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E46 Bi-Xenon (budget) retrofit

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Old Feb 7th, 2017, 14:13   #1
LizardOfBodom
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Default E46 Bi-Xenon (budget) retrofit

OK so after driving for last 8 months on HIDs and stock projectors, I decided to step up and retrofit new projectors. I didnt have enough budget to do what I originally wanted (new headlamps + D2S projector+ballast/wiring/decent bulbs) so I went for budget version and bought just replacement projectors in H7 fitting from retrofitlab.
Reason for that was that I had fully working H7 HID setup so I needed no extra bulbs/cables/adapters/ballasts etc.
I was looking at pics of D2S versions, and to be honest - it looks like the only difference is the mounting bracket. Price was the same, shutters are the same (I asked) I would suspect reflectors and lenses are the same. It seem to me its just a generic projector, maybe I’m wrong, dunno. Maybe I made mistake and D2S would perform better but for NCT/MOT reasons I needed something I can throw halogen bulb back. Done&dusted, decision made, move on.

Projectors were 130eur/pair + extra 10 for high-beam splitter.
For that, you are getting two "Bosch AL E46 replicas" in box with 'Aharon' brand. I have no doubt those are NOT original Bosch ones, but cant say much about quality of those replicas as havent seen too many projectors so I have no comparison. Mounting plate and materials look a bit chunky (like generic CNC'ed aluminium material), but all seem sturdy enough and decent. I have no clue if those are better quality than Chinese-made 40Eur projectors or just the same but with higher price tag.

When placed alongside the old one (2005 model so milky fresnel lens) you can see its a little bit longer but not by much. Its also a bit bigger, due to electromagnet on the bottom. Because of that I can no longer fit ballasts inside the lamp (and believe me - I REALLY tried) so thats something to consider. Was really happy on previous setting with all components tucked inside the lamp, but ah well..





H7 burner fits well into the projector, and the notch is orientated in the “right way”, so unlike in stock projectors, the burner’s wire is orientated downwards where shutter is.




Fitting of the projector is straightforward – same mounting holes, fits perfectly in plastic shroud and from outside of the lamp, looks like stock projector. On d/s one the fitting was somehow bad –angle was too high and when trying to adjust it down – made high beam bulb useless (was shining just in front to the car). Maybe because of thicker mounting plate, not sure, but I had to use 2 washers on one mounting point to change the angle of projector to make it right.

Shutter is operated by electromagnet that opens it when current is applied. You connect it to splitter that goes from high-beam bulb. I needed to modify the splitter pin a little (HB3 bulb have notches). I was advised to modify bulb, but it made more sense to make splitter pin universal for any new bulb so I cut out a bit of plastic and it fits ok now.

On the pics below you can see difference in beam pattern when testing projectors on the table.





I have no proper pics of beam on the road because my mod is not finished yet. I am having problems with proper alignment (due to condition of my headlamps) and with beam pattern, as I have no clue how to properly adjust the screw that keeps the shutter when idle – anybody have any experience with that? Seem that artifacts show either in close range or in distance, depending how much I rotate the screw in/out.



From what I noticed so far, E46 projectors really are a straight plug&play mod, and would work well even with H7 halogen bulb setup as light output from them is much better than my 12 year old fresnel lens projectors with the same halogen bulb. Maybe its a good alternative for people not wanting to use HIDs?

Will update further in next few days. Today, if I manage to sort out allignment issues, will install HID kit and test it on road. Will probably need some allignment again. When I get to the point where everything is as good as it can be, then will take some photos and report if the hassle was worth it.
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Old Feb 8th, 2017, 09:10   #2
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An admirable effort so far, well done

A good starting point is that the projector housing has the same mounting holes as the original, just that pesky alignment to perfect now and you should be good to go.

Looking forward to more updates.
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Old Feb 8th, 2017, 14:27   #3
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Update #1

Have spent whole evening yesterday setting up the beam, fiddling with shutter adjustment and finally putting the HID bulbs in.

