All creatures are attracted to the light and we motorists are no exception. Our dream of driving through the dark with a blaze of light before us leaves us with a hankering to replace our standard halogen headlamps with xenon or LED lights. But can it be done?
The good news is: Yes, it can. At least with models which are also available with the desired headlamps, either for a surcharge or as a different equipment version.
The bad news is: It’s extremely complicated and expensive.
Unfortunately, the all-knowing Internet sometimes gives quite a different impression. Forum posts and offers from dealers talk of fabulous conversion kits which make xenon lights out of halogen headlamps quite simply, and for next to nothing, too. This already sounds too good to be true – or at least to be entirely trustworthy. These conversion sets include xenon lamps whose bases have been adapted to fit the lampholders of halogen lamps. This is prohibited, and that is not the only snag, for there are good reasons for this prohibition: The xenon lamp no longer matches the optical features of the headlamp. This means that the light generally falls somewhere or other, but not in a way that produces a good light distribution. And even in the unlikely event that the light distribution is, in fact, ok – and we have come across conversion kits that this applies to – then the amount of light emitted is excessive. This is because the light distribution for halogen is greater than that which is permitted for xenon. In other words, headlamps with conversion kits create glare – and lots of it.
Conversion kits for LEDs are now also available. The problems with these are not an excess of light. The kits consist of a few LEDs that have somehow been attached to a support with halogen lamp bases. Unlike the xenon conversion kits, the LED devices even operate with a supply voltage of 12 volts. Installing them is quick and simple. But anyone who attempts this feat will soon notice that, cool as their headlamps may look from outside the car, hardly any light comes out of them. Reputable tests have likened the output to that of parking lights.
But that’s enough about all the things that can’t be done. Let’s move on to what really is possible.
Okay, so here are the things you need to and have to do when converting your headlamps:
- Get some headlamps. If possible, go for original parts or spare parts from large headlamp manufacturers. Quality used headlamps are generally a better choice than no-name copies. Note: Make sure the things are approved.
- Get hold of the following little doodads: Sensors for headlamp range control, control units, the headlamp washer system, a bunch of cables and plugs.
- Install the headlamps – which is the easy part, comparatively speaking.
- Adjust the wiring. Xenon and LED headlamps take different plugs and wiring harnesses than the halogen versions. This is one of the trickiest steps in the conversion process.
- Check whether the software of the on-board electronic systems needs reprogramming.
By now, you’ll have realized that this task is so laborious that it’s hardly worth attempting.
Is there anyone out there still toying with the idea? Do you have any questions on the subject of headlamp conversion? Then drop us a line! We will address the most common issues in an FAQ post.
Editor’s note: As there might be no general rules regarding retrofitting please check always with the appropriate authorities.