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Old 02-18-2018, 04:49 PM   #1
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DIY- 2003 Monaco Dynasty LED Headlight upgrade

Hi all,

I just got done putting LED headlights in my 2003 Monaco Dynasty. I thought it would be pretty much plug-n-play, and it was for the HIGH beams, but turned out to be a lot of work for the LOW beams.

Sorry. I didn't take any pictures, but I figured this would be simple swap, and didn't think about doing a DIY till after I was all done.

This coach uses headlight assemblies from a 1995-2000 BMW 5-Series (AKA E39 'pre-facelift'). If your coach uses a different headlight, stop reading, because this doesn't apply to you.

Pre-facelift E39 was the model before BMW went to projector headlights with 'angel eyes' in 2001. If you're googling similar upgrades, you'll probably find HID write-ups for the E39 that talk about a really complex upgrade, involving baking the headlight assemblies to soften the adhesive and take the lamps apart. That doesn't apply to the pre-facelift headlights and they come apart very easily (which is not really necessary for the LED upgrade, but you may want to open them up and replace the adjusters while you have them out of the coach).

These BMW headlights have a design flaw where the plastic adjuster mechanisms get brittle over time and crumble. If one of your headlights is pointing at the ground, you've probably got bad adjusters. Here is the part you need to replace:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HN83NVA
There's a good DIY on youtube to tear the light down and replace them. Search for 'e39 headlight adjuster' by the user "4DIYers". One of mine had crumbled and the other broke as soon as I started handling the lamp.

High Beams- The high beam lamp is a Hella 9005. In this application, I think just about any Hella 9005 replacement would work. But here are the LED HIGH beams that I used:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BF6MYV0
The high beams were very straightforward and simply install like the original bulb, except they have a separate ballast. I mounted the ballasts to the top surface of the headlight light housing with foam tape. The ballast plugs straight into the original high beam plug with no modification.

Low Beams- Now on to the hard part... the LOW beams are Hella H7.
Here are the LED lamps that I used:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BF6EE4U
There are other types of H7 replacements, but I like this one because the heat sink screws onto the back of the LED assy and is easily removed. This is important because an adapter is required to hold the H7 in the housing.
The BMW housings use a proprietary adapter to plug into the harness and secure the H7 bulb inside the housing. The BMW adapters look like this:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008MAX0HA
Note that they hold the bulb about an inch back inside the housing. You could buy new adapters, but they would still require modification. I just modified my original adapters using 1" hole saw to just cut clear through the middle. Then use a half-round file or dremmel to smooth the bore.

The H7 LED lamp assy has a hub like an H7 bulb, but the shaft of the LED assy will pass through this hole in the adapter. You'll unscrew the heat sink from the LED assy, insert the lamp through the adapter and then the heat sink will screw back on to secure the lamp around the adapter. Then this assembly will go back into the housing just like the original bulb and adapter.

But we're not quite done yet. And here's the really hard part. In it's stock configuration, the LED's heat sink doesn't thread all the way back onto the LED shaft and will only engage about half of the threads. The adapter is too long for the heat sink to go all the way back on.

This wouldn't be a problem structurally, but I'm assuming that cooling will be a problem with only 1/2 of the surfaces touching. So I modified the heat sink to fit better.

This involves removing some material from the heat sink to make it slip into the adapter and relieving its flange to clear some attachment tabs on the headlight housing.

I attached a drawing showing how I modified the heat sink. This involves removing a fair amount of aluminum and would be pretty easy for someone with a lathe. But I used my drill press and some coarse files. I used a bolt wrapped in aluminum tape with a nut/washer to form a make-shift arbor so that the heat sink could be chucked up in the drill press. This doesn't require aerospace-precision.

Once you remove some material from the heat sink as in the diagram, it'll all go together very smoothly. Just make sure that the LEDs are firing out horizontally. The LEDs are adjustable, and one of mine had to be rotated 60deg to align properly.

I mounted the ballasts to the top of the headlight housing with foam tape. The H7-replacement LED's ballasts have the same double-prong connection as an H7 bulb, so this won't plug directly into the coach's low-beam plug. Special adapters are available, but I just re-used the parts that I cut out of the center of the adapters, wrapped in electrical tape.