Pic below is the headlamp with new projector and HID bulb in its place. As you can see, it takes more space than original one and I was forced to relocate the ballast to the outside of headlamp assembly. Very unhappy about it, but what can you do :/



I had to cut the hole and wire the cables out of the unit.
The extra stuff on the inside of cover is silica bag (keeps inside of lamp moist-free) and a external mass cable.





Now the "fun" part have begun as I spent literally an hour under the bonnet, dancing around the car like ballerina, trying to find the decent mounting spots for ballast&wiring. T5 is so cramped under the hood that it really seem impossible to add anything, let alone 2 sets of wiring of decent proportions:



It would be easy to "just throw them anywhere" but I would be worry if not attached properly, it would do something nasty - they get pretty hot and there is high voltage involved so basically any place I tried I wasnt comfortable with. it really is a pain in the... to mount them. Ended up kinda "suspending" them using wire, cable ties and some corners of engine bay, but that will definitely change. I have idea to use a long narrow piece of perforated steel to mount the wiring to it, like the base, and then attach the whole assembly somehow to the car. Short cables between bulb and external wiring does not help either, cant now remove headlamp before unplugging the harness first. Wont be using extentsion cables, thats for sure, can cause more bad than good. I was used to pulling out lamp in 5 seconds and fiddling with it while still connected to cables so now its just a step backwards.

Finally when done, you can see how the beam pattern look, (5000k bulbs).



below, how it did look with original fresnel lenses and the same HID kit.



Looking at the beam pattern on the new projectors, you can clearly see the difference - much sharper cutoffs and beam shape. Unfortunately - right side is not so good as whole projector seem to be rotated down - need to emphasise now that is NOT the case of the new projectors, but something wrong with my lamp/mounting points/whatever. It was like this before (see pic with fresnel lenses) but wasnt as disturbing due to the more spreaded light output.
I tried everything to rotate the beam - nothing worked. Not sure what is wrong, but without re-mounting projector or re-shaping the mounting points it seem impossible to fix. Alternative probably would be getting different headlamp.

I dont have any decent pics from the road - will follow up with them when I do more testing, but so far I can give you some personal feedback as to compare to my previous stock lenses with the same HID kit:

- light output is much improved - clarity of the lens and brand new reflectors makes a big difference in how bright the beam now is.
- foreground lighting changed dramatically - from almost non-existent (see pics from previous post with fresnel lens on the wall?) to nice and uniformed from the bonnet to the cutoff points. I feel like I am driving with fog lights now as road just in front of the car is now perfectly lit
- the beam pattern of those projector is much more narrow than previous ones. That is a downside. I have read about it and apparently thats the nature of E46 projectors. Compared to Mini H1 for example or even my old ones - they are just very narrow. Its good to have foglamps set as I do (have alligned them so they shine just below dip beam pattern) as they have wide spread and nicely supplement the main ones, especially on bendy roads.
- bi-xenon function is just OK, cant say I was blown away by it. Will try to make some photos of just xenon high beam, but without HB3 bulbs supplementing them, I dont think I would be happy. Those projectors definitely wouldnt work for me as the only source of high beam. When shutter is fully opened, you are gaining more wide-spreaded light so atleast driving on bendy roads with high-beam on is better than previously, as side of the roads are better lit trough high beam. One of my previous ideas to improve high beam was mounting set of spot lights and personally I think it would have made better job. Or maybe with better quality projector and D2S burner it would be better? But dont expect the same output from those as you would get from OEM bi-xenons of audi or BMW. Completely different league.
- the cutoff lines are sharp, so they allow you to better alligning projectors and I'm more confident now about not dazzling other drivers. You literally have projected edges on the cars in front of you so you know exactly how much glare you produce and where. It takes a while to getting used to it after previous lenses, I must admit - not sure how I feel about it yet...
- there is a rainbow effect on the edges of the cutoff - It is similar to what I see on all new LED equipped cars etc where the edge of cutoff is a bit purple/green and observing the pattern on cars in front of me is a bit distracting. I think lots of xenons have this but probably the better projector, the less rainbow?
- the shutter allignment I mentioned in previous post is an issue and real PITA. Made one light perfect (very sharp cutoff on the road even far far away from the car) but another is a blurry line from 10meters onward. It all looks good on the wall and from close distance, but when you see the beam on the road as far as it reaches - its bad. Will have to try to adjust again, but atm its just trial and error :/

