How to Replace A BMW E36 Headlight Assembly

Were you in a fender bender yesterday on your way to work yesterday? Did you hit a deer last night on the way home from work? The vast majority of the time when I see someone that needs to have a headlight assembly replaced it was because they were involved in a minor accident or a projectile from the road cracked their headlight assembly.

Sure it’s annoying that you now have to replace the entire headlight assembly but there is some silver lining. First, BMW e36 headlight assemblies are relatively inexpensive especially when you buy them used and second, e36 headlight assemblies replacement requires absolutely no mechanical skill, as the replacement takes approximately twenty minutes for each side.

What’s even better is that this article will show you the tools you need and the procedure to complete the job effortlessly.

You can also see this e36 headlight assembly replacement in video format here!

Where to get one

An E36 headlight assembly is not something you are going to be able to buy at your local auto parts store, and even if your local BMW dealership can get their hands on one you know that they will charge a boatload. This is a great part to pick up at a junkyard for $10-$20, but if junkyards are not your thing, they typically sell brand new for around $100 each on the internet or you can pick one up used on Ebay for around $40.

Tools You Need

Phillips Screwdriver


Ratchet Extension

8 mm socket

19 mm wrench (preferably)

Long flathead screwdriver

Replacement Procedure

E36 headlight assemblies are quick to replace and we should be thankful for that as on my dad’s Mercedes I had to loosen the fender wells and the front bumper just to remove the headlight assemblies!

1) First thing you are going to want to do is take a phillips screwdriver and remove the screws holding on the hood cowl and then remove the cowl. On stock e36s there are six screws but most of the time there will be a few missing or the entire hood cowl will be missing.

2) Unhook your headlight bulbs, you have two on each side. You can unhook your turn signal however I usually just leave it dangling.

3) There are three 8 mm screws at the top of each headlight assembly. You will likely need to hold the back of nut of each screw in place with your 19 mm wrench while you remove them or the screw will just spin.

bmw e36 headlight assembly bolts
The three upper headlight assembly bolts

4) Next you need to remove the turn signal assembly. The tail light has a clip that attaches to the headlight assembly. Use a long flathead screw driver to push the clip to the side and the turn signal will pop out.

bmw e36 turn signal clip
the turn signal clip is the white clip at the bottom

5) There are two 8 mm bolts on either side of the headlight assembly at the very bottom. You will need a ratchet extension to remove these bolts.

bmw e36 headlight assembly lower bolt 2
bmw e36 headlight assembly lower bolts
bmw e36 headlight assembly lower bolts

6) Once you have removed the last two bolts the headlight assembly is free and you can simply pull it out!

bmw e36 headlight assembly removed

7) Double check that your new headlight assembly comes with bulbs and install the new assembly! Installation is just the reverse of removal.

There you have it, a quick and easy headlight installation job! Hope this article was helpful!

Check out more BMW E36 repairs and installation articles here!

Stephen Metellus

I am a BMW enthusiast and owner of! I have been repairing, flipping, and parting out BMWs for nearly ten years. I love these vehicles and I hope you will find my articles and YouTube channel helpful for whatever BMW project you have in store!

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