The Truth About Cars » headlight http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 20 Apr 2015 09:00:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » headlight http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Reverse Light My Way Home, General Motors! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-reverse-light-way-home-general-motors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-reverse-light-way-home-general-motors/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 12:53:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018778   Jon writes: Sajeev, I read this column on lighting, thanks for the information! That leads me to a question… What is up with Chevy/GM truck and SUV reverse lights!?!?!?! Why do they come on when their drivers use their lock remotes????? It is crazy going through parking lots these days with all the SUV reverse […]

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(photo courtesy: seadoo2006 @ forums.fourtitude.com)

Jon writes:

Sajeev,

I read this column on lighting, thanks for the information! That leads me to a question…

What is up with Chevy/GM truck and SUV reverse lights!?!?!?! Why do they come on when their drivers use their lock remotes?????

It is crazy going through parking lots these days with all the SUV reverse lights coming on for no good reason. Help me understand please.

Sajeev answers:

Reversing lights, just like headlights, can be used for anything when parked. And headlights also remain lit on these vehicles, which has been a safety feature since at least the mid 1970s. Knowledge Drop time!

Peep the rheostat (Off, Max Delay) on the automatic headlight system below. There was about a minute (max) of headlight safety for a dimly lit parking space. Considering how many dimly lit streets there are at night, even in urban areas…considering how many 1970s cop shows had some seriously heavy shit go down in a dark parking garage, you better believe your 1977 Continental Mark V needs this system.

$_4

And the de-icing rear window too, of course. (photo courtesy: http://www.edsonian.com)

Maybe Starsky and Hutch would still be on TV if their damn low-brow Ford Torino had this Lincoln’s feature.  You think long and hard about that, Son!

 

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

While this notion is a safety feature for the vehicle’s owner, you aren’t the only outsider complaining.  I’m annoyed by them when looking for a spot, or looking to ensure someone won’t back into my ride.

So do this: slow down while approaching AND be on the lookout for the brake lights.  Most of these vehicles are automatics, and most people crawl out of a spot while riding the brakes. So no brake lights, no driver inside the GM product.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Traversing the World of LED Retrofit Bulbs! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-traversing-world-led-retrofit-bulbs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-traversing-world-led-retrofit-bulbs/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 13:51:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1014818   TTAC Commentator MWebbRambler writes: Sajeev, Your recent Piston Slap on HID lights reminded me of a problem I had with replacing tail lights on my wife’s 2009 Traverse. One of the OEM bulbs burned out, so I decided to replace both brake/tail lights with LEDs. The LED lights worked great and were brighter than […]

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(photo courtesy: galleryhip.com)

TTAC Commentator MWebbRambler writes:

Sajeev,

Your recent Piston Slap on HID lights reminded me of a problem I had with replacing tail lights on my wife’s 2009 Traverse. One of the OEM bulbs burned out, so I decided to replace both brake/tail lights with LEDs.

The LED lights worked great and were brighter than the OEM bulbs, but there was just one problem–the turn signals would blink rapidly, just like they did with the burned out bulb. After I went back and RTFM I learned the rapid blinking or “hyper-flashing” occurs when a bulb is burned out OR the system is drawing little to no current. Since the LEDs use a lot less power, the system thinks the bulb is burned out.

A quick check online indicates my only option for the Traverse is to install a load resistor kit, which requires splicing the wires and adding a load resistor to each bulb. The process looks easy enough, but seeing how you are a lighting aficionado and a wizard when it comes to all things automotive, I thought I’d seek your advice on options.

Sajeev answers:

We covered this before, but things have changed: most, but not all, LED retrofit bulbs (especially of the flashing variety) are unsafe and super illegal. Luckily we have Daniel Stern (dastern@torque.net), brilliant Lighting Consultant, amongst our ranks to clear this all up.

Daniel writes:

That’s an understandable idea, but in most cases it’s presently somewhere between difficult and impossible to do safely, effectively, and legally for reasons much bigger than the improper turn signal flash rate.

