My E46 BMW 320d was recently driven through some water too deep for it. The engine and rest of the car is fine but the electric levelling feature for the headlights has failed. The headlights were in a state of pointing right down to the ground resulting in a very short throw of light from the car. There is a small dial to the right of the steering wheel (next to the dash lighting adjuster) which is used to adjust the headlight angle. This no longer works - when it is adjusted a whirring motor sound can be heard from the headlights but no adjustment happens.

The headlights themselves are standard dual halogen units.

I've temporarily mitigated the problem by adjusting the dial that exists on the top of each headlight accessible from when the bonnet is opened which is a sort of manual override but it would be good to have the automatic adjustment working.

Looking at the headlight units there's no obvious sign as to the location of the motor that adjusts the angle.

What's the best advice to try and diagnose and fix the problem or should I just take it to a professional?

  • I'd start with checking your fuses. Since the motors were submerged? there's the possibility that they shorted and blew the fuse(s)
    – Ben
    Feb 19, 2016 at 22:30

4 Answers 4


Kaseys answer sounds right to me. There is a sensor, that indicates the vehicles inclination relative to the road (I don't know how to call it either, in Germany we simply call it "headlight leveling sensor"). That sensor needs to be replaced probably. I'd just like to add two pictures, so you can see how the sensor looks like:

E46 front axle sensor

E46 front axle sensor

Image source: e46-forum.de

  • As an E39 owner, I know that sometimes that sensor gets disconnected. Let's just hope it is something as simple as a misplaced sensor.
    – Zaid
    May 2, 2016 at 10:35
  • That's an interesting almost analogue digital sensor...apologies for the dichotomy in my verbiage. I can't think of a better way to say it. May 2, 2016 at 23:45
  • These sensors are quite common on newer (say > 2000) German cars. When equipped with Xenon headlights, cars in Germany are required to be equipped with an automatic headlight leveling mechanism. So all cars around here with Xenon have these sensors. My Audi has one attached to the front axle and one at the rear axle. May 3, 2016 at 7:37

These have dynamic adaptive control or some sort ( not sure of the terminology) but there is a module or sensor connected to the tie rod near one of the front tire most probably on the left tire. It looks like a little box fixed to some immovable part and has a handle attached to it which moves based on the tie rod and sends a signal back to the module in the headlight. Make sure the module at the tie rod is not cooked, has good input voltage and output voltage, if they are cheap replace them.


I myself have BMW F10. about a month ago my headlights were not working properly there was some moisture in the angel ayes.my frind recommended to change the driver module BMW 5 Series F10 63117355073 and it helped me a lot. My problem was resolved. so do check your driver module as well.


Oh yes those are electric motors which set your light automatically. First check for a blown fuse, if that's ok. You see, each light has an adjustment motor in it. If you can get to it, you can remove it get it checked. That can be damage by the water. If water went in then it's possible that it's water damage. Best take it to an auto-electrical workshop that has experience in that.

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