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Hella fix for Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays…
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Paulbeard
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:08 pm    Post subject: Hella fix for Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

Went out today and had to put my lights on. When i pulled into a parking spot against a blank wall, I decided to test the highbeams to see the difference and discovered those splashes of light were my highbeams. No, I don't have a working indicator on the dash. Yes, I know I should fix it.

There were headlight relays installed (I ordered Jay Brown's kit but didn't need it). And I have upgraded the bulbs to 100/85w ones.

So when I got home, I did some investigating. This is the voltage at the battery:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


This is the voltage at the socket, using both leads, no local ground:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


This is with a local ground (the screw that fastens the side marker light):
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


And this is the highbeams:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Looks like I lose some voltage on the way up to the light socket but the local ground seems to not be a factor. I tested it a couple of times and the difference was sometimes even less that shown here. How do I sort that out? Pull the relays and see what they're getting at the panel?
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IdahoDoug
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

Just to clarify something confusing. You ordered Jay's kit, then later discovered your van had already had its headlights rewired by a previous owner who installed relays? So you decided you did not need Jay's kit, and did not install it, instead choosing to rely upon the existing headlight wiring work someone else did?

And now you are unhappy with the headlamp output after putting in high wattage bulbs?

Do I have that correct? I ask, because I am confused by the mentioning of Jay's kit, and then that you didn't/don't need it.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

I wouldn't call a turn signal screw "local" or even a "good" ground.
my headlights are grounded right at the bucket with self tapping sheet metal screws.

cleaned your battery posts and/or main ground straps recently?
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

them voltages could be a tad higher but if the van js off and your battery is not perfect, you may see low voltages like this. is test ran with or without motor revkng, thus thurning alternator. you may simply have a low battery or as other person mentiined poor battery connection(s)

then measure the voltage drop across the relay, and the ground terminal at bulb to a nearby body panel (ground) measure drop across battery cable ends to battery posts.

you will find the drops someplace. fix them.

for this, measure the battery voltage across the posts when lights are on, the differance of battery voltage at the two pbuld (while light is on) verses what you measure at the bulb will be the total drop, the total is the sum off all the drops across the head lamp circuit loop.

good luck, may you see the light.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

borninabus wrote:
I wouldn't call a turn signal screw "local" or even a "good" ground.
my headlights are grounded right at the bucket with self tapping sheet metal screws.

cleaned your battery posts and/or main ground straps recently?

^^^ x2

Bottom of the battery box is often overlooked, yet a crucial link.

Your battery voltage is low. How many volts from the alternator?
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:52 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

IdahoDoug wrote:
Just to clarify something confusing. You ordered Jay's kit, then later discovered your van had already had its headlights rewired by a previous owner who installed relays? So you decided you did not need Jay's kit, and did not install it, instead choosing to rely upon the existing headlight wiring work someone else did?


I obviously didn't need to add relays: they were already there. In the conversation I had with Jay when I got his kit, he didn't urge me to install his in place of the others.

IdahoDoug wrote:
And now you are unhappy with the headlamp output after putting in high wattage bulbs?


I continue to be puzzled by the lack of light provided, yes, given that I have relays in place and stronger bulbs. That was why I was curious about how much voltage was getting delivered.

IdahoDoug wrote:

Do I have that correct? I ask, because I am confused by the mentioning of Jay's kit, and then that you didn't/don't need it.


That was by way of getting around anyone suggesting I add relays to the headlights as they are already there. I find it helps to provide as much information as possible to forestall glib replies/assumptions.


borninabus wrote:

cleaned your battery posts and/or main ground straps recently?


No, and who knows if that has ever been done. That's why I am wondering what kind of voltage I should see and where it might be lost. Hence the question about testing at the relay.

Grounding at the mounting frame sounds easy enough to test. The screw I used, since it passes through the body, seemed like a reasonable choice but I can try something else.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

dhaavers wrote:


Your battery voltage is low. How many volts from the alternator?


13.8 or so last I looked, when I looking at the house battery the other week. That was what it was getting, not the main battery. I can test that as well.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 4:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

OK - got it. So, I've done a number of lighting upgrades to a variety of vehicles over the years. I have been surprised at how often the relays themselves are the culprit and that includes name brands (Bosch, cough, cough). But the noname relays are just aggriegiously bad. So, I would check the power side of the circuit that's been previously installed, and if not already in place, I'd take the headlamp grounds right to freshly drilled holes at the light buckets. And I'd check the relays themselves as I personally have had a lot of them fail in the last 20 year, where the 20 years before THAT, I'd never seen one fail. Probably the direction other components are going due to offshore production.....

As you probably already knew, bulbs are very sensitive to voltage, and will continue to operate but at levels of output that are disproportionate to the voltage drop.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 4:27 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

The voltage to the battery from the alternator reads 13.86. I think 14 and change is the standard so it looks like I have a place to start. There was no difference at all on the headlight ground, be it bright metal in a screw hole, a protruding screw through the body or the socket itself — 11 and change volts. Both sides, right and left, are the same from the last time I checked that.

I think the ground strap gets looked at first, then test again to see if we are getting good charging voltage. If that works out, test the lights again. If they are still weak, I look at the relays. No idea who made them but it sounds like makes no difference: everything is crap nowadays. You pays your money and takes your chances.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 4:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

Putting in relays is just covering up wiring problems.

Find the bad wires and replace them

By the way, a battery at 12.06 V is in need of charging replacing as a start point.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 4:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

Abscate wrote:
Putting in relays is just covering up wiring problems.

