By on January 26, 2018

2017 Ford Edge, Image: Ford

Chris writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Love the column, it’s one of the things that keeps me coming to TTAC daily. I recently purchased a 2017 Ford Edge SEL AWD with the 2.0-liter Ecoboost. I love it so far but there is one glaring issue. The projector beam halogen headlights are simply awful, I can’t believe they left the factory this way. What are my options? Brighter Halogen bulbs, LED Bulbs or an aftermarket HID kit?

Help! I’m almost totally in the dark here!

Sajeev rambles:

Almost totally in the dark with Ford headlights? I remember that feeling, thanks to the tiny low beams with peeling chrome projectors on my 1995 Lincoln Mark VIII: useless after five-plus years of heat cycling. Luckily there was a factory HID upgrade (which I sorta wrote the book on)…

…and luckily for you there’s a man named Daniel Stern.

Daniel Stern actually answers:

The problem isn’t just in your head; take a look at how the 2017 Edge did in the IIHS headlamp tests. Don’t just skim, really spend some time studying the results for the optional HID and standard halogen lamps. They both got a poor rating, but for different reasons: the halogens gave inadequate seeing distance (and created some glare), while the HIDs gave excellent seeing distance — much more than what is considered optimal — but created a lot of glare.

It’s a little counterintuitive, but lamp aim — not bulb type or lamp technology — is by far the main thing that determines how well you can (or can’t) see at night. One thing about those IIHS headlamp ratings is that they don’t check or adjust the aim before testing.

They reason that most vehicle buyers never have their headlamp aim checked, and that’s correct, but it means the IIHS headlamp grades are a composite of how good or bad the lamps are, and how good or bad the aim is on the particular vehicle they test. Take a look at this analysis by one of America’s top vehicle lighting researchers. It’s dense and science-y, but the takeaway is that fully half the headlamps that got a “Marginal” or “Poor” grade would have got “Acceptable” or “Good” if they were aimed correctly.

So first, go find a dealer or shop that has and properly uses an optical headlamp aiming machine and see to it (babysit them as necessary) that the lamps are aimed carefully and correctly. Shining the lights on a wall is a very distant second preference; it really can’t get them closer than maybe the same state where the ballpark is located. Worse, many shops, and even dealers, just randomly crank the lamps up if the complaint is “I can’t see” or down if it’s “I get flashed.”

Read up on this here and see this informative VW bulletin on how to aim headlamps correctly. There are different brands of optical aiming machine, but they all work very similarly, and the same process is used on Fords, VWs, and every other brand of car; no other method is good enough. Most Fords have the VOR type of headlamp, though some have VOL, so whoever is doing the aim job needs to carefully check the headlamp lens markings and set the aiming machine accordingly.

After that’s done, think about the bulbs themselves. Two ideas (“LED bulbs” and “HID kits”) have to be taken out behind the barn and shot right offhand, because halogen lamps need to use halogen bulbs or they don’t, can’t, won’t work effectively, safely, or legally and can do extensive (and expensive) damage to the vehicle. See here for a lengthy dissertation on the how and why. The particulars are different for LED vs. HID, but the principles and problems are the same overall.

However, all halogen bulbs are not equal. Automakers put in long-life bulbs as original equipment, because Americans have this weird thing where they think the car’s a piece of junk if a consumable part needs to be replaced and the maker doesn’t give them a new one under warranty. (Amen to that. – SM)

But long-life bulbs put out dimmer, browner light and give poorer beam focus — that’s the tradeoff for the longer life. You can easily and inexpensively replace the long-life/low-luminance bulbs with high-luminance bulbs of the correct type to get brighter light and longer, wider beam coverage without endangering your car, your safety, or your warranty, but you have to shop carefully because the market’s full of bulbs claiming to be an upgrade when they’re actually a downgrade. A bulb promoted primarily with claims of producing “whiter” light, with blue tint on the whole surface of the glass, is a red flag; the blue-tinted glass blocks a significant amount of light that would reach the road without the tint. One major maker-marketer of that kind of bulb got swatted pretty hard some years ago for it, but there’s still a bunch of these blue-glass “whiter light” bulbs on the market.

