Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Holy Grail: Euro Headlight Conversion

I didn't know much about headlight configurations when I started to explore the world of the 2000 but I learned fast.  Everyone seems to think that the European version is superior in style to the American one.

1) An example of the Euro headlight version; this car was for sale in Seattle last year, photographer unknown but thank you anyway

Not only do the single headlights look more sharky than the boring round American ones, but the parking lights are located inside the light units, outboard of the lamps.  Very, very cool.  The side lamps are used in this configuration for turn signals only.

Yet there is a certain disadvantage to the set-up.  First, other drivers, those positioned laterally to the car, cannot see the parking lights.  Since the lights are clear (white), they violate the American rule that parking lights must be amber and so they are also technically illegal.  The Washington State RCW, for example, clearly states:

RCW 46.37.100 

Color of clearance lamps, side marker lamps, back-up lamps, and reflectors.

"(1) Front clearance lamps and those marker lamps and reflectors mounted on the front or on the side near the front of a vehicle shall display or reflect an amber color."

A friend in Law Enforcement has told me, however, that this rule is very unlikely to be enforced, assuming all other aspects of the vehicle and its operation are legitimate.

But back to the Euro conversion itself.  I was determined to make the change but knew next to nothing about how to do it. I located this schematic on

And I had to locate the two grills to go with the new lights. 

I finally found reasonably priced items on Ebay in Germany, for sale by a vendor from whom I had bought a few small parts already.  An honest person, in other words.  The two headlamps cost 59 Euros and the grills around 50 Euros.  I had them shipped Express mail. The package took a mere four weeks to arrive at my doorstep, a land-speed record for Deutsche Post, no doubt.

When I opened the box, I was confronted with the following equipment, or lack thereof:

2) This unit was more or less complete but had no light bulb or position light socket (not visible here)

3) The other headlight was missing the outer supporting ring and spring assembly altogether

How these things were supposed to hold light bulbs, much less connect themselves to the car's wiring, was a complete mystery, eventually solved more by intuition than knowledge, of which I have almost none when it comes to mechanical and electrical issues.

I contacted the vendor, and, using the above schematic, said that I was missing one part # 15 (the supporting ring and spring) and two of # 14 (the plug terminal).  The vendor kindly agreed to look for the parts and offered to send them to me without charge.  Luckily he was able to locate a supporting ring because he deals in 2000 C and CS vehicles and the rings are the same in both models. Otherwise I would have been out of luck as the part is long gone from the BMW system and completely unavailable in this country.

Since these small parts were shipped in a much smaller package than the original lamps and grills, they arrived in two weeks, a flash in the pan, geologically (and postally) speaking.

The head lamp bulb and position light socket turned out to be easy to find in the USA; both items are still used on BMW motorcycles and on cars of more recent vintage.

4) The position light socket; it pushes easily into the back of the headlight housing: photographer unknown

5) The 45W light bulb. It is vital to use this one as the headlights are directly wired and do not have a fuse. Modern bulbs like the H4 are of much higher wattage: photographer unknown

As the headlight lamp came with its own inner support ring (unlike the one shown in the schematic) I was not obligated in the end to use the plug terminals.  But the outer ring that spring-loads the bulb was crucial.  I still thank my lucky leprechauns that the German vendor was kind enough to send me one.

The last step was to purchase new lenses, not because the ones that came with the headlights from Germany were bad, but rather in order to have spares on hand.  Here in the Pacific Northwest rocks fly and coyotes howl; the roadways are not our friends and drivers can easily find themselves with a fresh hole in a headlight. I changed out the lenses - very nice to have the brand new ones on the car - assembled the bulbs/sockets, and then was ready for final installation of the Euro system.

Here is the new look:

6) The headlights installed, with parking/position lights illuminated 


  1. I have a set of euro headlights for sale
    along with all new crome and Euro Tail lights

  2. I've just stumbled on your blog and am loving it. I'm not new to old BMWs but I'm learning as I go with my "new to me" 1969 2000. It's a fantastic car and like you, I've done the Euro headlight conversion. My only question is how you wired the parking/position lights. The sockets and bulbs are in place but I'm not at all sure what wire to connect to them. Do I have to splice into the turn signal/parking lights? Any guidance is appreciated! Thanks

  3. It’s a difficult thing - my main man Patrick O’Neil in Seattle did the fix and told me it was super tough - even the factory electrical diagram doesn’t show the wiring

  4. Actually I was thinking of the city lights function. To install turn signals is straightforward - why don’t you email me at so I can explain in detail.