Maybe it would work without modifying the heat sink. I'm not the right kind of engineer... But after running the new lights for a while this afternoon, I'm thinking that the heat sink is probably pretty important. The heat sinks get so hot you can't touch them.
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Old 02-18-2018, 06:54 PM   #2
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Wow, very nice work.
Can you post a picture of your headlight assemblies?
My 2004 Signature also uses BMW Hella headlights, but mine have the halo and I think use H7 bulbs for both low and high beam.
Thanks for posting.
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Old 02-18-2018, 07:22 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vito.a View Post
Wow, very nice work.
Can you post a picture of your headlight assemblies?
My 2004 Signature also uses BMW Hella headlights, but mine have the halo and I think use H7 bulbs for both low and high beam.
Thanks for posting.
Thanks! Mine are just like the attachment. There's a DOT number visible on the front of the lens, mine are DOT "hr 15 p 95". You can use your DOT number to verify the original application.
I'm pretty sure the post-facelift headlights are a direct replacement for the older housings. I'm not sure how similar the newer reflectors and bulb sockets are. If yours uses those same H7 adapters, it may be the same procedure as my low beams.
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Old 02-18-2018, 08:57 PM   #4
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LEDs

Wamcneil,
I think I have the same head lamp assemblies as you on my 2000 Dynasty.
The LEDs you purchased look very similar to the M4s that I just purchased for low beam replacement.
They supplied an adapter that goes in between the Bulb and heat sink. It does set the heat sink back on the threads but they told me this was ok.

Have you driven your coach with them yet? I have not and will not get mine out until May but the pattern on my garage door DOES NOT have a "Horizontal cut off line" like i think it should have. I have the new bulbs "clocked" as the instructions say. I have not tried to turn my adjusters yet. Is there a lock mechanism on the adjusters or should you just be able to turn them?

There is not a good way to seal the plug where the wires from the "driver device" connects to the original plug on the coach. I am going to try stepping down some heat shrink tubing eventually if the bulbs work for me.
I am not sure what I have is the best solution but I guess I might have a different opinion after driving. I am just in fear they are going to bother the approaching drivers on two lane roads. Had to do something the original low beams are useless. thanks for posting your information.
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Old 02-18-2018, 10:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty Kramer View Post
Wamcneil,
I think I have the same head lamp assemblies as you on my 2000 Dynasty.
The LEDs you purchased look very similar to the M4s that I just purchased for low beam replacement.
They supplied an adapter that goes in between the Bulb and heat sink. It does set the heat sink back on the threads but they told me this was ok.

Have you driven your coach with them yet? I have not and will not get mine out until May but the pattern on my garage door DOES NOT have a "Horizontal cut off line" like i think it should have. I have the new bulbs "clocked" as the instructions say. I have not tried to turn my adjusters yet. Is there a lock mechanism on the adjusters or should you just be able to turn them?

There is not a good way to seal the plug where the wires from the "driver device" connects to the original plug on the coach. I am going to try stepping down some heat shrink tubing eventually if the bulbs work for me.
I am not sure what I have is the best solution but I guess I might have a different opinion after driving. I am just in fear they are going to bother the approaching drivers on two lane roads. Had to do something the original low beams are useless. thanks for posting your information.
While I haven't driven it yet, the pattern looks OK to me.
I bought some of the adapters like M4 supplies and decided not to use them (I was going to order the lamps from them, but they were out of stock).

Compare those adapters to the original BMW adapters. The aftermarket adapters only extend about 3/8" into the headlight reflector, right? They are much thinner than the BMW adapters. This will allow the heat sink to engage a lot more of the threads. But I think that's a problem.

Look at the BMW adapters. They extend about an inch forward into the reflector. This will register the H7 collar into a recess inside the housing and place the light source where it is intended to be.

The aftermarket adapters hold the light source in a different positon; much farther back in the reflector, and I think this is probably why your pattern doesn't have a cutoff.

There's no way those aftermarket adapters can push the H7 flange fully into the housing and register it where the original H7 was located. The heat sink screws down and clamps the H7 collar back against the face of adapter, but the face of the adapter is way short of where the collar is supposed to be. The reflector was designed to have the light source in a certain place, and that thin adapter puts the light source in a different place.

Adjustment- There are two knobs on the rear of the housing (Horiz and Vert). You 'should' be able to just turn them by hand, but dirt gets in the gears and makes it hard. The knobs will also take a metric allen wrench; don't recall what size. But be ready for your adjusters to crumble as soon as you touch the adjustment knobs.
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Old 02-19-2018, 07:57 AM   #6
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LEDs

Ok well it seems like the bulbs sit at the same location from my memory. The metal flange on the bulb is against the main housing. I am not sure. maybe a better solution is to buy some good fog lamps to assist with the weak low beams.
Are the LED bulbs the same for high and low beam? I might try them in the high beam location and go back to the standard bulbs for low beam if they do not perform well.

I will drive it and see if I have issue and report back in the spring.
thanks for the information.
RK
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Old 02-19-2018, 09:07 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty Kramer View Post
Ok well it seems like the bulbs sit at the same location from my memory. The metal flange on the bulb is against the main housing. RK
I have a pair of the thinner adapters like M4 supplies. I've held them side-by-side with the BMW adapters. With the thinner adapters, the bulb cannot sit in the original location in the reflector.
That can't do good things for the beam pattern. See attachment.

