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BMW M328i, An Illuminating Experience

Its been a while, for two main reasons, but I’m still here, and for now, so is the BMW.

The first reason has been that despite putting some KM on the BMW, it’s been pretty reliable and solid. I even ticked over the magical 300,000KM mark the other week.

The other reason is that a while back I was offered a car that I basically only have one chance to own in my life. There is a very long story around how I still don’t have that car, but basically I have been trying to sell the BMW to get funds and space to buy the other car, but without success. I have had a stupid amount of stupid people wasting my time, which infuriates me, but still no one has fronted up with the cash.

This leaves me in a limbo of sorts. I’m reluctant to give up on this other car and keep the BMW, as I likely won’t get another chance for one again, but I also can’t keep dropping the price and losing my arse just to push a sale quickly. So since I’m still stuck with the car, I’m also limited on spending money on it, or working on it. There are a few things that I will do to the car IF I keep it, but at this point I still don’t know what’s happening.

In the meantime I have picked up a few things from Pick A Part. They had a coupe with a complete boot carpet, which I picked up so at some point I can rip out the boot install and go back to having a functional boot. I also grabbed a few cosmetic bits that were a bit shabby on my car. All cheap bits that aren’t easy to get.

One of the most important cosmetic bits I got was a new headlight switch. I hated seeing mine every time I drove the car because it was badly worn/scratched/scuffed. It also didn’t light up like it should. You can see how horrible the legend around the dial looks, but even the I/O on the vent above is badly worn.

These are super easy to remove, with only one screw on the underside of the dash surround, going up into the switch housing. Remove that, and gently pull the switch forward (I hold it by the dial). Its clipped into place in the top of the vent, but it’ll come free with some wiggling. The wiring is fairly short for the foglight switch, so take care not to pull too hard or you can break that switch. The headlight switch wiring connector has a collar that twists around and the plug will come out.

The replacement I sourced has a broken switch for the headlights, so when you turn the dial it doesn’t click like it should. That’s OK, my current one works fine, so I will swap them over.

First pull the dial off. It’s a press fit

There are two things to note when that is removed. First, the light pipe in the back, at about 10-12 o’clock position. This is how the bulb feeds light to the notch on the dial, so it lights up. The other is the large plastic nut. I used a set of large needle nose pliers to turn this and remove it. Once removed, the whole switch will come away from the fascia.

This is a really good time to replace the bulb, which is inevitably blown. This can be done with the switch still fitted to the fascia, but it’s easier to push the bulb out the front, than to pull it out the back.

The bulb is in a large plastic holder. If you push on the top of it, it will push out of the back of the switch

The bulb is a small “grain of wheat” 286 bulb. Now, I believe the original BMW bulb was 0.3W and about $10 a piece!

Madness. In the past I have chosen to use the much brighter 1.2W bulbs readily available on eBay. They do obviously run hotter, but other than a shorter lifespan, there doesn’t seem to be any issue running them, but do so at your own peril. I went this route again this time.

Now it’s time to strip the good switch from the old fascia.

With a new bulb fitted, install the tube into the good switch. The end of the tube is keyed to only go in one way, but be careful that the bulb passes clearly through. If the bulb isn’t seated correctly, you can smash the bulb inside the light switch…. I found out the hard way.

Now install the good switch on the good fascia, reinstall the nut and dial. Plug it into the car (without installing it) and test that everything works as it should. It should light up with the key on. If all is well, reinstall it into the dash and fit the screw.

So much better!

I couldn’t stop there. I had the bulbs out, and I knew one other thing wasn’t lighting up in the car; the climate controls.

This is another thing I had to fix in the first M3, as that also had neither the headlight switch or climate controls light up when I got it.

This is also an easy fix. First pull all four dials off. They are a friction fit.

Next remove the two screws (one under the fan speed dial and the other under the vent control dial).

Now the fascia can be gently pried forward until it pops off

The back of the fascia is pretty cool. It has a series of light pipes to distribute the light from the single little bulb, to all of the areas around the dials that need to light up. The buttons (recirc, AC, demist) are all lit with little LEDs on the back plate.

The little bulb lives dead center near the top of the unit. Gently pull it forward and it will come out of its holder. There is some discolouration around mine, and it did have a bigger 1.4W bulb fitted by the previous owner, but no distortion of the plastic or anything. Pop a new bulb in and turn the lights on.

Now clip the fascia back on, insert the two screws, refit the four dials and you’re done.

Bling bling.

And with all the other light up stuff

The last thing that didn’t light up was the ashtray. Turns out the whole bulb holder is missing, but not to fret, I picked up a replacement at Pick A Part today also.

A non-smoker package pocket to replace the ashtray. Fixes the light not working, and also gives me somewhere to put my phone. Win.

Great success. Now I can see things in the dark.

Hopefully soon I will know what’s happening with the car. Either it’ll go to a new owner, or I will be ripping the boot install out.

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