AFTERMARKET - They're not going to do a bit of real good -- it's the poor optical design ....


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They're not going to do a bit of real good -- it's the poor optical design ....

The real problem with the USA-market/DOT-legal, plastic headlights is their optical design, not the output (candlepower, etc.) of the bulb inside.

These plastic-lens headlights were designed in the last years of the DOT's insistance on regs that have limited ordinary sealed beams for many decades. Essentially, in low beam, the bulk of the output gets aimed uselessly downward at the pavement about a carlength in front of the car -- on a dark street, look at where the brightest patch is shining. And the high beam is really no better -- it creates a diffuse (deliberately, to eliminate "glare", according to the DOT, for other drivers) slight brightening ahead, but not by much.
Thus, if you put in brighter lamps, all you'll really do is just brighten the useless patch of light on the pavement in low beam, and slightly brighten the diffuse light ahead in high beam. Trouble is, you'll also draw more current through your car's wiring, switches and relays as well, shortening the life of the insulating and contacts -- and particular, in your model year, there's a "headlight relay" behind the center dash panel's vents that's notorious for "cooking" and shutting down your headlights, so using brighter bulbs (unless you go for parallel, heavier gauge wiring and relays) will just destroy it sooner.

In contrast, the right (though very expensive) solution is Euroheadlights (the headlights found in European-market 240s). Even with the lowest wattage bulbs (55/60W), they are far superior simply because of their properly designed optics! These are now found in even USA-market cars (like my daughter's new S60), but unfortunately getting the 240's headlights in their european form is costly. Frankly, I've use e-code headlights (that's the name for the european counterpart of sealed beams) on my cars since the 1970's, and just wouldn't drive without them -- when I got my first post-'85 Volvo (which no longer used sealed beams for which I could swap in e-codes), I bought Euroheadlights, despite their price, because I just couldn't tolerate the US-market lamps. I have these Euroheadlights in both of my post-'85 cars, and e-code replacements for sealed beams in the '84 I still have.

What is superior about them is, specifically, that their optics direct the light where a driver needs them, yet doesn't interfere with others on the road in low beam. It really isn't the matter of being plastic (although the Euroheadlights are glass) even though it prevents the yellowing, but where the light is aimed. In Euroheadlights and the aforementioned e-codes, the light, even in low beam, is directed forward to light up the roadway ahead. The low beam has a sharp cutoff, though (requiring proper aiming) that rises along a slope to the right to also illuminate things (deer, pedestrians, etc.) on the road's edge that might be a potential hazard; yet the cutoff prevents the light from blinding cars ahead. And, in high beam, it directs the light usefully to give you good range to stop in time!

So it isn't a matter of wattage, but of optical design. Throwing more wattage in US-market, plastic headlights will just disappoint you, as well as create problems with your electrical system.

Good luck.


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posted by  enzo7224  on Fri Jun 27 12:06 CST 2008 >

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