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theksmith

WJ Front End Refresh (HID's & more....)

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long time coming

 

so i had this idea to freshen up the front end of my rig nearly 2 years ago. i made slight progress, but as other projects came up the overall plan kept getting derailed.

 

most people on this site are probably familiar with my bumperless front end, which looked exactly like this for a long time:

 

CIMG3008-001.JPG

 

early last year, i cut off the corners from the factory sheet metal underneath the lights to give it a little more aggressive look. i also added a small section of metal underneath the passenger light to match the shower setup's door that is under the driver side.

 

sarah-IMGP0899-001.JPG

 

...and other than a Photoshop mockup, that's where the project stopped for a (long) while.

 

 

problems, problems

 

what inspired the whole idea was needing new headlights and a new header panel. my lights had become just plain sad - flickering LED marker lights, hazed/yellowing, one mismatched low beam bulb (quick Autozone replacement after one of the "xenon" high wattage ones went out), condensation after every wash, etc.

 

IMG_7276.JPG

 

the impetus to get me moving on this project again was my last car wash. afterwards, i had to remove the passenger headlamp and dump about a quart of water! the rubber surrounds that allow the low beams to move and thus be aimed, had deteriorated and cracked open letting water in easily.

 

IMG_7289.JPG

 

the header panel (plastic that the headlights and grille mount to) was also broken in several places and missing some of it's plastic attachment clips. this meant that even if i replaced the headlights, i still wouldn't be able to get them aimed correctly nor to stop bouncing around offroad.

 

IMG_7286.JPG

 

 

continued...

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get this party started

 

out with the old header panel first thing! the new one is from a 2004 model... more on that later. the 1999-2003 ones are part #55155498AB and the 2004 uses part #55156753AB. the main difference is in how the grille mounts.

 

IMG_7449.JPG

 

i was missing some of the black plastic clips that hold the panel to the fenders, as well as the white plastic clips that hold the headlamp assemblies to the panel. here are some of the shiny brand new replacements installed (looking up from inside the wheel-well):

 

IMG_7451.JPG

 

i only needed 2 of the black clips, but couldn't find a part number for them. i ended up with a whole box from here for $13 including shipping: http://www.clipsandfasteners.com/Chrysler_Headlight_Mounting_Grommet_Grand_Cherokee_p/a20525.htm

 

the white socket style clips for the lamps are sold individually, each of the 6 are part #5012685AA and cost around $10 each! you can get them on Amazon or eBay (ignore that they sometimes are sold as Left or Right, they are all the same): http://amzn.to/1kIwaic

 

 

to HID or not to HID

 

for headlamps, originally i wanted to get another set like i had (factory Laredo style but with all clear reflectors) and do a true HID projector retrofit.

 

for those that aren't familiar, a "retrofit" is where you bake your regular headlights till the glue softens so they can come apart, and then you custom fit an aftermarket HID projector assembly (or a factory assembly from another car) into them. this allows you to run HID bulbs in the best possible way - i.e. the cleanest beam pattern. you should never ever put HID bulbs into a classic halogen reflector as the difference in the bulbs (where the hot-spot is) will create an absolute mess of light and the increased output will blind oncoming traffic regardless of how you adjust them. for more info on retrofitting, see here: http://www.theretrofitsource.com/knowitall/hidprojectors.html/

 

however, the cost and effort for a true HID retrofit is not trivial. the compromise between doing without awesomely bright HID bulbs and a true retrofit is to use HID's in an aftermarket projector style assembly. these type of headlamp assemblies are actually still meant for use with regular halogen bulbs, but can work with HID bulbs decently. this setup isn't recommended by any company that makes them, but hey - when was the last time we did anything to our rigs exactly as intended?

 

after seeing some other folks' beam patterns whom were using HID's in halogen projector style assemblies, i decided it was good enough, for now at least.

 

i placed my order for some Spyder Auto black projector style headlamps which i felt were the least ricey looking of that variety. i saved a few bucks by getting the LED type halos instead of CCFL since i had no plans to hook that part up anyway.

 

spyder_wj_projector_black.jpg

 

 

customizing already

 

my old aftermarket lights had actually leaked a small amount even early on. i guess i wash the rig too much or too aggressively! nonetheless, i was determined that these new lights wouldn't fall victim to that issue.

 

modern headlamps have to have vents - they need to be able to breath as temperature changes cause the air to expand or contract. many lights have rubber macaroni elbows covering their vents so that water won't splash in:

 

IMG_7448.JPG

 

if you have those you might want to glue them on. they still don't prevent water from coming in if you partially submerge your lights though (trust me)!

 

my new Spyder lights had a nice little maze for a vent, further helping to prevent water from getting in. check out the tube in the photo below... it comes covered with a white cap so that only a small section is exposed to air. water would have to get into that little hole at the base, and then up and around the divider in the tube to get into the assembly...

 

IMG_7301.JPG

 

IMG_7304.JPG

 

this seems nicer than the rubber elbow, but i took it a step further with GoreTex stickers. these little one-way patches allow air and moisture to exit but not enter: http://www.theretrofitsource.com/accessories/goretex-patches-49889.html -

 

to use them, i drilled holes in the ends of the plastic vent caps and placed a patch on each one. then i used RTV to seal the base of the cap onto the vent tube, covering the previous air inlet at the base with RTV as well.

 

other than random leaks in the sealing or gaskets, there should be no way for water to get in now.

 

IMG_7307.JPG

 

the new lights have 3 extra side-marker LED's compared to stock and come with press-on wire-taps for their power. i had some standard 2 pin waterproof automotive disconnects (http://amzn.to/1O5GXiR), so i added those instead of using the taps. i wired the other end of the plugs to the running lights on the outer edge (the ones that blink along with the main blinker).

 

IMG_7309.JPG

 

IMG_7310.JPG

 

 

continued...

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It's funny that you should post this today. Guess what I also installed today!

t06iT3O.jpg

 

Mine are also the LED halos, I did hook them up, at least for the heck of it. Since I had laredo type assemblies, I also had to buy amber marker lights too.

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Thank you for the links.

Lots of good info for any vehicle.

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It's funny that you should post this today. Guess what I also installed today!

 

Mine are also the LED halos, I did hook them up, at least for the heck of it. Since I had laredo type assemblies, I also had to buy amber marker lights too.

 

too funny!

 

take a pic of the pattern tonight about 25 feet from a wall if you can, i'm interested in seeing the difference between regular bulbs and the HIDs in these... i'd expect a cleaner pattern from the halogen but brighter overall of course from HID.

 

i'll post the rest of the story here in a minute with my beamshots...

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light em up

 

i already knew where i'd be getting my HID bulbs, ballasts, etc. Morimoto is known for making quality aftermarket HID related parts, and their only official U.S. distributor, The Retrofit Source, also has an excellent reputation.

 

i ordered the complete 9006 Morimoto Elite System: http://www.theretrofitsource.com/hid-systems/morimoto-elite-hid-system-9006.html it turned out that i didn't need all of the pieces, but ordering bulbs and ballasts alone is the costs the same as the entire kit.

 

i stuck with the Morimoto XB 35 watt stuff since another problem with my old headlamps were scorched reflectors from running high-wattage bulbs. i figured i might avoid doing that again by not going up to 55 watt HIDs.

 

IMG_7281.JPG

 

i waffled on what color temperature bulbs to get for quite a while. i was all set to go 5000K, only to find that these new XB models come in either 4500 or 5500.

 

i finally opted for 4500K, worrying that the other would be too blue. as it turns out, these are a just a little too off-white for my taste and i would have probably been better off with 5500K (FYI - 4500K is considered an OEM "white", anything less is more towards yellow and bigger numbers are more blue/violet tinted).

 

i had to only trim the mounting brackets slightly to fit the ballasts right under the headlamp (behind the running lights). they are held on with one piece of double-sided 3M tape and a screw.

 

IMG_7295.JPG

 

you might have also noticed that i'm running the ballasts directly off the stock wiring instead of using the supplied relay harness. i actually removed a previous aftermarket harness for running the high wattage xenon bulbs - i wanted to avoid that complexity this time...

 

if i was doing a 55 watt system or a quad retrofit, i'd likely use a harness. however, the rig seems to work perfectly well with ballasts plugged right in. the WJ is a new enough vehicle that the wiring gauge is adequate and isn't routed through the cabin switch like on some old Jeeps... yet it isn't so new as to have computerized bulb-out warning systems or PWM controlled DRL (daytime running lamps - not on US versions anyway) which would need to be bypassed.

