Here are some notes on how to refurb your headlights or tail lights.
Ensure that the lights have been washed and dried
Mask off all the area around the lights to avoid the sanding and polishing going on to the bodywork around the lights
Use sanding pads on a fast drill or polisher
Using a P800 sandpaper, use medium pressure and move side to side and up and down to remove the worst of the scratches. Periodically dust off the lens and the paper to ease the sanding. When finished, the lens should look a little milky. Check all the defects have been removed and then move on to the next stage.
Next use a P1500 in the same manner, at the end, the lens should look more translucent but still a little milky.
Move on to a P2000 and with a little water on the lens and pad continue in the same manner. Avoid the lens becoming dry. By the end the lens should look a little cloudy.
Next move on to a P3000 and again with a little water and the same movements. Avoid the lens becoming dry. By the end the lens should look more translucent.
The final stage is to polish the lens until it is clear. Use a polishing pad and compound. Apply the compound to the pad and then dab it on to the lens before switching on the drill. This is to avoid compound being thrown all over. Add more compound as needed. Keep polishing until the lens is clear. Wipe down the lens periodically to check. If there are still defects, go back to the P3000 stage.
Ok, now I have your attention. Did you really think I was going to go on about how you can get your lights back to looking brand new using only toothpaste from the bathroom? We all know that this will just not work, unless…. You use it brush your teeth before going out to refurb your lights properly.
It appears to be a common issue on the E39 Touring where the lights on the tailgate start to look faded and battered. They do the same thing on the E53 X5 as well I have noticed. The lights on the Saloon and on the side of the Tourer don’t seem to have the same issue and look sparkling.
Anyway, this has been bugging me for a while and I have looked around on Fleabay to see if I could get some replacement lights or lenses at the very least. Nada. Nothing. Just don’t seem to be able to find them. If anyone has a link to some, please do let me know.
I have watched numerous videos on YouTube on how to refurb your headlights, all the different methods that people use, all the different products, including toothpaste.
It just so happened that in my cellar I had some sponge pads that would fit in the drill and some Halfords compound. Surely this must be worth a try. I set about putting on the masking tape and had a go on one of the lights with the rubbing compound. This did make the lens more smooth to the touch but was no way going to make the lights sparkle as they should.
I have been weighing up getting the Maguires 1-step headlight restoration kit and I nearly bought the kit for this very job whilst at the BMW Festival the other week. The thing that stopped me was that Maguires were selling it at the show for around £23-24 and I knew I could get it at Halfords for £21 (the cheapskate Yorkshireman in me). I had also read that the Autoglym Headlight restoration kit was good to use.
When I got to Halfords both products were in stock, the Autoglym being more expensive at £24.99. As I generally like the Autoglym products I took a punt and paid the little bit extra.
The Maguires product just seems to be a wool pad with some compound and they now throw in a couple of sanding blocks for the harder parts. The Autoglym product comes with the drill attachment, various sanding pads, the sponge pad for polishing and the compound.
As it was a nice warm day I set straight to work. I have to admit that at first I didn’t think that was going to do too well but I persevered and after about 20-30 minutes on each light I was generally chuffed with the outcome. There is a visible difference and when I put the lights on you can actually see the light on now rather than just this foggy mess.
As you can see from these pictures, the results are quite good. This was only the first time I had tried to refurb any lights so I wasn’t expecting too much. I had had my headlights done a few months ago by a proper company and they looked awesome (£35 each lense in case you were wondering). The back lights I have done are not as good but I think if I had spent more time on them they would have come up as good as new. I think it would also have been easier if I had removed the lights from the car. I was desperate not to scratch the paintwork and I think I would have been rougher with the sanding if I had not to worry about this.
All in all, I am pretty chuffed with the results and would certainly recommend the Autoglym product.
Since I took ownership of my car the back PDC (Park Distance Control) sensors have not been working as they should, they beep a lot as though there is something behind me when there isn’t. I used the Inpa software from Cable-Shack to test the individual PDC to see if I could determine if there was one PDC which was at fault. This showed that the driver side middle PDC though that there was something around 50 inches from the car when nothing is behind.
