Timm's BMW E31 FTP IMPROVEMENTS
 

The E31 has two pairs of main beams, one set is in the pop-up pods, the other pair are on the light-strips which are known as FTP's (flash-to-pass). The name comes from the fact that USA models only use the lower 55W lights when the light stalk is pulled - usually when signalling someone to pass (well, that's the folk-law anyway)! In the picture below, this UK E31 has all the forward lights on, main beams, dipped beams and fog lights.

The FTP main beams on UK models are illuminated when main beam is selected on the light stalk, these provide excellent illumination in conjunction with those in the pop-up light pods. Also shown next to the FTP main beams are the side lights (also known as parking lights or corner markers). The following routine shows how to increase the brightness of both the FTP side lights and main beams.

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

FTP removal

Removing the FTP strip is pretty straight-forward, if they haven't moved for a while the fixing screws will probably need some penetrating-oil as the fixings are open to the elements. Start by pulling off the slatted grille inboard of the FTP

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

The next pictures show what the grille attaches to and the grille securing tabs

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS


BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

With the grille removed, unscrew the two securing screws as shown below

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

With the securing screws removed, the FTP can be pulled forward, and slightly outwards:

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

the back corner of the FTP has prongs to secure it to the wing and simply slide out. The FTP is connected to the car loom with a large circular connector, disconnect this and the FTP light strip is free to be fully removed.

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

Increasing the sidelight brightness

The sidelights in the FTP's use 'brake and sidelight' bulbs with two filaments. Only the 5W filament is used, more folk-law says that the 21W filament is only used in Sweden for daylight-running lights. The trick is to just solder the two terminals together, so I soldered up a couple of new bulbs:

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

I found this the most simple method, there are alternative methods (that I have not tried), one is to file one of the bulbs prongs so that it can be rotated 180 degrees which will allow the 21W filament to be used instead of the 5W filament. Another method is to dig out the potting in the bulb-holder and join the two terminals. As I have a soldering iron always available, I am happy to solder the bulb terminals together. Here are the results:

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

Increasing the Main-Beam brightness

After a few years of operation the main-beam glass often acquires a film of grime that makes the lens look misty and diffuses the light. Removing the film of grime makes quite a difference to the brightness. The following process shows how to disassemble the FTP to clean the inner surface of the glass.

Start by removing the main-beam cover (use a flat-bladed screwdriver to lift the tabs), and then disconnect the wiring to the bulb and ground-point. The reflector is fixed to the housing by the two adjusting screws and a rubber tube which provides a flexible mounting so that the reflector can move in two axis:

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

 As the adjusting screws have to be fully undone it is best to measure their positions before removal.

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

Unscrew both screws a few turns at a time (a single screw cannot be removed without damaging the reflector or plastic arms) and then pull the reflector upwards and then outwards disconnecting the rubber tube at the other end:

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

Unless the reflector is covered in grime, leave it well alone. The silvering is vacuum-deposited and extremely fragile

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

To remove the grime on the inside of the glass I used this stuff (although any glass-cleaner will work just as well)

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

and a microfibre cloth:

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

With excellent results:

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

Lubricate the end of the rubber tube with silicone grease and push it vertically back in position. Although the tube can slide horizontally out of the fixing, it will not slide back in:

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

Refit the adjusting screws back to the original settings. Take this opportunity to replace the bulbs with Osram Night Breaker Plus H3, these are the brightest bulbs in the market. The results are a huge increase in performance:

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

Refit the FTP's to the car using the two securing screws. Do not refit the grilles until you have re-aimed the main-beams using the two central screws as shown below:

BMW E31 FTP LIGHTS IMPROVEMENTS

Time for a cup of tea


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