I believe the Euro Headlights are much more efficient at lighting up the road and the lead crystal in them allows for clearer, brighter light with the same wattage bulb. Bulb sockets and type are optimized for heavy duty high wattage if you decide to upgrade to higher power without meltdown the US system can suffer from.

Moreover the ellipsoid low beams project a much more defined beam onto the road and the Euro cutoff highlights up signage and lights up the upper corners of the road, giving an extra caution to other cars to your left and right as you pass them. The light-covers of the Euro are glass and resist cracking and yellowing the US ones suffer from.

 US cars like the BMW M3 do not include ellipsoids due to cost considerations. I was disappointed my M3 came with the same lights as other E36ers and thought the more expensive ellipsoids was the ticket to get that front end eye look.

 OK, So I bought these Euro lights primarily because I thought projectors and city lights look cool! (That’s the same reason I wanted the Euro S52B32 engine, b/c the engine looks cool with six throttles But I digress!) not because I needed better lighting (stock was adequate). However, these aggressive cutoffs are very good at lighting signage, warning other drivers and the high beams rock in low light conditions and when demanding one yield the fast lane! (blinks become ballistic blasts of white light into the offensive left-lane hugger)

 Some others on this digest have been so kind to share there knowledge with write-ups so I thought I’d do the same. This write-up was a response to Greg Koenig’s e-mail suggesting some possible write-up topics. I can’t wait to put in my Heated Seats, it’s getting cold out there! So if you know how to do something, please share it with others helping is what it is all about.

 I lost my film so pictures are not currently available and I apologize but if I find the time I will re-take them and post a revised copy with included pictures.


  • 2 E36 Euro Ellipsoid Wiring Harnesses
  • 3M Tap-in connectors
  • 3M Butt connectors
  • Electrical Tape
  • Heat Shrink tubing


  • Ratchet wrench
  • 3-4" Ratchet extension
  • 8mm socket
  • Phillips type screwdriver
  • Crimping tool with wire cutter and stripper
  • Heat gun or hairdryer
  • Scissors

BROWN: Ground
GRAY: Hot, City Lights
YELLOW: Hot, Low Beam Headlights
WHITE: Hot, High Bean Headlights


Remove Stock Headlight Assemblies. Lift hood. These are secured by the 8mm screws attached to tabs on the top of the assemblies and to the inside (towards the center grills). There are 5 screws for each assembly, 3 on top and 2 to the inside. This is a good time to remove and install euro clear corner turn signals if you so desire. You may have to remove the Triangular plastic radiator shroud in order to gain access if you have large hands. There are six retaining screws right above the center, which you need to remove. I found I have small and flexible hands so I did not have to remove this!

Splice into pre-existing factory wiring harness. In order to maintain original compatibility and remain able to return to stock headlights in the future label (high and low beams) and tape shut the original factory lighting sockets.

Wiring the Euro wiring plugs. The Euro lights have much nicer connectors that screw into the euro headlight assemblies.

  • Remove some electrical insulation from the pre-existing wiring in order to install the tap-in connectors for the lights. (See color code above to wire harness.)
  • If wires are too thick or you desire a more durable connection (like I do), cut pre-existing wires leaving three inches minimum for the US socket side (this requires slightly more effort) and use butt connectors to connect both Euro and US sockets to the wiring harness.
  • Use the heat gun to shrink all connections for a quality finish.
  • Note that the US wiring harness has two ground wires, I connected both wires to one butt connector on the input side and used a butt connector to splice both grounds into one ground on the US socket side. Then I connected the (modified) single wire US socket ground and the single Euro ground to the output side of the butt connector of the harness. As always heat shrink all connections if you are going the butt connector route.

City Lights function. These may or may not be legal in your locale. If you chose to connect them (looks very cool! btw ) Using 3M tap-ins this time (I got lazy!) tap into the front turn signal wire to the gray wire of the Euro socket on each side.

Install your new Euro Ellipsoids (Installation is the reverse of removal). Please Note: You will only be using 4 of the original 5 screws for each side (the Euro Headlights only use 2 adjusting screws on the top whereas the U.S. uses two. I adjusted the middle screw all the way into the chassis and screwed the 8mm screw all the way down to secure it to the chassis and move it out of the way of the new assemblies. This way if you convert back to US headlights you will not have to look in your garage for the screw set.

Wrapping it all up. Using electrical tape wrap any and all loose wiring from the new spliced US and Euro wiring sockets (including your new modified lighting harness). This will ensure your work looks factory!

Test Time! Turn on your headlights once installation is complete and ensure everything functions as intended. City lights if activated should light up in the high beam bucket.

Aim and Fire your headlights by adjusting the upper mounting screws forward to adjust lights down and further in towards the chassis for aiming the lighting higher. I use approximations to aim it correctly. Keep in mind the Euro lights have a very sharp cutoff so you might want to be sensible as to how high you aim them if you want to avoid being caught. Please note that the adjusting sockets on the assembly of the euro lights should be used only for minute adjustments.

Parting Notes: Be advised that most US locales do not allow Euro lights (Not Street Legal!) as these are not DOT approved due to aggressive cutoff. I have never had any problems.


  • Use common sense and if you are unfamiliar with basic electrical repair (wiring and crimping) professional installation is recommended. This is really fairly straightforward if you have basic electrical repaoir skills and exercise care.
  • This information applies to a 1998 M3/2 and the author believes this to apply to all E36 models but cannot be held responsible for any damages to property or person in following these directions. Understand that production changes can cause wiring to differ among cars. Refer to the E36 ETM if concerned. This is a basic guide only and your wiring scheme may differ!
  • These lights are not DOT approved for use on US public roads. So they are *technically* illegal and for off-road use only.
  • Some States require DOT biannual inspections (inspectors search for DOT marking on all lighting). In this case, one *might* have a glass shop etch DOT makings into the glass lenses of the Euro lights (removing glass covers can be accomplished by bending back the plastic tabs on the top and bottom of the light assembly). I am not suggesting that however! J Enjoy your new lighting!


1998 Garrick S. Louie Permission to distribute freely as long as information is disbursed wholly in its entirety.