Author Topic: Halogen headlights in older cars  (Read 840 times)

Offline Sconnors

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  • Name: Scott Connors
Halogen headlights in older cars
« on: August 20, 2017, 08:16:05 AM »
I recently saw an article stating it wasn't the best idea to put halogen headlights in older vehicles. I have a 1968 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and it has the original headlights except for one which someone replaced with a halogen light. Is this safe to have these in an older car?
Thanks for any input
Scott
Scott Connors

Offline cadillac ken

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2017, 09:10:39 AM »
I can't see any drawbacks.  I have sealed beams in my '65 that are over the counter Halogen.  Have for years.  Also have converted my 1937 Cadillac OEM headlights (using the original buckets, lenses, trim rings and reflectors) to Halogen H-4 bulbs (it is now a 12volt system).  What exactly did the article say was the issue making it "not the best idea"? 

Offline 67_Eldo

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2017, 10:04:14 AM »
I'm working on the electrical system of my 67 Eldorado right now. My goal is to augment 50-year-old wiring with another (shadow) electrical network that can distribute the greater power required by modern electrical devices (e.g. halogen headlights, higher-power audio, and maybe a few servos to replace things like vacuum-operated headlight doors and trunk openers).

If you plug halogen headlights into the original sealed-beam sockets, they'll probably work fine ... for a while. But halogens (and LED headlights) pull more amps through the wires and switches than their forefathers. That means that you can cook contact points more quickly in your headlight switch, for example.

The solution I'm going with is to add a headlight harness that uses relays to route power from the battery to the (new) headlights. You plug the existing switch into the proper connector in the harness which, in turn, uses the original switch to control the small amount of power running to the relays instead of the large amount of power that would otherwise be running through the switch. When the original switch controls the relays, that switch should last forever because of the reduced load.

The harness I ordered from Amazon for this job is "4-Headlight Relay Wiring Harness H4 Headlamp Light Bulb Ceramic Socket Plugs Set." It was $22. I have yet to install it so I can't tell you if it will fail right away. But for $22, it was cheap enough to save me the labor of getting the parts and assembling it myself. I've attached a picture of it below.

Beyond headlights, I'm also planning on installing a number of other power-consuming electronics in the near future. I could just tap into the fuse box, but it wouldn't be too long before I was either blowing fuses, melting wires, or frying ancient-and-expensive switches. So I'm working on a shadow distribution box that will allow me to go nuts with gadgetry without completely cooking the original Cadillac wiring harness.

And as someone who was finally able to remove the headlight switch from my Eldorado two days ago, I can say, without a doubt, that replacing switches -- or messing around anywhere under the dashboard at all -- is something you do *not* want to do unless it is absolutely necessary.

I added a pic of my first power-distribution prototype below. Moving from right to left, the black thing with the red buttons is a 100-amp circuit breaker. The lead from the battery will connect to the input of the circuit breaker. This will hopefully prevent any huge electrical shorts from destroying the car since this box will be mounted as close to the battery as possible.

Moving to the lower-center of the pic, the shiny cylinder sprouting four terminals is a 200-amp relay. (I'm not planning on pulling 100 or 200 amps, but what the heck.) The top two terminals on the relay will connect to the ACC option on the ignition switch. That means that all accessories that depend on this box for power will be shut off when the ignition key is in the Off position.

The smaller, rectangular block to the left of the big relay is a fuse box. The two purple things attached to the top of that block are 60-amp fuses. This is a typical aftermarket fuse setup used by the mega-car-audio crowd these days. 60-amp fuses are the *smallest* fuses available for this type of fuse box.

At the center-top of the pic is a conventional fuse box. Originally I was going to run one of the outputs from the other fuse box to this one to handle smaller distributions of juice. In my latest iteration of this setup, I had to remove the secondary fuse box because, with a lid on, it took up too much space. If I need it, I'll put it somewhere else.

