headlight adjuster repair on 2003 BMW E39 M5

headlights after repair

Here’s the symptom: headlights aim too low. There are two brittle plastic parts inside the headlight assembly that must be replaced to properly aim the headlights. Getting inside the headlight assembly is non-trivial.

Removing Headlights

First, remove the headlights from the car as follow. Watch this video from 4DIYers YouTube Channel (many thanks, it helped me with my 2003 E39 M5):

Published on May 23, 2014

Video tutorial on how to remove the headlight assembly on a BMW E39. This procedure applies to the pre-facelift version found between the years 1996 and 2000, but the similar procedure can be applies to the facelifted version 2001 to 2000. This particular tutorial was done on a 1997 BMW 540i.

I used a Torx T-15 to unscrew the lower bolts because the magnetic thingie on my screwdriver made it easy to retrieve the bolt since you can’t easily flip the car upside down and shake the bolt out.

Headlight Disassembly and Cleaning

I set up shop in my office inside where I have air conditioned room to beat the 100+ deg F Summer heat in the garage. Before removing too many parts from the headlight assembly, I sprayed a damp shop rag with 409 cleaner, and cleaned all exposed surfaces.

headlight removed

Instead of replacing the brittle plastic adjusters with the same part, I ordered aluminum ones (thanks, Charles T.) for both sides:

aluminum headlight adjusters


CA Automotive Aluminum Head-Light Adjuster Repair Kit for the BMW 5-series (E39) 10/00-03

Next, I removed as many parts as necessary, and thoroughly cleaned all surface areas.

headlight disassembled

Notice the brittle plastic pieces pictured next to the new ones at base of lamp that you have to carefully shake out of the headlight assembly. I also took the disassembled headlight out to the garage, and hit it with 100 psi from my air compressor to blow out as much particulate matter as possible as a final step before reassembly.

Failed Bake

Even though I read on the forums about the 2003 BMW E39 M5 having “permaseal” no-bake lenses, I tried the bake method to no avail. I started at 150 deg F for 20 minutes, couldn’t separate the lens from the chassis, tried 250 deg F, and decided that BMW, indeed, changed from a butyl seal to a non-butyl seal (epoxy?) that could not be easily separated.

Invasive Surgery

The next step is to install new adjusters. Getting to them is very much non trivial. Here’s a good headlight disassembly video:

Here are photos that show the alignment of the new adjusters with respect to chassis.

One adjuster:

adjuster alignment

Other adjuster:

adjuster alignment

Sorry for the hairy leg shot.

For one adjuster, I was able to use forceps to maneuver it place after picking out/unscrewing all remnants of the old brittle plastic adjusters. The following video helped me out immensely:

E39 Xenon Headlight Adjuster Replacement No Cut No Bake

Unfortunately, I was unable to perform the procedure for the other adjuster, got out my Dremel tool, performed invasive surgery, and followed steps from the following article:

invasive surgery

Through that hole I cut, I was able to remove one of the plastic adjuster bases from the chassis, manipulate the new adjuster into chassis, and install the plastic adjuster base back into the chassis yet not snapping it onto new adjuster just yet.

Plastic Adjuster Base:

plastic adjuster base

New Adjuster (I had followed instructions elsewhere to snap plastic base onto adjuster before installing new adjuster yet ran into a problem with mechanical interference that required me to unsnap it and then re-snap it along with the other one at the same time).

new adjuster

New Adjuster after Installation:

new adjuster after installation

Angle of Attack to Reach Screw on Adjuster Base:

access to screw on adjuster base

To access the screw on the adjuster base, I had to buy another Torx T-15 screwdriver without the magnetic shroud that was too large to fit through the angel eyes aperture. I used duct tape to hold the screw onto the screwdriver.

New Adjuster and Old Base Installed:

adjuster and base installed

Adjusters Snapped into Bases at Same Time (wait until *after* you position actuator):

adjusters snapped into bases at same time

Actuator Installation:


It was necessary for me to manipulate the inner headlight assembly in order to re-install the actuator and to slip ball end of actuator onto the actuator receptacle.

Receptacle for Actuator:

actuator receptacle

The other headlight went more smooth than the first one. Here are some photos of details for it.

Adjuster with Respect to Chassis:

adjuster with respect to chassis

Use of Forceps to Install Adjuster:

forceps to install adjuster

Adjuster Held in Place with Forceps:

Adjuster Held in Place with Forceps

Access to Screw on Adjuster Base through Angel Eyes Aperture:

Access to Screw on Adjuster Base through Angel Eyes Aperture

Duct Tape to Hold Screw:

Duct Tape to Hold Screw

Forceps to Insert Base:

Forceps to Insert Base

Forceps to Install Other Base:

Forceps to Insert Base

Duct Tape to Seal Chassis:

duct tape to seal chassis

Yes, I used duct tape to repair my BMW. No judgement.

Angel Eyes tested and working:

Angel Eyes tested and working

Low Beams tested and working:

low beams tested and working

High Beam tested and working:

High Beam tested and working

Lights Off Daylight view:

Lights Off Daylight view

Polishing the Lens

I opted *not* to polish my lens yet wanted to share a great article from the M5 Board about the process that I may go back and do later in life:


You have to love it to do it. I drove home last night in the dark and appreciated the working headlights. More importantly, I appreciate getting my hands dirty with German engineering and having the opportunity to learn something new. Enjoy. Your mileage may vary.



leaking rear door vapor barrier repair

I’ve been plagued with a leaking rear door vapor barrier on the passenger side, and did something about it.

vapor barrier

When that seal at the bottom leaks, water comes into the floor pan.

Many thanks to Tyrone D. for his input on the M5 Board and for the part number for the product that I initially used to repair my rear door vapor barrier. I was unable to get adhesion between the vapor barrier and the butyl, and ended up using silicone to seal the vapor barrier to the metal door frame. Here is the article that helped me:

Removing the Door Panel

There is a little plastic screw hole cover in the middle of the door handle recess. I used a plastic pry tool to pop out the cover. Remove the screw. Use the pry tool to wedge between the fiberglass door panel and the steel door frame, and selectively pop out each plastic connector around the sides and the bottom. On the top, press down the door lock, and gently pull the top lip out and over the door lock. Carefully disconnect electrical connections.

door panel

Preparing Surfaces

It is necessary to remove old adhesive, and to clean both surfaces prior to sealing the vapor barrier. Removing the old adhesive is non trivial. I was able to slowly separate the closed cell foam vapor barrier from the adhesive, and to start prying a piece of the old adhesive away from the steel by rolling it into a tacky black ball. 20/20 hind sight, I would have used my heat gun to help loosen it up. After removing the adhesive, clean both surfaces well.

iPhone-2016-07-04- 016

Applying New Adhesive

Although I looked for the 1/4″ bead of adhesive previously referenced on the M5 Board, only the 3/8″ bead was in stock at the local auto parts store. I figured more was better since there would be more surface area for adhesive to stick.

Here are the two items I bought for my repair that initially worked well for me, even though I ended up removing the butyl Windo-Weld Ribbon Sealer, and using silicone caulk to make the seal:

3M# 08612 – Windo-Weld Ribbon Sealer, 3/8″ x 15′ round bead
3M# 03618 – Adhesive Remover – 12 oz aerosol – helps remove tar, attachment tape, and bumper sticker adhesive
The adhesive comes in a roll with a wax paper barrier between coils:
Attach the roll of adhesive to a spot on the steel frame nearest the top outermost point, and work the roll around the steel frame:
new adhesive on frame
Remove the wax paper backing from the roll of adhesive. Firmly press the closed cell foam vapor barrier into place. If I had to do it over again, I would probably hit the new adhesive with a little heat from my heat gun to make it as tacky as possible, and then press barrier into place.
new seal
Put the door panel back on the door. I had my son take the garden hose, spray around door, and allow me to test my seal from the inside of the car by pressing my hand onto the rear floor panel to check for water. Repair was successful for a while. However, the bottom lip of the vapor barrier pealed away from the metal door frame, and another repair was necessary.
door leak repaired
Here’s another YouTube video that helped me:
The subsequent repair after the failure of the butyl seal to the closed cell foam vapor barrier required much work mainly to remove the butyl and to prepare both surfaces, the door and the vapor barrier.
Folks, butyl is nasty. Be prepared.
For the butyl, I used a heat gun (fancy hair dryer) to soften the butyl, and then scraped off the bulk of the butyl with a nylon trim tool. I rolled up the bulk of the butyl into a ball, and used the butyl ball to press against the vapor barrier and the door around the perimeter of the seal, and remove more butyl since it adheres better to the ball of butyl than the other surfaces. It adheres well to your hands, tools, and everything else is touches. It just does not adhere well to my 2003 closed cell foam vapor barrier.
To prepare the surfaces, the only cleaner/degreaser that I have in my shed that would dissolve the butyl is mineral spirits. I got out a roll of paper towels, trash can, and mineral spirits, and thoroughly cleaned all surfaces around perimeter, wiped off all excess residue, let it dry, and re-sealed it with good old silicone caulk last night. I checked it this morning, and think it worked.
Happy maintenance!
Best regards,

