The Volvo Parts, Accessories &
Performance Specialists Since 1963

Lighting: Let There Be Light - Bright Ideas for your Volvo

2019-01-21 - Lee Holman

Disclaimer: Direct from ipd’s Tech Tip archive!  This tech tip contains information from previous publications.  Products mentioned may not be available or the information may not be accurate due to changes in supply, manufacturing, or part number association.  Please contact ipd Customer Support if you have further questions.

Improving your car's lighting may be one of the most important safety upgrades you can make. Improved lights can help you to see better, insure better visibility for your car, and even make your car look sharper. Many lighting upgrades are easily accomplished by the average backyard mechanic.

All pre-1986 Volvos for the North American market came with DOT approved sealed beam headlamps as original equipment. Unfortunately, these lamps don't have a very good light pattern and don't project their beams far enough for driving safely at high speeds on a dark highway. It's all too easy to over-drive your headlights with sealed beams. Switching from ordinary to halogen sealed beams offers little satisfaction, since there is no improvement in projection even though they may give more light. No matter how good your brakes are, it's hard to stop for that moose if you simply didn't see it.

European headlamps are designed for high speed driving on roads such as Germany's Autobahn. They have different reflectors and lenses that project the light farther ahead and aim it toward the edge of the road where unseen hazards can be lurking.

There is no question that night driving is hard on the eyes. With upgraded headlamps you will have a new view of night driving. Suddenly, road signs will be visible from a distance, and your eyes will be less tired from straining to see into the darkness. Once you have seen the light, ordinary headlamps will seem as inade-quate as flashlights strapped to the hood.

European-style Halogen headlamps are easily installed by anyone who has basic skills. This said, I will note that the best results will be obtained when they are installed with relays and upgraded (heavier than stock) wiring. Upgraded wiring allows for better flow of power to the lights and the relays provide protection for the
stock headlamp relay and switch.

Auxiliary Lighting:

Driving lamps are intended for use in addition to the high beams. There are many different types of beams available. Some examples are: cornering beam, pencil beam, and Euro beam. These auxiliary lamps not only look sharp, but also reduce eyestrain and help to eliminate driver fatigue. Driving lamps compliment your reg-ular headlamps. They allow you to see farther ahead as well as to the sides.

One of the most dangerous driving situations is when you drive into fog and suddenly the road disappears behind a white curtain. You strain to see, but you find that the glare from your headlamps makes it even worse. While no light can truly cut through the fog, the wide angle and sharp cutoff of fog lamps will help to illumi-nate the road surface and shoulders without adding reflective glare. Safe driving in any case depends on being able to see where you're going.

Being seen is another critical component of driving safely, particularly on gray, wintry days. Visibility is limited by low ambient light levels, even during the day. Since 1995, Volvos have come with daytime running lights, but those of us with older cars have had to switch on the headlamps if we want lights on during the day. Laws in a number of states require headlights to be on with wiper use. This has led to more than one dead bat-tery when we return to our cars to find the lights left on. One answer to this problem is to install daytime running lights to your Volvo.

Another way to make sure other drivers notice your car is the European side turn indicators, or repeaters. Wired to flash in conjunction with your turn signals, they alert the drivers around you of your intentions. Good-looking and very easy to install, they are surely a bright idea for anyone who drives in multi-lane traffic.

Take time to upgrade your Volvo's lighting this fall. Now that I have improved headlamps on my car, I know I'll never look back.