BMW E39, E38, E46 LED License Plate Lights

afterA really easy, and affordable way to modernize the rear of your BMW is to update your license plate lights.  Until recently, BMW has used very yellow, and very dim, lights to illuminate the rear plate.  Here in modern times, they’re using significantly brighter LEDs that produce a very white colored light.  I installed these lights into my 2000 M5, and have been happy with the results.  They do NOT trip a check warning or light inside the car. These lights are very bright, but not ridiculous.  See the below photo for a comparison.  

Objective: Update rear look of your BMW with brighter, and whiter license plate lighting.

Applicable Vehicles: 1997-2003 BMW E39 5-series: 523i, 525i, 528i, 530i, 535i, 540i, M5.  1994-2001 BMW E38 7-series: 730i, 740i, 740iL, 750iL, E53 BMW X5, 1998-2006 BMW E46 3-series:  323i, 325i, 328i, 330i, M3.  2004-2010 BMW E60 5-series:  525i, 528i, 530i, 535i, 545i, 550i, M5.  More models may be supported by the product(s) featured in this post, such as the E90 3-series, E83 X3, etc.

Parts required: LED license plate light modules.  Search eBay for BMW ____ (model) LED license plate lights.  I can’t put the actual link because listings end often.

*Any of the more popular products install and work the same way.

Tools Required: Flat-head screw driver.

Cost: ~$30

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 5 minutes


Turn off all vehicle lights, remove your key from your car’s ignition, and unlock the entire car through the central locking button.  Open your trunk lid, and take a look at the existing lights.  Notice a small slot on the left side of each light, this is where the screw driver is inserted.  Put the flat head in, and slide the light to the right side.  Both the left and right license plate light should slide to the right.  Be careful applying force with your screwdriver around the car’s paint, if it slips out, you could cause damage.  Also, note that your current lights have likely been in the same place for a very long time.  It may take some time and a few hits of the screwdriver to loosen them so they slide over.

Once they do slide to the right, pull them down, and out of the trunk lid.  Remove the existing wiring harness.  The new LED lights that you purchased have both the analog and digital connections.  Depending on what year and model your car is, you’ll need one or the other.  Plug your new light in using the same cable for the car in the correct port on the light.  Push the light into the trunk lid firmly, and let it settle itself back to the left.

You’re done!  Turn on your lights, and enjoy a much whiter, brighter, and more modern looking rear end to your BMW.


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2000 BMW E39 M5, Silverstone Metallic. 2002 BMW E46 330xi, Topaz Blue Metallic. BA Business Management, Kent State University. E39Source Owner.

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4 thoughts on “BMW E39, E38, E46 LED License Plate Lights

  1. E39 Source,

    Recently I picked up a 2003 E39 M5, all stock and 107,500k miles, and man, coming from an E36 M3, I LOVE the M5! I followed the video to installing the Ziza LED interior lights from ECS Tuning. All the lights work except the vanity lights. On the initial install the LEDs worked then dimmed off and did not turn back on again even after switching polarities and LEDs with new ones and swapping them multiple times. This happened to both vanity lights. Would you know what the reason for this is? I’ve searched online and this seems to be an issue but couldn’t find a definite fix and was wondering if you knew why.

    Thank you for all the help! Your website and YouTube channel has definitely helped me overall with my M5.

    • Glad you like the car! And very cool to hear that we’ve been a help. Are those lights controlled by a fuse maybe? Check the glovebox diagram for buses and see. Otherwise, do the standard OEM bulbs still work in there? Or did the whole socket stop working? Never heard of this issue before.

  2. Question – I have a e46 m3 2006 and will upgrade to e39 m5, and major difference in agility/nimble power ratio comparisons with these cars? Plus there are a few e39 m5s out there with decent mileage, any concerns to change the water pump, pulleys, tensioners, belts, thermostats, radiator, hose, and coolant reservoir units, double vanos units and importantly. Do you have to do a compression test on the block of the engine? I saw most of your video and your mileage was a long time high at 187k if I’m not mistaken. Did you do any wet sump drain using any seaweed test to drain all the corroded old oil , etc. any impacted to the oil rings, cams, pistons, etc,?
    Final note: your m5 is drop dead gorgeous. Feel free to drop me a quick line or call.

    Ashton Marrero

    • I have never driven an E46 M3 before. It has 75 less horsepower, but much less torque since it’s only an I6 engine. The M5 has tons of torque. I would imagine the M3 to be a little bit more agile though. I wouldn’t worry about milage at all, as long as the car has been taken care of. Water pumps and thermostats should last at least 60,000 miles. Not that bad to DIY either. I rebuild my cooling system at 150k, and I’m at 188k with no issues. Never done a compression test, never been a problem. I’ve seen these cars go to 300,000 miles. I change the oil ever 5,000 miles though, that’s important. Thanks for the compliments on my car!

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