Soundplicity control:III installation in 2003 BMW M5 E39 with Sirius SXV300V1 XM Satellite Radio

2003 BMW M5 E39

Soundplicity control:III allows interfacing of modern Bluetooth, USB, and satellite radio electronics to existing BMW controls built into steering wheel and to existing BMW display in dash board.

Step 1: Order Specialty Toolkit and Soundplicity Control III

Here’s where you buy the tools that include plastic rivet remover for disassembling trunk trim pieces, plastic cable tucking tool to help prevent damage to trim pieces, and the Soundplicity electronic control unit:

Here’s a couple of pictures of the Soundplicity unit and of all the parts that come with that unit plus the additional adapter cable mentioned in the next step:

Soundplicity electronic control unit

Soundplicity components

Step 2: Order SiriusXM SXV300V1 Tuner and Audiovox AACCSATCBL adapter cable

Here’s where you buy the vehicle tuner:

You also need this adapter cable:

Here are some photos of those two items:

Sirius XM Vehicle Tuner and Adapter Cable

Sirius XM tuner connection to adapter cable:

Sirius XM tuner connection to adapter cable

Soundplicity connection to adapter cable:

Soundplicity connection to adapter cable

Step 3: Remove CD Changer

Watch this video to see how you remove the CD Changer so you may use the wires that were plugged into the CD Changer for the cabling harness that you run from the trunk to the front of the car where you plug in the Soundplicity unit:

Step 4: Watch the installation videos to familiarize yourself with disassembly and assembly steps

Installation of DICE DSP Adapter for a BMW iPod & iPhone Integration Kit for BMW 5 Series / M5 97-03 (E39) and X5 00-06 (E53) with Premium (DSP) sound system

Complete process for installing a Soundplicity ONE / Control II / Control III Kit and Bluetooth Microphone in an E39 (other late model BMWs are similar but we release specific videos all the time). Simple to install these kits provide iPod/iPhone connectivity, Bluetooth voice and music streaming, USB input, Aux Input and Satellite Radio (in the case of the Control II, iPhone/iPod and Sat Radio Only) in your 5 Series or M5

BMW E39 Glove Box trim removal

Go to manufacturer’s web site and view their instructions and videos:

Step 5: Run cable harness from trunk to front

Running the cable harness is not rocket science; removal, trim removal is non trivial. Go slow, and take your time. I pretty much followed the method in the instructions/video. My neighbor loaned me an additional trim tool that was made out of nylon and had nice little hook on the end to help get my fingers underneath the trim piece that goes along passenger side near bottom of the doors. You will need to move seat up and back to tuck cable up into trim. You may also need some fairly advanced yoga postures. My particular car has fold down back seats. After removing back seat, place padding over latch for bottom seat so you do not damage the leather on the back support that folds down when you run the wires. If your car does not have fold down seats, you will need to feed the cabling harness from the inside of cab through the grommet to the trunk.

Here’s a photo of the two wires that used to plug into the CD Changer:

CD Changer wires

*** Unplug the negative terminal of the battery before plugging in any wires ***

Plug the Soundplicity cabling harness into the wires from the CD Changer. Route cabling harness from trunk to rear seat using nylon tie wraps to properly harness excess cable:

CD Changer cabling harness

Junction between CD Changer cabling harness and Soundplicity cabling harness carefully placed behind grommet with nylon tie wraps holding each cabling harness to the main cabling harness so mechanical structure minimizes possibility of connector problems later in life due to vibration over the years:

cabling harness junction

Tuck cable underneath lip of vibration/sound insulation where rear bottom seat will go back into car when done. Traverse with cable to passenger side of car. Continue tucking cable around the side of the rear passenger seat and up underneath the plastic trim near bottom car doors to reach the front glove box.

