Dim headlights | Ford Escort Owners Association (FEOA)

Dim headlights

Discussion in 'Escort Wagons' started by Joey_Twowagons, Sep 26, 2019.

  1. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    I am currently working an evening shift, and really notice how dim my headlights are. Driving through a construction area with no lighting or reflective lane markers and no other traffic, it is difficult to see the roadway.

    I polished my headlights this morning which made them look much better, but I also want to check the grounds for them. I couldn't easily trace the ground wires, but there is a square white plastic tab thing on ground wires about a foot away from each headlamp, that perhaps is the ground. Can anyone confirm?

    I measured the resistance at the ground wire headlamp connection to battery negative post and got a value of 11 ohms on both sides. Is this a normal range?
    I haven't yet disturbed the grounds.
  2. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    That small white goody with several wires coming to it IS the ground wire for the headlamps, turn signals, running lights. 11 Ohms seems high to me.
  3. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    Thanks, tomorrow I'll clean the grounds and apply dielectric compound to them.
    Tonight I'll see if there's any noticeable improvement in visibility when I drive through the construxion zone.

    I like to change only one thing at a time, so I can judge which change had what effect.
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  4. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    To me, the plastic headlamps are a 'slow consumable', and not just on Escorts either.
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  5. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    So here's the update on the dim headlight story.

    The headlights were polished with Chrome Polish, lighting is much improved, but it appears that they are aimed too low.
    Does anyone have a quick and nasty guide to aiming the headlamps? I'll try to find a level, flat parking area that has a nice smooth wall against it, although I can't even think of one near me off hand.

    The resistance in the ground circuit of 11 ohms was traced to the battery to frame connection. I will wait to repair due to inclement weather, using jumper from battery to body so as to not lose radio and clock presets.

    Headlamp ground connections were cleaned and dielectric grease applied where they bolt to frame, which is good preventative maintenance even if there is not now a problem with high resistance there.

    I recall reading, many years ago, of glass headlamps that could be swapped into an Escort. What I read referred to headlamps from a New Zealand market Mazda Protege.
    However I could never find a confirmation of this information in my online searching, nor could I find that story again.
    Can anyone add to this myth/rumour/information?
  6. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    No idea of any other headlamps for an Escort, beyond the "eagle eyes" brand on ebay.
    At first I tried polishing the fogged headlamps, but its only the outside surface I could polish. And no matter how good I got that cleaned up, the material of the lens internals showed signs of tiny crazing, and the gloss of the reflecting surfaces inside was dimmed by dust etc. Once I tried to clean the interior of a headlamp; using an angled item with a paper towel wetted with windex on it. All that did was to loosen up sheets of the chromey stuff, which would then slough off in large chunks.

    I was perfectly happy with the round sealed beams cars used to have; even the ones on my 6 volt 63 beetle were okay with me. It seems the vast range of different shapes on cars today is mostly a marketing tool - to have your lights look cutesy in my rear view mirrors.
  7. rbailin

    rbailin FEOA Member

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    The OEM 3G headlamps have built-in levels that work very well in combination with a Lisle Ford headlamp adjusting tool (otherwise you'd have to use a 4mm socket, IIRC). I guess earlier models don't have this feature?
  8. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    The OEM 2nd gen. lights were adjusted using a tiny socket, but there was no level. You had to park facing the back wall behind a Walmart, etc.
    The aftermarket lamps often have just a couple of phillips head screws for the adjustments.
  9. novanutcase

    novanutcase FEOA Member

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    I agree. The headlights, since they're made of plastic, will eventually yellow to the point that it isn't worth trying to polish them out. As you noted, you can polish to your hearts content but the actual lens material will yellow throughout meaning the backside of the lens that is inaccessible, unless you remove the lens from the body of the light housing by heating it up and prying it off, along with the inner reflector coatings coming off as well.