The big majority of LED bulb retrofits for cars is unsafe, illegal junk from a variety of vendors making tall yet bogus claims. Odds are that’s what you bought and installed in your wife’s Traverse. They might have appeared brighter to you, but they very likely didn’t work safely. The federal and international safety performance requirements for vehicle exterior lights are much more stringent and exacting than just lighting up in a particular color. The intensity for each function has to be within the proper limits through a large range of vertical and horizontal angles, the ratio between bright and dim intensity must be correct for combination brake/tail and park/turn lamps, and the lamp’s effective lit area must be at least a certain size. These requirements are in place to guarantee an immediately, unambiguously recognizable signal to observers at any angle to your vehicle, day and night, in any weather. Whether these requirements are met can’t be judged by peering at the operating lights; we humans aren’t equipped to accurately assess lights’ performance by eye (it just feels like we are). Most LED retrofit bulbs on the market for vehicle lights, when measured objectively, badly fail most or all of the requirements. Some of them are brighter than stock at certain angles, but that’s not even close to adequate.

Moreover, the light output of an LED drops as its temperature rises, which happens quickly when the LED is lit up. LEDs need effective heat sinking, and the vast majority
of vehicle LED retrofit bulbs on the market don’t have it. This means the retrofitted lamp’s output, even if it starts out adequate with a cold bulb, quickly drops below the minimum requirement with extended use of the lamp (such as when sitting with your foot on the brake in traffic). The poor objective performance of most LED retrofits means the lamps’ output goes from inadequate to very inadequate.

“Gimme a break, you dweeb!”, you say, “I drive with my eyes, not with lab equipment; it lights up red and I think they’re bright enough”. Sure, but your car’s lights are life safety equipment. They have to work the way they’re supposed to –as measured objectively, not by guess and by gosh. If you’re involved in a crash and your car’s safety equipment is found to have been modified, you can quickly wind up in very deep legal doo-doo and debt.

Then we get to the issue that prompted you to write in for help: because LEDs don’t draw the amount of current the vehicle’s turn signal circuit was designed for, they are detected as a faulty bulb. Another safety requirement is that a faulty turn signal bulb must substantially change the flash rate, so the driver will know to fix it. Old vehicles with a standard 2- or 3-prong plug-in turn signal flasher can have a “heavy-duty” flasher installed; meant for trailer towing, these flash at the correct rate without regard to the current load. But most vehicles made in the last two decades don’t use those standard flashers. You might be able to buy a trailer-tow turn signal module for your vehicle, or have its body computer reflashed for trailer-tow mode to cancel the bulb outage indication. Or you can hack your way around the problem by installing “load resistors”, but now you’ve eliminated the low-power benefit of LEDs and you’re cutting wires and adding potential failure points, especially if you use off-brand parts not built or tested to automotive levels of reliability — minimize your odds of a failure by using reputable-brand parts, and forget those crunch-type/Scotchlok wire taps, use Posi-Taps instead.

Don’t wear a permanent frown about this wet-blanket reality check, though. The world’s first legitimate LED bulbs for retrofitment of incandescent vehicle exterior lights came to market last year from Philips — their “Vision LED” line focused on maximum lifespan and their “X-Treme Vision LED” line focused on maximum output. They’re easily available and not very expensive. Right now the Philips X-Treme Vision LED range includes red bulbs to replace 1156 (or European P21W), and 1157 (Euro P21/5W), white bulbs to replace 1156, and white bulbs to replace 921 in reversing lamps. The Vision LED range adds red 74403157 (P27/7W), and 7443 (W21/5W), and white 194 (168, W3W, W5W) bulbs.

The Philips items have a great deal of engineering and development work behind them, and are enormously more likely to work appropriately than anything else on the market right now. But even with these you’re not necessarily home free; they aren’t a “go” for just any lamp that happens to take a bulb type included in their product line. Each and every vehicle light, no matter how simple it might look, is optically engineered to collect, focus, and distribute the light from one particular kind of light source. Changing to a different kind of light source is like putting on somebody else’s eyeglasses; it’s an optical mismatch. Because the light distribution of even today’s most highly engineered LED retrofit bulbs isn’t the same as the incandescent bulbs they’re designed to replace, the only way to know if the retrofit works OK is to test it objectively.