General experience so far? - OK.
Was it worth 120e? - I think so
Would I do it again? - probably not and keep using previous setup without so much hassle.

Will update with more pics and more daily-road experience after a while.

if anyone have advices as how to improve allignment or lens rotation - Im all ears
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Old Feb 8th, 2017, 19:19   #4
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Your headlamp with the blurry cut off, is that the same as the headlamp with the wonky cut off?

I have factory xenons and recently replaced the bulbs. One headlight cutoff is now a little blurry and wonky. I suspect it is due to bulb positioning relative to the lens/mask/reflector. I have played around with an led, some cardboard and a magnifying glass and seem to be able to replicate the effect by moving the led off centre. Need to find the time to take the assembly out and have a fiddle.
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Old Feb 9th, 2017, 10:53   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ch70 View Post
Your headlamp with the blurry cut off, is that the same as the headlamp with the wonky cut off?

I have factory xenons and recently replaced the bulbs. One headlight cutoff is now a little blurry and wonky. I suspect it is due to bulb positioning relative to the lens/mask/reflector. I have played around with an led, some cardboard and a magnifying glass and seem to be able to replicate the effect by moving the led off centre. Need to find the time to take the assembly out and have a fiddle.
Thanks for the tip, but no, its actually another one. The one with crooked rotation have perfect cutoff now, and it is definitely not a case of bulb position in my case as I tried to move it a bit to see. The blurry cutoff is on another lamp that is perfectly straight.


Also, small update. After a full day of my usual commute and a day of real-life testing, I have to admit I am more pleased with them than I originally thought. Yes, pattern is a bit off and yes there are still adjustments needed and yes they are narrower than expected, but thats all noticeable because my OCD and lab-like testing trying to achieve perfection. In real life, in daily traffic and when following the car on highway, you actually get to appreciate them much more - the foreground is lit up like nothing I have had before and light pattern allows for comfortable cruise in high speeds even if there is traffic in front of you and cant use high beams. Also, in middle of city in traffic jam, its noticeable straight away how powerful the light output is and how uniform the light pattern, especially when you stand beside lots of cars with various light types and see their light patterns on bumpers of other cars. Maybe I was too harsh saying I wouldn't have done it again, as the more I drive the more I think that was actually well worth it.

See shots below, was finally able to take decent ones. Notice the road sign in right corner, its a good comparison to see how pattern changes from low to high beam, and also that with low means its barely lit and reflects little light - thats good indication that my lights are much less dazzling than previous setup (where I have seen reflections in road signs that were much further and higher).

Low beam


High beam


Low beam + foglamps (that indicates clearly how much side-light is missing on low beam result of narrow projector throw)


Have to admit that yesterday, when coming back at night from work, driving on that road with full beams on was as great experience as never before, and its a good 20kms of journey.


