SKBOWE Install Guide – Retrofit (Initial Draft)

Before I do the final connector termination I wanted to get together an install guide, and might as well practice what I preach, so my car it is. It took me 15 minutes to install the SKBOWE pair while taking pictures and figuring it out for the first time.

Ironically it took about 30 minutes to get the original pre-KBOWE out. I forgot how big of a PITA it was to get that thing installed.

kbowe vs skbowe
The original KBOWE (with Nick-inspired heatsink upgrade c. 2015) on the left, a SKBOWEv2 on the right. Next level.
The last flight (probably) of the original pre-KBOWE, holding 50W under 1V pk-pk ripple at 50% PWM. Goodbye, old friend!

Just for the record, it still works fine – 8 years later (2009-2017) – still under 1V pk-pk at driving 50W at 50%PWM. Anyway, out with the old, in with the new!

Step 1: Pull the pin

pull the pin to release the headlight
Step 1: Pull the pin.

JKJK if you can’t figure out how to get your headlights out of a P1 car please return your SKBOWE .

Real Step 1: Mount SKBOWE

The recommended quick-install mounting location is behind the OEM GDL (gas discharge lamp) control module cutout, directly behind the headlight housing. The best way would be to drill two holes in the upper member and secure the SKBOWE with stainless screws like my ballasts are:

Recommended SKBOWE mounting location (left)
Recommended mounting location – left side looking at car from front, behind the OEM GDL cutout.
Recommended SKBOWE mounting location (right)
Recommended mounting location – right side looking at car from front, behind the OEM GDL cutout, beneath the fuse box.

But I know 99% of you won’t do that (and it’s hot outside), so for demonstration purposes here’s how one might secure them with zip-ties (included) in about 30 seconds.

SKBOWE installed with zip-ties (left)
The quick/easy/sloppy install: zip-ties (left side looking at car from front)
Quick/easy/sloppy install (right)
Quick/easy/sloppy install w/zip-ties (right side looking at car from front)

Fits like a glove! Alternately, depending on how your ballast is mounted you could shove them in the gap between the quarter panel and wheel well, and secure it with a single zip tie or industrial strength velcro (not included)

Step 2: Ground SKBOWE

The recommended grounding location is the M8x1.25 quarter-panel mounting bolt at the top of the headlight housing opening. This was painted with the car so you will need to clean it up.

This is the most important step in the install process – the grounding is what protects your WMM

You should really use a Dremel Tool with a burr or sanding disk, but I will include a small piece of sand paper in the kit for those who don’t have them. Using the sand paper will take a long time (spend 5 minutes per side)! THE METAL HAS TO BE SHINY.

Cleaning the bolt
Cleaning the paint off of the top threads and insert nut on this bolt. This is the most important step in installation.

Once the bolt is clean, route the ground strap up and around to come in from behind.

This bolt is clean. I used a diamond burr in a Dremel Tool for this side.

I will include two M8-1.25 stainless nuts with each kit. Tighten the hell out of this nut.

tighten the nut
Tighten down the M8-1.25 nut. If you have a DMM, check the resistance between the braid and the engine block or negative on the battery. If the bolt was cleaned right, it should be < 1 ohm.

Step 3: Install the Ballast

Make sure to mount the ballast such that the connector(s) won’t collect water:

Diagram showing which way to mount ballast (this side up)
Make sure the ballast connector(s) are facing downwards (best) or sideways (ok) so that they won’t collect water.

9005/9006 connectors from Headlight -> SKBOWE -> Ballast. It only hooks up one way.

Connect the ballast and headlight

Do check to make sure the red goes to red (or +), black to black (or -), 99% of manufactures use the same configuration (as does the SKBOWE) but it never hurts to check.

Here’s a diagram if you are having trouble with my blurry iPhone pics

SKBOWE connection diagram
SKBOWE connection diagram


If you want to get fancy and have the Morimoto ballasts, the “Nick-style” setup which eliminates the need for a grommet is shown below. This is exactly how the original BMW E46 Gen1 headlight assemblies were wired, with both the ignitor input and 12V output passing through the housing.

Install using morimoto ballasts 3 and 4-pin SuperSeal connectors to eliminate the need for a grommet, and allow the ignitor to easily be replaced.
Super clean “nick-style” install for Morimoto ballasts using 3 and 4-pin SuperSeal connectors and a custom harness to eliminate the need for a grommet, and allow the ignitor to easily be replaced. DO NOT USE THIS METHOD FOR BALLASTS WITH INTEGRATED IGNITORS!

Note that this only works for ballasts with detachable ignitors, since there is only 85VAC or so in the blue/green wires. Don’t even think about running the HV (20kV) next to battery voltage!


Start out testing by activating the headlights with the engine off just to make sure everything is hooked up right.

Activate follow me home lighting
To turn on the low beams with the engine off, depress the high-beam lever to the “lock” position. The low beams will turn on for about 2 minutes (follow me home).

If that works, button her up, do a quick FOD check, fire her up and go for a spin! Enjoy your beautiful error-free headlights.

no bow
No “Bulb Failure” message here – must be a SBKOWE