    The wagon is up for a repaint so I'm going to hit up my local Home Depot and have them special order me a couple of cases of satin black. When I did it the first time I was experimenting a lot and learned quite a bit about how to effectively paint the car without having to have it professionally done. When I do that I'm going to replace the headlights with these:

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/FOR-97-02-...e=STRK:MEBIDX:IT&_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649

    John
  10. 1993tracer

    1993tracer FEOA Member

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    Yeah, I probably should of just ordered some new ones for what I paid for one used one. However, I buffed both of them out and they are pretty clear now.
  11. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    Here's the before and after pictures of my headlamps.
    N.B.: The hood is popped just to allow better access to the top of the lens, it's not tweaked.

    New Jetty, Escort headlamps 009.JPG New Jetty, Escort headlamps 010.JPG
  12. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    I freed up the headlight adjusters this afternoon and aimed the lights at a local parking area against a wall.

    On a quick test drive around my suburbia tonight they do seem improved. I'll find out more when I go on a long road trip at the end of the week.
    It's satisfying to have aligned them, I haven't aligned my car headlights since I had the universal glass round ones.

    Oddly, my right signal flashing is now sped up, but all the lamps seem to be lighting up properly. Usually this means a heavy draw in the system, I think.
  13. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    I thought a faster than normal flashing meant a lower current draw was the culprit. That is what I recall happening; and not just on Escorts of course. It can depend on whether the turn signal is a separate bulb from the brake lights (such as is the case with the rear lights on my wagon), or whether the turn signal bulb is combined with the running light bulb (such as is the case with front turn signal lighting on my 2nd gen Escorts).
    Anyway, you can have a bad ground connection for one of the lamps, and the bulb will still light up - but because its the smaller filament (the one for the running light) which is coming on. Due to the lack of a ground connection (such as a bad socket-to-bulb contact), when the contact going to the larger filament gets 12 volts applied, if the bulb isnt well grounded, the current that would normally go through the heavy filament,then to ground, will instead raise the bulb base to 12 volts, and the current will flow through the running lamp filament -- if the running lights are not on.

    Its surprising how hard it is for me to tell the difference between the light from the running-light-filament (which is about an 8 watt) versus the turn-signal-brake-lamp-filament (which is over 20 watts).

    Due to the age of my Escorts, I find the sockets for the lights at the back of the car are going bad. Before I drilled drain holes into the lenses, this was from rain water collecting in the bottom of the lamp housing.

    My 2nd gen Escorts have a single 1157 bulb in each of the front turn signals, and 3 bulbs on each side in the back lamps; 1157 for brake & running lights, 1156 for turn signal, and an 1156 for the backup lights.
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  14. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    I noticed that the front right signal was unusually dim when flashing, so took it out to investigate. The bulb looked good, the contacts are good and I could see nothing wrong with it.

    Sure enough, I tried it again and now it works fine. Strange but I'll accept the healing.
  15. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    Your removing/replacing the bulb may have been what improved the ground connection a little.
  16. austin86

    austin86 FEOA Member

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    Not to take things off topic but has anyone tried to retro bright head lights?
    I know it works wonders on the plastic computers case parts the brown from age.

    Edit
    https://retr0bright.com/
    Basically the idea is that the flam retardant chemical added to the plastic will rise to the surface and is what cause it to yellow. The retro bright mix is meant to remove the add chemicals or something
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2019
  17. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    The headlight lenses aren't ABS plastic, but perhaps the process will work on them.

    An interesting read.
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  18. austin86

    austin86 FEOA Member

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    That was my thought. Maybe it's not just a problem with abs. It could be that non abs plastics have the same problem.
  19. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    When you think about it, all kinds of things yellow with age: cloth, paper etc. and lightening them involves oxidizing agents like bleach and hydrogen peroxide, for instance.

    If I try treating my lenses I will wait till next summer when they can dry out in the sun. It would take forever in our cold wet winter to dry them out.

    The other option is to get an old pair cheap at the junkyard to experiment with.
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  20. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    I read about a very quick trick to make foggy lenses 'clearer' You spray carb and choke cleaner onto a paper towel, and gently bring the paper towel down across the lens of the headlamp. It does make it clearer, but you have to sure not to try and buff it - for a couple of days. The carb/choke cleaner dissolves the top layer of the UV coating from the lens, and it takes time to harden up again. I tried this on the headlamps on my 87 minivan. It helped - though they are still far from 'new' looking.

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