BMW E46 Headlight Removal – 1999-2005 3 Series Sedans/Touring


BMW E46 Headlight Removal – 15 Minutes

Basic level repair
Repair cost level 3

The BMW Repair Guide used a 2000 323i for this article.

Repair Summary
This article gives detailed instructions on removing the headlights in a BMW E46 3 series vehicle. Even though we used a 2000 BMW 323i to perform this repair, this article can be applied to all 1999-2005 3 series sedans and wagons with minor modifications to the steps. Need parts? Click Here to jump to the Parts Section.

A BMW E46 Headlight Removal is a very simple repair for the home mechanic.

One of the most annoying issues to plague older BMW models are hazy or chipped headlight lenses. Years of ultra-violet light exposure combined with road debris and chemicals cause the acrylic lens of the E46 3 series headlight to become oxidized or “foggy”. This condition is not only aesthetically unpleasing, but it is also dangerous. Hazed or broken headlight lenses can severely limit the intensity of the light they emit, creating a hazardous condition during night driving or during inclement weather.

A BMW E46 headlight removal and replacement is a very simple procedure for the home mechanic, and can save a very expensive trip to the dealership of independent repair shop. They are held in place with four screws…two on top of the light assembly and two behind it. Once the screws are removed, the headlight can be easily removed from the frame of the vehicle. Replacement headlights are readily available online (please see our parts list below) and installation is simple and quick.

It is important to note that there are several different versions of headlights in the BMW E46, so it is important that you get the right part number before ordering replacements. The E46 came with stock Halogen headlights and optional xenon upgrade. Some models were also manufactured with ZKW halogen brand headlights. We suggest removing the headlight before ordering your replacement to ensure you get the proper part number.

For your convenience, we have listed all of the headlight variations for the 323i, 325i, 325xi, 328i, 328xi, 330i ,and 330xi models below in our parts section. We have also included the correct turn signals as an option as well.

The following is our YouTube video on the BMW E46 headlight removal process. For more detailed instructions, please see our step by step procedures with photos below.

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1. Headlight assembly (1999-2001) (required) – As discussed above, there are three different variations of the BMW E46 headlight assembly, so it is important that you purchase the correct part number. Remember…you get what you pay for with BMW parts. Always replace your E46 headlights with a quality OEM unit from a reputable manufacturer like these.

2. Turn signal (1999-2001) (optional) – Although not required, it is a good idea to replace your turn signals with your headlights. We give you several great choices below.

1. Headlight assembly (2002-2005) (required) E46 front headlight assemblies for sedans and wagons from 2002 and up (“facelifted models”).

2. Turn signal (1999-2001) (optional)  – E46 turn signal assemblies (Facelifted Models) for sedans and wagons from 2002 and up (“facelifted models”).

Section 1 – Removing the headlight

As discussed at the beginning of this article, removing the BMW E46 headlight is a simple operation. It is held in place with four screws…two on top and two on the bottom. All of the screws can be easily reached from the engine compartment with very little effort.

  1. In order to remove the headlights from the front of your E46 sedan or touring wagon, the lower trim panels must be removed. Using a plastic trim removal tool, carefully pry the trim panel loose then use your fingers to remove it from the vehicle. bmw e46 headlight removal - Pry the lower trim loose with a plastic trim removal toolbmw e46 headlight removal - Pull the trim loose and remove from the vehicle
  2. Using an 8mm socket wrench, remove the top two mounting screws.Use an 8mm socket wrench to remove the top mounting screws
  3. Using a long screwdriver, release the side turn signal by inserting it into the hole behind the light assembly and pressing down on its release clip (see image below). Remove the turn signal from the e46 headlight removal - insert a screwdriver into the turn signal release holePress down on clip to release the turn signalbmw e46 headlight removal - Remove the turn signal from the vehicle
  4. There are two mounting screws on the bottom of the headlight…one located on the rear and one located interior towards the centerline of the vehicle. Use an 8mm socket wrench and a long extension to remove e46 headlight removal - remove the first lower mounting screw with an 8mm socket wrenchThe location of the first lower mounting screwbmw e46 headlight removal - Remove the second lower mounting screwThe location of the second lower mounting screw
  5. You can now grasp the headlight and pull it free from the vehicle.Pull the headlight free so the bulb connections can be remove
  6. With the headlight free, unplug the two electrical connectors and remove it from the e46 headlight removal - Unplug the bulbs and remove the headlight from the vehicle
BMW E46 Headlight Removal Finished
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. And congratulations for Doing It Yourself!