From the title, this may appear to be a weak post. Let me assure you, though, that there is trickery involved. What I thought was a simple tail light repair turned into a semi-ordeal.
About a month ago, I noticed that the passenger side blinker of our car was blinking fast. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before if you’ve driven for any length of time. A fast blinker means that a light is out. What folks have been doing for years when this happens takes only a few simple steps. They:
1. Turn the blinker on
2. Hop out of the car
3. Walk to the front and then the rear, and
4. Determine which light is out
Then, they start thinking of all those bulbs they used to have hanging around in one toolbox or another. “Man, if I had only saved that…” It’s typical. When this happened to me during this little episode, I went through all the motions. I drove around hoping the light would fix itself. I waited about two weeks before giving it any serious consideration. I stopped using the right side blinker all together. I looked in my rear view mirror more than I ever have because I knew cops were bound to start following me. After I admitted to myself that I actually had to fix the light, I started wondering what size the bulb was. Would it be easy to get to? Was it a normal bulb? How much is a bulb anyway? And like usual, I really started looking inside the trunk during a visit to the hardware store. They probably had bulbs and it would be really spiffy if I could pop the old bulb out and stick a new bulb in. It would probably cost $2 and take 2 minutes. Yeah – no.
While I was in the hardware store parking lot, messing around in the trunk, I started pulling out light bulbs. I wanted to see which one was burnt out so I could run inside for the replacement. The way I usually determine which bulb is out is to hold the bulb up to the light and look at the filament. If it’s obviously toasted, all the better. If it’s not so obvious, I give the bulb a flick with my finger and look to see if the filament bounces around. If it does, bingo.
Well, in this case, it seemed like both bulbs on the right side were good. No burnt marks and no wiggly filament. Just for giggles, I pulled out the driver side bulbs and did a quick swap. Strangely enough, the blinker was still out on the passenger side. I’ll admit it – I scratched my head a bit at this.
Since I couldn’t really figure out what was going on and since I had Laura with me, I decided to put everything back together and leave the problem for another day. Plus, I wanted to look online before I went any further. Obviously, there was a deeper issue at play.
Well, guess what. There was a deeper issue after all. It appears that the driving lights and the brake lights on our beloved car use regular light bulbs, but the turn signals use LED lights. Also, BMW apparently has a problem with these LED lights getting moisture in them and corroding. In order to fix the turn signal, I would have to purchase an entire new tail light. Isn’t that fun?
After realizing this, I did my usual avoidance of the entire situation (again). I figured that since I hadn’t been pulled over yet for recklessly breaking the law, I could get away with things indefinitely. And if I did get pulled over, I would just play dumb. It’s not really a big deal.
Then, I started thinking about the vehicle registration renewal and inspection that’s coming up and got pushed into a corner. I realized there was no escape from my little problem and decided to face it head on. I started looking online for answers and suggestions from others when they were faced with the same situation.
Many folks had to bring their cars to the dealer. Various BMW repair shops charged upwards of $500 to complete the job. There was the part itself – the light – that costs around $250 and then, of course, we have the labor. That’s gotta be around $250. Cars these day…
If you know me, you know that I’ll dance in the street in pink underwear before I pay that kind of money to fix a turn signal. I decided to keep on looking. I did and that’s when I found a website called, Parts Geek. They offered an aftermarket replacement tail light assembly for $60. I ordered it and received it in about three days.
I’m happy to report, our turn signal is fixed. What a sweet sound it was to hear the normal (and relatively slow) click – click – click of the blinker after I completed the project and tested it out.
Since this post was all words, I’d like to take this time to show you some pictures of exactly what I’m talking about. I’ll narrate to make things more fun.
2009 BMW 328xi Rear Tail Light Assembly Removal
It only took a few minutes to remove the tail light assembly. Three nuts from three shiny new threaded rods and I had the whole thing out. Well, after unplugging the electrical harness.
2009 BMW 328xi Rear Turn Signal Inside Trunk
This is a picture of what the inside of the tail lights look like from the trunk.
2009 BMW 328xi Rear Turn Signal LED Electrical Board
For everyone out there who is wondering what the electrical circuit board looks like for this turn signal assembly, here you are. I read online that a few folks took the liberty of disassembling the entire assembly to re-solder the connections. In many cases, they were successful and avoided the expense of having the replace the unit. I’m keeping the old light because if I ever get my father up here, he can have a go at it. He’s better with electronics.
2009 BMW 328xi Rear Turn Signal Unit
This is a picture of the old light after I pulled it out. I figured I’d make a memory out of it.
Comparing OEM and Aftermarket Rear Tail Lights
There was one review on Parts Geek where a guy said the aftermarket light was slightly darker than the OEM one. The red plastic, that is. I decided to hold both tail lights up next to one another for comparison. I couldn’t see a difference. If the light was blue, I wouldn’t have cared.
Installed Tail Light
And here we have the finished product. The whole thing really took no time at all. I could have had it finished faster if I didn’t avoid the issue so much. But, what the heck. We only live once.