Saturday, 29 December 2012

Fitting UK Specification Headlights

Now to get VIN 10719 fully legal for UK roads it has to first pass what we call an MOT test (or Ministry of Transport test, as it used to be called) before the car can be registered for us on UK roads. There are a number of modifications that need to be made to any US car in order to pass this MOT. As we drive on the left here the US spec lights point in the wrong direction and would "dazzle" any oncoming traffic. Plus in the UK the outer lights must have a clear white "running light", rather than the amber running lights below the headlights that illuminate on the DeLorean.

The correct size of replacement light was the first problem. The lights are 4X6" in size, and can be sourced from either Valeo or Hella. The Valeo units are a simple swap for the outer lights, and even come with an adaptor for converting the 4656 style headlight harness on the DeLorean to the H4 standard. The Hella units are similar, but the side light sticks out of the back of the headlight, meaning the headlight buckets behind need to be cut to fit. 

The Valeo sounded like the best bet, but at the time of writing seem to be unavailable in the UK. So, the Hella units it was. I managed to get them from this site: HERE

The part number for the lights is 1LB003 177-511 which is an Audi part, but fits the DeLorean perfectly. 

Its important at this stage to say that you only need to change the outer lights to pass the UK MOT test, but I decided to remove all four. That way I could fit four of the above units and have four running side lights instead of just the two. In my mind this makes far better use of the extra set of lights on the car. Why have four headlights and only use the inner ones for high beam!

The first stage to fitting the lights was to get the originals off the car. This went fairly easily really. The lights are held in to the buckets by some metal retaining brackets which fit snugly over the glass surrounds to the lights. These are in in turn held in place by four short screws into the light buckets. These screws are a pain to get to on the outer lights. You will find that you have to carefully bend up the fascia to access these and unscrew them. A magnetic screw driver is a real bonus as the screws are easy to loose into the body of the car. 

Once these are removed you can pull out and unplug the lights themselves. keep them safe, you never know when you might need them! Now, as I'm fitting the Hella units I decided to also remove the buckets at this point. I can then cut out the hole needed for the side lights and repaint them before sticking them back in. These buckets are held in by three adjustment screws and a single spring each. These screws move the buckets back and forth, allowing for adjustment in both planes. They looked like they needed a bit of TLC, and as you'll see later one was stripped of its head while I fought to remove it. The posidrive head on these wasn't really made to stand up to the elements and tends to corrode. 

With the buckets out I needed to cut a hole in the back for the extra long sidelights. After some thought I decided to use a stink tap hole cutter to cut out the hole. I needed to drive a pilot hole first for the cutter, then using a spanner tighten the cutter until it cut a perfect round hole. Simple! With that done to each of the four buckets I painted them in black spray paint to protect them and seal the bare metal I'd exposed by cutting the holes.
Returning to the car the support bracket behind the lights was in a sorry state. Not as bad as some, but not good. I decided to clean off the rust and repaint in black to match the buckets. Better protection for later as well. It wasn't the best finish in the world, but its not going to be seen and will protect the metal for a good few years. 
Now came the point of adding the electrics. Now, first off I needed to change the side amber light to blink in time with the indicator. I also needed to disable the "constant on" amber light when the side lights are on. To do both I first found the three wires that run down to the amber front light (black, green and red). The red is the live, black the earth and the green is the "flashing live" wire. I cut the red live wire, so disabling the constant running light, and put a spade connector on the end. This live can be used for one of the new side lights. I then used a scotchloc to tap into the green wire and ran this over to the amber side light feed (NOTE: I've since learned that scotchlocs are not recommended for this type of thing and will be using good old solder and heat shrink. I recommending doing the same). You can then cut the red "live" to the amber side light and connect the light side of the red wire to the new "blinking" live from the front amber light. This also frees up another live for the outer new side light. Perfect!

Finally, the connector for the outer main lights needs to be modified. The connectors need to be changed round as per the diagram on this page. To get the originals out simply use a small screw driver pushed carefully into the socket to release the tabs and withdraw the connector. At this point you can put in a second wire into the earth connection to be used as an earth for the new side lights. Put a spade connector on this wire as before.

At this point it should be a simple case of reversing the procedure and fitting everything back into the front of the car. But no, it wouldn't be that simple. Although I had cut some nice sized holes in the back of the buckets for the new side lights I hadn't figured in that the metal frame behind these would still obstruct them from going back all the way, especially with the spade connectors attached. After some thinking I decided to modify the side light holders. I first cut them down in length using a hacksaw, then soldered both live and earth wires direct to the connectors on the back. I also bent these connectors at 45 degrees to help with getting them in. With the addition of a spade connector at the end of each wire they were ready to be fitted once more into the car.

In the end they worked perfectly, and I love the four lights illuminated when the side lights are on. One further modification I might do is fit LED side lights. I nearly did this with some 12V high output surface mounted LED's I had about the place, but the rather hot capacitor that went with them in the end put me off. Watch this space for that development!

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