Aug 152011

What the heck, Hella?!

This Saturday I repaired the angel eye ring in one of my Hella headlights. As you can see in the graphic above, the thing just flat fell off a couple of weeks ago and was loose inside the headlight assembly.

Before I took this headlight apart, I tried to get some direction from the manufacturer. I originally bought the headlights from a company called Bekkers about seven years ago. They tried to contact Hella, the company that made the headlights, but told me they got no response.

So I tried, and didn’t get any help either. I called the toll free line and was told by Jeff  that “Hella builds headlights to BMW’s specs, we don’t have any further material to share.” Very disappointing, especially since over the years I’ve been very happy with these headlights. In fact, on the BMW forums I’ve been a proponent of going with original manufacturer (OE) quality like Hella, Bosch or ZKW rather than cheaper options when upgrading headlights.

Luckily it turned out my friend and fellow enthusiast Michel had this problem with these same Hella headlights, although his were the HID version. He told me that once removed from the car, the glass front lens of the headlight came off easily once you remove several metal clips holding it in place.

Removal from the car was pretty straightforward. Four eight millimeter screws hold the headlights in place, two of which are right on top and easily accessible. The lower right one is visible once you remove the plastic radiator guard on the E36. The lower left one is in cramped quarters and you need a rachet to remove.

I removed the corner lamp and alarm siren for more room

Fortunately these headlights were “plug and play” for my car, meaning installation required no wire splicing. So there were only three electrical connections behind the assembly for me to unplug, one for power and the other two for low and high beam bulbs. Then I brought the headlight inside to remove the lens and reglue the angel eye ring.

The clips weren’t hard to remove and the lens came right off. As you can see below, the glass was in great shape after so much time. This is credit to the quality of glass over plastic and to the Lamin-x  protective film I put on the headlights when I first purchased them. I glued the angel eye ring back on and reversed the process. The metal clips were not difficult to put back on, with a little pressure they snap back into position.

Glass removed from headlight assembly, angel eye ring to left

Angel eye back on, glass lens reattached

The only drama to the repair was a sudden summer rain shower that had me scrambling to cover the headlight opening with towels until it passed. I also cracked my plastic corner light when snapping it back into place, which was pure user error on my part. I had overtightened the top left headlight bolt, which didn’t leave quite enough room for the corner lamp to slide in. Oh well, those clear lamps are pretty old, I had bought them way back for my first E36 M3 and new ones aren’t that expensive.

It feels good to have this fixed — the dangling angel eye looked horrible. I wish I could report a better brand experience with Hella. All I wanted was information so I could repair the problem myself.

All done

The company was totally unhelpful, and anyone considering this expensive product should factor that into their decision. (Bekkers no longer carries this headlight but Turner Motorsport does.) There are many lower priced options for owners of older BMWs looking to upgrade their lighting. An angel eye ring falling off for no reason should not happen, plain and simple.

But I didn’t need their help in the end. Credit the wisdom of the crowd with another assist on a DIY success.

  3 Responses to “Repairing After Market Hella Headlights”

  1. Oh well, those clear lamps are pretty old, I had bought them way back for my first E36 M3 and new ones aren’t that expensive.

  2. Hello Chris! It’s a very useful article for E36 Hella Black’s owners, thank you so much! I have a question about these angel eyes, maybe you could help? Do you know what is the light source for these rings? Suddenly both rings in one of my headlamps stopped lighting. I didn’t do anything but they were fine on the next day. I was happy due to this fact but it was too early because next day they stopped lighting again. I don’t know what to suspect, wires or any kind of bulb which makes these rings light. Thak you in advance for any advice!
    Anton from Belarus.

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