The low beams on your car take an H11 bulb, and right now the best-performing H11 is this one from GE. Disregard the not-really-fraudulent-but-not-really-what-it-sounds-like use of the word “Xenon”; that’s a minor sin worth putting up with for this bulb’s better performance. It’s a certified, type-approved H11, so it’s legal and safe to use — nice to know in general, and it also means you can’t (by law!) be denied warranty coverage because of nonstandard bulbs. But do note the lifespan will be considerably shorter; you might have to change them in a year or even less, which is considered normal in Europe and Asia but can be a bit of a shock to Americans.

So try that first: a careful aim job and the best available bulbs. If the headlamps still aren’t good enough for your needs and wants, the only legitimate next step up is a big but costly one: swap in a set of the factory-optional HID headlamp assemblies. They look very similar to your present lamps, but despite common misunderstanding, the projectors they contain have completely different optics versus your halogen projectors; it’s NOT just a different bulb holder. Think of it like two pairs of the same kind of eyeglasses: they look alike, but yours have to have different lenses than mine if we’re both to be able to see.

The HID headlamps give a much wider, longer-reaching beam. They’ll be expensive from a dealership, but if you want to leave not even a tiny thread for future warranty claim denials to tug at, taking the car to the dealership and saying, “Install the factory optional HID headlamps” will achieve that.

The other option is to find a like-new perfect set of used ones via www.hollanderparts.com or www.car-part.com . Still genuine factory parts, much less expensive, and with friendly smiles from you and your dealer service writer you might still get ’em installed by a Ford technician. Note that the vehicle’s body computer may have to be flashed to recognize and correctly operate the HID lamps, and they’ll have to be aimed carefully as described above.

[Image: Ford]

Send your queries to [email protected]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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

63 Comments on “Piston Slap: On the Edge From Poor Headlight Aim?...”


  • avatar
    arach

    Poor Headlight problems?

    The best solution I found is to… drive a car from the 70s and 80s. You’ll wonder why the headlights on that vehicle don’t even work, at which point you’ll get out of your car, get in your ford edge, be glad the headlights at least work, and then look over at the 70s car that you left with the pull out headlight nob on, and you’ll wonder what those little shiny bulbs are in the corners of the front.

    On our Porsche, the 50W lights almost feel DANGEROUS, so we upgraded to 100W. it works much better for us, but 100W bulbs are illegal and although we did have them adjusted not to blind people, they probably blind people.

    • 0 avatar
      Eggshen2013

      My 1965 6 volt VW bug had what they called headlights but they were just a little brighter then a candle.
      They gave off a sick yellow glow that was better then nothing.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      No, wrong. The solution on a 70s car is to install Hella non-sealed-beam headlights, properly aimed, with the correct bulbs and a relay power harness.

      My 1971 LTD was set up this way, with separate high beam lamps equipped with 100W bulbs. It put 335W of lighting power out when all four headlamps were on (high beams).

      It would put many new car headlamps to shame, while still appearing stock.

      I saw a new Subaru WRX on the road the other day, with some kind of sickly blue lamps that barely put out any light at all on the road (they may have had aftermarket HID or LED inserts installed for all I know). #headlampfail

      • 0 avatar

        hear, hear. A set of H4 lights for everyone !!! I had cibie Z beams on a VW. 55 watt lows, with 100 watt highs on relays…four lights.

        A jeep had the big 7 inch squares, with 55/60 watt bulb, and a set of 100 w driving lights with relays.

        My current cars have factory HID, which are pretty good, but the non HID versions are lacking. I think car makers now position headlamps like car radios…the base one is meh, you REALLY want the upgrade…..

  • avatar
    S197GT

    posted this many times. i have re-aimed the headlights of almost every car i have owned. huge difference.

    i generally need to raise them; i think the factory goes safe and points them down so people don’t get flashed. i don’t have any fancy equipment, i just adjust them and go for a drive and re-adjust and go for a drive. it is amazing how much i have had to raise them and i never get flashed by on-coming traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Projector beams should have a cut off so there may be no alternative but to go LED for $30.00 and blast oncoming cars with a blueish hue or $100.00 HID.

