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      02-25-2014, 02:01 AM   #1
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Drives: '13 X1 sDrive28i, Mineral Grey
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E84 Halogen Low-Beam Change (Sylvania ZXE H7)

In this post I am NOT changing my halogen bulbs to HID/Xenon bulbs or assemblies. I am merely offering step-by-step instructions on how to swap out the factory OEM halogens for another set of similar bulbs. This also does not cover changing the high-beams, which are accessed through the engine compartment. Now that we're clear on that, read on!

Seeing as I cheaped out and bought an X1 without the Adaptive Xenons (if you are thinking about buying an X1, STOP right now and just bite the $900 bullet to add the Lighting Package. You'll be glad you did), I've been looking for a way to make my headlamps brighter and whiter, seeing as the factory bulbs really aren't great. They're rather yellow and don't throw light very far. The X1 comes with standard Halogen H7 bulbs.

I replaced mine with a set of these Sylvania SilverStar ZXE H7 bulbs:
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I picked these up at a local auto-supply store for $59.99, but they're available on Amazon for $53 last I checked.
Sylvania's marketing team says they've got an "HID Attitude" and also prints "Xenon-fueled" on the package. As far as I can tell, that's all bullshit, but they ARE considerably whiter and brighter than the stock bulbs. I've also heard good things about Philips and PIAA bulbs, so I may try those when these go out.
You'll also want a pair of latex gloves (not thick work gloves) so you don't get skin oils or dirt on the bulbs, which could cause them to fail. Cheap dollar store gloves are fine.

Time & Difficulty Level:
The swap should only take about 15-20 minutes. The first bulb will definitely take you a little longer as you get the feel for it. It's a very simple operation, but folks with larger hands will have a harder time with this, as the opening in the headlight assembly is rather tight. The first time I did this it took me ~30 minutes because I didn't know what I was doing.

Without any more blabbering on my part, here we go:

Step 1:
Whichever light you intend to work on first, turn your wheels as far as possible in the opposite direction in order to provide as much access to the wheel well as possible as such:
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(You may notice I've already removed the access cover so there's a hole, but we'll get to that next.)

Step 2:
Once you've turned the wheel, you'll be able to look inside the wheel well and see a panel with two turnable-latch-thingies (absolutely no idea what to call them). It's easiest to insert the flat back end of a key into the slot or a large coin and turn them until the tabs face inward and the panel basically falls out. Just pull it upwards and out if it doesn't.
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Step 3:
Now inside the access hole, you'll be able to see the back of the headlight assembly. It's made by Valeo, and has a round, grey cap on the back of the low-beam section of the housing. Just turn the cap in the direction marked "Open" and set it aside along with the wheel well access panel.
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Here comes the slightly more difficult part.
- There will be NO direct line of sight to these next parts, provided you have not removed your wheel (which would probably make this far easier but doesn't seem worth it to change just a low beam).
- You have to stick your hand into the round hole you removed the cap from; mine barely fit with some scraping, and I don't have the largest hands.
- I took all these pictures by sticking my phone up into the cavity and snapping a shot with the flash. It is *VERY* helpful to do so with your own phone to get oriented and not break anything in the process.

Step 4:
Once the cap is gone, there will be a black plastic power connector attached to the rear of the bulb with some wires pointing outwards. Simply squeeze the top and bottom of the connector and pull firmly straight out towards the rear of the car until it pops off. Try to remember which way the wires were pointing, but it shouldn't be a big problem as the wire will tend to want to stay curled whichever way it was when you go to plug it back in. Then tuck the connector away into some void in the housing so it's not in the way for now.
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Step 5:
This is the part that annoyed me a little, but it is in actuality very very simple if you're not a numbnut like I am. The bulb is held in place by the metal clip bracket as shown below. The clip is held in place by a hook at the top and is hinged at the bottom, so it will just flip down. Grab the top part of the clip that sticks out firmly, then push inward, to the right, and then pull it outwards in a U-shaped motion to disengage it from the hook. I drew an arrow in the picture above as guidance. Remember that you're doing all of this BLINDLY, so it may take a little wiggling to get the clip out of the hook.
MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT LET THE BULB FALL OUT WHEN YOU FLIP DOWN THE CLIP. There is usually enough friction to keep the bulb relatively in place without the clip, but be careful.
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Once you've flipped the clip down, you can grab the old bulb and pull it out GENTLY from its housing and through the rear opening. You can look in from the front of the headlight to see if you're doing it right. Set the bulb aside somewhere where you won't step on it.

Note: BOTH clips are removed in the same direction; they are NOT mirror images of each other. Push both of them in, to the right, and then pull out. I tried for at least 2 minutes to push the left one to the left, to no avail.

Step 5:
Here's the part where you put the bulb in. Unfortunately there is no good way to photograph this, as your hand will block the entire opening. The best way to do this is to grasp the bulb by the metal prongs, then *slowly* insert it through the access hole in the headlamp assembly. When it's near the headlamp socket, look in through the front of the headlamp and guide the bulb in, taking care not to knock it against the sides of the opening (like a game of Operation!).

The tricky part about putting the bulb in is that you must SIMULTANEOUSLY flip the clip upwards and into place while inserting the bulb into the fixture. I held the bulb between my thumb and index finger (yay opposable thumbs!) to insert it, then held the bulb in place with my index finger. I then flipped the clip up with my ring finger until my middle finger could push it in, to the left, and secure it back into the hook.

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Important: There is a tab on an H7 bulb base; it is not symmetrical although the prongs are identical, as shown in the diagram above. This tab should be pointing UPWARD when you put the bulb into the fixture, or it won't go in correctly.

Step 6: Reassembly
Assuming nothing has gone disastrously wrong so far, you still have a functioning car, you haven't been electrocuted, and the Large Hadron Collider hasn't destroyed the universe yet, you can proceed to put your headlamp assembly back together. Untuck the power connector from wherever you stuffed it, and guide it on top of the prongs protruding from the rear of the bulb. There are two slots just like in a standard power outlet, but you have to line them up without being able to see them at all, so do this slowly so as not to break the contacts or the bulb. Once it's aligned, push the connector onto the prongs firmly until it stops. Do NOT push any further or extremely hard; if this is very difficult stop and realign. Then just screw on the round cap on the back of the headlight assembly, insert the access panel cover (bottom tabs first), then use your coin/key to turn the tabs back outwards to secure it.

You're done!
Now just head over to the other side of the car and do the same thing again.

The Sylvania ZXEs are definitely both whiter and brighter than the stock halogens that come with the X1. Here's a picture with only the right (LHS of the picture) bulb changed. You'll notice that the ZXE bulb is noticeably brighter, though the picture fails to do it much justice. At night time the difference in both color and visibility is just short of dramatic. I am very glad that I switched out the dim, yellow factory bulbs for these, especially given the low cost of this little change.
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However, when all is said and done, you will STILL have halogen lights, and they won't hold a candle to the Xenons. I've struggled long and hard trying to find a way to retrofit them, even almost purchasing Xenon assemblies, bulbs, and ballasts, but have run into nothing but trouble as USA dealers will adamantly refuse to do retrofit work, and it will most certainly cost at least $2,500 and void your factory warranty. In the end, it just hasn't seemed to be a pragmatic option, and this is the best we'll be able to do. Perhaps when my warranty expires, I'll go for the full retrofit at my local private BMW shop.

Now, I've probably severely over-complicated this and made it seem terrifying when it really is the most basic of DIYs, but I always like detailed instructions so that I don't fuck everything up, and hopefully some of you do too. Good luck with your own!

Last edited by kurtthewurt; 02-25-2014 at 02:10 AM..
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      02-27-2014, 01:05 AM   #2

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Excellent post, I went through this a while ago, tried Philips Ultra Vision's and Osram 65w.
Osram was a lot better but I chickened out and settled on the Philips.
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      05-29-2014, 07:37 PM   #3
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Thanks for this awesome, descriptive post! I just replaced my OEM lamps with OSRAM H7s and it went quite well, though the clip fell out of it's little tabs on one of them so I had to blindly insert them back into place. From outside the car at dusk, I notice a brighter beam. Interesting that the source I purchased these through via e-bay was in China. They sent me 4 lamps, so I still have spares in case of a premature lamp failure.
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      06-01-2014, 02:51 PM   #4
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Everything you describe is so much easier if you remove the wheel first, well worth the cost of a jack just to avoid too much swearing!
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      02-15-2019, 12:42 PM   #5

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Your post helped me out immensely. The clip fell out and I never would have got it back in without your great photos. Thanks again.
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      02-18-2019, 05:15 AM   #6
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Great post. Nicely done!

2015 BMW X1 35i MSport // BMS Intake
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      12-01-2019, 11:20 AM   #7
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Excellent post. I could find very little on the net about this task, so this was a great help and incentivised me to tackle this.

So, this afternoon, I set out to replace the bulbs on my Daughter's E84 X1 (2015 MY).

I couldn't get my hand in the aperture, but my Daughter got hers in and pulled out the build with the wiring attached (!!).
My first thoughts were, oh sh*t, the clip's come loose as she said she couldn't find it.

Closer inspection revealed NO CLIP were there.
The housing is a different design with the bulb held in place by two protruding lugs on the housing (at the 3 & 9 o'clock position).

Clearly BMW has heeded the feedback from dealers etc., and re-designed this unit.

So, take heart everyone, follow kurtthewurt's thread and you'll have no problems.

And if your vehicle is a similar age to our (April 2015), who knows, your job will be even easier!!
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