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Headlight Upgrade Options

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One of the biggest issues I've noticed with my 2002 so far, is the stock headlights may as well be non-existent. The 0.5 candlepower they put out is not sufficient, and I'd really like to upgrade. I've done some digging through the forums, but rather than digging up an old thread, I thought I'd start a fresh one to collect some information for others. I'd like to move to a much brighter, modern headlight setup, ideally without losing the period correct looks. It seems like my best option is a set of Hella H4s, however I wanted to explore the HID option as well. 

 

Has anyone installed HIDs with a proper projector housing that still looks OEM(ish)? Ideally with a glass lens, however I imagine that there would be refraction issues with this. 

 

I rather like the light output of products like the Dapper headlights, and I'm tempted to go that route. However they are noticeably different from stock, and I worry about changing the look of the car too much there. 

 

Thanks in advance.

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I have no HID experience with our old cars.  The non-halogen sealed beams of the 80s gave rise to the halogen sealed beams (so much better!), then on to the Cibie Z beams (OMG - I can see road markers miles away!).  I believe Cibie has a better lens & beam pattern than Hella or Bosch, Z beam or otherwise.  Many here are happy with the India-sourced units.  Keep us informed about your quest!

http://classicgarage.com/7rounh4headb.html

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I recommend installing separate relays with their own +12 feed.

Good wires, good grounds, real voltage will give you better lighting off the bat. Then relays and H4s. 

 

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I’m running Koito H4’s wired through relays bought from Daniel Stern.  HUGE DIFFERENCE in performance over the stock setup.  

 

Below is an extremely detailed excerpt from an email correspondence I had with Daniel.  I think you’ll find it helpful.  

 

“Put in a set of Koito replaceable-bulb headlamp units, $228/pair. They are the best-focused, best-built, most efficient lamps of their type to fit your car. Commonly-available Hella units are well made of quality materials, too, but are markedly less efficient (much less light on the road, much shorter seeing distance).

There's a great deal of junk on the market, too. Delta, Roundeyes, Adjure, Eagle Eye, Eaglite, Maxtel, Eurolite, Neolite, Autopal, Rampage, and dozens of other off-brand units mostly from China or India. Avoid all of it. Also take cautious note that many vendors are offering Bosch 7" H4 headlamps at blowout prices of about fifty bucks a pair. Nice price, but they are surplus motorcycle headlamps, and though they'll physically fit, they aren't car/truck headlamps and their performance isn't adequate for car/truck service.

If the Koitos are out of the budget, the next-best choice would be the Cibies, $158/pair.

_Wiring and bulbs:_

You will definitely want to put in headlamp relays. This can be achieved with relay
kit RIK-2, $49.

The RIK is not a harness, but a _parts kit_ containing all relays, brackets, terminal blocks, terminals, plugs, sockets, fuses and fuseholders. You supply your own wire (or your mechanic does) and use the parts from the kit to build
up your own wiring harness to take the workload off the switches and bring full power to the lamps. The concept is explained at http://www.danielsternlighting.com/tech/relays/relays.html .
Parts are specially made premium-grade items (e.g. ceramic headlamp sockets) that accept large-gauge wire; this is not the "consumer grade" junk you can find at the parts store.

Or, I can have my harness builder custom build you a ready-to-install harness assembly using the same components. Cost for this option is $161.49 (including parts and labour; you pick _either_ one relay kit _or_ one custom-built
harness to do the entire job. It costs more than the $40 to $90 cheapy prefab harnesses because it is not a cheapy prefab harness). Installation is simple: you run the marked wires to battery positive and to battery negative, snap the
harness plug onto one of the vehicle's original headlamp sockets, snap the harness sockets onto the headlamps, and secure the cable runs and relays neatly out of harm's way.

The in-car switches continue working normally, and you will not need to cut or otherwise disturb any of the vehicle's original wires.

The optimal bulbs are precision-focus, ultra high luminance 60/55w items, $43.18/pair. It's tempting to grab for big wattage numbers (100/90, etc) but please see bulb test results posted by my colleague Virgil at http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?392498-Interesting-headlight-bulb-test-results .

Any of the "extra white" bulbs is a nonstarter as far as seeing better is concerned. It doesn't matter whose name is on the bulb. Sylvania SilverStar/Ultra, PIAA, Hoen,BlueVision, CrystalVision, TruView, Nokya, Polarg, etc. -- all the same scam. They have a completely blue-tinted glass, which blocks an unreasonable amount of the light that would reach the road if the glass weren't tinted, so they produce _less_ light than ordinary bulbs (not more), and in order to get legal-minimum levels of light through the blue glass the filament has to be driven very hard so these bulbs have a very short lifespan. And there's nothing about the tinted light that improves your ability to see -- the opposite is true, in fact. All it does is change the beam color slightly, to zero real benefit.

Note Sylvania recently got spanked to the tune of thirty million dollars(!) for the false "upgrade" claims they make for their Silver Star bulbs: http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?388252-Sylvania-taken-to-task-for-their-false-claims-of-headlamp-superiority  - and theirs were the least-bad of an overall bad product category.


_HID ("Xenon") headlamps:_

"HID kits" in halogen-bulb headlamps (any kit, any headlamp,
any vehicle) do not work safely or effectively, which is why
they are illegal whether you buy the lamps and the kit together in one go or separately. See
http://www.danielsternlighting.com/tech/bulbs/Hid/conversions/conversions.html .