I bought the car in June and around October time it stopped randomly making the noises and worked as I would expect. It came back to spring again and the issue started again. This time I used the BMW Scanner software to test the PDC module and it reports no errors. It seems like this issue only happens during the summer months as during the winter I had no issues at all, it started to get warmer again and the PDC started to play up again. This time Inpa shows that both the middle PDC are showing something behind the car, at different distances.
The method I used to test the PDC with Inpa is detailed here.
Start the Cable-Shack menu and choose the Inpa menu option.
When Inpa starts, switch on the ignition to position II. The Inpa software should show the battery and Ignition as being on. This is indicated by the circles next to the Battery and Ignition text fields showing as solid black.
Choose E39 as your car. You select E39 by pressing the F3 button or clicking on the E39 button at the bottom of the screen.
Once E39 has been selected you will be shown a menu of options, select Body from the list of items on the left of the dialog, a new list of items will appear on the right. Select Park Distance Control from the list on the right hand side. NOTE: You need to double-click on the Park Distance Control item in the list for it to activate.
If you receive a message box with an error message about language variants do not match, ignore this and press the OK button to continue.
The PDC menu screen will appear. We want to look at the status of the PDC sensors so press F5 or press on the Status button at the bottom of the screen. The sensors on the car will be displayed. Initially all the displays should show as black as the PDC is not active. Press the PDC button in the car to activate the PDC. In the screenshot above my sensors are showing that there is something close to the passenger side outside sensor (there was a telegraph pole next to the car) and something in close to the passenger side middle sensor (nothing behind the car at this point so I know this is the sensor giving a false reading).
Now you want to locate your laptop somewhere that you will be able to see it when you go outside the car to move behind the sensors.
Leave the car and go and put your hand at various distances around the sensors, you should see the status screen change to reflect where you are around the car. This is all there is to how I test the PDC sensors.
As a side note, using BMW Scanner you can look at the programming of the PDC and set various parameters for distances, etc. You can also program the loudness of the noises from the PDC and whether they use the gong or speakers. I have mine configured at maximum volume and have the front PDC warn through the speakers and the rear PDC warn through the Gong.
You can set if there is a noise when the PDC is activated and when it is deactivated. You can set when the PDC will automatically switch off, by speed, distance or if you come out of reverse. I have mine configured to switch off after I have driven about 50 feet.
I see a lot of questions on the various E39 groups asking about what people do to attach their phone to the sound system. This really depends on the sound system you have in the car. I have the C53 Business Stereo cassette player with the 6 CD changer in the boot.
My C53 is the flat pin connector type. The older versions have a round pin connector.
When I was looking around based on my stereo, the options I seemed to have were Intravee, an AUX cable, Cassette with a 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth adapter or buy a new stereo head unit.
I won’t go in to the DSP (Digital Sound Processor) sound systems as I don’t have one so not sure how these work.
Intravee / Intravee II
I’ve taken a look around at the various websites about the Intravee and I am still not sure exactly what it does. It looks like it allows iPod to connect to the stereo unit and you can do various programming of the car through it. It seems to work with various stereo configurations and depending on which set up you have you have different abilities.
A quick look on eBay and you can find various AUX cables fairly cheaply. These replace the CD changer. On the back of the stereo unit you unplug the cable for the CD changer and plug in the AUX cable.
The AUX cable wire needs to be available somewhere in the car and people seem to have fed the cable from the back of the stereo to various places. Some put it in the glove box, some have fed it though the centre console and out behind the handbrake, some have it coming out via the cigarette lighter.
Using the AUX cable involves plugging the cable in to your phone or other media device and then switching the stereo to the CD changer source and away you go.
Cassette with 3.5mm jack
This is the option I went with originally. Looking around on eBay I found a cheap and cheerful adapter for about £2.50. It didn’t work. When I put it in to the cassette player it just kept switching from side A to side B and just didn’t work.
I then went for the more expensive Belkin adapter. This cost around £12 but did work and produced some good quality sound. I moved away from this though as it required something to be hard plugged in and I hate having cables hanging around. It also meant if the kids wanted their device plugged in, the device is in the front with me and they can’t reach to change tracks or search for other music.
A good solution but not one I kept with for long.
The Bluetooth adapters are a step up from the old wired adapters that send out a radio signal from the device which you can then pick up on the stereo radio. The old wired devices plugged in to your device with a 3.5mm jack and were powered via battery or plug in to the cigarette lighter. These were quite naff quality based on the ones I tried years ago. The sound quality was usually pretty dire and quite a bit of interference.
