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Refurbish headlights

At some point, after many years, the thought suddenly occurs at night on the country road that the headlights are no longer what they used to be. They used to be brighter ?! Or is it because of your own eyes? No - the passenger also thinks that the light is not the best. Well, that's the way it is with old used cars, you might think ...

It is worth taking a closer look at the headlights. After 10 years or more, the lens is sandblasted from the outside, dirty from the inside and the reflectors are matt. So life is.

Clean the lens

If the lens is not too matt on the outside, it is enough to clean it. To do this, the headlight must be removed and the lens removed. Then clean the inside with a lint-free cloth - the old duvet cover does its last job here - and clean the glass cleaner. You have no idea what is deposited there over time.

A special kind of recommendation is the dishwasher - with it you get many parts of the vehicle, including the lens, very well cleaned, but you usually get into serious trouble with the boss. A colleague from the W123 forum even cleaned the lenses in his employer's dishwasher on Monday morning. With a very good cleaning result, as he wrote, but the job, but it was only limited anyway: ->

It is possible to grind and polish a diffuser disc that is matt on the outside. For this, however, you need the appropriate tools and materials that are not available in car accessories, but in wholesalers for jewelers. Presumably, the financial and time expenditure that one would have to make here is in no relation to the purchase of new lenses. But: it can be done.

Replace the lens

If the lens can no longer be saved, it should be replaced. The parts cost around 50 € and are available as accessories or from DC. Perhaps you can pass the discarded glass on to someone who has completely lost its lens and thereby reduce your own financial outlay.

There are two versions of the steering wheel up to the second facelift in 1993: Before the first facelift in 1989, the plastic collar was gray, then silvery. You can exchange the lenses as you like, if you prefer to have it silvery on the old vehicle - no problem and vice versa.

Then there are the lenses of the 500E, the plastic collar is chrome-plated, which gives the headlight a significantly brighter look. However, the lenses of the 500E are not easily interchangeable with the others, as the 500E has high-beam headlights instead of the secondary headlights (the 500 series has the fog lights mounted in the bumper). There are also instructions for converting to 500E headlights.

After the model update in 1993, the diffusers were changed again because of the changed shape of the radiator grille (badge radiator). While the discs cannot be exchanged with the older models, the housings themselves have probably remained the same.

With the good lens (cleaned or bought new) you stand in front of the old reflector (we leave the additional headlights outside). Dust and loose deposits can be carefully wiped off, but if the reflector is matt, it should be replaced. Attempting to clean the reflector with a cloth and cleaning agent will inevitably lead to the death of the coating.

Change reflector

The reflector for the main headlight is available from Hella or Bosch for € 35, but DC is a bit more expensive. If you already have the headlight on the workbench, changing the reflector is a matter of three minutes. With a small screwdriver, carefully disengage the actuating rod of the pneumatic element, then unscrew the cross-head screw and remove the reflector towards the center of the vehicle.

Replace the rubber seal

If you occasionally have lenses misted up from the inside, or if the reflectors or the electrical contacts were already rusty, water gets into the headlight, which has no business there. For little money you can get the seals between the lens and headlight housing and also those of the rear cover at DC. If you are in the process of tearing everything apart anyway, you shouldn't skimp on this.

New H4 lights

The H4 lights also age and at some point they fail. While you're at it, you should install new lights on both sides. The best for the light output are those that are sold as +30 or +50 by Osram or Phillips. No "all weather", "blue look" or any other colored lights, they are only looking for show effects and offer less light output.

There are also lights with a higher power than the 50W / 65W - for motorsport use and without street approval - but this is not permitted in the area of ​​the StVO and also mostly money cutting, since these lights easily cost twice the "normal" ones.

There is also a legal method to increase the light output of the existing headlights:

The relay solution

If you measure the voltage drop from the battery to the headlight when the lights are switched on, you will be amazed: only about 90% of the battery voltage reaches the H4 lamp, class 56b for the low beam! The following measurement is intended only as an example:

With the engine stopped, I measured 11.7V between the positive (terminal 30) of the battery and the vehicle ground (terminal 31) on the headlight, and only 10.3V between the burning low beam (terminal 56) and ground. So a loss of 1.4V, corresponding to 12%.

With the engine running (idling speed) I measured 13.0V on the battery and 11.4V on the dipped beam. So a loss of 1.6V, correspondingly also (good) 12%.

Now nobody comes to me with the fact that he measured 0.5V more on his car, that doesn't make the cabbage fat. I do not want to commit myself to absolute values, rather it depends on the percentage loss.

The voltage, which somewhere along the way - battery-fuse-switch-headlight-H4-lamp - is completely uselessly converted into heat, is simply missing when illuminating the road. If you now plug the expensive rally lights with 90W / 100W into the base with the original wiring, the voltage drop will be even greater, the result of the investment is almost imperceptible.

The solution: You take one (or two) relays and switch a direct thick cable from the battery via the previous light cable. This eliminates the aforementioned line losses and gets the last bit of power out of the standard lighting system.

If you look at what you can achieve with new reflectors and lenses as well as the full battery voltage on decent H4 lights for a light output, you don't need xenon or HID light to be able to see perfectly at night. If so, maybe you should visit the ophthalmologist :-)

Adjust the headlight

After all this tinkering, get the headlights adjusted properly. There is appropriate equipment for this in every workshop and it usually costs nothing, especially in autumn when there are lighting weeks again.

With maximum light output in particular, it should be a matter of course to ensure that the headlights are correctly adjusted so that other road users are not dazzled.

Author: Christian Martens