      • 0 avatar
        S197GT

        sorry if i am misunderstanding, but projector headlights can still be adjusted, at least from ford, vertically.

        so my point is, they are probably just pointed down too much and raising them will illuminate more of the road ahead and around.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          High-mounted lights like we see at the hood level of most vehicles today, especially on larger SUVs and pickup trucks, have to have those beams aimed low to reduce blinding glare on oncoming cars. Projector beams especially are notoriously bad for that but that also means that their cut-off has to be kept shorter than a car with their lights down low. For all that this past generation of Jeep Cherokee looked weird with its eyebrow DRL/turn signals and bumper-level headlamps (and fogs below that,) the lights were highly effective for actually illuminating the road. The newer Cherokee is adopting the hood-level lights only because people thought their design looked odd. Those ‘eyebrow’ lights are not going to help their lighting ratings one bit.

  • avatar
    kkop

    =because Americans have this weird thing where they think the car’s a piece of junk if a consumable part needs to be replaced and the maker doesn’t give them a new one under warranty=

    The real problem is that changing bulbs is too hard: to change them on my truck I need to remove the grille, and things aren’t much better on other vehicles. Changing a bulb is now officially (according to owner’s manual) a ‘see your dealer’ item. This drives up the cost to ridiculous levels.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I gripe about it for the reason you mention.

      Having to pull off the front freaking BUMPER to replace a bulb? is stupid pathetic.

      I’ll replace them yearly on my cayenne if I need to. It has a twist nob that releases the entire headlight unit. takes less than 2-3 minutes to replace both headlights.

      On my Cadillac? try about 4 hours.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “On my Cadillac? try about 4 hours.”

        Just think, every time you encounter something like that in autodom, there was probably a development group with a few engineers and bean counters who thought they were complete geniuses for coming up with that design. Those people should be punished by having to do the job (change the bulb in your Caddy in this case) outside on a cold, wet night.

        • 0 avatar
          joeaverage

          Nah – one small team designed the headlight housing and bulb setup. Another made it fit the car.

          Nobody checked how difficult it would be to change the light bulb after the car was assembled.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        arach beat me to it
        Almost everything Porsche is time consuming; lights aren’t. Older Caymans have a t-handle key that undocks the entire light assembly housing so you could, if necessary, take it somewhere comfortable to fiddle with whatever needs fiddling. Adjusting screws easily accessible when housing is taken out.

      • 0 avatar
        hamish42

        Honda Fit? 3 minutes to change the bulbs. 1.5 hours shop time to take the car apart and put it back together. The lights? Still crap. I use dark country roads a lot at night. I’m taking my life in my hands with the Fit.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        The “official” method to replace headlight bulbs on my Pontiac G6 is to put the car up on a lift, remove the inner fenderwell, etc., etc…

        On YouTube, I saw a method where you unbutton the bumper & grille fascia, remove the light modules from the front, and replace bulbs.

        Took me no more than 20 minutes for both bulbs. (I replace them in pairs)

        • 0 avatar
          trout

          I have a G6 and I know exactly the video you are talking about. You kind of bend the fascia a little bit and you can pull out the entire module. I have done it several times.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      When I was last car shopping, I stopped at the local Nissan dealer to check out an Altima as there was a ton of money on the hood at that time. One of the first things I check is how to replace the headlights. The Altima had no visible means to access the head light enclosures from the engine bay. When I asked the salesman about changing bulbs, he sheepishly muttered something about the techs could do it quickly by removing the bumper.
      Epic fail, no sale.

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        Drive that service business!

        It is crazy. Makes me miss the 90s hondas.

        “Engine replacement? Oh- pull those 2 plastic push tabs and lift the Vtec I4 out, then drop the new one in and replace those push tabs. takes about 12 minutes”

        (yes its an exaggeration)

        • 0 avatar
          joeaverage

          Its an exaggeration indeed – am finishing up an engine swap in a ’99 CRV AWD 5MT. Once the engine was in it became clear that the intake manifold was different – the US spec version had a couple extra vacuum ports and tapped holes for emissions controls.

          That was a fun couple of hours. Teenage son could turn the socket wrench below but I had to guide the socket to the nut and keep it in place.