I am 3D printing the bottom of the enclosure and the lid. The 3D filament I'm using is ApolloX ASA plastic. It should be able to stand up to the under-hood heat and abuse. (I printed a new cover for my windshield washer pump using ApolloX a month ago and it seems to be holding up well.)

I added an aluminum layer to the distribution-box chassis for added strength and as a potential heat sink for the big relay. I don't know how hot that relay will get, but the aluminum plate should be overkill.

That's my very long-winded way of saying that relays are good for controlling halogen headlights on older cars. :-)

Offline TJ Hopland

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2017, 10:14:48 AM »
Has anyone done a side by side comparison of the amp draw?   I keep forgetting to do it when I have both types handy.   It would be interesting to see actual numbers and seems odd that you never do.
StPaul/Mpls, MN USA

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75 Eldo rusty but trusty
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And other assorted stuff I keep buying for some reason

Offline 67_Eldo

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2017, 10:39:51 AM »
I agree. Lighting specs never *quite* match up. Thanks, marketers!

However, if you can find it, the wattage rating is the one I pay attention to (as far as electrical-system load goes).

I estimate that the original 1967 sealed beams (and I'm generally assuming this to be true up to 1978, when halogens were legalized in the USA), use about 35 to 40 watts each.

Halogens (or at least the ones that interest me) seem to start at about 55 watts and can run to 100W or more. LEDs are all over the place, wattage-wise.

Jumping from 40W to 55W probably isn't catastrophic, but I'd rather preserve what's left of my old system for as long as possible than to fry it all and start over. :-)

Offline Sconnors

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2017, 03:45:42 PM »
Do they sell non halogen headlights for these cars??
Scott Connors

Online Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621

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A Cadillac Motorcar is a Possession for Which There is no Acceptable Substitute

Offline Highwayman68

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2017, 05:24:35 PM »
I'm working on the electrical system of my 67 Eldorado right now. My goal is to augment 50-year-old wiring with another (shadow) electrical network that can distribute the greater power required by modern electrical devices (e.g. halogen headlights, higher-power audio, and maybe a few servos to replace things like vacuum-operated headlight doors and trunk openers).

If you plug halogen headlights into the original sealed-beam sockets, they'll probably work fine ... for a while. But halogens (and LED headlights) pull more amps through the wires and switches than their forefathers. That means that you can cook contact points more quickly in your headlight switch, for example.

The solution I'm going with is to add a headlight harness that uses relays to route power from the battery to the (new) headlights. You plug the existing switch into the proper connector in the harness which, in turn, uses the original switch to control the small amount of power running to the relays instead of the large amount of power that would otherwise be running through the switch. When the original switch controls the relays, that switch should last forever because of the reduced load.

The harness I ordered from Amazon for this job is "4-Headlight Relay Wiring Harness H4 Headlamp Light Bulb Ceramic Socket Plugs Set." It was $22. I have yet to install it so I can't tell you if it will fail right away. But for $22, it was cheap enough to save me the labor of getting the parts and assembling it myself. I've attached a picture of it below.

Beyond headlights, I'm also planning on installing a number of other power-consuming electronics in the near future. I could just tap into the fuse box, but it wouldn't be too long before I was either blowing fuses, melting wires, or frying ancient-and-expensive switches. So I'm working on a shadow distribution box that will allow me to go nuts with gadgetry without completely cooking the original Cadillac wiring harness.

And as someone who was finally able to remove the headlight switch from my Eldorado two days ago, I can say, without a doubt, that replacing switches -- or messing around anywhere under the dashboard at all -- is something you do *not* want to do unless it is absolutely necessary.

I added a pic of my first power-distribution prototype below. Moving from right to left, the black thing with the red buttons is a 100-amp circuit breaker. The lead from the battery will connect to the input of the circuit breaker. This will hopefully prevent any huge electrical shorts from destroying the car since this box will be mounted as close to the battery as possible.

