Saturday 23 March 2013

E21 Retrofit Angel Eyes! [Single headlight models 315, 316, 318]

I fitted CCFL [cold-cathode fluorescent tube] angel-eye rings to my E39 5-series a while back and it was pretty straight-forward, so I thought I'd have a go at a real retrofit and stick some in the E21... because all Beemers should have angel-eyes right? I know it's not a stance thing, but it is a style thing nonetheless and you don't see many E21s with angel-eyes. Twin headlight models share lamps with the E30, so the aftermarket world is your oyster, but there are no kits available for the single headlight E21 so I bought the bits separately. I bought two 145mm CCFL-rings and inverter-ballasts from car-mod-shop-ltd on eBay, which worked out about the same price as a kit @ £10 for each ring and £5 for each ballast. 

The difference of course between retro and modern cars is the headlights nowadays are usually multiple lamps fitted into a cluster, which can be easily popped open and clipped back together, making it easy to fit the CCFL-rings inside them. Classic cars, say pre 1990, tend to have separate single lamps that have fully sealed lenses and cracking these babies open without busting the glass is what gave me the most trouble on this job, so bear this is mind before undertaking it yourself and be careful, it's not something I would want to do again anytime soon! 

1. Headlight Stripping:

Exploded headlight diagram on to reference parts and construct: []

1a. Remove the front grilles and headlights - see this guide if you need help doing that - [;postID=2422546919882957928]

1b. Free the spring-clip arms from the wiring-connector and rotate them back, then pull off the wiring-connector / covering-cap and remove the bulb / sidelight-bulb + holder.

1c. Remove the tensioning spring from the headlight chassis.

1d. Use a flat screwdriver to carefully pop the legs of the adjusting-screws out of their collars on the front of the headlight chassis.

1e. Carefully tilt the rear chassis away from the lens against the plastic mounting-clip, being careful not to snap it, until the chassis is clear of the spring-clip/lens and can be rotated a quarter-turn and removed from its mount.

1f. If the headlight has one, gently prize off the thin metal cowl from around the rim of the lens. [One of mine had it, one didn't.]

2. Opening the Lens:

2a. Leave the glass lens in a very low-heat oven for 10-15 minutes to soften the sealant between the glass and reflector.

2b. Score away as much of the sealant from around the rim of the glass as possible using a square-cut razor-blade and pick it out using a small flat screwdriver.

2c. Gently push a small flat screwdriver into the gap between the glass and the metal rim. Gently rotate the screwdriver to carefully prize the metal rim away from the glass and completely crack the seal, repeating around the entire circumference of the lens.

**Make sure you take time to pick away as much sealant as possible and can see or hear it crack away from the edge when prizing with the screwdriver before trying to lift the lens - it won't take much to crack the glass!**

2d. Place the end of the screwdriver beneath the edge of the glass and gently prize it up out of the metal lens. This will likely need doing in a few different spots before the glass becomes free enough to lift out of the lens.

3. Angel-Eye Fitting:

3a. Clean the lens and inside surface of the glass.

3b. Locate a suitable position for the CCFL angel-eye ring just inside the bowl of the lens. The larger 145mm rings I'm using have a flat section along the top that meets the bonnet shut-line on E46 etc. and I thought it would make too big a gap in my round lenses, so I mounted mine with the flat spot offset 45  degrees inwards on either side, giving it a sort of badboy-bonnet look, or that's the idea anyway.

3c. Push the socket and wires from the CCFL ring trough the sidelight hole in the lens [the socket may need one of the lugs cutting off the side to fit through], locate a suitable position for the two wires in the lens with the shortest path from the ring and attach them along the flat plastic side of the ring and to each other using clear-tape.

3d. Attach the CCFL angel-eye ring just inside the bowl of the lens using clear-sealant or the sticking-pads supplied with most CCFL-rings.

4. Resealing and Fitting:

4a. Apply clear-sealant [I just used multi-purpose silicone stuff] around the metal rim of the lens and replace the glass. If you haven't marked the position of the glass, the two hooks that fasten the spring-clip down is the top of the lens.

4b. Gently prize the edge of the metal rim back toward the glass and run another bead of sealant around the outside of the rim and leave it to set.

4c. Replace the headlight bulb and holder.