          MUCH easier had we caught this difference on the engine stand.

          That said the rest of the maintenance items have been easypeasy to access.

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        I think turning down the car over the headlight bulb access might be a bit of an over-reaction. They will probably need replacement, what, every 4 years on average?

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Maybe, maybe not. Ridiculous headlight replacement could be a symptom of the rest of the car’s design and, by extension, the manufacturer’s attitude towards its customers.

          I’d turn down a new car if the oil change reminder light needs a special tool to reset it (instead of some combination of holding down a button while turning the key or whatever).

          Some customers are happy and content to let the dealer handle 100% of the maintenance for their appliance. That’s their business and there is nothing wrong with that, IMHO. But it’s not how I handle my own car ownership.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          “They will probably need replacement, what, every 4 years on average?”

          Just have them do it as they’re replacing the CVT, they’re on about the same interval.

          Turning that car down was the right decision, if he had a strange reason for doing so.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Really depends on how hard it is to take the bumper off, doesn’t it? On my ’02 Golf, you had to take the bumper off, but it was all of five torx screws and took about 5 minutes. Can’t get too excited about that.

  • avatar
    TR4

    Until about five years ago I mostly drove vehicles with 7″ incandescent sealed beams, the design of which dates back to 1940. The headlights of every modern vehicle I have driven are much better than the old sealed beams. Quit whining!

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      I have sealed beams on my 75 Mercedes 450SL. To me, they are just as good as the projector beams on my 14 Accord and better than the 97 Crown Vic and 99 Honda Oddy.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Wanna know a great trick that any driver can do to greatly improve their headlight performance?

    Turn down your dash lights to something other than max bright!!

    It seems 90% of drivers are unaware of this “life hack.”

    I see a lot of other drivers on the road whose faces are illuminated in the bright glow of their gauges, like Homer Simpson working at the Springfield nuclear plant. Newsflash, folks, you’re ruining your own night vision. I strongly suspect that this is partly to blame for the knucklehead chronic high beam drivers- that they truly can’t see very far ahead without their high beams because there are bright gauges two feet from their faces.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I hate how bright mine are, but here’s the kicker… they are digital and they RESET every time I turn on the car.

      That means I can make them dimmer, but once I restart my car *BOOM* they are bright again. Really makes me miss rotary nobs.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      My mother’s Honda Civic had one of those super bright IPs. It was like a searchlight in your face. It was like that during the day, too, but less noticeable then. At that point in her life, she wasn’t driving too often at night, but I’m sure it would have been a problem for her.

    • 0 avatar
      Sceptic

      Having clean glass also helps. Makes a lot of difference with reflections at night. How often does average driver clean the inside of the windshield?

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Amen! Speaking of clean interiors and dirty windows, and now that I think of it, I wonder how many of the high beam forgetters are also smokers? (I mean compared to the average population.)

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      I run my 2006 Mustang GT’s dash in red lighting at night. It’s a huge help. The ‘fog’ lights are pretty good at lighting low and wide, too. My F-150 and CTS-V also have decent ‘fog’ lights but I have to run the dash lights as low as possible on the way to work in the morning. Every car should have a red light dash option, as that light doesn’t affect night vision.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Worst offender for this, IMHO, are the current Infiniti Q sedans. I could not for the life of me figure out how to turn OFF the *2* stupid touchscreens in the center console, and they do NOT dim enough for my liking. You can make them not display anything, but the backlights stays on way too bright.

      Saab had the right idea with “Night Panel”. My Golf is great for this too – the color scheme of the panel is dark to start with, and you can dim it right down or shut it off completely.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        It’s aggravating that NHTSA lets glaring* examples like that be out on the market. It seems to me that “blinding your own driver” is pretty basic auto safety stuff. Dumb on Nissan for building the car like that.

        * no pun intended, but enjoy the pun

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        I’ve got Uconnect 8.4 in my Charger, if you left that thing on 100% brightness it would be really hard to drive at night. Fortunately it dims nicely, even on the auto setting. The new Ram has a 12.5 inch screen, that’s like having a laptop in your dash.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      EXACTLY. I do this anytime we’re traveling after dark. Also: makes warning lights stand out more.

