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From Sun Jan 31 20:34:01 1999
for <>; Sun, 31 Jan 1999 20:33:59 -0800
Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 20:31:11 -0800 (PST)
From: Ron Browne <>
Subject: <E36>Adding "City lights" to US Spec Headlights.
To: BMW Digest <>
Cc: Dale Beunig <>

Greetings all:
I'll try to keep this post relatively direct and to the point.

Situation: I like the look of the "city lights" (small 5-watt bulb located in the high-beam unit of the Euro Ellipsoid lights on Euro E36's. These small lights illuminate anytime you turn your headlight switch on. Their actual purpose in Europe is the subject of debate, as is their actual usefulness. But that's beside the point. I like them. I like the Ellipsoids in general, but don't know if I like them $450 plus above my US Spec units. But, $$ is all relative. Now, on to the details.

Solution: I decided it couldn't be that difficult to find a small 5-watt bulb, bulb holder, wires, and throw this on the factory US Spec headlights. Here's what I did.

BMW dealer and don't sell the city light bulb/holder seperately. Pep Boys and Trak Auto do sell the Wagner PC161 Indicator/Instrument auto bulbs which have the bulb/holder as one unit. 12 volt/5-watts. Approx $4.00 USD for a package of two.

1)Attach two wires to the two posts of each bulb holder. I used 16 guage wire (or was it 18?), and stripped approx 1/2 inch off of the end. I was able to insert the stripped end up into the holder so that the exposed ends were securely up into the holder. The wire covering was just the right size to push up/get pinched firmly in the housing. (There is no marking to indicate which side is + or -. PC161 is stamped across the base of the holder. Reading from left to right, the side with the "P" in PC161 was the + on both of my bulbs.) No room for my soldering gun, and no real place to solder using this method, so I applied a good layer of silicone adhesive to the bottom of the housing, where the wires entered the housing. Let it dry overnight. Next am, wires were securely in place, silicone had dried pretty firmly encasing the wires/holder. I'm sure the engineering types are cringing at this hack method, so use your own preferred method to attach these wires to the bulb housing. Solder at will. My ugly method worked.

2)Remove your headlight housings. On my 1992 318is, this meant first removing the parking light by doing the following: Open hood. Look down behind the parking light. Unplug/move the parking light bulb/holder out of the way. Theres a vertical tab which keeps the parking light housing in place. CAREFULLY, bend this tab out while using your other hand to CAREFULLY pry the housing towards the front of the car. Should pop right out. Finesse is important, or you can break the aforementioned clip. Now remove the small phillips plastic screws that are closest to your high beam lights. They help hold the fan shroud on. No need to remove the entire shroud, as removing these two screws will allow you to bend back the outer ends of the shroud, to get to the innermost headlight housing mounting screws. Total of 5 8mm screws for each side. 3 pointing straight towards the front of the car, another directly under where the parking light housing was. It aims straight up. And another aiming straight up at the innermost point of the housings, under the ends of the fan shroud housing. Remove all of these screws, but ensure the screw holders don't turn. Apparently these holders play a part in headlight alignment. Also unplug your headlight bulbs/holders by turning 1/3 turn clockwise. (assuming you are standing in front of the car, facing the engine compartment.) Dont touch the halogen bulbs with your fingers, as the resulting oil spot can cause a hotspot on your bulb, leading to early failure. Or so I've heard. Why take chances? At this point, your housings should pop right out.

3)Grab a drill. Your ultimate goal is to have a hole approximately 5/8ths round. Don't start with a big bit or you risk cracking and splintering your housing. Start off with small bits, and slowly work your way up, test fitting the bulb holder along the way. Somewhere near 5/8ths your bulb/holder will fit perfectly. The thickness of the housing plastic works perfectly with the two protruding pieces of holder. You know, the kind of protrusions that click onto their mating surfaces after twisting 1/2 turn. If you are careful, the PC161 bulb/housing will click into place perfectly and snugly. "But Ron, I now have a lot of small black shavings inside the light housing?" Yeah, I know, shake them out. A small flexible computer "vaccum" found at CompUSA will probably work very well also. Make a final visual examination of your newly installed city light bulb/holder. Are there any gaps, or openings where moisture can seep through to the inside of the housing? Probably a good idea to seal this area with an appropriate sealer to prevent condensation from building up inside the lens during humid times.

4)Re-install the housings. Run your ground wire over to the brown wire (ground) going to your parking light bulb. There are two wires left. One supples 12v whenever you have your parking or headlights on, and the other supplies pulsed 12v when you have your hazard or turn signals on. My Haynes manual schematics were not help here. The wire colors were different. I ended up using a digital voltmeter to check the wires. I also used tried and true Scotch Locks to tap in. Yeah, I know. Removing a small layer of wire covering from the source wire, and soldering/wrapping with appropriate shrink-wrap tape is the prettier method. Whatever works for you.

Plug everything back in, turn on your parking lights, and presto, you should now have that understated dull, soft glo of the Euro city light. If not, you screwed something up along the way.

NOTE: The above is my experience only, on my 1992 E36 318is. Wack on your BMW car wiring at your own risk. Be creative and improve on this writeup at will. Thats one of the purposes of this forum. Knowledge exchange.

Ron Browne
1992 318is
Bowie, MD

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