BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

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Arya2.0S
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BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by Arya2.0S » Thu Jan 05, 2017 9:21 pm

Hello everyone.

I wanted to do something about my dull Capri headlights, but instead of just waste money on a new set of OE spec lights that will only marginally improve on what I already have I decided to investigate what this "BMW conversion" is that everyone is talking about...and by "everyone" I mean a couple of people on the internet somewhere. :P

I've only seen a few people talk about this, and even fewer people share detailed and clear info on how its done. Now i'm not Tony Stark, or a genius by any means so doing this sort of thing isn't really my forte so a lot of clear and detailed info was needed so I knew what I was doing before I pulled the trigger on a set of expensive lights, or if I could even tackle this job in the first place!
What info I did find was a bit vague and confusing in places but I thought I had enough to figure it out so I decided this was the route I wanted to take as I liked the way these BMW lights looked on a Capri, and the projector style lens would give me the upgrade I was looking for too so I snapped up a set of (rather cheap) BMW E34 "angel eye" headlights off of eBay and went at it.

Needless to say my first attempt was not a success, and I ruined a perfectly good set of Capri backing plates in the process. :( (luckily I had a spare set)

This...lets call it "learning experience" (due to a lack of some vital info I felt) prompted me to make my own tutorial to hopefully aid those who decide to tackle this mod in the future and avoid the hiccups I encountered which for me wasn't that big of a deal but for those without access to spares like I did could prove to be a major frustration.

Again, not having a go at anyone who has shared their knowledge on how to do this in the past, nor is this intended to replace that knowledge or anything like that and I value the advice I gained from those sources, I'm just trying to make it a little bit clearer and more concise to hopefully help avoid any possible problems like I encountered due to a slight lack of info should anyone decide to do this mod in the future by making this tutorial. :)

Anyway, lets get on with it!

First up you'll need your lights! Now this mod works with either the standard BMW "smiley" lights seen here:
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Or the "angel eye" variant:
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Which is what I used. The process is exactly the same, it just comes down to personal taste. As long as they fit the E30 or E34 BMW models you'll be fine and dandy for this mod!

Now once you have your lights you need to remove them from the BMW backing plates. In my case they were made out of plastic, and the locking tabs didn't want to budge so I just cut them out, since we'll be cutting a considerable amount of material away later this doesn't really matter, but its up to you at this stage. Just get that light out of the backing plate!

(cheeky stolen photo of the backing plates from Google as I didn't take pictures at this stage as I had no plans on making a tutorial yet, hence the quotation marks around the word "definitive". Hey, at least i'm honest!)

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Now, with the lights removed from the backing plates (again, stolen photo from Google) you can see the mounting brackets on the sides.

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Time to start removing material. With your weapon of choice (I used a power file) start removing the old mounting brackets/tabs until your lights are nice and smooth and almost perfectly round, like in the following photos: (these ones are mine I promise!)

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You basically want to get rid of the old mounting brackets that would attach the lights to the old BMW backing plates. Be very careful during this stage as you can go too far and remove too much material and ruin the light and cut through to the innards so be careful!
I'd recommend cutting the worst of the material off with a power tool to save time and effort and once you are happy take the rest of by hand with some sand paper, you can also smooth it down and make it look nice like I did this way too. ;)

With that all done it's time to start modifying the Capri backing plates, this is a tad more difficult since we're working with metal now.
As you can see the old backing plates are too small to fit the backs of the larger diameter BMW lights.

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I marked so you can see how much material needs to be removed to fit the lights. On my lights the dipped beam required the most material to be removed, whereas the high beam only required 4 small notches to be cut out (on mine this is where the omni-directional angel eye ring and bulbs are housed), since those lights dont have the deep recessed body of the dipped beam which contains the projector housing.

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At this stage I would just like to add that you do not have to remove anything else from these backing plates to do this mod. You can leave the adjusters and the adjustment rings in place as they are, do NOT remove anything from the backing plates apart from the retaining rings for this mod! This is where I went wrong, dont be a dingbat like me!

For this I used a grinder with a grinding disc to cut the large holes for the dipped beam, switched to a cutting disc for the small notches for the high beam and used a power file to grind down the edges to make them square.

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Once you've made your cuts test fit your lights.

