I had a few options to upgrade my lights. I could buy some external driving lights from a company like Hella or KC. They are readily available in all shapes and sizes and are extremely bright. People often add them on their cars as additional fog lights, or even for off-roading. I decided that installing these on my car would be somewhat of a hassle. I would have to mount them, which involves drilling things. Then the new hole begins to rust (especially in the salty winters) and it creates more work. It would also put more load on the battery, and I would possibly have to install another relay.
I chose the second option, which was replace the sealed beam headlights with reflector enclosures. Then a normal halogen or xenon bulb can be clipped into the reflector and plugged right into the car's female plug. It was much less trouble, cheaper, and less things to go wrong in the future.
Step 1: Buy the Goods
- 2 x Headlight Conversion Housings @ $22.68
- APC Xenon Super White Halogen Bulbs (pair) @ $15.99
- Total < $62.00
Step 2: Install
First, I put the new headlight bulbs in the new headlight casings. Be sure to not touch the bulbs with your bare hands, because the oils will shorten the life of the bulb. The gloves are only to show this, and weren't actually necessary because I only held the bulbs by the metal bases.
Next, remove your old sealed beams and put the new assembly in place of it. They should simply plug in and fit exactly the same as the old. Obviously, it will be different for each car. For my car, I have to pull off the front grill to access the headlight screws. The new headlights were a hair bigger than the old ones, but still fit in the hole.
Look for other problems while you change the headlights. In my case, I noticed that one of my female H4/9003 connectors that plug into the headlight was deteriorating. The plastic had been crushed, so it didn't fit tightly on the new bulb. I have ordered a new female connector and will be fixing the problem. For now, I just have to be delicate with the loose connection.
The extra wires coming out of the headlight unit are for an additional bulb on the inside. I was not aware of this when I ordered them. There is a small blue light on the inside of the headlight that runs off of 12V. It looks kind of cool from the outside. I considered wiring them into my ignition wire and onto a switch on the dash. That way I could choose to have them on or off, but they would always be off when the car was off. I decided against it because they are very blue, not very bright, and probably illegal. The last thing I need is another ticket!
Step 3: Ironic Story
Step 4: Test
I am happy with the improved brightness of my headlights. The pattern is also better, and the high-beams spread much farther than the old ones. The pattern is still not terrific, though. There are some awkward lines in the low-beams. But, it is a 200% improvement over the old lights, and now I can safely see on non-lit roads.
Note: The pictures below are somewhat misrepresenting of the actual headlights. The camera slightly over-exaggerates the brightness of the lights. The color and pattern are fairly accurate. In particular, notice the whiter light on the new headlights and the spread of the new high-beams compared to the old high-beams.