With the aftermarket adapter, the flange of the LED is clamped against the face of the adapter, and the face of the adapter doesn't extend far enough into the reflector to place the flange against the surface where it is intended to seat.

With the original BMW adapter, the H7 flange was trapped between the face of the adapter and its seat on the the reflector housing.

The reflector was designed to use one very thin emitter (the element), in a specific location.

Even in the best case, going to LED will result in some degradation of the beam pattern. Because instead of the one thin element centered in the reflector, we now have two arrays of emitters, each somewhat thicker than the resistive element, separated by some distance.

If you compare the LED assy to the H7 bulb, you'll see that it places the emitters about as close as possible to the H7 filament location (relative to the flange). If the LED assy is placed in the same location in the reflector, it will preform fairly similar to the H7.
But if the position of the emitter is changed dramatically, the beam pattern will change dramatically. That thin adapter changes the position of the emitters dramatically.

I don't want to knock M4... I've purchased a lot of LED lights from them and have been very pleased with all of them... and I had planned to buy these LEDs from them but they were out of stock...
However, I'm not sure they are aware of the peculiarities of this specific BMW application.
Maybe they assume all H7 adapters are the same.

I'm sure their kit will work great in any application that uses one of the two styles of generic H7 adapters that they supply with the LEDs.
My wife's X3, for example, uses those metal clips they supply. I'm sure it would work great in that application. But not in the E39 housings.

High and low beams are not the same in this application. Low are H7 and highs are 9005. High beams are very simple, plug-n-play with no adapter required. And they plug straight into the coach's harness.
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Old 02-19-2018, 09:34 AM   #8
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Here's a comparison of the original BMW adapter and the generic H7 adapter.
I didn't measure the BMW adapter, but these images should make the difference apparent.
The total height of the adapters is about the same (not including the BMW adapter's electrical plug). But the distance from the adapter's flange to the H7's flange is very different between the two.
First picture is a BMW adapter. This puts the flange of the H7 about 3/4"-1" from the adapter's mounting ears.
2nd picture is the generic H7 adapter. This puts the H7 flange 0.31" from the adapter's mounting ears.
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Old 02-19-2018, 09:55 AM   #9
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LEds

Yep you are right. great........
Well, it looked like a good idea. Thanks for your information. please let me know how they work for you after you drive it.
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Old 02-19-2018, 10:25 AM   #10
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Yep you are right. great........
Well, it looked like a good idea. Thanks for your information. please let me know how they work for you after you drive it.
Will do. I'll report back after first drive.

If M4 isn't concerned about engaging only 1/2 of the threads in the heat sink, then maybe I'm being too conservative and the heat sink doesn't need to be modified.

Modifying the adapters is super-simple; just take a 7/8" hole saw (without a pilot bit) in a hand drill and carefully run it through the adapter from inside to outside. That will leave about half of the threads to engage the heat sink without modification.
When you hollow out the adapter, the hole saw won't damage the plug inside, leaving you with a relatively clean adapter to plug the ballast into. I just wrapped mine with electrical tape. Not the most elegant solution, but a lot better than plugging into the complete H7 adapter. And nobody will ever see it...
I think you can also buy specific 9005/9006>>H7 pigtail adapters for this purpose. Or buy an extra set of 9005s and use their ballasts on the H7s.

It's too bad the H7s don't come with the same ballast as the 9005; those have the same 9005 plug as the coach's harness and plug in directly in place of the original bulb.
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Old 02-19-2018, 01:43 PM   #11
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LEDs

Thanks sir! I will order an extra set of the adapters from amazon just in case they are cheap enough....
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Old 02-19-2018, 02:28 PM   #12
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I bought HID lights from these guys: https://www.umnitza.com/

They weren't particularly high quality housings (TYC Taiwanese), and the Hi beam are halogen (and HID). The high beam halogens are poorly done, but the HIDs are great.

I aimed them fairly high but the throw and cutoff are pretty good. They also look pretty good.
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Old 02-19-2018, 02:48 PM   #13
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Nice! I think replacing the headlights with aftermarket is a really good option. And an opportunity to get the snazzy looking post-facelift projector lights.
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Old 02-26-2018, 08:00 PM   #14
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UPDATE

I purchased the H7 Adapters from Amazon that Wamcneil suggested. I used a small portable band saw and step drill to modify them to fit.
I am not sure I have the clocking of the LEDs dialed in perfect but the pattern on a garage door is obviously MUCH better now. Previously I had shadow lines and halos everywhere.
Thanks Wamcneil for your help on this it was perfect timing for me. I think these should work well. Now to polish the old lenses up a bit more.
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