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2003 Headlight adjusters

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Another 7hrs of my life down the crapper,what a twat of a job,low beam side is pretty straight forward, the main beam side is the pits of the earth,fat fingers,cable ties, bent welding rods, etc etc, getting close but no cigar,could be dremel time sooner rather than later,or become a gynaecologist over night.

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Training gynaecologist here. No experience but will take a look. Ha ha ha

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Another 7hrs of my life down the crapper,what a twat of a job,low beam side is pretty straight forward, the main beam side is the pits of the earth,fat fingers,cable ties, bent welding rods, etc etc, getting close but no cigar,could be dremel time sooner rather than later,or become a gynaecologist over night.

Respect to you sir!

I was considering doing mine but bottled out and had them done via a chap on eBay.

Good luck getting it finished and hopefully the satisfaction on getting them done will out-weigh the pain

Edited by jones73

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I know how you feel.....I had to do mine when I bought the lamps.....I thought it would take 2 hours max....how wrong was I....ended up being more like 2 days, and hours of swearing at the lamps. It's like an addicting game....there are times you get close, but one tiny error, and it's back to the start! lol

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Ah shit. I've bought adusters for both lamps on the suspect that one of mine is Broken. Being a pre facelift i don't know how old or new the facelift lights i have are or if i can bake mine or not.


I've a feeling i'm going to have a salvador dali pair of headlights with wishful thinking that they will bake.


Ah well Clay, once you practised on yours and got the knack, feel free to pick mine up and do the pair for what shall we say, a tenner, twenty? Ha ha

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Jamie, from what I can gather the ones that can be opened have a clear disc on top of the light,if the disc is black then it can't be opened,I spent 30mins using a heat gun trying to open it without success,I'm quite surprised nobody on the forum offers adjuster replacement service,either way it's not a pleasurable job,right day 3 starts after breakfast

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Here's the ebay number of the chap I used to fix mine 281407535544. It obviously is much cheaper to DIY but as my car is a dd I couldn't risk ballsing it up.

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Phil Crouch will do it for a very reasonable sum. Hand car to him, go and live your life. Pick up car, carry on.

Will cost me 2 tanks to get down there, im in North Wales

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I had the wrong orientation on the main beam adjuster, once i realized this the installation was pretty straight forward.


This is the passenger side headlight adjuster orientation.



This is the drivers side headlight adjuster orientation.



Once the main beam adjuster is installed and working through the top cover of the headlight you need to push the adjuster receiver onto the ball end of the adjuster.



Then align the receiver post with the plastic receiver, accessing it through the angel eye hole and install the screw.



To stop the screw falling off the allen key is blobbed it with super glue.



Once you realize how the parts fit together, it really is quite straight forward to do, knowing what i know now the driver side will be easy.



Hope this helps guys.








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I bought a 2003 headlight which cant be baked open, what colour is the cover disc on you headlight, the one that you remove to change the beam direction from RHD to LHD, if its clear then the headlight can be opened. I don't have the drivers side headlight yet, still looking for one on the bay, the passenger side one i bought  was only £65, hope i can get a driver side for the same price.

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That's my biggest fear, if my lenses ever get broken its a world of pain trying to replace them,let me know how you get on mate

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I spent the best part of a day failing to replace my adjusters, which isn't that surprising since I have fingers like bananas.


In the end I cut a carefully positioned hatch in the top of the headlamp unit to give good clear access to the most difficult to reach adjuster (can't remember which one) and then, with a heat gun, softened an off-cut of black guttering I had lying around. The guttering plastic lay completely flat after a bit of heat, trimmed it to size a little bigger than hatch and stuck down with Tiger Seal (PU automotive adhesive). Looks really tidy and doesn't show at all when the lights are re-installed in the car.

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I posted this on another forum - it may be useful here too?


Yes, it can be done.

CAVEAT - This worked for me, but you do it at your own risk. It's as I remember it. If something doesn't shift or won't go the way I said take another look in case I got a direction wrong. I'm human and I didn't do this as I went along,

If it works for you then I'm delighted. if it doesn't and/or you break something...well, you're no worse off than you were, are you?

