RESTORING AND REPLACING HEADLAMPS.
Using plastics, such as Lexan®, to replace glass for headlamp lenses had one drawback: the susceptibility of this modern material to ultraviolet damage. The damage is in the form of clouding, which reduces the intensity of the lamp. Take a look at any early model PT Cruiser (see Figure 1) or Intrepid/Concorde/300M vehicles and you’ll see perfect examples of this damage.
Another issue with headlamps is burned out bulbs. Lamps are not replaced from the front of the vehicle as is done on the classics from the ’60s and ’70s. Bulb replacement is done from the inside and can be difficult, depending on the vehicle being serviced.
REPAIRING HEADLAMP LENSES
When headlamp lenses become foggy, there are two options to correct the problem: (1) repair the lens, or (2) replace the entire lens assembly.
These headlamp lenses can be restored to have that crystal clear look in pretty short order by using any of a number of aftermarket headlamp restoration products.
Regardless of the product used, when you’re finished, the headlamp lens will be nice and clear, just like a new unit (see Figure 2). Headlamp performance and night vision illumination are improved, the resale value of your vehicle has increased and you have saved the cost of replacing expensive headlight components.
If the fogging damage to the headlamp lens is severe, or if the aftermarket restoration product didn’t completely clear up the lens, another option exists — replacing the headlamp assembly altogether. You would be surprised by the number of new headlamp assemblies sold for older models like the PT Cruiser, Minivan, Neon, Intrepid, Concorde and 300M. But, there are a couple of drawbacks to buying new headlamp assemblies: cost and time.
There are a lot of PT Cruisers still on the road and, due to its popularity, there will be many PTs on the road for a while. Many of the service procedures of this car present a challenge and replacing the headlamp assemblies is one of those challenges. Here is the step-by-step procedure for removing the headlamp assembly:
1. Raise the vehicle on a hoist
2. Remove the wheel and tire
3. Remove the splash shield, as necessary, to gain access to the headlamp housing
4. Remove the grille
5. Remove the two fascia bolts from behind the grille
6. Remove the fasteners attaching the fender to the fascia on the side being serviced
7. Remove the three fasteners holding the lower fascia to the lower radiator crossmember
8. Remove the four nuts attaching headlamp assembly
9. Remove the headlamp assembly by lowering the fascia, as necessary
10. Disconnect the wire connector
There are quite a few steps involved in removing the headlamp assembly on a PT Cruiser. To install the new assembly, simply follow the removal steps in reverse order. One thing must be kept in mind when replacing headlamp assemblies: the alignment of the headlamps must be checked to ensure that the light beams are being projected in the correct direction.
Replacing the headlamp assemblies on other vehicles might not be as difficult, but on most models, the fascia and/or grille will have to be removed as part of the replacement procedure. Check the appropriate service manual for the vehicle being serviced.
REPLACING HEADLAMP BULBS
Another headlamp service procedure that is the most common one is replacing the headlamp bulb. Bulbs burn out and when one does, it must be replaced. But, some bulbs are easier to replace than others.
To remove the lamp from the headlamp assembly, grab the rotating ring and rotate it 90 degrees counter-clockwise, then pull it from the housing. Remove the bulb from the lamp wiring connector.
The difficulty with this task is accessing the rotating ring. On the old Intrepid/Concorde/300M models, the headlamp unit must be removed to access lamp assembly. The tough part is removing the headlamp unit, which is a bit more involved than the PT Cruiser removal procedure, if you can believe that. On the PT Cruiser, the splash shield must be removed to access the headlamp assembly. That means raising the vehicle and removing the wheel/tire assembly.
Let’s review replacing headlamp bulbs on some other popular models. The late model minivan headlamp procedure is pretty straightforward. Simply remove the headlamp unit and cover (high beam lamp) or rubber boot (low beam lamp) to access bulbs. Disconnect the wire harness connector, then disengage the spring clip from the headlamp. Pull the headlamp from the back of the headlamp unit and remove the bulb. Install the new bulb into the headlamp, push the headlamp into the headlamp unit, engage the spring clip and connect the wire harness connector. Install the cover or rubber boot and re-install the headlamp unit to complete the job.
On the 300/Charger/Challenger series of vehicles, each car utilizes round access covers on the backside of the front lamp unit housing. Accessing this cover on the right hand side (passenger side) is not a problem. On the left hand side (driver side), however, the engine air cleaner assembly must be removed to gain access to these covers. Remove the fastener that secures the air cleaner assembly, then move the assembly far enough away from the back of the lamp housing to gain access.
Firmly grasp the headlamp bulb access cover and rotate it 30 degrees counter-clockwise to unlock it. Remove the access cover from the lamp housing. Firmly grasp the bulb base on the back of the projector within the front housing and rotate it 30 degrees counter-clockwise to unlock it. Pull the bulb and base straight out from the keyed opening in the projector.
Note: Take care to prevent the wire harness and connector from falling back into the housing after disconnecting it from the headlamp bulb.
Disconnect the front lamp unit wire harness connector from the bulb connector receptacle. Then, remove the bulb from the back of the front lamp unit. Install the new bulb into the back of the front lamp unit and reconnect the front lamp unit wire harness connector. Re-install the bulb and base back into the lamp housing.
If you are replacing a high-intensity discharge (HID) element, after removing the access cover, disconnect the high tension cable wire harness connector from the HID igniter connector receptacle. Next, disengage the wire connector clip, not present with standard bulbs, that secures the HID igniter to the back of the front lamp unit reflector. As with a standard bulb, pull the igniter and lighting element straight out from the keyed opening. From this point, you can replace the igniter and lighting element.