Sylvania replacement headlight. Click image to enlarge
By Glen Konoroski
Many people who have an older or vintage car are aware that their headlights are just not up to spec. As headlights age, the filament inside the sealed beam headlight deteriorates to a point where it produces a yellowish light which isn’t as bright. As well, the receptacle that the headlights plug into can get corroded lowering the amount of 12-volt electricity the headlight is getting, and again reducing the light produced.
One of the best ways to improve older vehicles’ headlights is to replace them with a sealed beam Halogen replacement unit. These replacement headlights look like the originals with a rounded convex glass front so they will not look out of place on your older vehicle. If you are driving a car with the steering wheel on the right and have never changed headlights, it is better to have North American headlights that shine slightly to the right.
If you do decide to switch over to a Halogen headlights keep in mind that these units will require more power to run them. An average sealed beam light will use 2.5 amps to power them, where as Halogen requires five amps. Providing your vehicle’s charging system is in good working order these replacement headlights should not over tax your generator/alternator or your wiring. If you want to go all the way and get the nice European H4 Halogen replacement headlights, these units do require more power and may require you to upgrade your vehicles generator/alternator.
Changing your headlights over is quite straight forward – you just remove the headlight rings, remove the old headlight and replace it with the new one. While you have the headlight out, it’s a good time to check the receptacle for corrosion. As mentioned, this is an area that can also cause the headlights to lose power due to corrosion on the connectors within the receptacle. If they are corroded, it is a simple procedure to replace the receptacle. Most automotive parts stores carry receptacles with short wires attached. This allows you to cut the old wires (make sure you leave enough wire to work with) and solder it to the new wires on the receptacle. To seal the connection, I use Shrink Tubing as electrical tape will dry up after being heated up next to a hot headlight.
I was very surprised to find a big improvement in lighting after changing the older headlights on my 1975 Mini. Visibility in night-time driving was improved vastly over the older original headlights.
Prices for replacement Halogen headlights start at around $16.00 depending on what headlight and quality of unit you want. I bought my lights at Canadian Tire, which has a good assortment of headlights. H4 Halogen headlights with the replaceable bulbs range in price from $80 to $100.