Moving to the lower-center of the pic, the shiny cylinder sprouting four terminals is a 200-amp relay. (I'm not planning on pulling 100 or 200 amps, but what the heck.) The top two terminals on the relay will connect to the ACC option on the ignition switch. That means that all accessories that depend on this box for power will be shut off when the ignition key is in the Off position.

The smaller, rectangular block to the left of the big relay is a fuse box. The two purple things attached to the top of that block are 60-amp fuses. This is a typical aftermarket fuse setup used by the mega-car-audio crowd these days. 60-amp fuses are the *smallest* fuses available for this type of fuse box.

At the center-top of the pic is a conventional fuse box. Originally I was going to run one of the outputs from the other fuse box to this one to handle smaller distributions of juice. In my latest iteration of this setup, I had to remove the secondary fuse box because, with a lid on, it took up too much space. If I need it, I'll put it somewhere else.

I am 3D printing the bottom of the enclosure and the lid. The 3D filament I'm using is ApolloX ASA plastic. It should be able to stand up to the under-hood heat and abuse. (I printed a new cover for my windshield washer pump using ApolloX a month ago and it seems to be holding up well.)

I added an aluminum layer to the distribution-box chassis for added strength and as a potential heat sink for the big relay. I don't know how hot that relay will get, but the aluminum plate should be overkill.

That's my very long-winded way of saying that relays are good for controlling halogen headlights on older cars. :-)

I like your setup, it is very clean and should not be too noticeable once it is installed.

Offline J. Gomez

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2017, 06:36:17 PM »
I agree. Lighting specs never *quite* match up. Thanks, marketers!

However, if you can find it, the wattage rating is the one I pay attention to (as far as electrical-system load goes).

I estimate that the original 1967 sealed beams (and I'm generally assuming this to be true up to 1978, when halogens were legalized in the USA), use about 35 to 40 watts each.

Halogens (or at least the ones that interest me) seem to start at about 55 watts and can run to 100W or more. LEDs are all over the place, wattage-wise.

Jumping from 40W to 55W probably isn't catastrophic, but I'd rather preserve what's left of my old system for as long as possible than to fry it all and start over. :-)

You can check most of the light bulb references here -> http://www.donsbulbs.com/

It shows the standard H5001 incandescent/halogen seal beam to be rated at 55W and the H5006 dual beam at 35W/35W.

If you take the H5001 rated at 55W the draw at 12V would be about 4.5A.

Most likely you existing wire gauge would be 16AWG ??? and the length may well be around 8ft-10ft give or take. At that length the voltage drop at the source would be about 0.2V which would increase your draw to 4.6A. The maximum length for the 16AWG with that load of 55W would be about 13ft. Again this is formulation when a new wire is in place, age wire tend to deteriorate depending on several factors so the formulation would change drastically.

Using a relay(s) closes to the load as you are in the process to do  8) , is the best option to safeguard two things the “old wire” and the “headlight switch” and it also off loads the headlight switch.

Good luck..! 
J. Gomez
CLC #23082

Time is irrelevant when you work on your classic car, eventually you will enjoy it..!

Offline Glen

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2017, 02:10:16 AM »
I’ve been running halogen headlights in my 68 ELDO since the late 80s with no ill effects.  But I use the Twilight Sentinel almost exclusively.  That bypasses the headlight switch. 
I have been thinking of installing relays on the headlights just to reduce the load on the wiring and boost the current to the lights.   
Glen Houlton CLC #727 
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Offline The Tassie Devil(le)

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2017, 02:35:43 AM »
I have been running Halogen globes on my cars, and use relays to increase the power to the lights, and to save the switch from being overloaded.

With the Fibre Optics, I carefully drilled a hole in the metal base, and inserted the brass ferrule into it, and everything works perfectly.

