FAQs about Lighting

  • Bulbs for aerolights.
  • A point of comparison for lighting systems.
  • General Information about headlamps.
  • General information on how to aim your lights.
  • Headlights, H-4 and otherwise.
  • Both backup lights have stopped working, where do I look?

  • Bulbs for Aero Lights

    Date: 15 Apr 92 20:37:24 EDT
    From: Shel Hall <76701.103@compuserve.com>
    To: <swedishbricks@me.rochester.edu>
    Subject: Lights! Action! Camaro!


    Just a small addition to the "Lights" discussion ...

    I don't know what the new, aero lights on Volvos use for bulbs, but most cars with US-market aero lights use the 9004 or similar bulb, which seem to be (a) unique to the US market, (b) not at all the same as the H4, and (c) only available in the "standard" wattage.

    The real-European lights one occasionally sees on older Volvos use the H4 bulbs, which come in all sorts of wattages (and in yellow, for that Gallic touch) and give wonderful light, in both amount and distribution.

    Even the usual replacement H4 lights (Hella, Cibie, et al) provide some serious control of the outgoing light, particularly on low beam. Rather than an amorphous blob of light "out there somewhere" they put the light in a beam that lights up the road without shining in the eyes of oncoming drivers. If you pull your car up to a wall, the light distribution looks like this:


    dark / light




    The result is that the road, and the roadsigns, are illuminated, but nothing else is.

    I think they are great, especially compared to the normal sealed beams (even to Halogens), and especially to some of the "aero" lights on some new cars. I can't imagine why the US DOT requires stuff like the "third eye" brake light but mandates such crappy headlights.

    If there's any fault with the Euro H4 units, it is that the cutoff is too sharp (on the good ones) and you sometimes can't see overhead street signs and other things outside of the primary light distribution area.

    One of the many advantages of the normal sealed beam headlight, as opposed to the aero light unit, is the possibility of replacing it with something else more suitable to the use to which the car is put. The champion in this regard is the big 7" round bulb, which is available in normal Tungsten sealed beam, sealed Halogen, a DOT-approved H4 bulb version (the Cibie "Bobi"), numerous non-DOT H4 bulbs, and an astounding variety of specialty lamps that will fit the same PAR-56 mount. My personal favorite from the latter class is the "Marine Searchlight" (Westinghouse #4545) of 100 watts and 250,000 candlepower. Normal tungsten sealed beams have about 30,000 cp.

    DOT-legal Cibie "Bobi" lights, as well as various non-DOT-approved Hella, Cibie, and other units, are available in the four main automotive headlight sizes:

    7" round PAR-56
    5" round PAR-46
    6.5" rect REC-58
    7.8" rect REC-68

    Usually, in the smaller sizes used for the four headlight system in the US market, one light on each side is used for both low and high beams, and the other chimes in only when high beams are required.

    Typically, if you're using replacement Euro-spec lights (or the "Bobi" units) the outer lights take H4 (hi/lo) and the inners take H1 or another single-filament bulb.

    It doesn't have to be this way; using four H4 bulbs in a four light system can give you a lot more options.

    One one of my cars, I have H4 hi/low lights at all four positions, with relatively low-power bulbs in the outer pair of headlamps and higher wattage in the inner pair. I think the outers are 55/100 and the inners 80/130, but it's been a long time since I put them in.

    In any case, the whole deal is wired as usual, with two exceptions:

    (1) The low beams stay on when the hight beams come on.
    (2) The low beams on the inner pair of headlamps (80 watts) are wired to the fog light switch. I don't have accessory fog lamps. The "fog lights" go off when the high beams come on.

    Thus, I can have slightly brighter "low beams" by turning the headlight switch to the "parking" position and turning on the fog lamps. This gives me parking lights and a pair of headlamps forward, and the usual taillights aft, and all is fine.

    I use these for driving in street-light-less suburbia, where regular low beams are a bit dim, but there's too much traffic to use the high beams. They give great illumination without dazzling the oncoming drivers.

    Around town, where there are streetlights, I use the normal low beams.

    Of course, if I'm stopped for the "weird lights" I can just turn 'em off when I pull over, then fire up the normal ones when the cop tells me to turn 'em on so he can look at 'em. I'm using Cibie "Bobi" units, so he can't even bitch about the DOT regulations. I've had the car set up like this for 5 years, and passed numerous members of the local Gendarmerie, without incident.

