TECH: TORQUE SHOP #5

This is­sue’s Q&A ar­ti­cle is about the ex­te­rior lights of your car.

Torque (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

This is­sue’s Q&A ar­ti­cle is about the ex­te­rior lights of your car.

Should head­lamp bulbs be re­placed reg­u­larly? I have no­ticed, es­pe­cially over the last five years or so, a huge va­ri­ety of shapes and colours. It seems that white light is the cur­rent fash­ion in head­lamps, as are wavy strips of light. Can I up­grade my car’s ex­te­rior lights to these fan­ci­ful and bright bulbs? Au­to­mo­tive light bulbs, whether ex­te­rior or in­te­rior, need to be re­placed only when they are blown. They do not re­quire pe­ri­odic re­place­ment.

The cur­rent tech­nol­ogy in light­ing is LED (light-emit­ting diode). Prior to this, the gas­dis­charge lamps, com­monly known as xenon or HID (high-in­ten­sity dis­charge) lamps, were state-of-the-art.

These gas-dis­charge units are still pop­u­lar today, although the LED ver­sions are fast tak­ing over as the top choice. The main ad­van­tage of these two tech­nolo­gies is their higher lu­mi­nous ef­fi­ciency. They con­sume less power com­pared with the old halo­gen light bulbs.

There are af­ter­mar­ket con­ver­sion kits for the xenon-gas head­lamp units, but they are costly. Also, such mod­i­fi­ca­tions are likely to be deemed il­le­gal. Only fac­tory-fit­ted head­lamps are le­gal in Sin­ga­pore.

Off-the-shelf LED bulbs as di­rect re­place­ments for halo­gen bulbs are avail­able at some ac­ces­sory shops. But be­fore you go out and get a set for your car, make sure they are di­rect re­place­ments that do not re­quire ex­pen­sive hard­ware and, more im­por­tantly, are not ex­ces­sively brighter than your ve­hi­cle’s orig­i­nal head­light bulbs.

I have no­ticed that on some cars with day­time run­ning lights (DRLs), the light goes off when­ever the in­di­ca­tor on the same side lights up. But there are other cars where the DRL con­tin­ues to stay on while the in­di­ca­tor is flash­ing. Why is this so? Day­time run­ning lights are not yet manda­tory across the globe and not in Sin­ga­pore ei­ther. How­ever, many car man­u­fac­tur­ers are in­cor­po­rat­ing DRLs as stan­dard fea­tures, partly in an­tic­i­pa­tion of an in­ter­na­tional

AU­TO­MO­TIVE LIGHT BULBS, WHETHER EX­TE­RIOR OR IN­TE­RIOR, NEED TO BE RE­PLACED ONLY WHEN THEY ARE BLOWN.

man­date for all ve­hi­cles.

There are sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits in a mov­ing ve­hi­cle hav­ing its lights on dur­ing the day, as they en­hance vis­i­bil­ity to other road users. This is the same ar­gu­ment for switch­ing on head­lights in bad weather dur­ing the day – it is not for you to see the road ahead, but for oth­ers to im­me­di­ately no­tice your pres­ence. Due to the nat­u­ral am­bi­ent light dur­ing the day, the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of LED DRLs has a par­tic­u­larly high level of lu­mi­nes­cence. Hence, when an in­di­ca­tor is switched on, the white or yel­low DRL could, to the hu­man eye, op­ti­cally over­whelm the am­ber flash­ing sig­nal.

To avoid this ad­verse con­di­tion, the DRL is to­tally turned off, so the am­ber flash­ing light ap­pears as the only light dis­played in the head­lamp unit. This is the cur­rent for­mat in light­ing tech­nol­ogy. When DRLs first ap­peared on cars a few years ago, they were ei­ther halo­gen or reg­u­lar in­can­des­cent-fil­a­ment types in­stead of today’s LEDs, so the am­ber in­di­ca­tors were made of higher-wattage lamps to ap­pear suf­fi­ciently brighter. With these head­lamp sys­tems, you may see the DRL and in­di­ca­tor flash­ing along­side each other. Af­ter­mar­ket DRLs are a dif­fer­ent mat­ter al­to­gether. Firstly, they are not al­ways com­pli­ant with reg­u­la­tions, and sec­ondly, they may not have been de­signed with suf­fi­cient con­sid­er­a­tion for rel­a­tive bright­ness. I have no­ticed that at night with my car’s head­lights switched on, the en­gine’s idling speed slows down, while the lights stay very dim and brighten con­sid­er­ably only when I rev the en­gine. Is there a prob­lem with the en­gine or the elec­tron­ics, or both? The most likely cause for the symp­toms de­scribed above is a low volt­age sup­ply. This will of­ten cause the en­gine con­trol unit to func­tion a lit­tle ab­nor­mally, caus­ing the head­lights to be dim.

The first thing to check in rec­ti­fy­ing the prob­lem is the con­di­tion of the bat­tery.

If it is weak, re­place the bat­tery im­me­di­ately. Some­times, the prob­lem may just be loose bat­tery-ter­mi­nal con­nec­tions. Make sure these are clean and tight. An­other pos­si­ble prob­lem may be the earth ca­ble, which can de­te­ri­o­rate over time and cause elec­tri­cal is­sues. In­spect the ca­ble and re­place it if nec­es­sary.

Fi­nally, check the con­di­tion of your car’s al­ter­na­tor, which should sup­ply 14 volts to the bat­tery when the en­gine is run­ning at its nor­mal idle speed.

Brighter isn’t nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter when up­grad­ing your car’s head­lamp bulbs, even if they’re “HID­like” halo­gens. MAY 2018

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