4d. Drill a hole of about 8-9mm in the covering cap, just to the right of the curved contact from the original sidelight. Pop the socket and wires from the CCFL-ring through the hole and replace the covering-cap.

4e. Use a bit more sealant on the hole where the CCFL-ring wires come through the cap.

4f. Replace the metal cowl [if it has one] and prize it back tight around the edge of the glass and lens.

4g. Reassemble the remaining headlight chassis by first inserting the plastic-lug and rotating the chassis back into place. Then drop it flat enough against the lens to easily get the spring back into place and stretch the chassis back until you can pop the ends of the adjusting-screws back into their collars.

4h. Refit the headlights and grilles to the car.

5. Wiring Up:

5a. Find a suitable place to mount the CCFL-ballast where there is plenty of room for the wires to reach and affix it with the provided sticking-pads. [If you're only running a single headlight it's worth heavily insulating the unused CCFL socket and tape it out of the way - they carry a high current and can short out very easily, I've burnt out a few inverters before just by them contacting the body for a second or two!]

5b. Chop the lower of the 4 wires on the headlight wiring-connector. This is the one that sticks out further away from the other 3 terminals on the connector and should be Gy/Wt for O/S and Yl/Bk for N/S on European single-headlight model E21s.

5c. Connect the cut wire to the terminal on the CCFL-ballast's red wire using solder or crimp-connectors and insulate with heat-shrink ideally, or tape.

5d. Connect the black wire from the CCFL-ballast to the headlight earth-wire - the brown wire on both sides. You could do this by soldering or with a multi-crimp connector, but I found the easiest way was to bend the metal terminal of the black wire 90 degrees and slide it into the brown wire socket on the headlight connector. The connector then holds the wire tight when it's pushed into place. A bit slapdash, but it does the trick!

5e. Plug the wiring connector back into the headlight and connect up the CCFL-ring to the inverter-ballast.

Enjoy your new angle eyes!

Tuesday 19 March 2013

E21 316: Getting there!

Sunday 3 March 2013

E21 316: Spring Chop Chronicles 3 - Double Drop!

I was so keen to test out the o/s/r wheel-arch I rolled in last week that I left the locking wheel-nut key on the wheel and sped off. This is the one bit of kit you don't want to lose, as I couldn't get the wheels off to paint, chop, or even roll the n/s/r arch off the tyre [which has been smoking and squeaking all week] until my replacement key came on Friday. Needless to say it's been a busy weekend...

I started by taking 2 coils out of the uncut n/s front spring to compare it to the o/s with a single coil removed and it wasn't a lot lower and not sitting on the tyre thankfully, so I chopped the o/s down to match it. With 2 coils taken from each of the front springs that's slightly over 2kg off the chassis, which should in part make up for my heavy steel spacers.

Above shows the original height of the SPAX spring, a drop of 40mm from stock.

Now with a single coil removed, above, the car sits at about -55mm from stock, give or take. That's low! But not low enough...

2 coils removed and she's as low as she'll go on the normal-length strut inserts, but there's still just about enough clearance to get one finger into the arch. Don't seem to be getting any scrubbage off the tyres, which is good considering 

Now we're really scraping...

...but so is the sump! 2 inches ground clearance for this engine then - speed-bumped roads are out of the question! Let's hope someone doesn't leave a brick lying in the street!

E21 316: Spring Chop Chronicles 2 - Cutting E21 Springs Explained

Cutting car springs at home - a good idea? Well, no. We've all heard the story about that guy who chopped the springs on his Mum's Nova SR and ended up on his roof. Most modern springs are tapered at either end to hold them into the spring-pan and this means that cutting them changes the design and they won't fit. If they do they won't work properly holding up the weight of the car. Your average knowledgable bloke will say "Ah, yes, but they will work if you cut them right!". This is not the case. You can never cut tapered springs to work right, period.

If you own an E21, or one of most other classic cars, then you will likely have the old style 'pigtail' springs that do not taper at either end. They're just a coiled spring, which end in a point and sit in a groove in the spring-pan top and bottom [2 in the pic below]. These CAN be cut shorter and still work - as long as they are cut right.

Why do it?
You want to go lower with your car, but a spring-kit isn't available to go as low as you want. You don't want to fork out money for lowered springs.