Headlight upgrades

Posted By: Monte_ExpreSS

Headlight upgrades - 03/12/09 11:16 PM

Headlights upgrades

The stock sealed beam headlights on your car not cutting it anymore? Tired of minimal output + the yellowish light leaving a lot to be desired? I’ve compiled the following information since this seems to be a upgrade that a lot of members have been interested in recently.

There are several options for headlight upgrades for our cars. The simplest of all is to just upgrade to better sealed beam units like the Sylvania Silver Star or GE Night Hawks. While these do provide better light output, they have been known to not have a very long life expectancy, & when necessary to change them, you’re back to changing out the whole unit again. Not a fun job as most SS owners know that it can be a difficult job to access the retainer ring screws.

The next option is to choose a set of 4x6 H4 conversion housings. H4 refers to the bulb style these units use (also known as 9003) These conversion housings have a separate bulb that is removable independently of the main unit. This makes changing burned out bulbs much easier, especially on SS’s. It also offers up a greater selection of bulb upgrades that are compatible.

There are several style H4 conversion housings available, from projector, diamond cut & stock appearing units with a diffused glass lense & smooth reflector.

There are several options when it comes to bulbs. Again, you have Silver Stars or the Night Hawks, etc.
You can also upgrade to Xenon bulbs. These are commonly blue tinted bulbs, with a higher wattage to try & simulate the look of real HIDs. Most of you might have noticed some newer vehicles on the road with bright, pure white light headlights. These are HIDs. HID stands for high intensity discharge. Regular halogen bulbs use a filament surrounded by a inert gas. When electrical current is supplied to the filament, it glows to produce light. HID bulbs have no filament. Instead they contain xenon gas, mercury & metal halide salts. The xenon gas is ignited by an arc of high voltage current & glows. The high voltage is supplied by a ballast, similar to what a fluorescent light uses.
They also produce the highest amount of light output of all choices with current pull almost the same as stock.

Often with after market bulbs you will see them refer to the light output color in Kelvins. Kelvins are the heat color of the light emitted. Stock halogen sealed beams are 2000-3000k in color, (yellowish.) Aftermarket bulbs (like the xenons) are somewhere around 4000-6000k (same as sunlight) & real HIDs are around 4000k & up. It is a common misconception the higher the Kelvin rating, the brighter the light output. 4300k provides approximately the highest & brightest amount of light output & anything above that starts to appear bluer with slightly less light output.

Whatever option you choose, it should make a noticeable difference.

Now that we know what choices are available, it’s time to get a idea of what’s involved for installation. In the thread we will talk about the few extra steps for installation of conversion housing.

It would only be a matter of a standard headlight replacement if you were only upgrading to better sealed beams units.
Tools required that I can think of off hand for this installation would be: a Phillips screwdriver, some form of a cutting tool that can cut metal ( tin snips, Dremel, grandma’s dentures??? think ) & a small tipped flathead screwdriver.

Assuming you’ve removed the stock sealed beam units already, you can test fit your new conversions housings.
Most conversion housings have a larger than stock back & you might have to trim the headlight buckets for clearance. A Dremel makes easy work of that.

This brings us to the issue of wiring for the new units. H4 bulbs have a different pin layout than the stock units.
They will need to be moved in the socket to the following locations:

Low I I ground (Stock pin layout)

__ High

High I I ground (H4 pin layout)

__ Low

If H4 bulbs are being used in the inner high beam locations it will be necessary to remove or bend out of the way the “low” pin on the bulb.

If higher wattage bulbs are being used, it will also be necessary to upgrade the wiring harness. A upgrade harness can be added to the stock harness allowing the lights to get powered directly off the battery with a use of relays. The stock harness cannot handle the extra current pull & damage will result. The harnesses are available from Ebay, & other places or you could assemble one yourself. The following link provides information on doing so.

Even just adding this wiring upgrade with stock style sealed beams should provide better lighting.

Generally real HIDs do not require the relay harness & they do not put a additional strain on the stock harness.

Back to installation! Make all your final connections, & re-install the 4 screws on the housing retainer trim rings. Test to make sure the lights are working correctly. Check both low & high beam operation. Aim headlights as necessary.

Now take a ride at night & marvel at your new ability to actually see & be seen in the dark.

Posted By: Beemer

Re: Headlight upgrades - 03/16/09 11:18 PM

I can vouch for simplicity of converting to a diamond cut housing as outputting better light and pattern layout.

I upgraded from my stock diffused housings to clear diamond cut (reflector housing mirrors are straight cut) on my explorer with the stock bulbs and it was roughly 20% brighter (as far as my eyes were told haha).

I then upgraded to 9004 Sylvania SilverStars that have a ice white with a light light tint of blue and pink (I know right haha), and it was incredible how much brighter it got.

And as they say from Sylvania, always replace in pairs haha.

Excellent write-up!

- Brandon
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