Step 6: Install microphone

I followed the instruction from Bavsound in their video and made one small modification. I fabricated mic stand using a piece of picture hanging steel wire.

  • remove plastic clip from mic
  • wrap wire around mic
  • twist wire to hold mic in place
  • mount nylon tie wrap holders with double sided foam
  • harness mic wire to tie wrap holder with small tie wrap
  • twist each end of picture wire onto nylon tie wrap mounts so mic is angled directly at my mouth

Ultimately, you will tuck mic cable as directed in the installation video where it goes through the trim where trim meets windshield. Then, you tuck cable into trim with nylon or plastic tucking tool that won’t damage wire or trim until you reach upper corner of windshield on passenger side. Tuck wire into junction between trims pieces at that corner to reach inside of rubber gasket around door. Tuck wire into that rubber gasket to reach bottom corner of glove box.

mounting of mic

Step 7: Install Sirius XM satellite radio antenna

I looked at various methods to mount antenna included the recommendations from the manufacturer and opted to choose a different location. Here’s why. I do not want some magnetic mounted blob on the outside of my car. I mounted antenna in front corner of windshield on passenger side because routing the wire to bottom corner of glove box was easy, and that location is where the other wires are located. The double sided foam tape I used di not work so well on the leather. Antenna is pretty much only held in place by it’s wire tucked into the trim. I did purposely mount antenna far enough away from corner to maximize amount of unobstructed view through clear glass.

Sirius XM antenna

Step 8: Update firmware on Soundplicity unit

Before plugging in your Soundplicity unit, and before re-connecting the battery, you must update the firmware. Here’s where you get the firmware:

You will need to obtain a USB cable that plugs in your PC or Mac with mini USB on one end to plug into Soundplicity. Fortunately, I had one from another piece of electronics I had purchased some time ago and think they must be a fairly common cable.

You will need to register your product to download the firmware. Follow the instructions in the firmware updater, and pick out SiriusXM SXV300 Connect Vehicle Tuner when presented with that option.

firmware updater

Step 9: Install Soundplicity unit

Remove the trim piece underneath glove box that easily slides out without any tools. Run USB extension cable from inside of glove box to side of car behind glove box  with the other wires so you may plug iPhone, Android, or USB media into Soundplicity inside glove box without having any exposed chargers, wires, or adapters.

USB cable in glove box

Use tie wraps to properly harness excess cable to existing structure on passenger side of car near back of glove box.

Here’s what my harnessed cables look like before plugging the Soundplicity unit:

Soundplicity cables

*** Document your Sirius XM Connect Vehicle Tuner Radio ID before harnessing that unit ***

Plug in Soundplicity and Sirius units, harness cables with tie wraps, and gently tuck unit up into side. Re-connect battery. Done.

Soundplicity installed

Step 10: Activate your Sirius Satellite Radio Subscription

Go to the Sirius XM activation web site:

Choose “XM” for your radio. Choose “I’m new and don’t have username and password.” Create/document your username and password. Enter your Radio ID.

Enjoy. It works really well. I tested Bluetooth phone connection with my son yesterday. I pressed button on steering wheel to engage Siri on my iPhone after Bluetooth pairing. Soundplicity automatically switched car audio system from Sirius XM Satellite radio to the iPhone. The iPhone placed the call, he answered, and he said quality was good on hands-free speakerphone even with background noise from all windows wide open. Sirius XM Satellite radio reception worked fine with antenna mounted inside car even with car inside garage.

iphone-2016-02-23- 008
Jim Ray, President
Neuse Networks – Managed Services Behind the Scenes, After-Hours, and Out of Your Way
web:  direct: 919-297-2927  cell: 919-215-9405  email:
For service, email and call 919-838-1672 option 1.
Jim Ray formed Neuse Networks in 1997 that specializes in managed services to remotely automate IT wherever the Internet exists. His education includes Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from NC State 1985. He is a Senior Member of IEEE, served as Chair for Eastern North Carolina Section in 2010, and Chair for NC State Student Branch 1981. He lives in Cary, NC with his wife and two sons.