterior lights (coming soon). I do know that I will be adding the angel eyes!!!