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Technical_   Exterior_  H1/H4 Headlight Upgrade

H1/H4 Headlight Upgrade
Fred Kim

When I first drove my E30 during the night I was thoroughly unimpressed with the performance of the old GE halogen sealed beam headlights that were on the car. When one blew out a few weeks later, it gave me an excuse to upgrade. Upon arriving at my favorite local auto parts store, I discovered that no bulb was compatible except the (surprise!) Sylvania 5006 sealed beams, which turned out to be no better than the GEs. Since sealed beams are very inefficient and waste much of its usable output (even when perfectly aimed), it's time to upgrade.

Upgrading to HIDs was out of the question for me. While it's true that you can buy the complete kit for about $550 (as opposed to over $1400), that price was still a litle steep so I settled for the next best thing: H4 low beams and H1 high beams. I purchased two Hella H4 buckets, two Hella H4 55/60 watt bulbs, two Hella H1 buckets, and two Osram 55 watt high beam bulbs from the helpful people at Classic Garage for about $165. (Note: These bulbs are not legal for use on public roads in the United States. Fortunately for me, no one in California cares.)

To remove the headlights, remove the two Phillips screws on the front of the headlight grille. Pop the hood (but don't raise it) and remove the metal clips that hold the grille onto the car. Pull the grille out (don't throw it away, you'll need to put it back on later) then remove the metal trim rings around the headlights by removing the three screws that hold them in place. The headlights should now dangle loosely. Simply unplug the low beam, toss it over your neighbor's fence, and replace it with the H4 unit. (NOTE: You have to put the bulb into the bucket before installing. Also, never touch the bulb with your bare fingers unless you enjoy wasting your money.)

The H1 high beam requires two adaptor wires that come with the kit. Wire them as shown in the picture below. The power wire goes into the left connector from the main H1 plug, while the ground connects into the right connector. Remember, the ground wire is the same color as the ground (which is brown, unless you live in Antarctica). If you want your lights to work, try not to cross the wires.

Repeat the process on the other two lights, and now you're done! See, that wasn't so hard after all, was it? Now for a quick test of the lights:


Uh oh. The low beams work but the highs don't. A quick inspection of the high beam fuses (#1 and #2) show that they have blown. I upgraded to a 10 amp fuse and now they work fine. You may also have to realign your headlights as well. For info on how to do that, click here.

Now wait for nightfall, then get outside and go driving!


NOTE: Voltage drops may occur depending on the age and condition of your car's electrical system. You may want to consider upgrading to a 14.4 voltage regulator and/or adding relays directly behind the headlights to get the most power out of your lights. However, adding the relays will cause the Low Beam warning light on the Check Control to come on. I'd go for the regulator, which is also good if you have a killer stereo.

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