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Freightliner head lights


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Yep, we agree! We just put a set of Dave's driving lights on for the trip to ECR and they helped. We hopefully will convert our headlight housings this week in preparation for Dave's new LED headlights he is working on for Freightliner Century's which will be hopefully available later this year. At this time the trucks need to be converted to the 2004 or earlier headlight housing that uses sealed beams for the LED lights to have the right mounting.

Dave (the other Dave)

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I guess you are objecting to the up to date technology designed into the early Century/Columbia/Argosy platform. That is sealed beam headlights that started life in 1938 in 6V form, made the huge leap forward to 12V in 1955, made one more baby step to halogens in the 1990's(aftermarket only, not OEM). All because their larger customers, the biggest freight companies told them that's what they would pay for, nothing more. To hell with safety.

Even Volvo made standard sealed beam available as an option on the VML series for years. They are easy to spot on the likes of Yellow Freight tractors, ugly as death and just as ineffective.

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Cascadia headlight system is as good as current regular production non sealed beam gets. Dave can weigh in on any improvements that might be available. If you don't drive much you should be ok. I drive 3-6 hours in the dark now per night with the minimum sealed beams complained about above and I get by.

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Hi Glenn,


I wouldn't spend the money on those for any other reason than changing the look of the truck. Light output from those isn't good--maybe marginally better than what you have, but certainly not worth the money. While it's generally safe to say the OEM lights on your truck (or any other) met the requirements for light output new, it'd be questionable with those.


As far as the Cascadias, if they have the LED lights made by Truck Lite, it's not worth trying to upgrade them. They're pretty good as they are, but certainly not state-of-the-art. If you have the halogen lights, which may have been the only option when your truck was built, they can certainly be upgraded, either with a bi-xenon setup or to the LEDs.


The stock lights on a 2005+ Century are a replaceable bulb headlamp system (9006 and 9005 bulbs), with a polycarbonate front on them. In new condition, and at the time they were introduced, they were a reasonably good light--essentially late-90s non-luxury passenger car stuff, done at a mid-pack quality level. In terms of what's on the market now, the high and low beam projectors made by Koito (for OEMs) are the best in the LED world. They've got optics that are in the same league as a good bi-Xenon setup, with components that (being simpler) should last longer. But even those, and the very expensive ($3000 upgrade from Xenon) Porsche 991 (current 911 model) LED lights are only perceived to be as good as a quality Xenon light--with most users (including some people that have Porsches optioned both ways--must be nice!) preferring the Xenon systems. The LED systems will be quicker to light when cold, but if you're in cold weather, they also don't produce as much heat which can be more of an issue keeping them clear.


More important than the particular technology, either in optics (fluted lens, complex reflector, projector, etc.) or light source (halogen, Xenon, LED), is how good the light design is and how it holds up in service. The optics tend to degrade gradually--outer covers hazing and yellowing being the most obvious, internal degradation often having the biggest negative effect--where the source generally "burns out". That of course means that the light that goes out gets prompt attention while the rest doesn't. That's the reason that the lighting standard requires that an LED headlight (most often 3 LEDs in series) or other light with multiple light emitters must go out if any of its elements fail.


While it doesn't include big trucks, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently published their own evaluation of a number of headlights based on their own "real world" performance metrics. You can read a report on their methodology here (PDF), and a summary of results here. Using the IIHS test methodology, the worst-in-test BMW 3-series only lights a straight road 130 feet, for a speed of about 35 mph to be able to stop within what's lit. While it may have bad headlights, at least the BMW can probably stop a lot quicker than an HDT, and many of the lights on the HDTs would be easily outperformed by the BMW.


If I were to put together a list of the best and worst of stock big truck low beam headlights common among this group, the list would be ordered somewhat differently based on whether the lights are new or used. New, the "good" group would include the KW T660 and T680, Pete 389/567 (and a few others with the same projector), adequate would include the Truck Lite LEDs (available on Volvo VNL, FL Cascadia, International ProStar, and probably a few I'm forgetting) if not considering glare (with it they'd drop to marginal). Marginal would include the 2005+ Century, 2nd-gen VNL, maybe the Pete 387, while poor would include the KW T2000, 1st-gen Volvos, and FL Columbia.


After 100-200K miles or 3-5 years, keep the Truck Lite LEDs at adequate/marginal. You can safely drop all of the halogen lights to poor, followed by the 2nd-gen Volvo and 387, and the first-gen Volvos and Columbia somewhere below that. Factory Xenon projectors (primarily (only??) on PACCAR trucks) would be a little better than their halogen counterparts with age, if only for having a little more light available to start with--the degradation of the optics is similar.


Headlights that are bad need replaced, and costs are all over the place. 1st-gen Volvos are probably the cheapest (really simple, and in production for 20 years) at <$100/set, to $1500 or more for some of the LED lights. For some of the models with lower production numbers and no aftermarket competition, even some of the simple designs (e.g. Pete 387) can be pricey (>$600/set).


Generally speaking, the unbranded lights found at truck stops, chrome shops, eBay, etc. are a styling change at best, not a lighting upgrade and many times not even as good as what you're replacing. Stick to original equipment stuff if cost doesn't bother you, or brands like TYC or Depo if you're a little more budget-conscious. For your Century, the best approach is to retrofit the stuff on the corner of the hood to the pre-2005 configuration which uses a standard 7" round sealed beam. That alone should be an improvement over what you have, and it leaves you ready for upgrading to one of many sealed beam replacement options. For drop-in ease, the Truck Lite product is the way to go. For light output the JW Speaker product is worth the price premium, but it does require trimming the headlight bucket to get it to sit where it belongs. That's frustrating, and irked me until I noticed that the standard that specifies dimensions omits the one that causes the incompatibility there.


Of course, with any questions on this subject feel free to PM/e-mail me--though I might be a little slow responding, as I have a presentation on lithium batteries to get ready for tomorrow morning.

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Yes and no. You can certainly help it out, but it'll cloud up again relatively quickly (3-4 months maybe). There are ways to slow the process (e.g. clearcoat), but after having done some of them the time and effort required tends to tip the scale towards buying new lights.


There's a 3M kit you can get at Wal-Mart for about $15 that has the stuff you need to use a drill to do the sanding and polishing. You'll need to take the bezel off, but be prepared for one or more studs to spin in the fiberglass on the hood.

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Mine are so yellow one cannot see the bulb inside. Don't believe they ran the truck at night. Can that be buffed out?



Are you referring to the headlights or running lights? My headlights have no covers and are sealed beams, my running lights do have covers (that age) plastic) that have a replaceable bulb. Running lights come on as soon as the truck is in gear. Headlights have to be turned on.



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You asked good question. I will get an answer. I didn't know it had running lights. Lol. Know that drive in the early morning was dangerous. Could see very little. One does have bulb, remember seeing that. They have moisture in them also. If that is a seal beam I will replace. Been busy getting wiring done and finding air fittings. Spent entire morning finding fittings. Back on 13 day work now. Not much get done

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