Philips has a website where they list the applications that have tested out acceptably for their various LED retrofit bulbs. The list isn’t exhaustive, because it’s really not possible or practical for them to test each and every make, model, and year of vehicle to be found on American roads. Newer and more popular vehicles are naturally tested first; older and less popular ones are naturally tested sometime between eventually and never. If your particular vehicle isn’t on the approved list, it means either the LED retrofits don’t work safely in your vehicle or your vehicle’s lights haven’t been tested with the LED retrofits. The safe assumption if you drive a recent-but-not-latest model that’s absent from the list is that it flunked the test and you’d best run standard incandescent bulbs and keep waiting.

It’s a little ironic, but the older the vehicle, the more likely the retrofits are to work acceptably. Starting in the mid-late ’90s, exterior lights were designed with
complex-surface reflector optics to create jewel-like effects with completely transparent cover lenses. Bulb characteristics are extremely crucial to these optics’ ability to produce an effective light signal, and in most cases even the best of today’s LED retrofit bulbs won’t work well. Before that time, most vehicle lights used simple, standard parabolic reflectors and pillow or fresnel lens optics; barring a weird bulb entry angle into the lamp, the Philips retrofits work great in many such lamps. Pay careful attention if you try it, though, and make sure they do everything they need to do. There are lamps that wrap around to the side of the vehicle and use a side-on view of the bulb for the sidemarker light function; in many cases using an LED bulb leaves these lamps totally dark from the side. Sidemarker lights do a great job of reducing your chance of being sideswiped or T-boned; it’s foolish to delete them. And be mindful of matching the bulb color to the lens; using the available cool “6000K” white LEDs behind a red lens produces a weak, pinkish-brown light that’s neither bright enough nor of an appropriate color, for instance (though the white LEDs can give a nice bright yellow color in an amber turn signal housing).

More LED retrofit types are in the pipeline from Philips, and over the coming years some of the other reputable makers will produce this kind of product, too. At a recent vehicle lighting technical symposium in Germany, a major lighting supplier showed progress toward truly universal LED retrofit bulbs that emit the right amounts of light in the right distribution, same as an incandescent bulb, but they’re not yet ready for market. Be patient and cautious, because progress will come in fits and starts, and a reputable name doesn’t necessarily mean a product safe and worthy to use; Two brands widely sold on the American market have recently released LED bulbs that don’t even come close to working safely or legally in any lamps at all — sheesh, anything to make a buck!

A final note a little tangential to your original question: the headlamp “LED bulb conversions” now flooding the market are not a legitimate, safe, effective, or legal product. Just as with “HID kits”, these are a fraudulent scam. They’re not capable of producing even a fraction of the amount of light produced by the filament bulb they supposedly replace, let alone producing it in the right pattern for the lamp’s optics to work — see a particularly ambitious amateur test here. This, too, might eventually change; the same company that makes the world’s only legit brake light LED retrofit bulbs also has a first-generation fog lamp LED retrofit bulb that works surprisingly well in certain specific fog lamps.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: The HID-den benefits of Xenon Lighting? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-hid-den-benefits-xenon-lighting/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-hid-den-benefits-xenon-lighting/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:53:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1006202   John writes: Hi Sajeev! I’m still only three years into the car business and I still haven’t wrapped my brain around one thing: xenon headlamps. As a used car manager I’ve replaced plenty of xenon bulbs (pricey) and even some ballasts (really pricey). Are you sold on their usefulness? To me it seems like […]

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Obligatory E39 Photo. (photo courtesy: bimmerforums.com)

John writes:

Hi Sajeev!

I’m still only three years into the car business and I still haven’t wrapped my brain around one thing: xenon headlamps. As a used car manager I’ve replaced plenty of xenon bulbs (pricey) and even some ballasts (really pricey).

Are you sold on their usefulness? To me it seems like a giant waste of money.

