Headlight Eyesore

Another week has flown by here in Mesa, Arizona. The week started with cool weather – the high was only 64 degrees on Monday. Our friends and fellow full-time nomads, Brett and Cheri were in town for a few days. We met for dinner Monday night at Baja Joe’s – a Mexican restaurant on the corner of McKellips and Gilbert Road.

Brett, Cheri, Donna and me

I’m not much of a dessert eater, but I dug in when we split a dish of fried ice cream after our entrees. Fried ice cream is a Mexican treat. A ball of ice cream is breaded – usually with crushed corn flakes and a dash of cinnamon – then quickly deep fried in hot oil. This forms a delightful crust over the ball of cold ice cream which is then drizzled with chocolate syrup and honey and served in a cinnamon fried tortilla bowl. A dollop of whipped cream topped with maraschino cherries completes the dish. Yummy!

Fried ice cream served in a crisp fried tortilla bowl

A warming trend began on Tuesday and we had high temperatures in the 70s for the rest of the week. As you can see in the restaurant photo, I’ve let my goatee grow long over the past few months. On Wednesday I decided it was time to clean up my act. I trimmed my beard – we’ll see how I like it.

The new look

Did I mention how the time is flying by? We’ve been here in Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort for over a month now. Donna reminded me I had a few projects that I should get going on before we head out of here. One of the things I’ve been wanting to do is replace the lens covers on our headlights. The covers discolor and pit from exposure over time. They’re made of a lexan type polycarbonate material. A couple of years ago I polished the headlight covers to remove the crazed surface and restore the luster (posted here). The thing is, there’s an exterior coating on the polycarbonate surface to inhibit damage from exposure to the sun. When you polish the surface, this coating is removed and the lens will deteriorate fairly quickly.

The headlight assemblies Western RV used when they made Alpine Coaches were made in Germany by Hella. They were the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for BMW and these headlights were used in the BMW E39 models – E39 is the code for BMW’s fourth generation 5 series models made from 1995 to 2004. I searched for headlight covers for this model and only found one supplier with an expensive replacement. I wasn’t even sure if I could remove the old cover from the assembly without damage to the headlight.

I could get OEM headlight assemblies from BMW or buy used ones. The problem with OEM parts from BMW is cost. The OEM headlight assemblies run about $600 each – $1,200 for a pair is out of the question. Used headlight assemblies may have had enough exposure to already begin deteriorating, so that didn’t seem like a good way to go either.

I searched on Ebay and found several suppliers with knock-off E39 headlight assemblies made in China. One supplier had sold nearly 600 pairs with a seller rating of 99.7% positive. The headlight assemblies sourced in China looked good – they copied the Hella design. The price for a new pair of headlights was $135! I went for it.

The headlight assemblies were delivered on Friday afternoon. They were well-packaged and looked good to go. I got to work on the project Saturday morning. First I made a trip to the NAPA auto parts store. I needed automatic transmission fluid for the HWH hydraulic system. We have a small leak at the equalizer ram and the fluid in the reservoir was low. With the slides out and jacks down, the fluid was low enough that I couldn’t fully extend the front generator compartment to access the headlight assemblies. Once I topped up the fluid I was set.

The old headlights looked bad, really bad. Donna said the headlights were an eyesore.

Old headlights

It was mainly a cosmetic issue – the headlights still functioned and we’ve only driven the coach after sundown once in the last four years. Before I disassembled the old unit, I put tape on the wiring and numbered the connectors. I took a photo to make sure I connected everything correctly on the new light. I put the connectors on the new assembly temporarily to check function. With the wiring harness connected, I could just reach the top of the generator housing to set the assembly down while I went in the coach and turned on the headlights. I checked the low beams, high beams and turn indicators – all was good.

When I exited the coach and walked to the front, I found the headlight assembly on the ground. It had fallen off the generator housing. The high beam bulb holder had popped out and the H7 bulb was broken. The bulb holder looked okay. I took the bulb holder with me and went back to NAPA. I pried the H7 bulb base out of the bulb holder and it was fine – this was a good thing because NAPA didn’t have the bulb holder, only the replacement H7 bulb.

Old assembly with connectors marked

The new headlight assembly had a plate on the bottom that wasn’t on our headlights. I’m guessing this plate is an adapter used on some E39 model BMWs. It was held on with two screws so I removed it. Without the plate, the mounting tabs on the new assembly aligned with mounts on the front bodywork. It didn’t take long to complete the job.

Before photo of the front end

After photo with new headlights

On Saturday afternoon, Donna presented a free decluttering seminar at the Mesa Public Library. She spoke for about an hour there. On Saturday evening, we were invited to join with friends at Kim and Mike Childs’ house for a potluck dinner and drinks – and a bonfire in the backyard. They live a couple of miles from us off Brown Road.

Backyard bonfire

The wind picked up here overnight and it’s quite gusty this morning. The forecast calls for a high of 80 degrees today with similar high temps for the rest of the week. Donna is working on another presentation today – she’s the keynote speaker at the American Cattlewomen’s Association Convention in Phoenix on Tuesday. She’ll spend the night in a hotel in downtown Phoenix Monday, then speak at 9am on Tuesday. I’m planning to head out to the Rio Salado gun club with Howard Graff and do some target shooting this afternoon.


5 thoughts on “Headlight Eyesore

  1. Lynne N

    That’s some great advice about the headlights! I’m passing it on to my hubby. He was complaining about how terrible ours were 🙂


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