 

a set of IPCW 9005XS xenon high-beam bulbs rounds out the main lighting (i needed new ones in order to return to a normal wattage): http://amzn.to/1kIG5nP

 

IMG_7313.JPG

 

i also purchased a set of new "switchback" 3157 LED turn signals (white normal, amber when blinking): http://amzn.to/1kIGAOK

...plus new 194 LED running lights with the same chip as the switchbacks: http://amzn.to/1kIGSoP

...and new shorty 194 LEDs for the corner side markers (again with the same AX-2835 SMD LED chip so that all 3 of the bulbs would have the same color temperature): http://amzn.to/1kIH3AE

 

and then i waited for nightfall!

 

finally, here's the pattern from the new low-beam HID's after initial adjustment... not bad at all considering the minimal cost/effort involved:

 

IMG_7445.JPG

 

my only complaint is that they aren't even close to a 180 degree spread, i.e. they shoot out at a relatively narrow angle, so the sides of the road for the first few feet in front of you aren't lit up. it's mainly just an annoyance since you notice the back limits of the light in your peripheral vision.

 

you can see what i mean about a narrow angle in the photo below. also notice the uneven artifacts on the ground from the cheaper projectors - something that would be greatly reduced or eliminated with a true high quality retrofit (the camera is on a shorter manual exposure here to highlight the imperfections, the real-life appearance is brighter).

 

IMG_7432.JPG

 

i still need to fine tune the adjustment down a bit more and both lamps are pointing a little driver. left/right aim is not adjustable on factory or most aftermarket WJ headlamps, but i think i can fix it easily still.

 

if anything, driving around with HID brightness and a mediocre pattern has just strengthened my interest in doing a true retrofit. one other huge advantage to a bi-xenon retrofit would be the improved output when switched to high-beams. right now with the HID low beam, the halogen highs seem nearly worthless!

 

 

but wait, there's more

 

here's a finished shot with just the new running/marker lamps on:

 

IMG_7382.JPG

 

...with low & high beams on:

 

IMG_7373.JPG

 

...and a nice lens flare by moving the camera just down to the edge of the low-beam cutoff:

 

IMG_7374.JPG

 

what's that? i think it's the sound of you 7-slot purists having heart attacks... that's right, i made a new custom grille without the iconic Jeep slots!

 

i used a 2004 style grille, removed the slots and added the same type of perforated aluminum sheet that was mounted behind my old 03 Limited model grille. it's a fairly radical change to the look, but i like it!

 

my Hella horns also got moved. they were mounted sideways, but with a bit of a hack job. i made new brackets and mounted them much more securely. you could just see them in the grille corners before:

 

IMG_2121-001.JPG

 

now they are more obvious, prompting G to already ask me "What's with the big stupid looking horns?" - in fairness he saw them before the grille was covering them up though ;)

 

IMG_7327.JPG

 

that's about it for the "Front End Refresh" - i only have 2 minor changes to make, which i'll post soon...

 

and nope, still no front bumper plans anytime soon still!

 

IMG_7342.JPG

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too funny!

 

take a pic of the pattern tonight about 25 feet from a wall if you can, i'm interested in seeing the difference between regular bulbs and the HIDs in these... i'd expect a cleaner pattern from the halogen but brighter overall of course from HID.

 

i'll post the rest of the story here in a minute with my beamshots...

 

I couldn't get quite that far back, but yes, the beam is really clean. We parked my dad's work Pacifica next to it and compared the lines. I'll try to get a better shot when I go to work Wedensday morning.

 

Ztbig2A.jpg

 

I ended up switching from the white bulbs over to amber. Not particularly necessary.

EQVgXW4.jpg

 

Yap6RZ7.jpg

 

Now I just need some aftermarket forward facing lights.

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Huge difference, looks awesome. I actually really like the grill. However, pretty soon I'm gonna drive out there and install a front bumper myself. You won't know what i'll install, just wake up the next morning and boom. New bumper. Then I'm going southwestern wheeling. I wish they still made the Icelandic bumper, I think it in gloss black would look sick on your Dubya.

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Huge difference, looks awesome. I actually really like the grill. However, pretty soon I'm gonna drive out there and install a front bumper myself. You won't know what i'll install, just wake up the next morning and boom. New bumper. Then I'm going southwestern wheeling. I wish they still made the Icelandic bumper, I think it in gloss black would look sick on your Dubya.

 

thanks and just keep the grinder use to a minimum so you don't wake up Aimee & Brady!

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Quick question: How many of those Gore Tex patches did you have to purchase to cover all of the breather holes?

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