The sales people tell me they really help on rural roads at night. Then again what $500 (to replace a ballast) means to me versus what $500 means to the average new car client here is pretty different. Is that an option you keep unchecked? What about the B&B?
Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Good on you for considering your end of this business relative to the rest of the world, especially about High Intensity Discharge (HID) and Xenon lighting. Because there are hidden benefits to Xenon lighting: consider the lifecycle from the first geeky R&D engineer to the last junkyard scavenger.

Take the factory: they want to innovate, having gee-whiz tech to trump the competition. (If only for a couple of years!)They’ll love that extra profit, fatter margins. Even if they’ll sadly bundle Xenon lighting with some BS “technology” package that’s outdated against your smartphone.

Take the Junkyard Scavenger: depending on uniqueness of the make/model, finding a working HID lighting assembly, the ballast (or even bulb) is great eBay fodder.  Even if it’s just a unique mounting bracket or harness plug on a universal part, the owner gets something for cheap and the scavenger makes a tidy profit.

Take the customer: Xenon lighting to legal specifications (i.e. almost always never the eBay stuff to slap into your non-HID headlight body) does indeed give an amazing beam of light in rural areas, or urban roads with sparse street lighting.  Former TTAC staffer Daniel Stern has a great resource if you want to dig into the science and practice of headlight designs.

I love HIDs and gladly pay for the privilege.  I did the upgrade on my Mark VIII back in the early days of the automotive interweb, and (just last weekend) I spent $300-ish on new HID bulbs for my mother’s 2006 Lexus.  Nine illuminating years was a good run: a fantastic safety feature, especially for Mom’s well-being.

Take your Boss, the General Manager: Assuming you work in the typical New/Used/Service/F&I/Parts type of franchised dealership, let’s think about the GM.  They want to give the customer what they want. In turn, he makes a little more money in sales, hopefully a bit more on service/parts when the vehicle returns after several years…or after a front-end collision.

It’s one of those Rising Tides Lifts All Boats things.

Except when the used boat needs new ballasts. (sad trombone) Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: The Brazil Vacation, Part I http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/vellum-venom-vignette-brazil-vacation-part/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/vellum-venom-vignette-brazil-vacation-part/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:58:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=983473   This was my first vacation in, like, ever. And it was supposed to be a break from cars. No driving, wrenching, writing, photographing!  Stop looking at that Ford Versailles, don’t take a photo of that Renault, because car design is no vacation in such a beautiful place…right? And then “my” Ford Ranger found me […]

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This was my first vacation in, like, ever. And it was supposed to be a break from cars. No driving, wrenching, writing, photographing!  Stop looking at that Ford Versailles, don’t take a photo of that Renault, because car design is no vacation in such a beautiful place…right?

And then “my” Ford Ranger found me in Leblon. Oh, for the love of why did I walk down this street I can’t believe that stupid truck followed me from…

 

2_1

Let’s do this thing. Let’s see how vehicles are made for different needs, tastes, etc. in different countries.

To wit, here’s a shot of the USA Ranger last seen in 2011. Disregard my modest trim/wheel/grille modifications from other (less-beancounted) Rangers, because the USA and South American Ford Ranger are strikingly similar.

And the differences are where we learn something. Hopefully, considering the backlash to the last Camry analysis.

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2009 was the last year for this Ranger body in South America, and it sported unique emblems, bumpers, side view mirrors, door handles, wheels, roll bar/bed liner/cover (seen on all light-duty trucks in Rio) and these trick one-piece headlights.

I had my eye on them via forum searching years ago, but in person? One piece headlights are great, making the Ranger somewhat better crafted.

But the black plastic on large swaths of non-functional lighting surfaces? That’s one of my guilty pleasures. It’s a big deal in the automotive aftermarket, selling the same assembly with almost no chrome.  When done right, like here, the deletion of superfluous chrome looks properly macho…yet upmarket.

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I hope I’m forgiven for losing my shit when I saw the Brazilian Ranger, as their headlights tie in the charcoal/black elements of mine. Then it’ll highlight the chrome as accents…not as melodies.