    Having the lights wired like this gives me 4 options at increasing levels of brightness:

    (1) Normal low beams only 110 watts
    (2) "Inner low beams" (fog light switch) only 160 watts
    (3) Both sets of low beams 270 watts
    (4) High beam (six filaments). 370 watts

    Option 4 is _very_ bright, and pretty comforting when we're running late getting down to the farm during rutting season. It cuts the top speed a little, though, but I can't figure out if it's the alternator drag or the photon flow.


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    A point of comparison for lighting systems.

    Date: Fri, 17 Apr 92 08:47:29 PDT
    From: maj@frame.com (Michael Jue)
    To: ford@me.rochester.edu
    Subject: Re: Z beams

    Roman, I've used a variety of different lights over the years including:

    - Cibie Z-beams (7" round, H4 55/60w bulbs)
    - Cibie 5.25" round Euro spec (y'know, "offroad use" only; separate high/low beams, 4 lamp system
    - Hella 5.25" round...same spec as Cibie 5.25", above.
    - Hella 4x6 rectangular (present in my 740t)
    - Hella 7" rectangular (H4 55/60w bulbs)
    - Marchal Amplilux (forget the specs since they've not lit for years)
    - "Penetrator" sealed beams (American made, forget who makes 'em)
    - A whole host of aux. lights from Cibie, Hella, Marchal, KC

    Anyway, the point here is not to let you know how much money I've squandered on lighting systems but to give a point of comparison.

    I say I liked the Z beams the best (aside from the hard-to-find Marchal Amplilux) is that they appeared (in actual driving) that they had the "cleanest" and most usable pattern of the bunch on high or low beam). Actually, when I think about it though, the Cibie 5.25" rounds (4 light system in my 320i) had to be the brightest of the bunch but not necessarily the most usable.

    When I say usable, I refer to the fact that I did not experience any detrimental "dead zones" that affected the "modus operandi", er, I mean, the speed and style I was driving. These were used, appropriately enough, in my Datsun (remember that name?) Z car set up for early Sunday morning Banzai runs up and around Mt. Tamalpais and Hiway 9. (Northern Californians know about these areas).

    I digress.

    Anyhow, while all of the other lights I've used were ~satisfactory~, I've always liked the Cibies the best. Remember, this is purely subjective and not indicative of any instrumented lighting tests.

    So, I guess the moral of this story is that each driver must decide for themselves which light works best given the economic ("how-much-do-the-damn-things-cost?!?"); social ("cut-the-lights-you-jerk!") and environmental ("omigosh-it's-raining!) conditions that prevail in their respective area. Hmmm, much like life itself.

    Have a GREAT Easter!! 8)

    BTW: Don't ever tell my wife what I've spent on lights. She'll want to get even by doing the whole Nordstrom thing...


    Michael Jue DD: (408) 922-2707
    Sr. Sales Representative FAX: (408) 943-6549
    Cibie Lighting Corp. (no, no, just kidding...)
    actually Frame Technology Corp. Internet: maj@frame.com

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    General Information about headlamps.

    Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1993 08:45:44 PST
    From: werner.wbst311@xerox.com
    Subject: Re: Headlamps and Rainy Days - Help? (sort of long)
    To: ROSSE_J@gold.colorado.edu

    >I ordered those high-powered lamps (70/80w) that
    >were previously mentioned on the net. I'm still not a happy camper. First,
    >I was shocked at how little difference they made.

    Part of the problem has to do with the beam patterns forced on manufacture's by the US goverment. In order to be 'street legal' in most parts of the US, there has to be a specified pattern to the low beams. Unfortunately, on cars with only two headlights, this implies many limitations on the high beams.

    The best solution is to go for a set of auxlary lights. For most people's needs, something like a pair of driving lights will work best. There is a great difference in the quality of driving lights, so careful choosing is in order. I rate them (from best to worse) like this: Marchal, Cibie', Carrello, Hella, Bosch Rallye, PIAA, IPF, Bosch Pilot, misc others.

    There is also a size question. In Auxilary lights, Bigger == better. The larger the unit, the larger the bulb that can be safely run, and the better the control on focussing the light.

    >But the real bummer was last night when I left work and found that the
    >dash lights and tail lights didn't work....The "automatic relay" (that
    >activates the low beams, but turns them off when the ignition is turned off)
    >was toast. There was some corrosion inside, but I assume the main reason for
    >the pitted contacts was the higher current draw of the new lamps.

    It is possible that the higher draw hurt the relay, but I am not convinced, mainly because I used to run 90/100W H4s, 105W H2s in the quad headlights on my former 740Turbo with no problems. It also has the same 'automatic shutoff' feature. (I also had the stock Bosch Pilot Fogs bulbed up to 100W. Those little guys got real hot.) I suspect the corrosion did not help things and that combined with the higher current, you ran into problems.

