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Headlights are dim

Help, Advice and DIY Tutorials on Volvo's extremely popular car line -- Volvo's 1990s "bread and butter" cars -- powered by the ubiquitous and durable Volvo inline 5-cylinder engine.
1992 - 1997 850, 850 R, 850 T5-R, 850 T5, 850 GLT
1997 - 2000 S70, S70 AWD
1997 - 2000 V70, V70 AWD
1997 - 2000 V70-XC
1997 - 2004 C70

Headlights are dim

Postby TipTopTommyT » 10 Aug 2010, 03:04

Recently purchased a 1998 X/C 70. The headlights have always been dim since the purchase. I tried wiping the glass and they are still dim...the glass actually looks fairly clear.

So I took it to a shop for diagnosis. They tested the voltage running to the headlamps, which turned out normal. The shop's conclusion was that the reflectors in the headlamp unit could be failing. They suggest I could either try replacing the lamp or purchase a brighter bulb. I can certain try the bulb route first but if the reflectors aren't performing, I'm not sure how much they will help.

Is the dim headlight problem unusual for Volvo? Any suggestions as to what might be the problem?

Thanks.
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby jblackburn » 10 Aug 2010, 03:33

The standard headlights are awful. I recently put some Silverstars in my S70, and they are great. People say the life isn't very long, though.

E-code lenses (Euro spec) seem to be the way to go. I'm holding out for projectors on mine.
'98 S70 T5 218K miles
2012 Chevy Cruze LT 6MT


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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby thecheat » 10 Aug 2010, 04:16

Be careful with brighter (higher wattage) bulbs. You run the chance of melting wires.

I went to 65 watt low beams in my Taurus SHO and bought a special harness that ran them directly from the battery with a relay that was triggered by the old headlight harness. Dropped right in and worked great. You can see better light output just by getting a direct harness. Even better with the over spec bulbs. There are lots of drop in HID systems on ebay for cheap as well.

What is probably happening is your bulbs are at the end of their lives and are dim because the filament is wearing out. If you buy new incandescent bulbs, don't waste money on crazy brand lights for lots of money. There isn't much that will increase light output except more energy (watts) which you can't really buy locally because thety are illegal. And as I mentioned, you need a special harness to utilize.

Are your headlight lenses glass or plastic? You can polish the plastic ones with kits sold in auto stores if they are foggy or yellow. Also, you should be able to get an idea on the reflectors just by looking at them... Al they need to be is clean and clear.
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby crh » 10 Aug 2010, 06:48

jablackburn wrote:The standard headlights are awful. I recently put some Silverstars in my S70, and they are great. People say the life isn't very long, though.

E-code lenses (Euro spec) seem to be the way to go. I'm holding out for projectors on mine.



My 1998 V70 XC had the stock hi/low factory bulbs in it when I bought it, and the right home that night over the infamous Route 17 in Norcal back to Santa Cruz was, well... *tense*... the next day I visited my friendly euro parts shop and ordered up some nice 'lil Hellas, the H7 hi-beam bulbs in 110w flavor which I'm now rockin' on the '98 XC with great success, although I'll need more lights soon (see below)...

I still needed the Hellas once I moved back east, too... an ultra-white beam, 'low voltage draw', 110 or 120 watt xenon style hi-beam bulb that really reaches out and touches those frequent deer and Moose (!) infesting the roadsides up here in the Vermont north woods... I now can get up to speed late at night again with much more confidence. In 37 years of fast night driving all over North America, I've not hit a deer or moose yet... and the Hellas, while not a rack of four 7" Cibie dedicated driving and peripheral lights on a custom powder-coated bull- bar (I'm workin' on that with my buddy John Buffum, an old champion Audi factory rally pilot with a long win history and a taste for Big wattage at night)... they really give ya a LOT of bang for the $37.00 for both bulbs that I spent back in Norcal last year. For anything else other than a PIAA/Hella low-current draw H7 hi-beam xenon-style bulb though and I'd spring for a dedicated line with it's own fuse or a set of ring lights from IPD (expensive, but I think I took the plunge and ordered them last week...;^)

thecheat's right on, though- be *really* careful of anything other than the low-draw, high-output Hella or PIAA ultra whites, and if ya need to spiff up the headlight lenses, definitely do it.. did it on a few of my other Volvos in the past that needed that attention and it DEFINITELY made a difference as well, a nice bookend to a more powerful H7 hi-beam bulb... good luck, and enjoy the added reach! ;^)
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby darylrobert » 10 Aug 2010, 09:38

i think the engineers at Volvo had a massive hang-over or similar when they designed these headlights.
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby tjts1 » 10 Aug 2010, 12:55

