Poor headlights or poor aim?

TheIntruder

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Both? Is there an easy way to tell?

I've inherited a 1994 Mazda 323/Protege that I'm getting back into shape as a local beater after being dormant and seldom used for years. It's in pretty good shape considering the age.

Took it for a drive the other night and I was (only mildly) surprised at how poor the lighting is. The headlights only provide a pool/nebulous blob of light in the near field in front of the car. Not much breadth and distance reach is poor. Even compared to other lights of the era, they seem lacking, even though the reflectors are decently large. And I doubt the 9004s help.

I don't believe it's had any front end body work, so the aim is probably as it came (unless it changed on its over time).

The service manual says to aim according to 9H-15V spec with a Hoppy machine.

The bulbs are Koito, which probably means they're original and old. I wouldn't object to popping in a set of modern +XX bulbs, but I don't think it will result in much improvement.

Given the nature of the vehicle, there won't be a lot of resources directed to it, but I do want to try to see if the lighting can be rectified. But if the headlights are inherently poor, more so than a conditional problem, then I'll let things be.
 

-Virgil-

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I don't recall if those lamps have glass or plastic lenses; either way, evaluate the lenses for deterioration (clouding/yellowing if plastic, pitting/sandpocks/cracks if glass). If the lamps are basically sound, remove them from the car, pour hot clean water and a few drops of dish soap or Simple Green in, put the bulbs back in, and shake-shake-shake in every direction. Repeat that a few times and then do it a few times with clear clean hot water, you can get a lot of scum/film off the reflector and inside surface of the lens that way. Of course you have to let the headlamps dry completely before reinstalling them.

The aim is almost definitely not as it came -- it does tend to drift away from the correct setting with normal vehicle usage, road vibrations, thermal cycling, minor knocks from careless parkers, potholes, etc.
Those mechanical aimers were made by many companies, not just Hoppy, and they're all obsolete and scarce as a hen's teeth any more; you're not likely to find one (outside a museum or maybe Ebay). For that matter, it's not even easy to find a current-type, optical headlamp aiming machine, but it's worthwhile persisting until you do.

Koito-brand bulbs are probably the originals, yes, and they're certainly putting out much less light than when they were new. Get some good bulbs in there -- that's these or these. And you could get a nice improvement in headlamp intensity by putting in relays.
 

TheIntruder

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Thanks both.

The lenses are indeed plastic, but the exteriors appear to be in very good condition. I'll have to take a look at the interior. The filaments do show visible signs of degradation, so even if more advanced bulbs weren't available now, they could certainly stand to be replaced.
 

TheIntruder

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The long weekend has afforded some time to clean this car up, so I've been digging further into the lighting. The headlights are clear, and in good shape, even if the bulbs could be refreshed.

One thing I like is that it has courtesy lights on the rear of the front door panel arm rests that illuminate the lower front cabin; a feature that some luxo cars don't even have.

The left side map light wasn't functioning, so of course I had to took a look. The wire/rivet/exposed contact construction of the dome lamp assembly wasn't quite what I'm used to, but after cleaning it up, everything worked again.

What's odd is that in the course of a day long detail, with the doors open for much of the time, the main dome light stopped working, so I thought it had burned out, only to find that it functions normally again the next day. If this was a luxo barge, I would have thought it was the body controller going into battery conservation mode, but I don't think it has such a thing. The bulb is a 3175, which I've never had experience with; it's a tiny little thing that gets hot very quickly and I still wonder what caused it to go out. Overheating?

But what I found more odd, and surprisingly frustrating, was identifying the map light bulbs, which are small metal bayonet base with a small round globe. They are marked Toshiba "A12 6W," but in trying to find a common trade number, I haven't been able to come up with anything. If anything, it resembles a higher wattage version of an 1895 with a nickel base. Are they uncommon, or just proprietary?

I think I've found the OE part number (0000111895-which also only references the A12/6W), but even Mazda's part numbering system seems like a mess, so I'm not really sure. Using that number only gets hits from one dealer's parts pages, unlike what one might find by say, searching for a more common trade number or a manufacturer equivalent part number.

Not helping in general is all the noise generated by the LED "bulb" listings that are crammed with number equivalents that pollute the search results. Though I will say that, due to the design of the assembly, this is one case where substituting the original omnidirectional bulb (which has no reflector) with an LED with a big, directional emitter plopped on the end would probably improve the performance of the map light.

Given the names, and car history, I think most, if not all, of the bulbs are original.
 

-Virgil-

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You can very closely approximate the original 6w bulbs with an Osram 3886X. Stern has them and so does Candlepower.
 

TheIntruder

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Thanks. It was mostly the challenge of the hunt that intrigued me.

Due to the design of the assembly (a free floating globe with a magnifying lens and no reflector) I doubt it would make much of a difference even with a better bulb.
 

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