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Be sure you leave a couple of millimetres spare between the lights and holes in the backing plates. You need this extra space or you wont be able to adjust your lights' beam position.
Based on info I saw in previous threads on this mod, people recommend leaving 2 to 3mm spare, so if you find your light is a snug fit you either need to cut more material out of the backing plate, or you need to cut more off of your lights.
Based on my experience, if you've cut exactly where I have shown you out of the backing plate you'll likely need to shave a bit of extra material off of the light itself. I'd say do this by hand with sand paper to ensure you dont go too mad.

Once you are happy with the fit, it cant hurt to tidy things up a bit and prevent any rust from appearing in the future, as these backing plates are prone to rot. I used black non-Hammerite paint on mine, same stuff just different name since Hammerite is a bit watered down and poop these days by all accounts.

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Did the same to the retaining rings as well, but you can of course do to these as you wish based on your own preference/tastes.

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One small issue you might run into as I did, is once you try to fit the retaining rings (which is the final step) your lights might seem loose and rattle about inside the backing plates. This obviously isn't very good as your light beam will flicker and wobble all over the place at night and (even worse) look utterly pants to boot! This is because the retaining rings just arent......well..."retaining" the lights tight enough but I came up with a very simple solution to this problem:

Get some self adhesive felt, about 1 or 2 cm thick:

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And stick two small pieces of it to the insides of the retaining rings on opposite sides of each other:

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Sorted! The lights now fit snugly and dont jiggle about as the extra thickness the felt provides add's just enough extra material to hold them tightly in place whilst still allowing you to properly adjust the lights as you normally would if they were OE spec! (providing you've cut out the backing plates properly that is ;)

Voila!

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Onto wiring.....weeeelllll.....that's up to you. I had a friend who IS Tony Stark wire mine up for me :P
Great thing is he did it in such a way that if I get bored of this upgrade or I decide I no longer like the way they look (let's face it this isn't for everybody, i'm aware some find this mod the equivalent of sticking sovereigns on the front of your Capri, or "chavving it up" so to speak. Whatevs people, my car my decision) I can just unplug them and plug in my old lights with no re-wiring or modding required. ;)

The angel eyes wire up to the side lights and i'm sure you can figure out the rest, but I dont touch electrics with a ten foot pole so i'll leave that one up to you!

Here's mine all wired up and looking pretty cool. My car isnt finished yet so no full shots, but i'll get taken once she's on the road (hopefully) soon.

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Chavtastic!

It remains to be seen how much of an upgrade these projectors are over my old standard Ford lights with H4 bulbs, seeing how I haven't been out at night with them yet but in any case I like the way they look. At first I wasn't convinced and thought they might look pants but I've definitely *snicker*.......seen the light. Hahaha, see what I did there? lol :D

I'll stop now. I was gonna add more puns about Photons and light speed and what not but i'm afraid people will hate me even more then they already do. -_-

Hope this shines some light on the situation. ;)

Thanks to Mellow Yellow for his original thread and giving me the idea, hope he doesn't mind me expanding on it.

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Re: BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by Fordoholic Nick » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:12 pm

Hi mate,

What a fantastic thread ! I really enjoyed reading it and the information and detail you have given here will really help anyone thinking of doing this conversion. Thanks for taking the time to post this up :)

All I have to say is " :applaud: "... Ok those that know me by now will expect I have a bit more to say :wave:

How cool do those lights look ! I seen a Capri (same one a few times at meets down here) with this conversion and I personally really really like it. Really gives the front of the Capri a very eye catching look, even when they are not on you can still see them stand out more than the standard lights, and if it makes the night view even better then it cant be a bad thing...can it :lol:

I am like you mate, I can get on with cutting things and making things fit...ish but when it comes down to wiring I know who to call...NO.. Not Ghostbusters"...I call John (taff50ish) who is great with electrical stuff and he only lives up the road. A great car electrician to be lucky enough to know ! I would certainly consider this conversion at some stage but at the moment it would have to be at the bottom of my "to do" list as other things to be getting on with.

Anyway Nice job mate, brilliant write up and great final picture of them lit up. They really do look superb !

This is exactly why I love going to all the shows and meets. Its lovely to see the immaculate and stunning standard Capri's but just as exciting to see the modifications some have done like yourself. Calvin from Surrey Capri Club did a brilliant mod with his dash clocks converting them to a stunning LCD type set up..it should not work on paper but boy do they look absolutely amazing. There is a pic of them on here somewhere.