    >So, now I'm wondering what I should do: 1) risk the price of the $16 relay
    >to see if it happens again (maybe the corrosion was the core problem);

    This is probably the cheapest and easiest thing to try. If you do this, have either a spare or something you can 'hot wire' the relay with if it goes bad again. You may want to do it on a Friday night, and spend all daylight on the weekends running the lights to see what happens.

    >2) cut my losses and throw the $44 worth of lamps away;

    It's your money, but I wouldn't. The extra light is still probably some help.

    >3) sink more money and time into separate power relays for each low beam

    >(downstream of the relay I replaced).

    This is the optimal solution to making sure everything is safe. It is also the most expensive to implement.

    Although many people will question the inteligence and driving ability of those people who drive sides down outback roads on snow and ice in the winter, most people agree that rallyists do know how to light up the road. (Actually, we don't really use the lights to see where we are going, we use them to melt the ice:-)

    A rally car with a good light setup has a lot of wiring, relays, and work behind it. The purists will run one relay per filament. This implies putting two relays in for each Hi/Low headlight.

    Ok, so you don't really want to go that far, another approach would be to use only two relays. One for both high beams and one for both low beams. The big key here is what rating you want to run. Your relay should be able to handle the current of the light with a small margin of safety. (BTW:using a 200Amp relay on a 0.2 amp is bad for a relay also -- it has to do with keeping contacts clean.) I generally use the following formula

    Amps = Total_Watts / 10

    Those electronics wizards will be quick to note that the oringal formula looks like

    Amps = Watts / Voltage

    so why am I using the Voltage of 10 rather then 12 Volts, or even 14.5 Volts? This is how I allow a margin of safety. It also makes the math a lot easier.

    Ok, you said you are running 70/80w bulbs. If you use 2 relays, one for high beams and one for low beams, you need 14Amp and 16 Amp relays respectively. Car relays tend to be rated for multiples of 10 Amps, so 2 20 amp relays will work nicely.

    Hella, and some other companies, make some nice relays that have integrated fuses. The fuses are the new twin-blade style. I like these for the simplicity they offer.

    To wire the relays in: You want to find the high/low dimmer relay (big thing on firewall). If you look at it, you will find one wire bringing in power, a couple of control lines, and upto 4 wires leading away. If you have 4 wires, 2 will be in parrell running to the high beams, 2 || running to the low beams. You want to connect these up to the output of the switched side of the new relay.

    Next, make short 'jumpers' to connect the control side of the new relay to the outputs of the dimmer relay. The dimmer relay will switch between which of the two other relays to turn on. The other side of the control relay should go to ground. I usually make a short wire up and ground it directly to the firewall using the mounting screw I use on the relay.

    We now can turn the relays on and off, and we have outputs for them. For the power to run the lights, I tap off a break-out bar I have put in next to the battery. Since you have fuses in the relays, you can run a wire from the battery to the relay. Radio Shack has some nice large guage wire taps that work well. The wire you run should be no smaller (thinner) then 12 guage for the power you are talking about. 10 guage would be a better choice.

    One of the neat advantages of going this route is that you have a lot of the stuff you need to start putting in auxilary lights.

    There are some other interesting products and tricks that I have used in building my rally car, a '70 145. Instead of normal, mechanical relays, I use solid state relays. The trick to solid states is finding ones with very little drop, and even less leakage. (drop is the amount of energy sucked up by the relay when it is on, leakage is the amount that slips through when it is off.) At one time I was a sales rep for a solid state relay manufacturer called Gordos. At that time, they happened to introduce MOSFET solid state relays. These answered both the drop and the leackage problems, and came in reasonable power ratings for my application.

    The advantage of solid state is that there are no moving parts or contacts to burn up. The biggest disadvantage is the cost of the units. (Old Toro lawn mower commercials come to mind.)

    I also have put in a break-out strip where I can quickly attach new electrics to. This was put in where the battery used to be. The battery now resides in the trunk.

    When I put in the wiring for my headlights (100/170W bulbs) I also putt in extra wires I could hook up later has needed.

    If there are any more un-addressed questions, I will be happy to answer them.


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    General information on how to aim your lights.