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The roll bar toughens up the look, not to mention Rangers are kinda large by Rio standards. Considering trucks are often used for real tasks in places where someone can’t afford a $60,000+ Cowboy Cadillac to park at Starbucks, the roll bar is a great design for loading stuff without roof damage.

Rear tail lights look much like this Ranger’s USA counterpart, but smoked black instead of bright red.

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Red is better: it reminds us which end of the vehicle we’re lookin’ at.

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Like the roll bar and steel wheels (that look similar to 2002+ Explorer wheels), the South American Ford Ranger has a tougher bumper with less plastic topping. The area reserved for a hitch is exposed metal with (possibly) more real estate. It’s a smart move considering the Ranger’s purpose in life. Ditto the lack of plastic trim behind the wheels.

Speaking of purpose, the tailgate is significantly different. It’s a fine example of form following function. Note the outward bend of the tailgate to accommodate a larger rear handle, and note the extensive plastic protection trim.

Finally, see how the bed’s upper crease stops 1″-ish deep into the tailgate? This allows a design element to “smear” over to a different visual space. On the cheap: the same bed is used, ‘natch.

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No smearing in the USA. USA! USA! USA!

Function following form: the crease logically goes across the tailgate. Which means the negative space for your fingers to slide into the handle is smaller. So you can scratch your nice little truck if you wear jewelery befitting a truck that’s more mondo-super-badass. Like that $60,000+ Cowboy Cadillac parked at a Starbucks.

Not a good idea, but it looks better. Speaking of:

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I’m sad I couldn’t get a live shot of the Ranger crew cab. All the pretty girls in Rio would be soooooo impressed with it vis-à-vis this Vellum Venom Vignette.

How could they not?

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Ditto the 2010 South American Ford Ranger: basically the same platform (right down to the dashboard and glass-to-body ratio) with a macho, overcompensating look that’s all the rage in modern truck design.

Considering the USA Ranger must die in 2011, there was no need to import this “look” here. Too bad about that, especially the cute little crew cab that most Americans couldn’t fit in!

Ford-Ranger-Sport-09-560x373And I saw the Global Ranger, which looks like an overwrought yacht.  Too mid-sized for America and Super Duty sized for narrow Rio streets, it’s better suited as a Global F-150. Not a bad thing for the world, just bad for the honest-to-God compact pickup genre.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely week!

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Piston Slap: Affalterbach’s A-faltering Headlight! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/piston-slap-affalterbachs-a-faltering-headlight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/piston-slap-affalterbachs-a-faltering-headlight/#comments Thu, 01 Aug 2013 12:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497677 Martin writes: Hi Sajeev, I’m writing you because I’ve searched and asked model-specific forums, and mechanics, to no avail. I have the last of the 1st Gen SLK AMGs. I love this car, and I’ve loved it since the first non-AMG launched in the late 90s. Overall, it’s well maintained – a trend which I […]

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Martin writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’m writing you because I’ve searched and asked model-specific forums, and mechanics, to no avail. I have the last of the 1st Gen SLK AMGs. I love this car, and I’ve loved it since the first non-AMG launched in the late 90s. Overall, it’s well maintained – a trend which I continue – and I’ve had it for a few years. I have one major issue.

The Xenon headlights will blink out randomly – the issue is solved by flicking the lights completely off, and then back on…it almost always happens on my passenger side headlight, but I’ve seen it happen on the driver’s side as well though this is rare. It usually happens on a bump, or on impact of some kind, like a speed bump, braking, or closing the hood, and can occur every few minutes (usually in wet weather – thought doesn’t ALWAYS happen in wet weather) or not at all for several months (usually dry weather).

