***Official E46 Bulb Guide***

what headlight bulbs go in e46

Hello everyone, are you a bit confused by what bulb to get for your E46? Here is my guide to help you. Just in-case you are curious this is my lighting setup: OEM AL projectors with ZKW clear lenses, Osram CBI bulbs, Nokya 2500K fog light bulbs and Osram Super Bright off-road high beam bulbs.

I. I have organized the list as follows:


1. H7 – Used on all E46’s for the high beam/DRL and for the low beam on models with no xenon lights

***Official E46 Bulb Guide***
***Official E46 Bulb Guide***

2. H11 – Used on E46 with the small ZKW fog lights (facelift sedan)

3. 9006 – Used on all other E46 fog lights including coupes and sedans, M3 and M-tech I/II bumpers

***Official E46 Bulb Guide***

4. D2S – Xenon bulbs that I only recommend for your xenon lights. You want the best? Look no further. PHILIPS OR OSRAM ONLY!!!

***Official E46 Bulb Guide***
***Official E46 Bulb Guide***


II. Understanding Kelvin temperatures:

– When the sun is shining everything shows and automotive lights are the same. Have you noticed how yellow halogen lights in your house are more easy on the eye and show more compared to those dull white energy saving bulbs? For regular halogen lights which emit a yellow output are the best. The reflect everything on the road and give you the best light output with no compromises.

– Yellow and blue tinted bulbs are rather not recommended for low beam. For fog lights I do recommend pure yellow because they contrast the ground/rain/snow better to give you a better field of depth in front of you. If you want white/blue lights then you will have to get the blue tinted ones, but be warned that the luminosity (the light output that is usable on the road) will decrease drastically. Not only that but bluer lights will make it a lot harder on your eyes at night and create more fatigue.

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***Official E46 Bulb Guide***


III.Choosing the right halogen bulb:

– Looking at the chart below you will notice that most halogen bulbs have the same Kelvin temperatures, but the hidden secret behind bulbs is the amount of lumens created. The more lumens the more light you will have, but with that it means the lifetime of the bulb will be less due to more heat being generated.

More light = More energy = More heat = Less bulb life

Less light = Less energy = Less heat = More bulb life

Blue bulb = Less Light = More eye strain = Possibly illegal in your area

Regular halogen bulb = Most light output = Least eye strain

Pure yellow bulb = average light output, it should only be used for fogs to contrast what’s in front of you = Possibly illegal for low beams

– It’s rather one of the other but you can either go on the extreme ends as I just described or find a bulb in the middle that suits you.


IV. Choosing the right Xenon bulb:

– Xenon lighting, you have the best. Congrats. Xenon bulbs are by far a lot brighter than halogen bulbs by over 2x the amount and they last for years. The temperature also affects how much light output you get but the bulbs I selected below for my list will not fail you and will fit your budget.

– THE best bulb you can get is arguably the Osram CBI bulb which costs $160 at www.theretrofitsource.com or now the CBH bulbs for $200. Second best is the Philips 85122+. The CBI bulbs are more white over the Philips and have a little better luminosity, but as always if you want the best you have to pony up more to get them. While on the other hand the Philips are $95 for the pair.


Here are some vids of Philips bulbs on my car. I will upload with the Osram CBI bulbs when I have time




– For budget bulbs I recommend the Morimoto. They have a nice variety in color to meet your needs. Yellow if you’re not afraid of getting a ticket and want the yellow look, 4300k for the standard xenon look, 5000k for pure white and 6000k for white with a blue tinge. But keep in mind that each bulb has it’s own pro and con (color vs the usable light output). Although these bulbs cost $45 keep in mind that OEM bulbs (Philips and Osram) are built much better, have better salts and overall the light output is superior compared to the Morimoto bulbs.

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– As for any other xenon bulbs (which are aftermarket) I warn you not to get them. They are made in China where there is no quality control on them and they can result in an extremely heavy cost to fix your car. They run a lot hotter and can cause your ballast/ignitor to work harder and eventually fail. I have seen the sockets for the bulbs literally melt because of how cheap the bulbs are. You have been warned.


V. Identifying Fakes/Counterfeits:

– One thing to avoid buying fake bulbs is to buy from known vendors. They will carry legit bulbs so you know you will get the right thing. Online sites such as theretrofitsource and lightwerkz sell real xenon bulbs that I have listed in my bulb guide. I have personally bought from them and I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.

– In regards to xenon bulbs the only REAL ones are either D1S, D2S, D2R, and D4S (mercury free). Any other type of xenon bulbs (9006, H7, H9, etc) is a rebased bulb that is aftermarket and not regulated. Those bulbs can cause fires, etc as previously stated. The ONLY way you can have a real xenon bulb put onto that base is to buy something like this: http://www.theretrofitsource.com/product_info.php?products_id=12810

The link above is a real Philips capsule with the return wire but it is not attached to the D2S base. This will allow you (if you’re handy enough) to put a real xenon bulb onto any base.

– See the images below to get an idea on what to look for with fake bulbs.

***Official E46 Bulb Guide***
***Official E46 Bulb Guide***


VI: Using your lights correctly:

– Have you ever noticed passing cars with EXTREMELY bright lights that just blind the living hell out of you? Take note of a car with projector headlights with xenon/hid bulbs versus someone that just threw in a hid kit into their halogen headlights. Halogen headlights are NOT meant for hid use since the light pattern is all over the place and actually gives you worse light output. DON’T BE THAT PERSON.


Please see the attachments for the bulb guide: