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Volvo VNL HID Headlight Retrofit -- UPDATED

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#1 Nuke-E


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Posted 15 April 2012 - 10:31 PM

So I'm another one who wasn't happy with the lighting performance on my Volvo VNL, but have done a few things to really improve the lighting and thought I'd share. I started off looking at this topic, and was really impressed by the 3M polishing kit. After several hours with the battery drill, I was pleased with the look of the headlight assemblies, but still dissapointed with the light output. I've done a couple of HID retrofits on Pontiac Montana minivans (whose headlights make the worst of the VNL's look great), and had been really pleased with The Retrofit Source for all of the components for HID systems. Some searching on their forums led me to this thread, which identified the low beam projectors we have as being the same as Acura MDXs from 2004-2006. I needed new ones, and was only finding whole headlight assemblies in the $200-300 range--which would still have only given me low-beam halogens, but could have been retrofitted to support low-beam HIDs without too much effort.

Instead, I took on a bigger challenge: I wanted bi-xenon HIDs, mounted in the low-beam projector location. I also knew the Volvo Lighting Control Module would be out to get me if I installed a normal relay harness. Knowing that I might have issues, I wanted the whole thing to be reversible if it didn't turn out well. I exchanged a few e-mails with Nate at TRS, who made a few suggestions. Here's what I ended up with, basically $300 total:
  Compared to a lot of other retrofits, this one really is easy, once a few things are figured out--everything fits in through the twist-off low beam access cover, and everything electrical just plugs in. I chose the Mini D2S projectors after attempting to fit the FX-Rs through the hole--while many retrofits require separating the front and back halves of the housing, I wasn't willing to do that here (and didn't think I needed to). They're 2.5" lenses, just like the factory projectors, so from the outside no one would be able to tell anything had been done.

Here's what I did:
  • Remove the headlight assemblies. 10mm socket, 5 bolts, and one electrical connector. You have to remove the gray locking clip from the connector before releasing the latch.
  • Unscrew the bulb access covers, unplug both bulbs, and remove the 4 Phillips screws that hold the low beam (upper) projector in place. Remove the low beam projector--it will come out of the hole, but it has to be oriented just right.
  • Grind down the upper corners of the new projectors (I used a titanium bit on a Dremel tool). This is necessary to allow the new lights to reach forward enough to sit flat against the hole the original projectors go through. Make sure you have some room to rotate the light, so you can be sure it's aligned correctly.
  • Replace the screws holding the two halves of the new projectors with longer screws.
  • Make up a plate to adapt the old mounting holes to the new projectors. I intended to install nuts on both sides of my adapter plates, but was able to cut out the center hole in the plate such that it was able to hold the light in place. The screws go through the bracket, and serve to keep the headlights from rotating.
  • Install the projectors (bulbs already in them) and plates, then connect the ballast to the bulb.
  • Insert the two loose wires from the projector (for the high beam solenoid) into the included plug, then connect the factory high beam plug to the orange and black "Y" connectors to supply 1) the high beam solenoid, 2) the new LED high beam, and 3) the correctional high beam splitter (blue & black, with diode).
  • Connect the remaining connectors on the correctional high beam splitters to the ballast, and to the plug that went to the old low beam.  Make sure blue wires on both sides of this connection mate up.  This will keep the ballast powered with either the low or high beams on.
  • Mount ballasts inside the headlight housing, reinstall everything, then check the alignment.
The LEDs are needed instead of halogen bulbs for the high beams for 2 reasons.  First, with the high beams ON, you'd be powering both the halogen (55W) and HID (35W).  The LCM will see an overload, and show an error.  This could be fixed by leaving out the high beams, but would expose the second problem: in flash-to-pass (or if you're slow switching between high and low), both high and low beam circuits are energized, but the LCM will only see a load on the low beam circuit, and you'll get bulb out fault on the high beam circuit.  The LEDs provide enough of a load on the high beam circuit for flash-to-pass, without triggering a fault with the highs left on.  Since installing this setup (nearly 6 months ago), I have had zero faults from the LCM.

So for some pictures:


Notice in the next two pictures the sharp difference in how the lens looks depending on how high you are. If you're below the bulb, it's very bright, but above you don't see much light--getting good light onto the pavement without causing glare for other drivers:

The next picture below shows a shot looking out with the old projectors, followed by the new ones. Same camera, and it shows again the adjuster problem:
More pictures with LEDs installed:

UPDATE 12-13-2012: So it's coming up on a year now with this setup. TRS now carries a "correctional" high-beam splitter that takes care of keeping the ballast powered when you switch to high beams. It's a direct plug-in setup, but you'll need 2 of them. Skip the CAN-BUS adapters, and it's basically a wash in terms of cost. I need to take some more pictures, now that I've "fixed" the one adjuster. Everything is still working great, and the bi-xenon projectors do well enough that you don't really even notice whether the stock high beams are on or not. The random errors I experienced initially turned out to be a result of the connector on the back of one of the bulbs not being fully seated--the occasional (and rare, just to make troubleshooting fun) bump would interrupt the arc on the passenger side, and it wouldn't relight until you killed power to it.

I have recently re-polished the plastic housings, and am still amazed with how much difference this makes. I know someone has done a writeup on this, but the 3M kit for about $15, a good drill, and a couple hours will make them look and perform like new!
UPDATE 4-14-2013: Cleaned up, added links, pictures, and LED info.

Edited by Nuke-E, 28 May 2013 - 06:12 AM.

43' 2004 Showhauler -- VNL, ISX, FreedomLine


Volvo VNL Bi-Xenon Headlight Upgrade http://hhrvlighting.com/

#2 VetRVer


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Posted 15 April 2012 - 11:22 PM

Very nice job. Gotta love home brewed mods. :D


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#3 Steveoreno


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Posted 16 April 2012 - 07:51 AM

I have a 99 FL60 that has inset old style rectangle sealed beams. Very ugly and poor performing. I was going to go a bit more drastic and find a later model something to graft in. Going to the salvage yard soon to see what I can cut up. If I find something that will work I will post pics of mod.

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 08:24 AM

Nice job! Maybe I'm gonna' be the first one to try HID's in a Gen 1 VNL. Did the "Audi light" trick, but that's just for show not go.

Edited by SIBERNUT, 16 April 2012 - 08:26 AM.

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#5 Bob Cochran

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 09:26 PM

I don't have a Volvo put I cannot pass this opportunity up. Fantastic write up and directions with excellent pictures. :DGives me/us something to shoot for when doing modifications and work on our HDT's. ;)I can only think of one other that does this good of a job and we know who that is. :D

Own a 37 foot 2014 Keystone Fuzion pulling with 1998 Freightliner Century. Fortunate to retire early intending to full time but circumstances prevents this at the present time. Living in a sticks and bricks home all paid off DW has to have roots some place and this works.

#6 Nuke-E


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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:18 PM

Steveoreno--If you wanted an easy way forward, I could see starting with something like this to get to a housing with a clear lens that mounts into what you've already got, then split those apart and install HIDs.

Everyone else--thanks for the compliments! I'll add a few more pictures once I get the right side's adjuster fixed.

43' 2004 Showhauler -- VNL, ISX, FreedomLine


Volvo VNL Bi-Xenon Headlight Upgrade http://hhrvlighting.com/

#7 Jack Mayer

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 09:00 AM

Bob, I deleted your message since it quoted the spammer and his links.......

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