Mechanics have diagnosed it as anything ranging from a bad ballast (doesn’t make sense to me as ballasts either work or the don’t) to a faulty bulb. One mechanic put some kind of lubrication on the contacts with the bulb and the problem went away for several months – even in wet weather, but I’m not sure if this was a solution or coincidence. Due to two factors – higher incidence of occurrence in wet weather – and the presence of condensation in the passenger’s side bulb (the worst offender) – I think there’s a short somewhere. I’ve checked the wiring and it seems ok. No one can give me a convincing reason as to why I should just replace the whole headlight assembly (an expensive proposal) – and although I realize AMG cars are pricier to maintain and I don’t mind spending, I also don’t want to do it unnecessarily just to discover that it’s a short in some kind of control module or peripheral piece.

Have you ever heard of this? Looking forward to your input.

Sajeev answers:

Not an easy question, but luckily you want what’s best for the car. Which isn’t cheap for a German car of this era. I still have nightmares about attempting to fix anything on my Father’s former 1996 BMW 750iL…beautiful, glorious nightmares I tell you!

Proper Mercedes-Benz shop manuals for this car are a must…but first…give this a shot:

A problem this intermittent, normally happening on one side means there’s an easy diagnostic route: switch headlights (first) and ballasts (second, assuming there are two, so RTFM) between left and right headlights and see if the flickering pattern changes.  If so great…you probably found your offender.

If not…well…

I am somewhat confident that voltage irregularities in failing ballasts can cause this, but the bulbs themselves aren’t free from guilt.  I worry because you flick’d them off/on: hot re-strikes on many older HID bulbs is a big no-no.  BIIIIIG no-no, as I learned when converting the horrible headlights on my 1995 Mark VIII to the HIDs of the 1996 model: this shortens HID lifespan significantly.

If the HID bulbs are original, perhaps they need replacement after the hot re-striking and from age. Or maybe the ballasts are no longer up to par internally, perhaps a lighting specialist can load test them to verify. I doubt you have wiring problems, but who knows…I haven’t checked myself!

Who really knows how to arm-chair this query? What say you, Best and Brightest?

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

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Piston Slap: Going Ballast-ic on Bi-Xenons? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/piston-slap-going-ballast-ic-on-bi-xenons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/piston-slap-going-ballast-ic-on-bi-xenons/#comments Wed, 21 Mar 2012 11:35:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=435425   Confused in South Bend writes: Hi, Sajeev…. I am the owner of 2003 M-B C240 base, with the Bi-Xenon headlights. Recently, one of the headlights has developed an issue….in cold weather, it does not work. Went to my German car specialist, who wasn’t so special on this issue.  No problem, he said, replace the bulb.  […]

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Confused in South Bend writes:

Hi, Sajeev….

I am the owner of 2003 M-B C240 base, with the Bi-Xenon headlights. Recently, one of the headlights has developed an issue….in cold weather, it does not work.

Went to my German car specialist, who wasn’t so special on this issue.  No problem, he said, replace the bulb.  $160 later, still had the problem.  OK, negotiated for him to give me a credit on the next fix.

Researched on the web, purchased a used Ballast.  Mr. German car specialist looked at the part, scratched his head and said, “I don’t know what this part is.” Mercedes dealer says, spend about $900 for an entirely new headlight assembly.

I know that Mercedes engineers think money grows on trees….but $900 to fix a balky headlight?  Come on…

I want to get this fixed….my question, is replacing the ballast the way to go?  Or must I render to Stuttgart…..?

Sajeev answers:

When one HID headlight goes out, the ballast and/or the bulb is usually the problem.  And I would never just buy a new HID bulb just to take a stab at the problem, especially when we know the quality of electronic components in German vehicles of this vintage. Who knows, maybe there’s a lighting control module mounted elsewhere that we non-German-techie people don’t know about!  This is what specialty shops are supposed to do for us!

But, unfortunate diagnosis aside, I still think the smart money is on a bad ballast.

A visual inspection of the bulb is necessary, and the ballast is first tested by checking for power to the ballast itself.  If you got nothing there, bigger problems away from the headlight assembly are in your future. If not, get the ballast tested and repaired/replaced. I am by no means a lighting guru, but from what I see via Googling, you can’t test a ballast with your garden variety multimeter. A specific tool is needed.