C70 headlights. Get some!
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby thecheat » 10 Aug 2010, 13:13

The website I bought my bulbs and harness is still around... Go to suvlights.com and look at their harnesses and bulbs. Their hid kits are way expensive.
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby jblackburn » 10 Aug 2010, 13:28

tjts1 wrote:C70 headlights. Get some!

I plan on doing exactly that...the C70 lights in combination with the XC grille just makes the S70 look amazing :mrgreen:
'98 S70 T5 218K miles
2012 Chevy Cruze LT 6MT


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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby TipTopTommyT » 11 Aug 2010, 02:10

Everyone - - really appreciate your input and quick response, wow. I purchased a pair of GE Nighthawk Platinum bulbs (H7-55NHP)...they seem to be highly recommended...only downside is they won't last nearly as long as the standard bulbs.

I haven't installed them yet.

jablackburn - I don't know what "E-code lenses" are but I bought some glass lenses from lampsandlenses.com and haven't installed them either! They weren't that expensive and I'm thinking that even if only marginally, they should still be clearer than the 12-year-old originals. Hopefully they're not that hard to install (haven't checked that topic yet in this forum).

crh and thecheat...y'all talking wattage...nowhere on the GE bulbs packaging is wattage indicated. I hope I don't need to upgrade any wiring because I'm not mechanically or electrically inclined...would have to pay somebody. Do you know what the stock bulb wattage is?

tjts1 - - are you saying that the C70 headlights can be used for a '98 XC70? Are they a different technical design?

I'm sure some of this stuff is elementary to you all, so forgive me, but I'm brand new to the world of Volvo.

Thanks.
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby thecheat » 11 Aug 2010, 03:28

If the wattage isn't mentioned then they are regular wattage. I think they are 55 watts for oem and 85 watts for "off road" which i had.

Also, e-code means the type of lens and reflector. US spec (DOT) have a lousy beam pattern. Euro spec lenses are more defined and help put more light where you need it.

I think you're going to get a big bump with the new bulbs regardless. My 850's lights aren't too bad, I'm probably going to do a hid retrofit at some point.
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby crh » 12 Aug 2010, 02:08

Hey TTTT,

it's 55w/60w, at least that's what my 1998 S70/V70 Volvo Owner's manual sez... I've NEVER had any problem with the 'super White/xenon type PIAA or Hella H7 hi-beam (ONLY) bulbs.. they both last, both present no heat or electrical overload issues at all.. they're both designed to be hip to all the possible issues with the stock Volvo headlight housings, reflectors, lenses and plugs/wires/power draw... I prefer the Hellas, they're just as bright and dense a pattern as the PIAAs, are 100w, not 120w, but have as much light as you are gonna safely get out of a stock Volvo V70 headlight, IMO... try these:

http://www.amazon.com/Hella-Optilux-XB- ... B000GKEY1A

I'm using these until I slap a bull-bar and 4 Cibie 7" pencil beam+spread beam (for peripheral vision) mounted on 'em soon, but, as I said, until then, it's the H7 100w Hella high bean xenon bulbs in the stock headlights...
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby BEJinFbk » 12 Aug 2010, 07:02

thecheat wrote:
Also, e-code means the type of lens and reflector. US spec (DOT) have a lousy beam pattern. Euro spec lenses are more defined and help put more light where you need it.

Actually, except for the "City Lights" socket, the reflectors are the same.
All you need is the E code lens for the better light pattern. FCP FTW!
'98 V70 R - Well Equipped for Life Up North... ;)
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby TipTopTommyT » 12 Aug 2010, 23:49

Thanks guys. The specialty bulbs and e-code lenses will cost some $ but at least I'll be confident driving at night.
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Re: Headlights are dim

Postby BEJinFbk » 13 Aug 2010, 00:17

Well...It won't be great, but it'll be closer to useable.
Nothing beats a good set of aircraft landing lights! :twisted:
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