E-Code headlights for classic cars with excellent night vision
by Richard Henley for allpar.com • with thanks to Daniel Stern Lighting
Bright Lights and Back Roads part 2: Installation of E Code headlights in the 75 Duster
After doing the wiring upgrade and installing the headlight relay kit from Daniel Stern Lighting
and seeing the great improvement that upgrade provided, I was a bit skeptical that the E Code headlights could provide much of an improvement. In my life I've driven vehicles ranging from the 1920s to today and have done at least some night driving with most of them, and with the relays and larger wiring, Old Blue ranked with the best of them in the headlight department.
Very happily I have to admit that I was mistaken in my assumption. The new Cibie headlamps provide and improvement that has to be seen to be believed. The photos I've provided show some of the improvement, but even they fall short of showing the actual improvement.
The first photo set shows the improvement gained by adding relays from Daniel Stern Lighting. The second photo shows the low beams with new relays using the same stretch of road and photo angle as the third shot, which shows the E-code beams. Daniel warned that poor quality E-code headlights can be worse than good quality US-DOT specification headlights - quality and pattern are both major factors.
I tested the old vs. new in several other scenarios that with my limited photographic skills and equipment I couldn't document but feel are worth mentioning. I had my wife drive the car past my truck in both an oncoming traffic and passing traffic scenario, and the E code headlights lit up my windshield and mirrors a lot less than the Sylvania Halogen sealed beams did. I know this may not seem like a big deal to some but if the other traffic on the road can see what they need to instead of a bunch of glare from your headlights, they are a lot less likely to cause an accident you might wind up involved in.
Installation of the new headlights is as easy as changing a conventional sealed beam; the only extra step is installing the headlight bulb into the back of the reflector. Ma Mopar made that easy for us, the retaining screws don't have to be removed to change the bulb, just loosen them a turn or two and give the ring a twist and it comes off. Note which way was up because the ring only goes on one way.
Another tip before changing the headlights is to spray the adjustment screws with WD40 or similar a few days before trying to move the screws. I found out the hard way that 35 year old plastic nuts break easily, and when you show up at the local Dodge dealer or parts house asking for 1975 Duster headlight adjusting nuts, their eyes glaze over and they start treating you like you forgot to take your medication.
Installing the bulb into the back of the reflector is a fairly straight forward procedure; but be careful to not touch the glass part when handling the bulb as the halogen bulbs get so hot in operation that a fingerprint will cause them to blow out. The aligning notches on the bulbs are designed so they only go one way. The Cibie E code headlights come with a rubber dust boot to keep moisture away from the back of the bulb, a nice touch for a daily driven vehicle.
It is critical that you aim the new headlights properly. You will want the full benefit for the money spent; proper aiming will put the light on the road where you want it, not on oncoming windshields and tree tops where you don't want it.
The beauty of the E code headlights is apparent in the aiming picture below. I tried to take a picture of the Sylvania sealed beams on the same aiming wall, but there was so much stray light that the picture was more or less just a white blur. Both the old and new headlights put out 55 watts on low beam, but the E code headlights concentrate more of that 55 watts of light on the road where it needs to be.
There are other advantages to the new headlights. One can store extra headlight bulbs in the glove box as they take up less space than one spare sealed beam. In some installations the headlight won't have to be removed to change the bulb, however due to the design of the A body core support the headlight will still have to be removed on these. Still, I tried switching the bulbs between the headlights and switching the headlights side to side, and it didn't change the aim point of the headlights. There must be more accuracy in the manufacturing of the E code bulbs and reflectors than there is in sealed beam manufacturing.
The only downside I can see is the additional cost of replacement in case of lens breakage, but the benefits of the E code headlights certainly outweigh that disadvantage. One thing I was worried about was that any of the headlights I've tried with replaceable bulbs seem to ice over pretty bad in snow and ice driving, but these Cibie headls seem to stay clear of ice as good as the regular sealed beams do.
If you're looking for a headlight upgrade for your classic Mopar don't mind changing it up a bit, the relay kit and E code headlights from Daniel Stern Lighting
are definitely the way to go. The relay kit
is a must with the E code headlights to get the full benefit. If your car is mostly stock and you want to keep that appearance, the relays and extra wiring can be hidden with a bit of ingenuity. The E code headlights do look a bit different than the stock items, but the average observer would probably not notice, and one could fairly easily change to stock sealed beams when showing the car.
The final proof of improvement is the "redhead" test. My darling redheaded wife is a finicky one when it comes to vehicles, and while the old Duster has always been my first choice for any road trip, for her the car's status was more along the lines of "only if I have to and never ever at night." After installing the relay kit and E code headlights, it's moved up to her preferred choice if night driving is
part of the trip plan.
Note: E-code headlights may not be legal in many applications or states. While many believe they are superior, they do not necessarily conform to Federal standards and do not have Federal "aiming nubs." Thanks to Daniel Stern Lighting for providing the components and basic instructions. Also see Adding Relays.
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