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Thread: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

  1. #1

    Default How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    My car is very old and well over 250,000 miles and it's still running OK but the headlights: the street lights might be brighter than mine. They're so dim I don't even know they're on. I did ask Pepboys, Kragens, ... about the whole headlights assembly but they're too expensive at about $500/pair, and I'm afraid to ask the price at dealer. What can I do to have a brighter but cheaper option?

  2. #2

    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    Quote Originally Posted by TDKKP View Post
    My car is very old and well over 250,000 miles and it's still running OK but the headlights: the street lights might be brighter than mine. They're so dim I don't even know they're on. I did ask Pepboys, Kragens, ... about the whole headlights assembly but they're too expensive at about $500/pair, and I'm afraid to ask the price at dealer. What can I do to have a brighter but cheaper option?
    Get a headlight restoration kit and polish away the nicks, scratches and yellow fog that surely covers your lens assembly.

    Get new bulbs even if your old ones aren't burnt out. They dim a bit over time. This is also a good opportunity to get better bulbs. Sylvania Xtravision are a bit brighter for the same power rating. Definitely don't get (American) Silverstars though, or any other bulb that uses tinted glass. The blue tint actually filters out useful light for the sake of a "cool" color. European Silverstars are supposedly a good product. Better yet, get HIR bulbs. They make even more light from the same power rating, but they're expensive.

    Install relays. You know how people mod their Maglite's switches to reduce contact resistance? There can be a lot of resistance in your car's wiring harness and in the headlight switch.

    If your car uses 9005 and 9006 bulbs, there's a mod you can do to use the 60 watt high beam bulb in the low beam assembly that usually uses 50 watt bulbs. 9005 bulbs also don't have the black frosting on the tip of the bulb which absorbs a portion of the light.

    My dad has a 1st gen Avalon, btw, and it's been a good car for him too.
    Last edited by likeguymontag; 02-24-2009 at 09:46 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    Do use the HIR bulbs (shop around, price varies, but make sure you're getting the real Toshiba ones and not knockoffs). Use the 9011 (HIR1) in the high beams and the 9012 (HIR2) in the low beams, don't use a high beam bulb in the low beam headlamps. The HIRs produce much more light than any variant of 9005 and 9006. And yes, avoid the "extra white" bulbs with blue glass (all of them; Sylvania Silver Star, PIAA, Hoen, Polarg, Nokya, TruView, etc. - all the same scam). There is no European Osram Silver Star in the 9005/9006 format, but that's irrelevant because you should use the HIRs. Pay attention to the slight difference in base keys between 9005/9006 and 9011/9012.

    Before you swap in the better bulbs, do restore the headlamp lenses. The only kit worth messing with, IME, is this one; it includes a hardcoat that gives your lenses a fighting chance of remaining clear for longer than it takes you to wash your hands after polishing them (it's the original hardcoat that gets all cloudy with sun exposure - when you polish the lenses, you're polishing off the original hardcoat, and the base plastic will degrade even faster/worse afterward unless it is recoated).

    Make sure the lamps are aimed correctly, that's critical to good seeing.

    And remember that "HID kits" in halogen-bulb headlamps do not work safely or effectively, which is why they are illegal.

  4. #4

    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scheinwerfermann View Post
    Before you swap in the better bulbs, do restore the headlamp lenses. The only kit worth messing with, IME, is this one; it includes a hardcoat that gives your lenses a fighting chance of remaining clear for longer than it takes you to wash your hands after polishing them
    Why do you feel this kit is better than the others? I have a different kit waiting around for the weather to warm up around here. It has a couple grades of paper for wet sanding the lenses and some kind of coating/sealer to finish it off. I understand the need for a hardcoat, but you're making me wonder whether the one that comes with my kit is inadequate. Any idea about the chemistry of a proper hardcoat? It isn't a laquer, is it?

    BTW, thanks for clarifying the info in my previous post. I'm glad to see there's a better source for HIR bulbs.

  5. #5
    Flashaholic* coloradogps's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    This is what you need.

    Works great!

    http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/Car/Care/

  6. #6

    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    The hardcoat on a headlamp lens has a really tough job to do, protecting hot polycarbonate from physical abrasion and UV in a very harsh environment -- outside at the front of a car operated in temperatures ranging from well below zero to over 100 degrees F, and with rapid temperature changes to the headlamp lens (turning the lamps on from cold, or cold water splashing on hot lenses)...and it has to be optically clear, too. That's a tall order, which is why even the highly- and expensively-researched OE coatings degrade in service. Just any ol' off-the-shelf clearcoat won't get the job done for long, and many of them can actually worsen/hasten the degradation. The reason I say the kit I linked is the only one worth messing with is because it contains a particular hardcoat that is about the best one can possibly get for field application. There may be other suitable field-applicable hardcoats out there, too.

  7. #7

    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scheinwerfermann View Post
    Do use the HIR bulbs (shop around, price varies, but make sure you're getting the real Toshiba ones and not knockoffs). Use the 9011 (HIR1) in the high beams and the 9012 (HIR2) in the low beams, don't use a high beam bulb in the low beam headlamps. The HIRs produce much more light than any variant of 9005 and 9006. And yes, avoid the "extra white" bulbs with blue glass (all of them; Sylvania Silver Star, PIAA, Hoen, Polarg, Nokya, TruView, etc. - all the same scam). There is no European Osram Silver Star in the 9005/9006 format, but that's irrelevant because you should use the HIRs. Pay attention to the slight difference in base keys between 9005/9006 and 9011/9012.