Things you need:

A facelift Right Hand Drive E39 Xenon headlight with broken adjusters. (I have no idea how to do this on anything else).
A set of replacement adjusters (mine came from E-Bay)

A long T10 Torx driver. It needs to have a thin blade at least 120mm/5" long to get through the gap available.
A T15 Tork driver, length not an issue.
A 10mm socket and driver.
An 8mm socket and driver.
As many thin gripping tools, straight and curved, as you can muster. You won't use them all but you'll find one will be a lifesaver.
A torch or, better yet, a headlamp.
A large towel.
A small amount of cling-film.
Long, thin, strong fingers.
An almost infinite amount of patience.


Take the headlight out of the car. In case you've not done this before there are 4 8mm bolts, two each top and bottom. Pull the headlight out from the side nearest the radiator first and be careful not to break off the tab on the outside end of the trim strip under the light. Make a mental note of how it comes out because you replace it the same way. Disconnect all the cables - they can only go in the same way so don't worry about labelling them. Retain the bolts somewhere same and retire to your well lit work area.

Spread the towel on your bench, ideally folded double, and put the light on it glass down.

Remove everything from the light apart from the rubber trims. The painted trim only comes off for safety to avoid scratching it.
First of all turn the connector on the back of the xenon bulb anti-clockwise until it clicks and you can pull it straight off.
Remove the two 8mm bolts and single 8mm nut holding the ballast bracket to the light and remove the ballast and bracket together.
Take out the indicator and angel-eyes bulb holders and put them safely to one side.
Take out the high-beam light.
Remove the rubber shroud from the high-beam housing. Lever the outside edge up somewhere easy to reach then flip it and it comes up easily. The inside is just brute force and ignorance - get a good grip and pull hard. Put it to one side.
Remove the rubber shroud for the dip beam. It's a similar technique but rather easier.
Turn the black retainer over the dip beam clockwise to release it. It is extremely stiff and may need some help from a pair of grips. If it cracks it's not a disaster as the rubber holds it all in when it's together, but obviously it's better if it doesn't.
Remove the lamp and place it carefully to one side.
Take out the bung covering the left/right lever on top of the lamp.
Undo the three T15 screws holding the self levelling motor in place. It does not pull straight back - it needs to be slid toward the inside of the light unit (to the right if you have it as a right-way-up triangle) first. It's not stiff so if there's lots of resistance you're doing it wrong. remove the unit and gasket and out them to one side.

Now comes the first important part.

Ensure that there are no children, sensitive spouses, elderly relatives or anyone else who may be offended by a broadening of their vocabulary. Because unless you are spectacularly sheltered or ludicrously calm in nature there will be an amount of profanity expended.

Make sure that all the parts you have out aside are safely out of the way so you don't knock them off the bench while flailing around trying to do the next parts.

Double check that you have all the openings in the light open. You want the most light in there you can get as well as having minimal obstructions. Trust me on this.

We'll start on the high-beam adjuster because it's easiest. Look inside the light and you'll be able to see the broken foot of the adjuster screwed onto the light housing. It's a piece of white plastic with the stub of an adjuster rod sticking out. If you can't find it. screw the adjuster nut on that side all the way in using the 10mm socket and you'll see the arm come down and touch the foot. You'll need to screw the adjuster all the way the other way to give yourself space to work though. It's easy enough to get at the foot so go ahead and undo the T10 screw holding it in. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers or similar to extract the screw when it's undone. Then grab the plastic bit and apply what seemed like a surprising amount of force to get it to come off the lamp housing. Swear the first time as you bash your knuckles and retrieve the plastic that flew off somewhere as you'll need it.

Using the 10mm socket, screw the adjuster nut all the way anti-clockwise until the adjuster arm itself drops out of its housing inside the light. Watch it come out because it'll give you a better idea how to get the new one in. Retrieve the broken arm and bin it or keep it for curiosity.