    Date: Thu, 25 Feb 93 15:58:08 PST
    From: maj@frame.com (Michael Jue)
    To: stessel@sunburn.ec.usf.edu
    Subject: Re: Lighting; general


    Fellow netter John Werner (gads, I give this guy a lot of publicity :=), might give you some good advice on light aiming but here's a trick I used to use for fog lights and I just did it with a new pair of Cibie driving lights I've installed.

    1. Find level ground and park your car about 25' from a blank wall (facing it).

    2. Carefully measure from the ground up to the center point of the headlight (not the auxiliary lights).

    3. Transcribe that height to the wall with chalk and scribe a horizontal line across the wall about 1 ft. beyond each side of the car.

    4. Turn on your auxiliary lights (and if you have to turn the headlights on to do this, try to cover the headlights with cardboard or have some friends stand in front of them so that the beam pattern on the wall is only from the aux. lights.

    5. Adjust the fog beams so that the center of the beam pattern is about 6 in. below the scribed line. This should take care of the height adjustment.

    6. Adjust the lateral (side to side) spread of the beam so that the right light (psngr side) beam pattern is about 3-4 feet to the right side of the car and the left light edge is about 1-2 feet to the left side of the car. (This is to keep the pattern from glaring the oncoming traffic.) Re-check the height adjustment again just to make sure.

    Note: for fog lights, you may extend the right hand pattern out a bit further.

    After all of this, you may find that you would like the beam adjusted slightly to suit your own driving/taste. Return to the same spot and adjust using your original lines as the base point.

    Hope this helps!!

    BTW, another netter told of a some higher wattage 9004 replacement bulbs that you might try out. Help from the net???

    Michael "It works for me" Jue

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    Headlights, H-4 and otherwise.

    Date: 20 Jul 93 19:16:54 EDT
    From: Shel Hall <76701.103@compuserve.com>
    To: "Volvo.net" <swedishbricks@me.rochester.edu>
    Subject: Headlights, H-4 and otherwise.


    Why bother taking the lights out of some non-Volvo to put in your Volvo just because the "aero" lights are sub-optimal? _Everyone's_ US-market, 9004-bulb, Aero-look lights are terrible. It's a DOT regulation: "Headlights must be dim, diffused, project unevenly, and generally suck."

    Did they change the body on the 7xx when they changed from discrete lights to the aero-horrors?

    If not, I'd expect the easiest way to get decent lights would be to retrofit the discrete lighting arrangement from an early 7-body and put Hella/Cibie/whatever rectangular H-4 Halogen headlights in there.

    Better yet, you can probably find someone who will _pay_you_ to swap your lights into his earlier 7-body, updating his car to the later "look."


    Date: Wed, 21 Jul 93 08:37:34 EDT
    From: nick@meaddata.com (Nick Gough)
    To: swedishbricks@me.rochester.edu
    Subject: Re: Headlights, H-4 and otherwise.

    Nice thought, Shel. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Since I have both types, aero & non-aero (w/the quad setup), I looked at this & found that the aero look is more than just a cleaner headlight assy. The grill is even more aero-looking, as is the bumper & entire front end. The older style is much "flatter", more angular. Thus, this setup may not look right, or even fit.

    I have come to the conclusion that it cannot be done without spending a ton of money, so I'll probably just get some nice driving lights under the bumper, in the fog lights locations, and set it up with the factory rocker switch on the dash. As far as the wattage of the bulbs, I have yet to decide on that one. Maybe 80w, maybe 100w. I would guess that a relay will be in order, in either case. I'm gonna look at Hella & Marchal rectangular models & see which ones have the best beam. I used to have Marchals on the Scirocco, with relays setup with the fogs, so that I could turn them all on at once (and subsequently start to bubble paint on trunk lids at 30 yards :>). The biggest problem was in keeping the relays and connections dry & working (I had a pair of bad relays & got new, free ones, when they died... they were supposed to be sealed from the elements). The Marchal patterns were really nice. They were also the most expensive in 1978...

    Putting in 6x9 or 200mm may not be the answer, either, since there would be too much area to fill in with something (3-4 inches).



    Date: Wed, 21 Jul 93 11:19:18 EDT
    From: Richard Stessel (CE) <stessel@sunburn.eng.usf.edu>
    To: nick@meaddata.com, swedishbricks@me.rochester.edu
    Subject: Re: Headlights, H-4 and otherwise.

    I dunno what the story is on 7xx, but I keep meaning to measure the headlight ass'y on a pre-86 240 to see if it would fit in my 86; this would allow a quad assembly.