There is only and exactly _one_ legitimate, legal, well-made, safe, effective HID headlamp to fit your vehicle. It is built around the Hella high/low-beam projector used in recent Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi models. Beam performance is _vastly_ superior to what can be obtained with halogen lamps of any description, brand, or wattage. Power consumption is less than that of your original headlamps, so if your stock headlamp wiring is in good condition, no upgrade is required. Bulb lifespan is about 10 years, and replacement bulbs are readily available (and will be for many years). The toughened hard glass lenses are almost impossible to break, and they run warm enough to shed winter slush, snow, and ice. Beam coverage is very broad, long-reaching, even, and highly precise, with excellent control of glare and stray light; when these lamps are aimed correctly they are inoffensive to other road users on low beam and create no backscatter in bad weather. They have the European-type "Z-beam" sharp, stairstep-shaped cutoff on low beam, and they are fully roads-legal throughout the USA, Canada, and Mexico. Price for the pair is $1523.62 (all inclusive: lamps, bulbs, ballasts, harness, everything). That price is with paintable black bezels; if you wish chrome bezels, they're +$100/pair. These are, by a very large margin, the best-performing headlamps available to fit your vehicle, though the best of the LED headlamps described below are beginning to whittle away at the performance gap. Attached photos show them in
a Porsche, with chrome bezels.

_LED headlamps:_

The "LED bulb conversions" now flooding the market are not a legitimate, safe, effective, or legal product. The failure is at the concept level, not the implementation level. These are a fraudulent scam. 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.

But there's a number of engineered LED headlamps on the market -- they range in quality and performance from pathetic to excellent. The 701C from Peterson (in Peterson or Sylvania Zevo packaging -- same lamp) is good, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OYR8MVO/?tag=2402507-20 . The Truck-Lite unit is good, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007K8AA7I/?tag=2402507-20 By a big, big margin the king daddy of them all is the 8700 Evolution 2 from JW Speaker: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GOYN3Y6/?tag=2402507-20 (chrome) or http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GMRM3KA/?tag=2402507-20 (black).

With the BiXenon HID or any of the LED headlamps, you will not need relays or a wiring harness, because these lamps take less power than the original sealed beams so the original circuitry is plenty adequate. The LED headlamps linked here are not an advisable choice if you do a lot of wintertime driving with heavy snow and slush; the LED headlamp lenses run cold so snow and ice can build up on them instead of melting off like they do from a warm halogen or BiXenon lamp lens. There is a heated-lens versions of the Truck-Lite lamp ( https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0193VFCO0/?tag=2402507-20 ) and there'll soon be a heated-lens version of the JW Speaker lamp, as well.




_Lamp aim:_

You will need to see to it that the new headlamps are aimed
carefully and correctly per the "VOL" instructions at
http://www.danielsternlighting.com/tech/aim/aim.html (unless you put in the Peterson or Truck-Lite LED headlamps, in which case the correct setting is "VOR").  Even if the stock lamps were correctly aimed, you must check and
adjust the new lamps.

Whichever headlamp option you choose, result of this upgrade will be modern-car levels of headlamp performance: broad, even, bright white (NOT brown, NOT blue) well-focused low and high beams instead of the dim, narrow tunnel of brownish light from the original sealed beams. Also total elimination of backscatter in rain/fog/snow. Modern cars have a range of headlamp performance; your headlamp selection determines how high in that range your upgrade will get you.”
 

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Daniel Stern is extremely knowledgeable and takes the time to answer queries. His recommendations will see you right. 

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While you are communicating with Daniel, ask about the Hella model 38 3rd brake light. It is currently on backorder - need one for my 69.  It fits perfectly in the lower center of the 2002 sedan rear window.

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On a whim, for $90, and because I already have H4 buckets, https://www.superbrightleds.com/moreinfo/h-series-bulbs/led-headlight-kit-h4-led-headlight-conversion-kit-with-aluminum-finned-heat-sinks/4314/9633/

 

I cannot believe how bright they are.  Plenty focused with good cutoff on low, great on high.

 

I did the headlights, turn signals, tail lights and brake lights.  Noticeable decrease in voltage drop on the gauge, way more light everywhere.

 

There are some LED bulbs in the wagon I bought a while ago.  They're crap.  The SuperBrightLeds leds are very worth it.  Very.  It's like an old Maglite compared to a new 1100 lumen light.

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I got great relay wiring done to match our cars from Susquehanna aka 

http://www.rallylights.com

They will make it single or dual fused per your request and the grounds are back to the battery unlike some that make you ground near the lamps. 

Good hella kits as well

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I know those JW Speaker lights are the bomb but I just can’t stand the look of all these weird new headlights in our cars. I got all my stuff from Danial Stern. Ceibe lights, his bulbs and relays. I even got another two of his relays since they can be ganged together and they run my MegaSquirt and radiator fan. 

 

John

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Thanks all, that's a ton of information to work with! Looks like Daniel Stern's lights/bulbs/relays package is the way to go. I'll be placing an order here soon, and I'll post some before/after photos and exactly what I ordered. Ultimately, as much as I like the idea of modern HID performance, I don't want to sacrifice the appearance on the front end. 

 

If anyone has installed HIDs and still wants to chime in, I think this could be a good resource for other people looking for this information. 

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