Also - managed to get a shot that indicates those "rainbow effects" that I was talking about. See the colour artifacts at the edge of cutoff, right over the bush line?
Not sure how to deal with this yet…
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Old Feb 9th, 2017, 21:19   #6
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That looks great, the results look better than mine but I think that is mostly down to the crap lamps I've got. They're supposed to be 5000k (OEM colour) but they look bluey green to me. The rainbow effect at the cut off point is caused by refraction - I don't think you will be able to get rid of it unless you move the baffle out of the focal point but this will give you a blurry cut off.
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Old Feb 9th, 2017, 23:35   #7
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Those look like a similar out put that I get on my E46, which has Bi Xenons from factory, way better than my V50, will maybe have to go down a similar route
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Old Feb 10th, 2017, 07:54   #8
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The rainbow effect at the cut off line has been present on every car I've had with factory fit projectors, I think it's a characteristic of the lens.
I wouldn't worry about it, it won't effect oncoming traffic or visibility.
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Old Feb 10th, 2017, 11:19   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tannaton View Post
That looks great, the results look better than mine but I think that is mostly down to the crap lamps I've got. They're supposed to be 5000k (OEM colour) but they look bluey green to me. The rainbow effect at the cut off point is caused by refraction - I don't think you will be able to get rid of it unless you move the baffle out of the focal point but this will give you a blurry cut off.
I will try to fiddle little more with shutter adjustment - I did notice the rainbow effect is increasing or decreasing with manually moving the shutter adjuster so will spend more time on that during weekend.
Your H1 projectors on another hand should give much wider light spread - I have read comparison reviews and general rule is that E46 are brighter but mini H1 are wider.

Tip about your bulb colour - very often it is not the bulb issue but crappy ballast! I can vouch for that as just 2 weeks ago one of my kensun ballasts failed. To test where the issue was, I replaced it with an old noname chineese cr** that I had in my spare parts box. The output of the bulb changed from pure white 5000k to something that resembled 8000k boyracer blue. I was actually shocked as didnt think ballasts can differ so much - kinda thought the output is always the same as those are chip-controlled modules. What ballasts are you using?
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Old Mar 6th, 2017, 14:26   #10
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Just a small update after month of driving on those and constant fiddling with adjustments, if anyone is interested. Also small tips&tricks for anyone attempting similar mod.

- I was able to finally get along with those damn projector shutters and understood what was going on. Messing with adjusting screw allows to sharpen the cutoff was trial of error, but I figured it out finally. You need a 12V power supply (old PC PSU will do perfectly) and long back garden. I adjusted the sharpness of cutout as much as possible over the distance of roughly 15 meters as it was a good balance between close and distance sharpness. That made a close-distance cutoff a bit blurry) but the pattern on the road and in far distance is as sharp as possible and allow good allignment.



There is no rule of thumb whether shutter should be close or far to the bulb - just try one way, than another and find the sweet spot.
Also - one of the bulb had hotspot in wrong way (fully visible) but it was the bulb issue - I managed to bend a bulb base tiny bit so the hotspot now is exactly where the stepped cutoff is (imagine a round light spot that have this stepped \_ part going trough centre of it so 60% of it is exposed, other 40% is covered by shutter and in use only when full beam).
-Adjusting the cutoffs also helped a bit with rainbow effect but it is still present - dont think I can do much with it, just optical distortion, visible probably more on cheap kits like mine.
- never managed to fix the slight off-rotation on d/s one. Will leave it as is and not worry about it anymore

Also did some tests with and without the long beam bulbs, just to see how bi-xenons alone are doing. It is for sure possible to drive just on them, but I would really miss the extra "straight into darkness" light source. As you can see on pics fully opened shutter does let enough light to allow driving in pitch-black, but it wouldn't suffice for me. I'm sure a proper OEM projector with good D2S bulb would work much better and single projectors like on A4 or Superb are well enough, but kit like this - its just moderately "ok".
Photos taken with -2 exposure to show the contrast better.

dip beam:



shutter fully opened:


shutter opened + long-beam HB3 bulbs on:


All along, very happy with the mod, my opinion have changed - definetely worth the effort and any time I see my (now perfectly alligned and sharp) cutoff on the back bumper of a car, It makes me happy.

Just when doing similar mod - make sure you go for D2S version, just to be able to use better and more powerful bulbs.
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