Find the bad wires and replace them



From what I have learned, it means doing things the way they should have been done, specifically with regard to headlights and the load that goes through the switch without a relay in place. I'll let more learned folks defend that position.

Abscate wrote:

By the way, a battery at 12.06 V is in need of charging replacing as a start point.


That's as may be but not my first problem.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 6:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

Abscate wrote:
Putting in relays is just covering up wiring problems


Yeah, and the problem started at the factory:

A) 16 gauge wires
B) No relays for the headlight circuit
C) Power is routed to the headlights through the headlight switch

All of the above results in a voltage loss at the headlights, hence adding relays (something VW has been doing to their cars since the Golf 3 or 4 era). The following before/after was taken with the engine off (apologies, it's a Cabriolet, which I added relays to ages ago and I didn't bother doing the same before/after proof with the van):

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


^That was done without cutting, splicing, or replacing the factory wiring. My van's lights looked those on the left when I first bought it... driving down a pitch black highway and couldn't see 2 feet in front of it; the aux lights were actually brighter. The very first "modification" I did to it was add headlight relays.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 6:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

Paul,

One question I might ask is do the lights get brighter when the engine is revved? That may indicate one issue over another. I'll also do things like turn on heavy load items like blower fans and watch the headlight pattern react. Some variance is normal, but you may learn something reportable by doing a few things like that for input.

Doug
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 6:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

IdahoDoug wrote:
One question I might ask is do the lights get brighter when the engine is revved?


Who can tell? They're literally that dim, I can't see them in daylight. I tried to aim them once and realized it was useless to get that close to the wall I was using.

I'm thinking the ground strap is my first order of business, given the state of the battery charging. That will be a task for a dry afternoon this week. Been leafing through the site here so I know what I am looking for. I wonder if I shouldn't just get one and replace it on general principles.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 8:02 am    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

Paulbeard wrote:
IdahoDoug wrote:
One question I might ask is do the lights get brighter when the engine is revved?


Who can tell? They're literally that dim, I can't see them in daylight. I tried to aim them once and realized it was useless to get that close to the wall I was using.

I'm thinking the ground strap is my first order of business, given the state of the battery charging. That will be a task for a dry afternoon this week. Been leafing through the site here so I know what I am looking for. I wonder if I shouldn't just get one and replace it on general principles.


before replacing tbe ground strap, find the drop across it with the lights on. if the drop is very low, no sense touching the strap. fix this smart, not shot gun style. read the drop across each component individualy, and fix where the big drops are.
Dont guess, instrad be sure of what the problem is..

do you knw how to measure the drops across each component?
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 8:23 am    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

First step is to cut the ground wires from the lights and ground them directly to the body with sheet metal screws. When I did that I gained 1 VDC at the lamp socket.

Then check your other grounds: battery, engine and transaxle.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 8:53 am    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

Jake de Villiers wrote:
First step is to cut the ground wires from the lights and ground them directly to the body with sheet metal screws. When I did that I gained 1 VDC at the lamp socket.

Then check your other grounds: battery, engine and transaxle.


may be a great idea, but lets do this systematically and measure the drops across all the components before we go changing things. whats the drop between the groind lug on the bulb holder to the body? if it is a volt, then for sure the ground needs to be addressed. what the drop on the battery ground strap, the drop at the fuse(s) etc....
take a systematic approach to this, measure the drops with your voltmeter, it is easy as pie to do. if you dont know the correct way, ask. this technique you will find very useful for trouble sshootin, it takes the guess work out and allows you to know the worst offenders to fix first.

Once you learn this technique, a light bulb will turn on in your head an ah ha moment, and you will be wanting to measure drops on eavery circuit just for the heck of it. it is easy useful and fun to do. measure the voltage drops!!!!! you will then know for sure what needs fixing.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 9:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

bluebus86 wrote:
Jake de Villiers wrote:
First step is to cut the ground wires from the lights and ground them directly to the body with sheet metal screws. When I did that I gained 1 VDC at the lamp socket.

Then check your other grounds: battery, engine and transaxle.


may be a great idea, but lets do this systematically and measure the drops across all the components before we go changing things. whats the drop between the groind lug on the bulb holder to the body? if it is a volt, then for sure the ground needs to be addressed. what the drop on the battery ground strap, the drop at the fuse(s) etc....


Blah, blah. The data is in the OP's first post.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 9:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

Jake de Villiers wrote:
First step is to cut the ground wires from the lights and ground them directly to the body with sheet metal screws. When I did that I gained 1 VDC at the lamp socket.

Then check your other grounds: battery, engine and transaxle.


Yeah, I checked that against a screw through the body and the screw hole that holds the headlight frame. Not real difference: hundreds of a volt. The ground strap looks like a good place to start.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2016 8:59 am    Post subject: Re: Dangerously dim headlights w/ relays… Reply with quote

If both lights are dim, and once worked assuming the relay kit was installed properly initially, you can rule out relays, fuses, crimp connections to the relay kit Headlight switch, bright/dim switch and wires to the headlamps. As each bulb has it's own path it is unlikely that both would be affected. .Remaining would be ground at battery and at chassis to bulbs or the battery weak under load. 12 volts is a discharged battery. A healthy battery fully charged will be at least 13 - 13.2 volts.
Edit*** The main supply wire from the battery to the Fuse panel can be restrictive and create a voltage drop that would affect both lamps. but the 12 volts you measured at the battery indicates it is weak. was this with the lamps energized?
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