Sunday, November 18, 2007
New Fog Lights
A couple weeks ago I was washing the car when I realized that my left fog light was cracked. At first I was miffed because I knew this meant an unscheduled expense, but as I looked more closely at the glass of both fog lamps I realized that they had been sandblasted by the high-speed commute and were in need of replacement anyway.
I did my usual research on the parts, starting with realoem and the ETK for the part numbers, followed by Tischer for the price. It turns out that the fog lamp glass assembly is available separately, or as part of a three piece kit that includes the halogen bulb and mounting bracket. Since I expected to replace the bulbs as well as the glass, the kit was the best deal.
There are two original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for the E36 foglamps: Hella and ZKW. For whatever reason, realoem indicated that the Hella part number had been superceded by the ZKW part. While reading bimmerforums.com I found this thread which offered a great price on a pair of OEM ZKW foglamp kits. The vendor accepted credit cards, was located here in NJ, and I couldn't beat the price anywhere, so I placed the order. A couple days later the foglamps arrived on schedule. The words "Made in Austria" were stamped on the inside of the glass and I found a ZKW label on the side, so I knew I'd received the real deal and not some cheap ripoff made in China.
I managed to summon the time to install the new foglamps today. Replacement of the glass assembly is easy and only involves use of a screwdriver to depress the locking tab on the bracket that is attached to the bumper cover. Access to the locking tab is through the upper of the two holes cut in the bumper cover just inward of the fog lamp assembly.
Once I released the tab the glass unit popped out a bit on one side. I then tugged it out further and then pulled the entire unit out of the recess in the bumper. A weatherproof plug with twin release clips provides power to the back of the assembly, so I detached that before I removed the entire unit and swapped it out with the new assembly.
I didn't replace the brackets because the existing units appeared to be in good shape. And truth be told, I was not motivated to replace them for good measure because it appears that it is next to impossible to remove the screws that attach the bracket to the bumper cover without removing the cover itself because the brake cooling ductwork gets in the way. While removal of the bumper cover is a straightforward job, it was not something I wanted to tackle on a cold day unless absolutely necessary.
Although the bumper cover has been replaced recently, the grill in the lower center of the cover is original -- and it shows. Just as the daily sandblasting has taken its toll on the paint, that and the smaller rock hits have really done a number on the grill. For that reason I may wind up removing the bumper cover to replace the grill next spring, and if that happens I'll use that time to replace the fog light brackets. Until then, they'll remain on my shelf with the spare bulb and glass assembly I saved from the other side.
The two fog light kits retail for $220 from BMW. Tischer had them for $176 plus shipping (figure $185 total), but my alternate source really came through with a price of $110 shipped with tax (!). This is a savings of $110 over the retail price or a $80 relative to Tischer's otherwise favorable pricing. Although I would normally not make a comparison between a BMW part and an "aftermarket" part, these ZKW units are for all intents and purposes the BMW part without the BMW label, so I feel this is a fair, apples-to-apples, comparison.
As far as labor is concerned, BMW apparently gets almost a half hour of book labor to replace these lights, which I think is overkill, unless you have to replace the brackets as well. Last time my technician replaced the units for free, but for something this simple I didn't have the heart to bug him. Given the savings in both parts and labor, I think this was time well spent.
Mileage: 152000, Parts: $110, Parts Saved: $110, Labor Saved: $100