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Why do my headlights suck so bad?

JakePSD

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My headlights SUCK. I put brand new bulbs in the other day, which barely made a difference. My lenses are a bit cloudy but not horrible, but I don't think that is the problem anyway. There is hardly any difference in the light output between high and low beams. However when I pull the lever towards me and hold it I can actually see pretty good, there is a very noticeable difference in light output. Can anyone explain this to me and possibly give me a remedy? I kinda plan on buying some clear headlights off ebay but that will only do so much when the hi and low beams are almost exactly the same light output. This is pretty important considering I work midnights and probably 75% of my driving is done at night...
 
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koda2000

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if your lenses are even a little bit cloudy if makes a huge difference in light output/focus. this is because the cloudiness defuses the light and scatters it rather than focusing it on the road. replace your headlight lenses/assemblies with new ones and you'll see a big difference. some people restore their lenses with success, but i've never been able to get them as clear as a new lens and it doesn't stay clear for very long. besides, for the cost of replacement headlight assemblies, i have better things to do with my time.

all that being said, even in perfect condition, the stock Explorer headlights aren't the greatest. if you want better lighting, consider converting to HID along with new lenses.
 
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masospaghetti

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I agree with everything koda2000 said, except for using HIDs - without a housing specifically designed for them, they will scatter light like crazy and make it dangerous for other drivers.

New housings with bulbs are less than $25 from Rockauto, old polished lenses are nowhere near as clear as new lenses. Start there, you can get a set of high efficiency bulbs (NOT high wattage, or "xenon" bulbs) like the GE Nighthawk, Phillips Xtreme Power, or Wagner Britelite to increase output a bit also.

BTW, when you "pull back" the turn signal stalk, both the low beams and high beams are activated at once, which is why you can see better. When you push the stalk forward to use high beams, the low beams turn off.
 
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bill06447

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I just installed new assemblies this past weekend-$17 apiece from Rock Auto, bulbs included, took an hour total including aiming. maybe 8 screws total, the assemblies just snap in after prying the old ones out-what a huge difference, well worth the time and money for huge improvement in nighttime visibility.

Bill
 
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swshawaii

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Ditto koda and maso. Love reading the "reaction" when people first sand the protective UV coating off their polycarbonate headlight lenses, polish, then rave at how they look almost new... for a very short time. Usually don't hear from them after that. Obviously the longevity will vary depending on how the vehicle is stored and protected from the sun. Headlight restoration kits are almost a scam IMO, and require frequent polishing to maintain that "almost new" look. The only long term solution are new replacement lenses, preferably OEM.
 
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toypaseo

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Take a look at Philips Xtreme Vision bulbs. Philips Xtreme Power bulbs are also an excellent choice, but the Xtreme Vision ones are supposed to be even better :thumbsup:
 
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koda2000

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Take a look at Philips Xtreme Vision bulbs. Philips Xtreme Power bulbs are also an excellent choice, but the Xtreme Vision ones are supposed to be even better :thumbsup:

New brighter bulbs may help, but not if the lenses are cloudy. i once had a guy buy some $50 bulbs and come back and say they made no difference. i looked out the store window, at his car, and his headlight lenses looked like his headlights were full of milk.
 
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koda2000

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I agree with everything koda2000 said, except for using HIDs - without a housing specifically designed for them, they will scatter light like crazy and make it dangerous for other drivers.

New housings with bulbs are less than $25 from Rockauto, old polished lenses are nowhere near as clear as new lenses. Start there, you can get a set of high efficiency bulbs (NOT high wattage, or "xenon" bulbs) like the GE Nighthawk, Phillips Xtreme Power, or Wagner Britelite to increase output a bit also.

BTW, when you "pull back" the turn signal stalk, both the low beams and high beams are activated at once, which is why you can see better. When you push the stalk forward to use high beams, the low beams turn off.

sorry, i didn't make that clear.
 
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1996BLKBauer

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You can always go the Redneck route, by mounting 10 forward facing lights on your truck, I don't suggest it, but that is what I did, and it works amazing, obviously I shut them off when there is someone in front of me, or oncoming traffic. I got a pair of Hella 55watt spot lights for $65 off of Amazon.
 