Bruce. >:D
'72 Eldorado Convertible (LHD)
'70 Ranchero Squire (RHD)
'74 Chris Craft Gull Wing (SH)
'02 VX Series II Holden Commodore SS Sedan
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Offline cadman56

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2017, 09:23:06 AM »
Maybe I was lucky?  I ran halogens in my restored 67 Eldorado for years and did a lot of night driving with it.  Never got wires hot or melted.
When I restored my 56 convertible I made new harnesses front to rear and ran halogen headlights and 2057 tail lights.  Never had a problem.
Yes, if I were to do it again I would add the relays as that would be a very easy thing to do.
My current 56 Seville will be left with stock lights as it will not be driven at night.
Larry
1956 Cadillac Coupe deVille (sold)
1956 Cadillac Convertible (sold)
1956 Cadillac Eldorado Seville
1967 Cadillac Eldorado (sold)
1968 Cadillac Convertible
1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham dElegance
Larry Blanchard CLC #5820

Offline bcroe

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Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2017, 03:41:16 PM »
I don't believe the lights can be "too good".  Back when I drove the 62 about
40,000 miles a year, I tried a lot of stuff, not necessarily legal.  The aircraft
landing light is still here.  I found the MOST IMPORTANT things, are to have
the headlights accurately aimed, and quite clean. 

I changed everything to Halogens when they came out, nearly as good as
the best other things I had tried.  The current drain wasn't so high; with
short wire runs voltage drop wasn't a problem.  Better to check just where
the voltage regulator was set.  BUT connectors and switches get worse and
worse with age.  Using relays to unload precious (unobtainium) switches is
a good idea.  A lot of connectors got replaced with a solder joint and heat
shrink here.  Silicon grease surrounding contacts helps reduce oxidation. 

I see a lot of huge alternators installed, with a CONTINUOUS rating equal
to the peak draw of some low duty cycle items like audio.  In my opinion
this is a waste of effort, unless the vehicle spends a lot of time at idle. 
Bruce Roe

Offline Highwayman68

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2017, 03:40:16 PM »
Have you laid the new harness out in the car to see if it will reach all of the headlights yet?

Offline 67_Eldo

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2017, 05:22:16 PM »
I have not. (I'm trying to work on too many things at once!)

Eyeballing it, I think the harness length will be OK.

However, if I decide to route the harness along a convoluted path, then I'll probably have to splice in some additional length. I've got plenty of fat wire on hand for just such emergencies. :-)

Offline GBrown #8092

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2017, 03:28:40 PM »
I used Cibie European headlights in my 81 Olds 98  from almost new, for over 10 years. Never had any problems.
However, for 96 B and C  (Fleetwood is a "C" body) bodies, many of those in my other club have experienced melted harnesses when trying to use higher wattage bulbs. If you are dealing with one of that vintage PM me and I'll try and find the tech article concerning how to deal with it on those newer cars

Glenn

Offline Highwayman68

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2018, 09:57:29 PM »
I have not. (I'm trying to work on too many things at once!)

Eyeballing it, I think the harness length will be OK.

However, if I decide to route the harness along a convoluted path, then I'll probably have to splice in some additional length. I've got plenty of fat wire on hand for just such emergencies. :-)

Have you gotten around to installing the harness? How did it fit?

Offline 67_Eldo

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2018, 09:29:52 AM »
I have not yet installed it. I got sidetracked when I hit the vinyl top problem that kept getting worse.

I did check it for length again and it seems sufficient if I run it along the upper radiator mounting lip. But if I decide to follow some crazy cable-routing plan (e.g. run the cable down along the bottom of the radiator) I'd have to make an extension.

For me these days, it is body work for the foreseeable future. Waaah!

Offline Mike Josephic CLC #3877

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Re: Halogen headlights in older cars
« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2018, 04:39:09 PM »
I like your setup, it is very clean and should not be too noticeable once it is installed.

I also like it.  Shows some creative and knowledgeable thinking.
Nice work!

Mike
1955 Cadillac Eldorado
1973 Cadillac Eldorado
1995 Cadillac Seville
2004 Escalade
1997 GMC Suburban 4X4, 454 engine, 3/4 ton
custom built by Santa Fe in Evansville, IN
2011 Buick Lucerne CX
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