The Bluetooth adapters perform the same function, they connect to your device and then transmit a signal that you pick up on a radio station. The device is connected to the adapter via Bluetooth which means no wires and is powered from the cigarette lighter.
I searched around for quite a bit for one of these and the one I ended up with has been really good.
This device not only allows you to stream audio but it also acts as a hands free unit for the phone. I have to say that I haven’t actually used it hands free at all (not popular enough for anyone to call me) so can’t comment on how well it works for this task.
The device allows you to pick different radio frequencies to transmit on, has a volume control and allows you to skip tracks.
The kids love this as they have a game to see who can connect to the device first when they get in the car. It plays really well. I say that, there is just one band it seems to have a problem with. Avenged Sevenfold. My eldest loves this band but whenever she plays some tracks there is some kind of hiss or distortion on some tracks. What we found here was that if we turn down the volume on the device and turn up the volume on the stereo it goes away. This must be something in their tracks which the sound processing unit can’t handle properly. Apart from that it works great. We use it all the time.
The cigarette lighter in the E39 is always on even when there is no key in the car so I always disconnect the device and throw it in the door pocket when not in the car.
Replacement Head Unit
The last option I have for you is a replacement head unit. A lot of people swap out the OEM stereo and go for Eonon or some other Android based head unit or you can get adapters for single or double din head units. There are plenty of these adapters available on eBay which opens up the standard head unit market. The only thing I am aware of for the double din units is that there is some butchering needed behind where the unit will sit to make it fit. The single din and Eonon units don’t require this hacking.
I really like the idea of the Android head units as you get some great functionality like GPS, reversing cameras, DAB (which you could get with single and double DIN units), plug in a SIM card and get a wireless hotspot in the car as well as being able to connect to the OBDII and use some software like Torque to read the car ecu and display dashboards. I just don’t think I would use all the functionality once the initial excitement had worn off and at > £260 for one of these units, my £15 Bluetooth adapter looks a lot more affordable to my wife who thinks I would be made to spend that on the car stereo.
I keep thinking that I would like a Eonon unit, I find myself looking around the site at lunchtimes, but I have to admit that I like keeping the car as standard as it was when it was delivered and we do use the cassette units. Being of a certain age we have a few cassettes still lying around that we didn’t think we would get to play again (remember making those mix tapes and recording the Top 40 on a Sunday evening?)
That’s my run through of the different audio options that I looked at. Of course there are many more and I have seen some great set-ups with HUGE sub woofers mounted in the boot, etc.
The first modification I made to the car after I bought it was to change the Angel Eyes to LED. The first ones I put in were the 3w cheap models from eBay. The first lot worked for about three or four months and then one went so I bought a second set. Again, these did not last long and so I started to mix and match to get two working lights. After I ran out of available bulbs I decided I needed to go brighter. The 3w just aren’t cutting it, you can hardly see them in the daylight.
I started to look around at what other people were using and had a chat with Stefan from E39 Zone whilst we were waiting at the motorway services for the convoy for the BMW Show at Santa Pod.
Some people have gone really fancy and fitted colour changing angel eyes which are controlled through a remote control device or from an app on a smart phone. These are quite fancy and come in at around £58 upwards on eBay.
I decided I needed some bright white 40w LED. The search began.
In all fairness you can find 40w LED quite easily on eBay and I settled on a set which duly arrived a few days later.
In the pictures above, the 40w is the silver unit. The two black units were the ones I took out. These are the orange bulbs that came with the car when I bought it.
The silver bulbs have a slightly larger diameter to the previous LED that I had installed and I wasn’t sure the new ones would fit, they are also longer. They do in fact fit and they are so much brighter, especially in the dark.
I don’t think they come up to the brightness of the LED on the new BMW and other cars on the road that have the daylight running lights but they are pretty close.
The 40w bulbs come with a ballast each which means when fitting I taped the wires up as there was a lot of lose cable now hanging around under the bonnet. I also didn’t want the ballast being battered around in there whilst I am driving.
Now to see how long these will last compared to the cheap 3w LED that I have used so far.
Regardless of how long they last, I don’t think I can ever go back to the 3w LED, not now I have seen the light. (see what I did there?)