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sloop

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the fog lamps also go off when you put on the bright lights

i replaced mine probably 10 years ago - got them on ebay and as best i recall the brand is brite eyes - still as clear as the day i bought them

which makes me question why anyone would buy the oem housings as replacements - expensive and would cloud over again
 
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toypaseo

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If you want to try to clear up your present headlights, you could try Meguiar's Plastx. I use that on mine. After they are smooth and clear, I put on a couple of layers of car wax, to help them stay clear longer.

1217320669_meguiars-plastx-clear-pl.jpg
 
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toypaseo

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i replaced mine probably 10 years ago - got them on ebay and as best i recall the brand is brite eyes - still as clear as the day i bought them

which makes me question why anyone would buy the oem housings as replacements - expensive and would cloud over again

I am hesitant on aftermarket headlights. Heard a few complaints about horrible light pattern, complaints on easily broken mounting structure, and some complaints on how easy the lens crack.

Pry buying one of the better know aftermarket brands would have better quality though :dunno:
 
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sloop

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that was my expectation of these - to be cheap and not last - i was pleasantly surprised - and still surprised

i replaced the headlight and parking light assemblies - perfectly clear to this day

but i will say this - my ex is garaged
 
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JakePSD

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One thing I don't understand is why the low beams shut off when you turn on the highs. The cloudy lenses aren't really the entire problem though. I know that is part of it, but like I said also that between hi and low, there is almost no difference in light output. What would cause that? Its almost like the voltage isn't there or something. I'm gonna have to break down and buy a multimeter and see what kind of voltage I'm getting at the plug.

With new lenses, even OEM suck. I don't get why they are all diffused and stuff, almost just translucent, brand new. Almost every new vehicle has completely transparent lenses. That has to make a large difference on light output.
 
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1998Exp

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Unlike older vehicles with two headlights on each side, ours have just a single bulb with dual filament. Turning on both the high and the low filament doubles the power, and neither the bulb nor the lamp can take it for a long time, so they made it available only for the 'flash to pass' situation. The high and the low filaments use the same amount of power - 35 Watts (if memory serves), and the only difference is that the high aims higher and spreads it over a larger area.
Measuring the voltage is not such a bad idea. Light output varies very sharply with voltage, so if you find that it's even 0.5V lower across the bulb than across the battery, you are certainly on to something. Having said that, it's a well known fact that the Explorer (along with other Fords with dual-filament lights of that era) is seriously deficient in headlight output -- and that's an understatement.

One thing I don't understand is why the low beams shut off when you turn on the highs. The cloudy lenses aren't really the entire problem though. I know that is part of it, but like I said also that between hi and low, there is almost no difference in light output. What would cause that? Its almost like the voltage isn't there or something. I'm gonna have to break down and buy a multimeter and see what kind of voltage I'm getting at the plug.

With new lenses, even OEM suck. I don't get why they are all diffused and stuff, almost just translucent, brand new. Almost every new vehicle has completely transparent lenses. That has to make a large difference on light output.
 
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Flash

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Here in Australia the double filament bulb is halogen 60 watt high 55 watt low.
I put 130 watt high 90 watt low in with a beefier wire for the earth and a relay for the power going in.

The light output is adequate.

Future plans involve fitting 2 bi xenon reflectors in the place where the headlight bucket now goes. 2 per side that is.
 
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masospaghetti

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I think the stock bulbs are 55w low, 65w high.

Our headlights are diffuse-looking because the reflector in the housing isn't complex. It's using the lens to focus the light. Newer headlights use the reflector to focus the light.
 
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SoNic67

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Here in Australia the double filament bulb is halogen 60 watt high 55 watt low.
I put 130 watt high 90 watt low in with a beefier wire for the earth and a relay for the power going in.
Here in US we have laws against that. We call it "technical inspection" - only some redneck states don't have it in the books.

Plus, it's rude to blind everyone that shares the street with you. But that's up to everyone's upbringing.
 
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swshawaii

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Here in US we have laws against that. We call it "technical inspection" - only some redneck states don't have it in the books.

Plus, it's rude to blind everyone that shares the street with you. But that's up to everyone's upbringing.
Agree. If your night vision is that poor you shoudn't be driving at night. :thumbdwn:
 
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SoNic67

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Agree. If your night vision is that poor you shoudn't be driving at night. :thumbdwn:
Hey, you agreed with me! That's a first... :salute:
 
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