I'm suggesting using the socket rather than the allen key adjuster because at this stage it's faster. When the new adjusters are fitted it's better to use the socket at first to save the strain on the plastic cog teeth from the allen key adjuster - the screw will be quite stiff for a while.

Take a breather and have a brew. While you're doing that, remove the broken part of the arm from the foot. It's retained by a spring tab on the screw side and is a bit of a pain to extract. You'll have your own technique I'm sure, but I used a pair of circlip pliers to hold the tab in, held the whole thing in a pair of Mole grips and popped the arm out with a very small screwdriver in the slots at the side.


Right. Onward and upward. Look through the angel-eyes hole and you'll see a triangular frame with the fibre optic pickup in the middle. And if you shine your torch and wiggle the now quite floppy light housing jus right you'll see the Torx screw holding the other foot in place. This is why you need a long T10 driver. Use it and remove the screw, turning the light upside down and shaking it to get the now loose screw out from inside.
Poke a screwdriver through the left/right bunghole and you'll be able to lever the foot off its mount easily. Repeat the shaking technique to extract it.
Screw the adjuster nut all the way out until the arm falls into the body of the light, then retrieve it.
Get the broken ball out of the adjuster foot and assemble the new adjuster for that side only.

There may be different and/or better ways of doing this next part, but I have do idea what they may be.

Take a look at the attached picture. Print it if you like - it may help.

We're going to start with the high beam adjuster, which is the one on the left in the picture. You saw how it came out, you can see how it sits. You can also see where it goes, which is a distinct bonus. So slide it into place from the bottom. Don't be afraid to move the lamp housing around to make room, as you're unlikely to do any more damage. Once it's engaged in its slot, screw the adjuster nut inwards (clockwise) and you should see the arm retracting into the body of the lamp. If it doesn't, you've done it wrong. Adjust it all the way in and out a few times to loosen the threads, then wind it all the way in to give yourself the maximum space.

Look at the adjuster foot and look at the peg onto which it bolts. You'll see that there is a flat which ensures you orient the foot properly. Go ahead and push it into place.

Take a couple of inches of cling-film and wrap it around the end of the T10 driver, leaving some hanging loose. Now push the screw on and it should stay put. Use this to hold the screw on the end of the driver while you line it up and screw it home.


Double check that nobody you previously evicted has come back into earshot, because this is where the proper sweary bit starts.

There isn't an easy way of doing this. I only found one way of doing it at all, and it took a while. You need to get the other adjuster arm into place. The only way I could do it was to work it around the reflector so that the foot was actually sticking out of the left/right bunghole. That roughly lines up with the semicircular cutout above the adjuster in the picture, so I guess it makes sense. Then it's just a case of being incredibly patient and gently teasing it into place. The peg for the foot, the angel-eyes fibres and the actual light housing shape will all get in the way but suddenly it'll just go in and you won't be able to understand why it wasn't easy. You will spend bloody ages with it a couple of thou' off and unable to work out why it won't go...

Once the arm has slipped in, screw the adjuster all the way one way and another a couple of times to loosen the thread, then put it about halfway, orient the foot whichever way you find easiest, line it up and, using the same cling-film technique, screw it home.

Relax. You're nearly there.

Set the high-beam adjuster to around halfway in as well and pull the light housing up until the arm clicks home. It needs a fairly hefty pull.

Now look down the hole where the self-leveller sits and you'll see the u-shaped channel it needs to engage with. Fit the gasket into the back of the leveller housing (the slot faces the lamp), pull the reflector up a bit to help engage the leveller arm, slide it in and left and let everything drop gently into place. See if the leveller has engaged properly by gently lifting it. If it comes out, you missed. If the reflector moves, well done. Secure the leveller with the three T15 bolts you removed before.

You should now find that the reflector housing is fairly rigidly held inside the light rather than flapping around.

Reassemble the light unit in reverse order. Wash the rubber shrouds in hot water before refitting them. They should go back on quite easily.

Refit the light in the car, taking care to engage that little trim tab on the outside before anything else.