    Still, I think that the easiest route would be to go to a body shop, get a pair of scratched, cracked, etc aero lights, then cut a hole in them to fit a standard H-4 light (say the Cibie Bobis I had on my last car). This would allow you to use the same mounting and aiming assembly. The only difficulty would be to make a converter out of an old 9004 bulb so you can fit the current harness to the H4 bulb. I run the 80/90 watt high-powered 9004 without an additional relay (remember, Europeans are not as dense as DOT) in my fuzzlights. Really, this should be cheap and easy. The only thing I did upon moving to (ugh) Florida was put plastic covers like IPD and JC Witless sell to guard against all the debris on the roads. These still maintain a much sharper beam definition than the fuzzboxes.

    Maybe if my house stops falling apart and I have any free cash, I'll actually do this.

    I tried to suggest to IPD that they could make a conversion kit, but they demurred.


    PS the other advantage is that the car can quickly be converted to stock for re-sale.

    Subject: Re: Headlights, H-4 and otherwise.
    From: Jason G Velasco <quadrun@jhunix.hcf.jhu.edu>
    To: nick@meaddata.com (Nick Gough)
    Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1993 02:51:10 -0400

    In the back of recent issues of C/D I've seen an ad for high power 9004 bulbs -- I think in 80/100 watt variety and 55/100 watt also. Anybody try these out? I wonder if the stock wiring harness & relay(s) could handle that... They also sell a combo 80/100 watt (x2) and wiring harness deal for $90. Anybody try this out yet?

    How about those nifty looking PIAA 959 projector lamps?


    From: nessa@mentor.cc.purdue.edu (Vanessa M. Cook)
    Subject: Re: H4 bulbs needed
    To: swedishbricks@me.rochester.edu (Volvo-Net)
    Date: Tue, 27 Jul 93 17:07:56 EST

    Nick Gough writes...

    { OK, I measured the 91 745t's headlights & they are 12.75"W by 6.00"H.
    { I wonder if there is something from another auot mfgr. or even from a European
    { Volvo or other European car, that would fit in their place.

    You should have come with us to the London ONT volvo meet. They had 3 or 4 canadian spec head lamp housings. They are made of GLASS! They take the H4 series lamp like the Hellas. Looked real good to me. I seem to remember them asking $100 CAN per set. Good deal. :)

    { > IPD used to sell the _real_ European lights. I believe that they
    { > were $800 the pair. $heesh! I wonder if importing, for off-use
    { > (that was supposed to be off-road use) only wouldn't be cheaper!

    I don't think that the H4 Canadian set up is legal but ... If it works better and I don't think most inspectors/officers would know the diff.


    Brian & 'Nessa (watched over by) Priscilla & Herman (carpet sharks)

    "Maybe it's a gift, a special talent that I, alone, possess!" --Wembley

    "Maybe it's a curse, a special weirdness that only you are stuck with!" --Red

    Date: Wed, 28 Jul 93 21:01:34 EDT
    From: Chrome <ford@me.rochester.edu>
    To: nick@meaddata.com (Nick Gough)
    Subject: Re: H4 bulbs needed

    The H4 headlights at Fred's farm were, in my recollection, for a first generation 740 front end - the one with four lamps. Probably why they could not get rid of them, most of the cars there with the small square lights had replacement H4's of various varieties. The set if very nice, though, coming with European parking light assemblies to replace the American ones because the reflector at the bottom is gotten rid of.


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    Both backup lights have stopped working, where do I look?

    Date: Tue, 21 Nov 1995 09:40:04 -0600
    To: rgendrea@foxboro.com
    From: katman@uchicago.edu (Eileen 'Lee' Katman)
    Subject: Re: 86 240 Backup Lights
    Cc: swedishbricks@me.rochester.edu

    >Both backup lights on my 86 240 stopped working; the fuse and both bulbs
    >are ok. Does anyone have any idea where to look next? Is there a contact
    >on the shifter (auto transmission) that turns these lights on when in
    >the reverse position?

    > >Please reply to me directly as I do not receive the swedishbricks
    >postings. By the way, is there any way yet to receive a daily digest
    >of the postings? I miss the articles but I cannot tolerate the volume.

    We just had this fixed on our 85 240 DL.

    There is a relay in the system that goes bad (another relay fixed our overdrive problems). Apparently there are service bulletins out about these relays, especially the overdrive one.

    I'm sorry I don't know where it is, as we had it fixed at the shop.

    ********** ********* *********** ********** ********** **********
    Eileen 'Lee' Katman Biological Sciences Division
    lee@bio-3.bsd.uchicago.edu Office of Academic Computing
    5-9421 (or 312.702.2056) University of Chicago

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