      An alternative solution for bright dash screens: tinted static cling window tint.

  • avatar
    rcx141

    Am I the only one who thinks that car headlights have gotten worse? Back in the early 90s I drove a Rover 800 (Sterling for Americans). Put the main beams on and it lit the road up for a half mile ahead!

    And yet all the cars I have had recently – the main beams are not much better than the dipped headlights on the Rover, and the dipped headlights feel more like side lights.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Me too. Oddly, the best car headlights I’ve experienced were on my Yugo (Fiat 127). I think it was a combination of the seating height and the headlights themselves (7” rectangles). The low beams (dipped) were perfect for around town and the high beams (mains) were great for country driving at night.

      Most newer cars headlights seem to blind me most of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I also wonder if headlights are getting worse, though it’s more likely that my eyes are getting worse :-(

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        They are getting worse.

        First, there’s Peak Jacking – the ride height of the Bro-Dozers is getting ridiculous. Then there’s the projection headlamps, lifted to where they’re in line with a normal car’s top lip of the backlight. Even properly dimmed, they blind those lessers who have to drive CARS, not diesel coal-rolling Bro-Dozers like the Smart Set.

        Then there’s the LED inserts – which by design, because the centerpoint of light emission is NOT the same as an H4 bulb – by design, those misaim. They tend to diffuse light much more. Doesn’t matter – the Bro-Dozer crowd, and others, just love them. They’re more intense (and blinding) ergo, they’re “better.”

        Finally, in my town of California expats…there’s the issue of, just leaving the hi-beams on all the time. BLINDINGLY intense. And our PC cops don’t enforce lighting regulations. So they blind everything around. I have to hod a hand to my face, as if I were driving into the setting sun…

        …but that’s how it is when you live in Idiocracy and the idiots are in charge.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          I just high beam them back. I keep hoping I’ll get to see one of them end up in a fiery wreck in my mirror but no, they always just keep going.

        • 0 avatar
          joeaverage

          I flashed my headlights at a bro-dozer the other night in a parking lot.

          I was in an SUV – so not exactly sitting down low. Dude flipped out and wanted to fight about it. His low beams were set to blind everyone. I just rolled on past. I wonder if he ever understood.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Considering the brightness of projector beams in particular, aim is by far the most critical factor. Sitting behind them in a Fiat 500, I was amazed at how far down the road you could see but the bottom edge of the shutter made a very distinct cut-off point about 500-600 feet in front of the car (estimated by eye, since I didn’t actually measure it.) Projector beams work great on flat country but with any kind of hills, their disadvantage becomes clear… your viewing range shortens until the car itself is on the grade and cresting even the most minor rise means those intense lights flash oncoming drivers, whether you want to or not. On a car with lamps as low as the 500, this isn’t too much of an issue but as they rise with larger-model cars and trucks, it means it’s harder to keep from blinding oncoming drivers and still have reasonable range.

    But there’s more to it than just up and down; most cars are aimed to focus towards the shoulder stripe of the road to avoid blinding oncoming cars, usually to merge at about the same distance where the light would fade in intensity or get cut off by the shutter. Switching to high beam would tend to keep this aim but send more light ahead, either through raising the shutter or using a second filament or sometimes entire lamp, itself needing to be aimed.

    The problem with most newer car lighting is that the lamps, even the projectors, are set so far behind their protective lenses that the car’s own body and light fixture prevent any of that light from reaching the ground in front of the car where it’s most needed. This is one reason why fog/driving lamps have become so popular. Large SUVs and pickups are especially bad at sending more light down the highway than putting it right in front of the vehicle but almost any vehicle, car or truck, that puts their lights so far behind the lens/weather shield has this issue.

    Of course, if that weather guard is hazed or scratched due to age and abrasion, you’re not going to get much light down the road anyway. You may not notice it from the driver’s seat if you’ve been driving the same car all that time but if you buy used, the difference can be obvious. Make sure that ‘lens’ is clean and clear. If it isn’t, polish it or better yet, replace it with a new one. It may in some cases be an expensive fix but you will appreciate being able to see the road at night.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’ve mentioned this before. The absolute worst headlights I’ve ever had were the ones in my ’97 Audi A6. It was the last year of the old 100 body style but in 1995 they renamed it A6 and made projector headlights for it.

