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What makes my headlights fade?

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
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What makes my headlights fade?

Postby bguzz » 22 Oct 2010, 17:25

I have a 98 S70 and the headlights are really not very powerful at all. I can drive with my brights on and nobody flashes me.

My bulbs are fairly new (within a year) and are the GE halogens they sell at wallmart. I have tried PIAA's and they aren't any better. I've read that the lenses could be the problem or the reflectors (they fade with UV exposure?). Since the lenses are glass, I would expect that it is pitting that causes the dimming of the light? I don't know if I buy the reflectors fading due to UV exposure, but I suppose it could be true.

Has anyone had any definitive experience on this as to what type of solutions works?
2008 XC90 3.2L - 65K
98 S70 N.A. 204K
93 Ford F150 4x4 133K
Sold 98 S70 N.A.@418K-still ran great
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby C@lvin » 22 Oct 2010, 19:32

The lens is a common problem on our cars and most other kinds too. Some people report good luck with a lens polishing/buffing kit that you can pick up at auto parts stores or Wal-Mart. Others have posted here that they are very pleased with the Euro spec (E-Code) lens that is available from site sponsor FCP for $60 each before the 10% MVS discount or shipping. They also have an October promo for 10% off and free shipping for orders over $99 (use code oct99).
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby bguzz » 22 Oct 2010, 19:46

is it that the lens is getting pitted from driving? or does something happen to the glass over time?
2008 XC90 3.2L - 65K
98 S70 N.A. 204K
93 Ford F150 4x4 133K
Sold 98 S70 N.A.@418K-still ran great
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby BEJinFbk » 22 Oct 2010, 20:41

bguzz wrote:is it that the lens is getting pitted from driving? or does something happen to the glass over time?

If it's pitted badly enough to affect your light output, I'd think you'd be able to feel it in the glass.
I've never heard of a polishing kit for GLASS headlights, just plastic.

I started with SilverStars, changed up to E-code glass and got reasonable, but not terrific lighting.
Short of jewels, HIDs would probably be my next step for improved lights.
But for now, SilverStars and E-code glass made a noticable improvement on the cheap. :wink:
'98 V70 R - Well Equipped for Life Up North... ;)
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby C@lvin » 22 Oct 2010, 22:12

BEJinFbk wrote:I've never heard of a polishing kit for GLASS headlights, just plastic.


My bad, I thought our lens were plastic. I thought I'd read some testimonials here about using the polishing kits, but I must be confusing it with the forums I participate in for my Previa and Odyssey. I am certain that they use plastic for the lens.

+1 for Silverstars. I get Silverstar Ultra bulbs from ebay or Amazon at pretty good discounts. I burn my lights on my daily driver S70 in the daytime as well and they last me about 6-9 months.

There is an interesting discussion about the whole bulb/lens topic with a couple of helpful links at this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=31709&p=145346
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby Red-Arrow » 23 Oct 2010, 08:14

You can compound the glass with a aggressive grit but I think your reflectors are probably shot and faded as well.

Its probably to expensive to have them electroplated in a vacuum chamber here in the US so I would just go for an after market replacement pair of reflectors. You can use the cheapest nasty bulb you can find and it will still give you a sharp crisp focused beam.

This is how my old reflectors looked on a 1990 Saab 900

Image


Image

A direct AB side to side comparison with the new Hella reflectors and lens.

Image

Image

This is how the new reflectors look behind the glass flash and no flash.

Image

Image
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby fasteddyT5 » 11 Nov 2010, 14:57

I also have a 98 S70, our cars use H7 bulbs. Daniel Stern offers H9 bulbs on H7 bases, the H9's are rated at 2100 lumens at 65 watts as compared to 1450 lumens at 55 watts for the H7's. I have liked these better than other after market bulbs, especially since they don not have a blue coating like the silver stars due.

Also have you checked the voltage at your headlights? Mine reads something like 12.5 volts, as compared to the 13.8 volts at the battery. I am planning on installing a new relays off the battery to bring in the current on larger wires direct from the battery to the headlights.