Check everything works before securing, tidying and patting yourself on the back.

Remember when you come to adjust the light that you need to turn both adjusters - do half a dozen turns on one then the other - to avoid putting undue strain in them and potentially breaking something.

Congratulations. You may have skinned your knuckles, upset your maiden aunt, educated next-door's kids in some of the finer elements of traditional Anglo-Saxon and lost a few hours. But you've saved a good £500 and not broken the weather seal on your headlights.



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After breaking one of my headlight adjusters by just trying to remove a xenon bulb decided it was time to bite the bullet and replace with new. I have 2 sets of facelift headlights – the car’s are from 2001 so the lenses should come off but the spare set I bought with the intention of fitting bi-xenons were from 2003 (lying ebay seller) so couldn’t be baked – there’s a manufacture date stamp on the headlights between the indicator and low beam fittings on the rear! According to a couple of posts I’ve seen 7/02 is the date when headlights went from butyl which can be opened and RTV which can’t.


As I had 03 headlights I decided to try replacing those first from the back and as many have said one is easy and one is not so easy..........the above post is pretty useful so I’ll just add a couple of observations:


The adjusters are very brittle and break up into many pieces (I think mine might have been original), here's a look at how brittle - I did do a bit more damage getting them out of the socked they fit into:




You definitely need a long T15 screwdriver and forceps make this much easier than long nose pliers

Getting to the hard adjuster is much easier when you remove the cap on top of the lens that switches the beam when you go abroad

The eBay adjusters aren’t threaded so first time you screw into them is a bit tight (especially if the plastic cog on the end of the screw has broken off)

Make sure you’ve removed all remnants of old adjuster, I had a bit left on one of the screws but couldn’t see it without a mirror so got a bit pissed as I continually tried to screw a new adjuster in!

One eBay seller sells the plastic adjusters and 2 wheels which really helped me: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/323637497824?ViewItem=&item=323637497824





I’ve re-fitted my original lights but will polish the 03 lights and then swap over and open up the 01 lights to fit some bi-xenons later this year.

That's another E39 job off the list :)

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Well done Barry. I replaced my adjusters when I bought the car about 8 years ago and was fortunate enough to buy pre-threaded aluminium adjusters, as well as having 2001 headlights which could be baked open. 


Time has passed and the adjusters are still perfect but now I have discoloured lenses so after attempting to polish them time and time again I'm looking at replacement covers from ebay.de - has anyone done this before?


Before I do though, and while I'm committed to baking them open again I'm wondering about the bi-xenon set-up; do you have any links to parts and easy to follow how-to pages?

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Hi Kevin, I might go with metal adjusters when I open my 2001 lights up to fit bi-xenons, I’ve seen 2 types but I think CA Automotive are the ones best known so did you get those - very expensive!


Surprised you haven’t managed to successfully polish your lenses but guess it depends how bad they are, I used the 3M kit on mine about 6 years ago and after fitting some 3M type film they still look great today I plan to get a new 3M kit to polish up my 2003 lights and fit them to the car while I strip my 2001 lights down.


I’m not 100% sure which b-xenons to go with yet as I would prefer a better low beam given that’s how I use the lights most and until recently I think the choices were EvoX-R or FX-R and this site has some useful info: https://www.retrofitlab.com/


However recently DerekJr on this board posted up after fitting some Morimoto MINI D2S 4.0 in his car and I met up to compare lighting, here’s his thread: 


There are also a couple of options on wiring in the mains for the flash function so that needs to be worked out, apparently OEM is for the xenons to provide low and main beam lighting with the halogen ‘main’ just used for the flash function which seems a bit of a waste (and needs an LCM IV fitted). Most people just use a splitter to make both main beams run together.


I’ll post up when I eventually get round to this but no idea when that will be.


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I replaced the adjusters on the 530d a few years ago, the ones on the M5 need doing too.

If I remember correctly, it took me around 4 hours on the 530d, are the units the same on the M5 with the exception of the xenon ballast.etc?

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