BMW E36 Blog

Cleaning BMW E36 Ellipsoid headlights . . . DIY!

30th July 2007

Cleaning BMW E36 Ellipsoid headlights . . . DIY!

posted in Do It Yourself, Exterior, Tips & Tricks |

post rating
PoorOkayGoodGreatExcellent (7 votes, average: 4.86 out of 5)

Hi Guys,


First of all, let me start today’s post by welcoming our new friend Mortuis Gratis. As you may know, I added the post Welcome BMW E36 blog readers! and I asked the members of this blog to fill in their information in order to get to know each other. The goal is to create a community of BMW E36 enthusiasts. So, if you love BMW E36 cars, and didn’t read that post yet, please do and remember to post your information. I really like hearing from you guys. Until this moment, I received responses from 6 guys and girls + me :-), but of course I’m looking for more E36 lovers.


Now for today’s post: In the last couple days, I noticed that my right headlight is getting very dirty and it even started screaming at me to clean it. Every time I see that light, I feel a little guilty for leaving it like this and try to pretend like I didn’t see it. Yesterday, I decided to look up for some information on how to clean BMW E36 headlights and fortunately, I found this DIY (Do It Yourself!) on how this can be done. From the description of the process, it seems quite easy and I’m intending to do it for my car very soon. But, I hope that my headlights can be cleaned in the same way. My car has a totally different headlights, and I’m not sure if this procedure will work on it. But I don’t have anything to lose, so I will try it.


You too, if your headlights are dirty or started looking ugly, maybe it’s time for you to do some cleaning. Please read the DIY below and if you have any notes or questions , please let me know.



Disclaimer: Use this info at your own risk!! I’m not responsible if this didn’t work for you.

1. First, you have to remove your corner lamps. Remove the indicator lamp bulb, then use a screwdriver to pry the clip that holds the indicator lamp free. Slide the indicator lamp out forwards.


2. You can now remove the headlights. To do so, you need to remove the 3 screws that are on the top, and two on the side. On my car, they were all Phillips screws. The screw below the indicator lamp area is quite hard to get to. It would probably be relatively easy if you have a short Phillips screwdriver.


Pull the headlamp out towards you, then disconnect the connectors. Set your precious headlamp down on a soft, gentle surface!



3. There will be 2 small metal clips on both the top and bottom of the ellipsoids. Unclip them by prying them off with a flathead screwdriver. Remember to pry from the plastic end because you might break/chip the glass if you apply too much force on it.


4. Unhook the 5 big plastic clips (3 on top and 2 on the bottom) with a flathead screwdriver.



5. You should now be able to separate the lens part from the reflector part of the headlight. Pull them in separate directions. They might be tight, so wiggle them free.


6. This is how your headlight will look like when it has been opened:



7. Notice that both lenses are held in by factory silicone. Using a blade, slice them off. Your lenses should now fall out quite easily. If they don’t, you can use a flathead screwdriver to gently nudge it out. Be very, very careful!



8. Clean the insides of the headlight thoroughly. I sprayed window cleaner then used newspaper to wipe it clean. You may want to wipe the projector for the low beam as well. Remember to wipe underneath the projector lens! You will see a definite improvement in clarity.


9. Make sure you have gotten rid of most, if not all, of the factory silicone. Put the lenses back into their original positions. Double check by looking at the orientation of the other headlight. Now, apply new silicone (I used Selley’s Marine Sealant silicone) to the rim of the lenses (where the factory silicone was before). Let the silicone dry, then make sure the lenses are secure.



10. Double check for any smudges on the glass, then reassemble in the reverse order of disassembly.


Now, let’s make a comparison:


Dirty Left Ellipsoid



Clean Right Ellipsoid




At this point you’ll say “That was worth it!”



Are you looking for more do it yourself procedures (DIY) ? I recommend the Bentley BMW 3 series service manual for you. I got it and I think it’s a gold mine for us -BMW E36 Owners-. If you didn’t grab your copy yet, get it right now! I’m sure you’ll find this book worth every penny you’ve paid for. Get the Bentley BMW 3 series service manual


BMW E36 Blog: The ultimate source of information about BMW E36 cars.


Best regards,

Tony Sticks.

Join the BMW E36 Forum

BMW E36 Forum

Want to receive exciting tips & information about BMW E36 cars? Enter your Email:-



Having A Problem With Your Bimmer?

Use JustAnswer Service to get help from a BMW expert now! You can also read my review of this service here.

There are currently 5 responses to “Cleaning BMW E36 Ellipsoid headlights . . . DIY!”

Why not let us know what you think by adding your own comment! Your opinion is as valid as anyone elses, so come on... let us know what you think.

  1. 1 On July 13th, 2008, Eric said:

    Hey, I just found your site, I love it. Well, I just bought a 94 325ic M3 clone with 147,000 miles for under 3k. Took it to the shop to change the oil and they said the rack and pinion is gone, and my serpintine?? belt is cracked. Wondering how much is going to cost me..and which one should i prioritize to do since I am pretty poor now…lol. Thanks so much.

    eric in sf

  2. 2 On July 15th, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    @Eric: Hi and welcome to the blog. About your problems, I would start with the serpintine belt first.

  3. 3 On October 7th, 2008, shelly said:

    can i put a niyrous kit on my 93 bmw 318is ?

  4. 4 On October 13th, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    @shelly: AFAIK, yes. But unfortunately, I don’t have any details about this issue.

  5. 5 On March 1st, 2011, claude tshibasu said:

    hi! I just join and this is so cool!I’m owner of a e36 320I,I always wanted to own one!but shame this Baby is giving me the hell a lot of long I want to keep her ,the price of hiring labour for some small repairs freak me out.luckily this blog come andy,will be able to do some stuff myself,thumb up!