The drop of a single volt from 13.5 volts to 12.5 volts reduces light output by something like 20%.
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby Warren561 » 11 Nov 2010, 19:06

Red-Arrow wrote:old reflectors


That's quite a difference. I suspect that for our S70's there's no way to clean/polish the reflector. We'd have to just replace the entire assemblies? If that's the case you might as well pay a bit extra and get the jewels (reflector and lens)? Or can you just buy a new reflector (non-jewel) and utilize your existing (non-jewel) lens?
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby kelvin6 » 11 Nov 2010, 19:10

I first upgraded my Volvo H7 headlights by using a beefier wiring harness (running 14 gauge wiring direct to the battery). This made a very noticible difference in brightness. The next step was to upgrade to the H9 on H7 base bulb, the Osram Rallye 65w H7 bulb. This made a major change in brightness. The heat output has no negative effect so far on my headlights. The upgraded wiring makes using this bulb very safe. It probably is safe to run it on the stock wiring as well.

I recently replaced my headlight lens with another DOT glass set, which were pitted like crazy, and now my light output is very good compared to no upgrades
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1995 Volvo 850 GLT <- RIP
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby MadeInJapan » 13 Nov 2010, 21:43

It's been a while since I've posted but found this discussion something I can relate to. Actually, I have a '98 S70 too and have had the same issues. Although the Silverstars were better, I was burning through them sometimes within a month, then I found the solution! And...it's fairly cheap!! Change our your whole set-up to HID light bulbs. You can buy the kit for the H7's here: http://www.ddmtuning.com/Products/DDM-H ... 35W-or-55W You'll have to use a 1 inch bit to drill the hole on the back side of your headlight cover and then just insert the new bulbs that have a rubber grommet to keep moisture out over the hole and then mount your ballasts to somewhere nearby- I used velcro (passenger side, behind the head light and driver's side onto the battery). Anyway, they work great- I didn't even upgrade to 55watts and it's much brighter now!! They look sort of fluorescent but much brighter and I have had none burn out (by the way- a life time warranty!). Check out the bulb color carefully- I stayed with as white as I could get- of course you could go towards the blue spectrum if you want but I found that they look cheesy, especially on a Volvo (personal taste).
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby Red-Arrow » 13 Nov 2010, 23:13

I do not recommend HID kids for reflectors, a Lens must be used to focus the light from the arc inside the bulb. Maybe you can find a company that does electro plating on your reflector locally. HID kits produce more heat and will further and faster damage your precious reflectors.
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby MadeInJapan » 14 Nov 2010, 22:25

I did not change the lens or reflectors on mine when I did the HID kit- I have had no problems and the light produces is much better than stock.
'98 S70 T5 Emrld Grn Met/Beige Tons of Upgrades Mobil-1
'04 V70 2.5T Red/Taupe Some Upgrades Mobil-1
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby JRL » 15 Nov 2010, 01:49

03-04 C70 headlights are the best
Not only do they look awesome, you can actually SEE
(Unfortunately, expensive, at least new).


Image
2000 V70R Black, 122,000 miles (Wife's).
2006 XC70 White only 61,000 miles. New daily driver.
2000 V70R Silver, 36,200 miles!!! SOLD (I will regret this)!

Contact info for purchases: jrl1194 (at) aol (dot) com
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Re: What makes my headlights fade?

Postby Red-Arrow » 15 Nov 2010, 10:22

MadeInJapan wrote:I did not change the lens or reflectors on mine when I did the HID kit- I have had no problems and the light produces is much better than stock.


I did not mention lens but the fact remains the reflector has not been designed to collect the light from a HID bulb arc. Its very different from a filament and the plasma moves inside the bulb. Its creates a glare that is very annoying for drivers coming in the opposite direction. The light output is greater but not better in a meaningful way. We know that high temperatures whites light are not the best colour against a dark road, yellow is a far more useful colour against a dark road.

JLR the V70 lamps look great. Did you have to modify them for mounting? or was it a straight forward swap around?
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