    Driving with any sort of ambient light it was bad, but if there was any moisture on the road they might as well hot have been on. The only thing they did was provide other traffic with evidence I was there.

    Driving in a snow storm one night made me appreciate the Quattro AWD system but I still had to drive at 5 mph because I could only see about 10′ in front of me.

    The best I’ve had so far were in the IS300 I gave my mom. They are, pardon the pun, brilliant.

  • avatar
    cheezman88

    The best thing you can do with halogen headlights using H11 bulbs, is to buy H9 bulbs (which are typically used for the high beams, with approximately 2100 lumens, versus the H11’s 1450 lumens) and then modify them to fit the headlight housing’s H11 socket. Get a small filer and strong plier cutter to do the job. It’s easy; you just need to file a small plastic tab down inside the bulb’s socket, and clip off like 2mm of metal on the bulb locking mechanism. I’ve done this for years on multiple cars and never had any issues. The H9 bulbs run at 65W, versus the usual 55W. Some will say it may melt your OEM wires, but I think most cars have enough safety factor built in that it will not be an issue.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I am generally a grumpy old man concerning frontal vehicular lighting these days.
    Just my opinions here:

    White and bluer modern shades kill night vision more effectively than the old incandescent (“browner” color as mentioned in the article) lights back in the the day. Longer wavelength lower energy red light does not kill night vision like the higher energy shorter wavelength of the blue end of the visual spectrum.

    This is one area where tightly defined and tightly enforced regulation is called for. The car companies could give a rat’s posterior about how their lighting works for the drivers behind the wheel, and those drivers who are approaching on a two lane road. Here I suspect Europe is far ahead of us with auto leveling lights and other standards, but my recollection short on the details

    In their profit driven marketing motives, automakers are piling ever more lights, and harsh ones, on their vehicles.

    On the non manufacturer front, yahoos and their add on lights running around blinding everyone else with their light bars and off road lights need to be ticketed. There is no excuse.

    It is like some sort of arms war, we are stuck in a loop over ever brighter lights to overcome the blindness caused by other’s drivers ever brighter lights. Certainly there is a scientifically determinable optimum color, brightness level, and pattern for a headlight that optimises night driving for everybody, and we are waaaaay off from what that optimum is.

  • avatar
    volvo

    Excellent discussion of headlamps. Type, bulbs and aiming.

    I am bothered however by the following from the article

    ” You can easily and inexpensively replace the long-life/low-luminance bulbs with high-luminance bulbs of the correct type to get brighter light and longer, wider beam coverage without endangering your car, your safety, or your warranty,”

    What about the visibility and safety of oncoming drivers. I think the only modification that should be allowed to OEM headlights is aiming. Let the governments and automakers wrangle over design issues.

    I am old enough to remember that in the 1960 in pre CARB Californian (at least in Yolo county) every two years you had your vehicle inspected by the CHP for tires, wipers, etc. One of the things they checked was headlight aim. They had a device they held up to the headlight to do that.

    While I think we live in a horribly over-regulated society I would happily pay an additional $20 as part of the smog check if it included headlight aim and lumen testing which would need to be correct in order to pass.

    While on the rant I also would like to have rules where all headlights were mounted at some maximum height regardless of vehicle. Having pickup headlights 12-18 inches higher than sedan lights is purely aesthetic not functional.

    I am glad that headlight glare is part of IIHS testing. Perhaps that will push manufactures towards reducing it. And why should the IIHS aim the headlights prior to testing? Just test the vehicle the way it is delivered to the consumer.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Why stop at aim and lumen testing? Might as well have a full safety inspection.

      Safety inspections sound appealing and the intent is noble, but in my experience in MA, they seem like a waste of everyone’s time and money. You can have a rusted-out car with borderline tires, crumbling bushings, and all four shocks leaking and pass, or a car in generally good mechanical shape can fail because the parking brake isn’t strong enough.

      I would be on board with safety inspections that focus on big things that matter and enforce them, but I have low confidence things would work out that way.