    Before you swap in the better bulbs, do restore the headlamp lenses. The only kit worth messing with, IME, is this one; it includes a hardcoat that gives your lenses a fighting chance of remaining clear for longer than it takes you to wash your hands after polishing them (it's the original hardcoat that gets all cloudy with sun exposure - when you polish the lenses, you're polishing off the original hardcoat, and the base plastic will degrade even faster/worse afterward unless it is recoated).

    Make sure the lamps are aimed correctly, that's critical to good seeing.

    And remember that "HID kits" in halogen-bulb headlamps do not work safely or effectively, which is why they are illegal.

    As you recommended I ordered the DoubleHorn polish kit, shipping is a little high but I trusted you so I pulled the trigger.

    About the bulb: why can't I use the high beam in low beam to get it brighter with a little mod? And on the other thread you mentioned a product that just came out Philips Xtreme Power: are they better than your HIR in your link?

  8. #8

    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    Quote Originally Posted by TDKKP View Post
    why can't I use the high beam in low beam to get it brighter with a little mod? And on the other thread you mentioned a product that just came out Philips Xtreme Power: are they better than your HIR in your link?
    Putting the high beam bulbs in place of the low beam bulbs is not really smart.

    The 9005 and 9011 bulbs have a very short lifespan relative to the low
    beam bulbs, because the 9005 and 9011 are designed for high-beam use,
    which comprises about 2% of all headlamp use in North America. Rated
    lifespan of a quality 9005 or 9011 is 320 hours, vs. 875 hours for a
    quality 9006 or 9012. So the economy is false; you'd be replacing "high beam as low beam" bulbs much more often and the cost and inconvenience of doing so would quickly outweigh the higher cost of the premium low beam bulb.

    In addition, the shank of the 9005 and 9011 high beam bulbs is smaller than that of the 9006 and 9012. Despite grinding the base tabs, the 9005 bulb rattles around in the 9006 holder. This occurs despite "fixes" like doubling up on O-rings. This improper fit causes a couple of problems: It shortens the life of the bulb due to vibration, causes beam flicker (more noticeable to oncoming traffic than to the driver) and it spoils the
    controlled breathing of the headlamp assembly, which allows condensation to accumulate in the headlamp, blurring the beam pattern and eventually damaging the headlamp reflector.

    Furthermore, in reflector-type headlamps, the high beam bulbs' lack of blacktop can cause dangerous levels of glare from your low beam lights for other road users (even with a bulb shield, and debilitating levels of backscatter for you yourself when driving in bad weather.

    It's really just much more effective and cost-effective to use the 9012 in
    place of 9006, and the 9011 in place of 9005.

    The Xtreme Power is the best 9006 bulb on the market in terms of light output and beam focus, but its output and lifespan are still far lower than the HIR 9012.

  9. #9
    Flashaholic* bshanahan14rulz's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    I support lightman here, clear your lenses and tryout some HIR bulbs. These suckers put out way more light than regular 9005 or 9006 bulbs without using more electricity. Instead, they increase efficiency by using not only electrical resistance to heat the filament, but also IR radiation to help heat that filament. Also, since they aren't overdriven they should have about the same lifespan as a regular 9005 or 9006 bulb

  10. #10

    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    I used the DoubleHorn Cleaning Kit to clear the lens as suggested but the result is not very good. The driver's side is better than the passenger side and I did the first two steps four times before spraying the clear coat protection. It took me couple of hours each day yesterday and today. I can see the reflectors barely now, they were "white" before, but still very foggy. I guess I will need to do it few more times next weekend. Any more suggestion?

  11. #11
    Flashaholic
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    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    Car detailers actually have no problem using car polishes to polish other parts of the car.

    If the oxidation on your headlight housings is really bad, consider wet sanding with 1500 or higher grit sandpaper first, then use a good compound to get rid of the sanding scratches.

    Then, you can seal it with a good clearcoat.

    HIR bulbs are expensive (about 3x the price of a run of the mill stock bulb), but are a good, easy option.

    You can also get new housings off eBay for substantially less than $500, buying off big retailers is relatively safe...

  12. #12

    Default Re: How to improve the headlights of my 1997 Toyota Avalon?

    Quote Originally Posted by TDKKP View Post
    I used the DoubleHorn Cleaning Kit to clear the lens as suggested but the result is not very good. The driver's side is better than the passenger side and I did the first two steps four times before spraying the clear coat protection. It took me couple of hours each day yesterday and today. I can see the reflectors barely now, they were "white" before, but still very foggy. I guess I will need to do it few more times next weekend. Any more suggestion?
    If you couldn't clear them up with that much polishing, then your headlamp lenses are dead through and through, and you need new headlamp assemblies. Genuine Toyota ones are more expensive than any of the aftermarket items, but also way better in quality and performance - see http://www.capacertified.org/press/CAPALighting3.pdf , which is the report on a large test of original-equipment vs. aftermarket (TYC & Depo) headlamps. Epic fail for the TYC & Depo units (see page 21 and 30 if you don't have time to read the whole report).

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