For the longest time my wife has been complaining about her car’s light output and visibility at night. I finally got around to driving it. It sucks. So I decided to do something about it.
I have a moderate interest in cars and usually lurk around different forums to see what people that have more time (and money) than me are doing to their cars in terms of modifications and upgrades. This made me immediately think of a projector retrofit when thinking about upgrading the lights. If you’re not familiar with the concept think about going from this:
That round part that looks like a lens is called a projector. And it is essentially a lens. It focuses light and makes it have a cutoff so you don’t blind other drivers. Because it has the cutoff it allows you to fit the headlamp with HID’s instead of the traditional halogen lamps without looking like you always have your high beams on. Essentially you get a nice bright light like this:
This is basically what I needed to do:
- Buy the hardware
- Modify the headlights
- Align the headlights
- Seal the headlights
- Install the headlights
Buying the Hardware
So after looking at different options, I decided to go with the Morimoto Mini DS2. Morimoto has multiple retailers, but I decided to buy from TheRetrofitSource.com. They were nice to guide me through the process via email and chat, and they have universal kits that include everything you need.
Also, as a safety measure I bought an extra set of headlamps. Yes, it was expensive, but I did not want to leave my wife without a car if I messed up and also wanted to take my time modifying the lamps to fit the projectors.
Modifying the Headlamps
This was probably the most time consuming part. I had to open the headlamps and then modify them.
Baking the Headlamps
Yes, that’s right, you have to put the headlamps in the oven to be able to get to the insides. This is because they are held together with glue. I followed this guy’s instructions.
Once the lamps were open, carefully removed all the hardware that I was able to unscrew until I was able to remove the reflectors.
Dremel, My Friend
A Dremel is a huge help here. I used a sanding drum inside the original bulb cavity to open it enough so the shaft of the projector could come through. I cannot stress enough the fact that you have to go slow and check your work. You will not be able to add material if you remove more than what you need.
On top of making the opening big enough, you also have to make sure there is enough thread behind the reflector to be able to not only secure the projector, but place and securely thread the bulb. I had to sand down the original protrusion. I used a rotary sander which is what I had available, but you could use something else.
Align the Headlights
Now the fun part. You need to make sure that the new lights are aligned left to right, side to side, and also rotation-wise. This is the procedure I took:
- Park the car approximately 25′ from a wall.
- Turn the lights on and put painters tape to mark the center of the low beams and also the height.
- Remove the original lamps
- Put the original reflectors on the rear headlamp housing.
- Install them on the car.
- Play around with the position of the projectors until the lows match the original lows.
- Mark the alignment with a permanent marker on the rear of the housing and projector. You can also add JB Weld or something more permanent at this point.
Adding JB Weld
I decided to use JB Weld to lock the projectors in place. It was hard work to get the rotational alignment correct and if you twist hard enough (when locking the bulb in, for example), you will mess it up. I added it to the inside of the housing where the projector meets the reflector. Don’t worry if it looks bad, it will be covered up by the shroud.
These are bi-xenon projectors which mean the do low beams and high beams. The accomplish this by moving a metal piece inside the projector. This is controlled by a selenoid that is connected to the original highbeam connector.
You want to add a shroud to the projector so it does not expose all the metal bits. The retrofit source has a ton of options. Regardless of which you go with, you will probably have to modify it a bit to fit. Because they’re plastic, I used my dremel.
I added very little JB weld to the shroud where it meets the metal part of the projector.
Seal the Headlamps
So now we will need to put them in the oven once more. Theoretically you could just reuse the same glue that is on the headlamps. I purchased extra sealant and applied it in the channel where the original sealant is.
After they come out of the oven with the sealant soft, you need to apply pressure so that it creates a proper bond. I used a bunch of clamps I had laying around and it worked perfectly.
This project is not for the faint of heart. It left my wife without a car for a couple of days (I could only work on the car after work). Overall it was definitely worth it. I can see a lot better at night. Also the car seems to have a more updated look from the front.