You made the classic mistake: buying a part and hoping for the best.  Find someone who knows what they are doing to test and verify the actual problem. From the sound of it, you need a new German Specialist.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

 

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Piston Slap: Of HID-retrofit Hatred, Panther Love…PART II http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/piston-slap-of-hid-retrofit-hatred-panther-love-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/piston-slap-of-hid-retrofit-hatred-panther-love-part-ii/#comments Wed, 11 Jan 2012 22:02:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=425628 A TTAC lurker writes: Sajeev, I’m local to Houston and greatly look forward to my daily lurk on TTAC. I just had to respond affirmatively to the latest piston slap about HID’s and Panthers.   I own 2 CV’s, an unmolested 2003 Sport: …and a 2002 HPP with various mods/tune: you will note the projector […]

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A TTAC lurker writes:

Sajeev, I’m local to Houston and greatly look forward to my daily lurk on TTAC. I just had to respond affirmatively to the latest piston slap about HID’s and Panthers.
 
I own 2 CV’s, an unmolested 2003 Sport:
…and a 2002 HPP with various mods/tune: you will note the projector headlights in the ’02. I couldn’t agree more with the comments about the cheap HID kits and resulting glare/distraction to other drivers. In my case I went the route of a complete E55 projector retrofit and new wiring harness for a proper and adjustable installation. I’ve included a complete DIY I had posted on crownvic.net under my now-sold PI moniker Blue95 for your reading pleasure! IMO the only way to install HID lighting. Has been installed for about 2 years, no operating issues at all and no problems with state inspection.

Sajeev answers:

First off: you are a hero for preserving a Panther (or any mildly historically relevant car, for that matter) and for doing a really impressive job in your HID conversion on Panther #2.  That said, it may not be to the letter of the law as your new headlight bucket hasn’t been approved by the DOT, but whatever. Best and Brightest, that’s for you to decide.

Second off: I think I saw your 2003 Sport at IKEA about 3 weeks ago, maybe on a Saturday.  You had me drooling as I walked in.  Thanks for that, it sure made the notion of buying press-board minimalist furniture far more enticing.

Third off: upgrading to projector style headlight assemblies makes the HID-hatred far less terrible.  Combine that with an OEM-style bulb rating (no blue/yellow/radioactive rated bulbs) and you are within spitting distance of what Dearborn put in that non-Panther thing they call a Taurus.  It was mentioned in the previous comments by “turbosaab” to the same effect: you will get away with a good projector assembly, conservative HIDs, and quality wiring and relays/ballasts.  I encourage everyone to read the PDF in your letter to see the extent of work necessary to do a “proper” HID retrofit on a car without projectors from the factory.

And lastly, have a look at another excellent post from the last Piston Slap that deserves the oxygen of publicity:

In our first installment, TTAC Commentator jco wrote:

There’s just no way you’ll get acceptable beam pattern and anything less than atrocious amounts of glare if you wire up an HID kit in halogen-designed open reflector housings….so the housing was designed to shape that type of light. And yes, I see junky HID kits in reflector housings all the time. it just looks cheap and wrong. there are usually huge hot spots at the top of the housing, specifically throwing glare at others. i don’t think there are any OEMs using HID in a non-projector housing.

I installed a well-made (it came with a wire harness with in-line fuses and directly plugged into my headlight harness. it takes the stress of the increased startup power away from the factory wiring) HID retro kit in my truck. But my truck already has projector housings for the low beams. though the lenses are not optimized for that type of bulb, they work about 90% as well a true OEM setup. and i spent time adjusting the level on the beams. i have driven another car in front of my truck at night and it’s not glare-y at all.

some people will take an open reflector housing, pull it apart, and install OEM projector components. if you’re skilled with a dremel tool you can probably do that in just about anything. it’s still gonna look weird in there, but you’ll have a better performing light setup. that’s beyond the level of most people who just buy a kit from ebay and plug it in.

In summation: you want aftermarket HIDs?  Get projector housings, make them if necessary. Order HID bulbs that are on par with the brightness of OEM applications.   Put it together with quality wiring and electrics. Aim them correctly.


Easy, right? 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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