Replacement LED License Plate Lights

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You might already know that I installed a pair of cheapo LED lights for the rear license plate a while ago. To prevent error codes being thrown, I soldered on the original OEM bulb to provide the required resistance, and ended up with my Frankenbulbs. They worked great for a while but they really kinda looked cheap light-wise – too blue for my taste. Then, as the car barfed all over them, and started blowing LEDs one by one, they became a lot weaker in terms of light…

So I thought I would upgrade to something whiter and more reliable. I bought  a set of “Error Free LED License Plate Lights” for the E82/E88 series off the Bay for thirty bucks and thought I would give this thing a go again. Just search for “error free LED license plate lights BMW” and you’ll find lots of options. The ones I opted for looked like good candidates.

My first thought was, would they just slip right into the E31 light slot with no modification. Oh hell no. The E31 slot is much bigger and besides, the light housings themselves are larger too which means that even if they did lock right in, they wouldn’t fill the whole gap and then they’d look weird… Here are the two side by side and you can tell the modern model will almost fit into the E31 shell… with some minor modifications.



Start by removing the black plastic casing from the LED module itself being careful not to damage the LED module. Since I have no Dremel Tool (honey are you reading this?), I used my trusty soldering iron to just melt the plastic where it connects to the module’s backing, then clipped away the outer shell carefully until I was left with just the LED module and its connectors. Check it out… it’s gunna fit in there nicely huh?

Next cut out the clear blocker piece of plastic inside the OEM shell so the LED module can fit all the way in there, and bend the OEM light bulb restraint out enough to allow the LED module to slide right in there nice and snug. The OEM bulb retainer will help keep enough pressure on the LED module that it will require no glue or other means to hold it in there tightly. Oh man you won’t believe how well the module fits right in there… almost like it was meant to be… You can see the original OEM plug to the right, the newer E82/E88 plug in the middle and the module also comes with an older plug that matches our E31. There is just enough room, a perfect fit actually, to slide the LED module right in there.


Now you’re ready to re-install back into the car. Because you haven’t really messed with the OEM casing, you can put your old bulbs back in anytime. A perfect modern update while maintaining original equipment reversal.

Time to take a look: Comparing before and after, you can see how much whiter and brighter these new ones are.


And now with both installed – it looks a ton better to me. There you go, a simple and effective upgrade without destroying any original parts. I love it when stuff like this happens. Looks like the way they should have always been. What do you think?

UPDATED 3/17/12: Bad news community. The dreaded ‘LIC PLATE LIGHT FAIL’ error is back even though these are supposed to be ‘error free’ so I’m looking for some help to rectify the situation from the community. Will post back when I have more.


About the Author:

I am an 8 Series nut. In 2009 I restored a '92 850i to peak condition and subsequently sold it - which left me depressed. So I embarked on catching my White Whale: this '95 850CSi Chassis #CD00166. I’m opinionated and swear constantly, but I have friends in spite of myself. I am funnier than my wife realizes. Please tell her. Cheers!
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