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Headlights and Auto Lighting Systems

Headlight repairs

(This section courtesy of Gene Poon)

Several comments have been made about the 93-97 LH car headlamps, specifically about the threaded inserts in the plastic housings seizing up, so that they strip out of the plastic when the mounting screws are removed to change a bulb. A good, easy solution, if yours have not yet done this, is to apply a thin coating of silicone grease (dielectric grease is fine, I use GC Electronics Z-5 Silicone grease) on the threads of both the screws and the threaded inserts; and when replacing the screws, tighten them snugly but not very tightly...and then BACK OFF 1/6 turn (one spline on these Torx screws). The headlights won't be loose, and this will greatly reduce the risk of the threads seizing up.

If you find cracks in the plastic, a good product for fixing them is Rawn "Plasti-Pair" (Rawn Co., Spooner, WI 54801, 800-826-6791). I buy it at my local electronics parts house. The solvent in this two-part acrylic repair material dissolves the surface of the plastic of the headlight, so the repair actually fuses to the plastic once it hardens. I had a headlight with the top/center screw boss cracked off; by mixing Plasti-Pair and letting it set til it was like a pliable putty, I was easily able to shape the material to restore the screw boss.

Other headlight notes

If you use the large rectangular lights, as found on K-cars and Omnis, or the "larger than teensy" quad rectangulars as found on Lancers, early Daytonas, New Yorkers, etc, then you can upgrade to either HO sealed beams or E-code lights. If you have a Daytona with pop-up lights, or a P-body with two small rectangulars, there's no HO sealed beam upgrade, but you may be able to use an E-code, since I think the 4666 lamp can be replaced by an E-code small rectangular. If you have anything with aerodynamic headlights, you're outta luck.

Installation hassles or not

1) The HO sealed beams--I've seen GE and Phillips; Motomaster is made by GE--have a 55W low beam which is better-shaped than the standard halogen sealed beam (35W low beam). NOTE: you want an HO lamp where the filaments run from the back of the light to the front, not sideways across the lamp. I wouldn't buy any sealed beam that had filaments run across the lamp, parallel to the lens, "Xtravision" or not. You can see the filament if you look through the lens....

Obviously, since these are standard, DOT-approved sealed beams, the plug right in, pass any inspection, and also low beams last a lot longer than standard halogens (700 hours vs 320, according to GE).

2) "E-codes" come in a variety of manufacturers, and can replace the large rectangulars, or either pair of the four-lamp system (should probably start with low beams; the four-lamp high beam is not too bad in stock form).

Installing E-codes may require some work on your part with the headlight buckets and connectors. All E-code lamps come with a big rubber seal on the back. On my K-car, it didn't fit the half-moon opening for the wiring. I had to cut open the bucket to make it fit. James Corrigan didn't do any cutting, he just "squeezed real hard" to get his Bosch to fit in a K-car. I'd want to see the Bosch seal, and how it's fitted to James' car, before commenting any further. I don't know what the buckets look like for quad-lamp cars, so you'd have to check ahead.

Also, you may or may not require an wiring adapter: the lugs on the E-codes don't stick out very far; stock headlight connectors may not want to stay on (!). Some kits come with wiring adapters; some (like Bosch) may not.

Standard E-code bulbs are 55W low, 60W high, for *both* large and small rectangular (with sealed beams, the high beam on the quad rectangular high/low is not very strong, HO or not). 55/100W and 80/100W are easily available, and there are higher-power bulbs as well. You can install PIAA Superwhites or some "Ion Blue" bulbs, with the result that you'll look cool and see less.

Which should you get?

The case for HO sealed beams

I think the true HO sealed beams (GE "Performance Series" etc, with longitudinal filament) are a good value. They must be aimed correctly, and they scatter enough light upwards so that the person ahead of you definitely knows there's a car behind them (I had my K-car follow me in my Trans Am for some distance on really dark, hilly roads). The low beams illuminate the shoulders very nicely, put the main part of the beam where it's useful, in a wide cone that starts out ahead of your car's bumper. The smaller rectangulars' low beams (as on my '78 Trans Am) don't work as well as on the large rectangulars, something verified by GE's luminance numbers on the packages.

The big rectangulars' high beams have a decent pattern, but the 65W bulb doesn't put out enough light to really pick out Bambi at the edge of the road up ahead. The quad rectangulars' high beams work as well as ever (I think they're pretty good stock).

Quality control seems variable, since these lamps are made in several places or batches. In about five lamps at my local Canadian Tire (Motomaster, made by GE) I saw at least three different ways of masking the lug area when spraying the reflecting surface.

HO sealed beam summary:

  • Cheap and available anywhere: you won't cry if a rock goes through the lens
  • Low beams work well, especially on large, two-lamp systems
  • 100% compatible, legal anywhere
  • Long life

The case for E-codes

E-codes have precise optics and sharp cut-offs. Their low-beam pattern gives a wide and even illuminated area, though the brightest part is closest to the bumper which may not be ideal. The high beam is pretty concentrated. Large rectangular E-codes with 60W high beams will certainly light stuff up further down the road than the 65W high beam of large rectangulars. However, this is at the expense of shoulder illumination closer up.

I think E-codes would be great on the Prairies or in Arizona, and they work okay on roads where there isn't much of a shoulder between the road and the trees/buildings (kind of like in Europe). On Ontario roads, which can twist and wind through deer- and moose-infested woods, and which also have wide cleared shoulders and ditches, both James C. and myself find the near left-shoulder illumination, in particular, to be inadequate.

But, if you install better wiring, you can upgrade to 80/100W bulbs, which I recently did. The beam pattern does not change, of course; but the high beams are now nice and bright and scattered light does illuminate the shoulders okay. The low beams are respectable, without being too bad for oncoming drivers (even with the cutoff, the lamps look pretty bright above it).

E-codes cost quite a bit; I'd guess that you won't find a pair under $80 in the US. I don't know how easily they're available in the US, particularly in states where they're explicitly illegal. They are commonly available in speed shops in Canada, and our prices here aren't bad (considering exchange differences). I just go to the junkyard and get them for $5 apiece (two sets of large Hellas, one complete set of Bosch quad rectangulars); can't beat that price. Bulbs are $5 or so, and up.

My Take

1) There's NO reason to buy standard sealed-beam halogens instead of the HO sealed beams (or E-codes), period.

2) For the much cheaper price, HO sealed beams are competitive with 55/60W E-codes. Neither is perfect; depends on which compromise suits you best.

3) Installing E-codes may require metal and wiring modifications. If you go to fully upgraded wiring, you can run higher-wattage bulbs, not an option with sealed beams. This, in my opinion, is the real reason to go with E-codes.

4) If you want minimal hassle and don't want to upgrade wiring, I'd just go with the HO sealed beams. But you won't be as cool.

Patrick Vienneau wrote:

I have an 88 Daytona Shelby Z with the pop-up 4666 headlights. I can confirm that you CAN indeed use an e-code headlight. As a matter of fact, I found my e-codes in the recycle yard on an 85 Daytona, so the size is the same, but the connector is different. I just made an adapter...

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