      Agreed on headlight height though. With the size of modern pickups, it’s time to move those closer to the bumper like what you see on heavy trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        And that’s probably the difference between lighting compliance and “safety inspections.”

        Measuring tread depth or brake-lining wear makes little immediate difference to traffic around the vehicle of interest. But checking for illegal/non-compliant lighting…is, literally, life and death, after dark.

        I’d go further than “inspections.” CONFISCATE these POS’s. You blind traffic, to show you’re too kewel for skeul…you lose your Bro-Dozer.

        END OF DISCUSSION.

        I have HAD it. I frequently have to be out after dark, and anymore, I dread it when the traffic is heavy.

  • avatar

    My Outback’s lamps are aimed wrong, and I’ve tried fixing it to no avail. It’s like there’s some weird cutoff point at the top (HiD, by the way). Following 10 feet behind any vehicle, and the back of it isn’t even lit up.

    Simply cannot tell whether they need to go up or down or if I’ve got other issues.

  • avatar
    incautious

    The easiest and cheapest solution, buy a set of Hella H83357011 bulbs from Amazon. These are H9 bulbs and need a small modification(google h9 to h11 conversion) to fit the H11 socket. Because these are coated, 65W watt bulbs they will be brighter and whiter than any stock H11. Trust me on this, it will make a big difference.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    What about LEDs? My Audi S3 has them and they seem fine to me. And why no mention of vehicle height? Trucks are often raised beyond normal (already higher than any car with bigger tires or jacked with suspension mods. The beasts are blinding even with low beams.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I had really good luck with an HID kit from Retrofit Source,which sells a high quality kit which was almost plug and play (had to drill holes in bulb cover). This was for previous 08 ML350. I had a G37 which had excellent HIDs and really searched hard for an ML with Lighting Package, but most leasees were willing to pay for the 2,000$ option.
    I’d go this route again, especially if you have projectors like the poster does in his Ford, if you don’t have a projector already you’ll really annoy other drivers.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    Largely good advice. I spent years working at the dealership level with Acura and BMW, and can’t remember seeing a PDI tech check headlight aim as part of his inspection. The optional xenon headlights of my former E46 BMW coupe were adjusted correctly and thus worked very well for me. The highbeams on my two-month-old 2018 RAV4 hit mid-tree when on, and that can’t be correct. The lowbeams seem properly aimed.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    This is good info. I had no idea about optical aiming machines. I thought everything was manually aimed using a target on a wall (2″ drop at 25′ if I remember right).

    How are auto-leveling/turning lights aimed? Does adjusting the aim change the reference point, or is the car going to aim them for you using the control arm/steering angle sensors no matter what you do?

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I’m normally all for optimal performing consumables even if it means replacing them more often, but yearly replacements on a car where you can’t easily access the bulbs is bullshit.

    Most owners are not removing their grills, headlight assemblies, or wheel liners to change a bulb.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “Most owners are not removing their grills, headlight assemblies, or wheel liners to change a bulb.”

      —- Which is why so many OEMs have made it so difficult for owners to do so; dealerships complained they weren’t getting enough service clientele because the cars were becoming more reliable and owners were either performing their own light maintenance or taking it to a third-party shop that could do it cheaper.

  • avatar
    Chris

    OP Here!

    Thanks for the excellent info Sajeev and thanks everyone else for the thoughtful discussion.

    I’m going to start by asking the dealer to check the aim when I’m next in for service. If that doesn’t help I’ll be ordering a set of GE Nighthawks. Looks like a pretty simple job to change the bulbs.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Excellent piece Mr. Stern.

    I do wonder though, how difficult is it to service the light bulbs on this model?

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • dwford: I was told when I sold cars that the people who paid the most were the happiest, while the people who...
  • ollicat: You guys are right. This is 125 miles under ideal conditions. Take your motorhome out west and climb from...
  • EBFlex: This is the answer to the question “How can we simultaneously build the worlds most useless vehicle,...
  • Corey Lewis: Agreed.
  • EBFlex: “@Dahlquist: No, it’s more than just sniffles. Maybe you should read about it.” @Nelson...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber