The Goal: To Mod the AE's on a pre LCI E63/64, to be as bright, or brighter than the new F12/F13's.
This is a taste of a DIY that will be written in the next few weeks once I mount these in the Beast. If I could play 'Blinded by the Light', by Springsteen, I would. These will blind you if you continue to stare at them. I may need to build a circuit to reduce the voltage when the headlights are on (nighttime). But man, they are bright.
Here's a short synopsis and a number of Thank you's to various members from various boards, where I compiled all the tricks and variations to come up with a version for the E63. Hasan, as I've written you before, the tip about the hairdryer to remove the lens from the light assy, was the key to making this easier. DTM996, the SoCal master of BMW lighting for countless emails, phone conversations, and consultations. A few other board members include, Ehssan, nomis_nehc (aka Simon), umichchris, AngelSlyer, DKNYC, and if I've left anyone out, my apologies.
Now that that's out of the way, here are some pictures of the process and the final product not yet mounted in the car. The pictures really do not do justice. Suffice to say, these suckers are bright. The process in short;
- After months of experimentation with myriads of LED rings, I settled on the Orion V2's from Umnitza, who helped me with size exchanges until I was satisfied. (Thank you Matt)
- I settled on a 100mm-90mm combination (9X and 8X as Umnitza SKU's them). They do not make an exact size fit for an E63/64. Our actual AE rings are 115mm/90mm O/D. There are many aftermarket brands, but the quality, light frequency, and type of diffuser lens didn't stand up to Umnitza's design. Their diffuser lens does the best job of dissipating the light and is just the right height from the LED themselves, giving the best visual look in my opinion.
- I purchased a few used/broken light assy's off ebay to experiment with. I used the black shroud, low beam lens holder, low bean lens holder trim pieces that I will exchange with my OEM's once I open them up to swap these pieces
- Many versions of 'how to remove the lens' from the headlight assy exist. I didn't want to cut them opened which seems to be the most utilized method, and I didn't want to put them in the oven, the second most common method. Thanks to a tip from Hasan I used a hairdryer and slowly heated the plastic tabs that surround the light assembly where the lens meets the assy itself; softening them just enough to bend them up while prying the lens away, using a sweeping motion with the hairdryer. As you work your way around, the automotive goop softens and it comes apart pretty easily. 10 minutes tops working by myself.
- The black shroud that holds the Rings pulls straight out (straight out being the key by the way), and the low beam lens trim and lens was then removed
- The key to the brightness is boosting the voltage on the Orion's. The come with an IC chip that maintains a steady voltage at 9V in a small plastic box. The way the LED's are wired; (and this is true of all the LED rings I purchased) is as follows. There are two form factor LED's for rings. A 3258 (32mm x 58mm), and a 5050 (50 x 50mm). The Orion's use a 3258. They are wired in series at each 3rd LED. (as are all the aftermarket LED rings). The 3258 specs nominal voltage is 3.2v per LED. Orion's (using the IC) provide approximately 3v per LED. Bright out of the box, but not as bright as I wanted. The specs allow a maximum 3.4v per LED. I used a 10 ohm/50w military grade resistor (no heat build up at all), to provide 10 volts for the low beams, and an 8 ohm/50W military grade resistor for the high beams so the visual light brightness is the same inner/outer rings to the eye. There are less LED's in the smaller (high beam ring), so more voltage was needed. 10 volts for the low beam LED ring and 10.3 volts for the high beam LED rings. Both are within the maximum allowable voltage per LED.
That's how I got the brightness to dissipate the dot look of the LED rings into a circle of light.
- Mounting was done using the OEM plastic LED ring mount which has three tabs. I added a plastic round 100-110mm flat washer so I didn't have to mount the Orion's on top of the OEM rings. Although that's the preferred method, it just didn't look OEM to me. The 90mm high beam ring fit the shroud circle perfectly, even though it is not horseshoe shaped. I used loctite two part epoxy to mount the Orion's and still put the OEM LED plastic holder with three tabs back as additional support. (Two tabs on the low beam as the full circle Orion required cutting the low beam LED ring holder.
- I painted the shroud flat black to give the AE's a bit more contrast, painted the low beam lens trim, put ZKW lenses in replacement of the OEM low beam lens, used black silicon RTV to seal any light leaks, and added an M Sticker to the shroud. (Got that idea from another website).
I left them on for an hour to check for heat at the LED rings and the resistor. The high beam rings are slightly warm, but the engine temperature just behind will be much warmer than that. I shook them, banged them, and tried to replicate a rough drive. They held up, so in the car they will go once I get the time.
All in all, I am anxious to get these in. I had them side by side in my garage with my already modified AE's which have 10W/2100 ma drivers pushing them, and it makes what was a bright AE to begin with, pale by comparison to the Orion's with a voltage push.
A full DIY is forthcoming, but for now enjoy pictures in progress