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Headlights and Auto Lighting Systems

also see making cloudy, dim, yellow headlights like new

based on information
from Ed Treijs. May
be outdated.

The large rectangular lights (on K-cars and Omnis) and quad rectangulars (Lancers, early Daytonas, New Yorkers, etc) can be upgraded to high output sealed beams or European-style "E-code" headlights. Daytonas with pop-up lights have no HO sealed beam upgrade; the Sundance/Shadow/Saratoga "P-body" has no high output light, but does have E-code upgrades. Anything with aerodynamic headlights has no upgrades that we know of.

"Superwhites" and "Ion blue" bulbs look trendy but will probably hurt real visibility and blind other drivers.

High output sealed beams are made by GE (e.g. Motomaster) and Philips, and possibly others. They have a 55-watt low-beam with a better shape than the usual 35-watt low-beam halogen. Make sure to get one that has filaments which run across the lamp, parallel to the lens. These are DOT-approved, so they plug right in, pass inspection, and may last longer than standard halogens (700 hours vs 320, according to GE).

True HO sealed beams, such as the GE Performance Series, with longitudinal filaments, are a good value, if you aim them correctly. The beams cover the shoulder well. The high beams have a good pattern but perhaps not enough power in the "large rectangular" bulbs but work well in the dual-headlight setup. Quality control can vary even in the same brand because of different manufacturing plants. Because they are cheap and easily available, if they get damaged, it's not a major event; and they are legal everywhere.

The "E-codes" may require some work to adapt to American cars; they come with a large rubber seal on the back which may not fit the wiring opening, requiring one to cut the "bucket." The lugs are not as long as headlight connectors may not stay on well. Some kits come with wiring adapters, but the Bosch, for one, does not. Power is 55 watts on low beam, 60 watts on high beam. You can install 55/100W and 80/100W bulbs, too, but these likely require some cooling and wiring upgrades.

E-codes have precise optics and sharp cut-offs; the low beams are wide and even, albeit relatively close to the car, and the high beam is concentrated to avoid blinding oncoming traffic, but you lose some shoulder illumination closer to the car.

E-codes are likely ideal in wide open spaces and roads where there are small shoulders, but may not work well on roads that twist through woods that may contain deer or moose; near left-shoulder illumination is particularly poor because they're trying to keep vision clear for oncoming traffic. Wiring upgrades (and possibly extra cooling) for the higher power bulbs can be very effective in ameliorating these problems.

E-code headlights are very expensive in the US, but are cheaper in Canadian speed shops.

Headlight repairs and prevention

based on comments by Gene Poon

In the 1993-97 LH car headlamps, the mounting screws (Torx head) go into threaded inserts in the plastic housings. The screw tends to bond to the inserts, so when you try to remove them, you crack the plastic. The prevention solution is to get a thin coating of dielectric grease onto the threads of the screws and inserts, before they freeze up. Tighten the screws snugly, but not too tight; then back off by around a sixth of a turn, or one spline. The headlights won't be loose, and this will greatly reduce the risk of the threads seizing up.

Cracks in the plastic can be fixed, at least temporarily, by the two-part Rawn "Plasti-Pair," sold by electronics parts stores; a solvent dissolves the surface of the plastic, to fuse the repair material to the plastic. You can actually shape it to form a new screw boss.

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