Fella, keep up the excellent work on your Capri mate. To think not that long ago you encountered a very "dark" episode with that knob on that roundabout, but you came through it and can now see the "light" at the end of the tunnel :lol: :sorry: I better "switch off" now while I am ahead...ish !

All the best mate. Nice one !

Nick
I was born a Fordoholic, They'll bury me a Fordoholic...

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Re: BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by LaserSean91 » Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:35 am

Great tutorial. Very informative. I thought about performing this modification myself but wasn't too sure how to amend the standard headlight mounts. Thankyou for taking the time to put this together for others, I'm sure it will be a great help. Looks great fitted by the way!

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Re: BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by timfromull » Fri Jan 06, 2017 1:12 pm

Very clear and concise, excellent, well done mate :applaud:
Can any one elaborate re the wiring? :headscratch:

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Re: BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by Andrew 2.8i » Fri Jan 06, 2017 5:11 pm

Hi,
Nice neat job and a good write-up, well done!
Although I haven't performed the conversion on my car, I do feel that it is a worthwhile upgrade to any Capri that is in daily use.

Andrew.
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Re: BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by Arya2.0S » Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:54 pm

Thanks everyone. Wish I could be more help regarding the wiring but i'm afraid it would be pointless.
What my mate has done is taken the loose wires from the headlights and added male spade connectors onto them, that way they just inset into the female ends of my original headlight 3-pin plugs that the old Ford lights used to plug into, hence why if i want to go back to standard at a later date no extra re-wiring or modding is required.
Obviously he matched up each wire to the corresponding plug, side lights to the angel eye rings, dipped beams etc, but yeah the major modding in the wiring comes from splicing them together at the back of the BMW units as they have their own proprietary connectors (usually, mine did but they had been hacked off poorly by the previous owner, as i bought mine cheap used) which you'll have to get around, but any decent leccy should make short work of it.
You can see why i didnt mention the wiring process in my tutorial as my explanation is shite and not very detailed or well thought out which is exactly the sort of poorly laid out information i was trying to avoid. :lol:

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Re: BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by EightyFive » Sat Jan 07, 2017 8:45 am

timfromull wrote:Very clear and concise, excellent, well done mate :applaud:
Can any one elaborate re the wiring? :headscratch:
Hi Tim,

I've done this mod (although nowhere near as neat as Arya as it was my first experience with a grinder!) and as Arya said, it's simply a case of adding spade connectors to the end of the BMW wiring 'harness'.

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As you can see the earth from both the dipped and sidelight are spliced together. This means you can plug it straight into your existing harness without mullering it! If the BMW wiring doesn't come with your unit, or you can't get hold of it, then I don't see why you can't use regular female bullet connectors.

If you're wondering about the tape/ cable ties it's because the wires fore mine were very brittle near the plastic housing, I was trying to minimise bendage where the wires were at their weakest.

While I've only swapped out my dipped beams rather than the full set, I can't see why it wouldn't be a similar story with the full beams.

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Re: BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by Stish704 » Sat Jan 07, 2017 4:13 pm

Really informative, well done. A friend of mine just bought a Capri, well a couple of months ago and has taken his out and replaced them with original lights.

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Re: BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by Caprifan Rob » Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:41 am

Stish704 wrote:Really informative, well done. A friend of mine just bought a Capri, well a couple of months ago and has taken his out and replaced them with original lights.
That's the beauty of a mod like this, it's easily reversible. Keeping mine standard as that's what I want, but if I was using the car regularly at night think I'd go for something like this as the originals, like the brakes, are not the best :?
Cheers for posting Arya, be sure to post a picture of the finished car so we can see how it all looks.

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Re: BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by Arya2.0S » Fri Jan 13, 2017 11:55 pm

Freelanderfan wrote:
Stish704 wrote:Really informative, well done. A friend of mine just bought a Capri, well a couple of months ago and has taken his out and replaced them with original lights.
That's the beauty of a mod like this, it's easily reversible. Keeping mine standard as that's what I want, but if I was using the car regularly at night think I'd go for something like this as the originals, like the brakes, are not the best :?
Cheers for posting Arya, be sure to post a picture of the finished car so we can see how it all looks.
Will do, though at this rate feels like it's never going to get finished. :-(

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Re: BMW headlight conversion: The "definitive" tutorial.

Post by pauliil1948 » Tue Jan 22, 2019 10:52 pm

Hi would I be right in saying these fit for the conversion
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E34. And e32 is what these fit , I am going to order a set i just wanted to make sure I get the right lights,thanks

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