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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Complete front light makeover: HID & Switchback install experience (pics)

I took the plunge and ordered the Morimoto HID lights, based on glowing reviews in other threads. Earlier the I had already added LED accent lights and rim lights. Up for an extra challenge, I also ordered the white/amber LED 'switchback' turn signal bulbs. The HID install was easy and can be done by non-engineers in one hour, but the turn signals are a serious PITA. Here is a not so brief report on my experiences in 4 posts.

Starting with the HIDs: Despite the back Friday special, the Morimoto's are still expensive. The unit are well built and do not look and feel that they are manufactured in a Chinese sweatshop. Service from the retrofitsource is excellent and their website is pretty (which is a nice change from the horrific LED webshops). Comparing the HID lights with the factory halos shows that the HID plasma is at the exact same spot as the lamp filament. So the optics and distribution pattern should be identical.

A rather large hole must be drilled into the lamp house caps to pass through a plug. That is easy to do, but best is to make the holes elliptic to minimize the opening and provide best sealing. The wiring consist of 3 pieces: the part with the HID bulb and a rubber seal, the electronic converter module that generates the AC power for the HID, and the 'stand-alone can-bus' module that tricks the Volt into thinking that nothing has changed. I plugged it in and laid it all out to test it (driver side):
IMG_4324.jpg
On the passenger side things are tighter, but opening the air filter helps to gain access to the inside of the 'light house':
DSC00416.jpg
At first it did not work, but then I noticed the the polarity of GM's bulb plug is reversed. After turing the plug 180 degrees to switch polarity the HID lit up in full glory:
DSC00418.jpg
The asymmetric layout of the 9006 bulb makes that it only fits in one of 3 ways. It takes a little trial and error to figure out which. The Next challenge is to fasten the '30Five' converter modules using a (rather flimsy) supplied metal strip. There is not much room, but it it fits. On the passenger side there is a useful bolt on near the radiator to attach it without drilling. On the driver side I used the bolt of a ground connector of the Motor/Generator control module:
DSC00420.jpg DSC00414.jpg (with MG control and fuse box covers removed. Red wire: see this thread)
I first installed the driver side's module. I picked the 4300K OEM-like color, which is just a little whiter than the factory lights. The blueish hue of higher color temperatures may look cool (in two ways), but it wastes more light energy in the spectrum where our eyes cannot see.

The light house has a mechanical shutter that creates a sharp demarcation at the top edge. Switching to the 'big lights' lifts the shutter up with a loud click. Since the intensity of the light does not change, this means that the shutter is absorbing (wasting) over 50% of the light output in normal operation. This means that instead of 2x55Watt Halo lights, the Volt could have shipped ship with lower-powered HIDs of 15 x 2 Watts with the same light output. The savings would amount to about 1/4th of a mile more range in winter.

I could see an aluminium cool rib structure inside of the light house. Would that be for the solid state light switch?
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
HID post-install pictures

This shows the light pattern with the HID on the left (driver) side, and the factory halogen on the right:
Left/driver HID --> IMG_4328.jpg <-- passenger original halogen

As the picture shows, the pattern is very similar so these are not significantly more blinding than the factory Halo's. The HID is brighter, but not so much one would notice if it weer not side-by-side. Also the color hue difference is barely noticeable:
Passenger halogen --> DSC00410.jpg <-- Driver: HID

The color temperature of the led strips on top (see this thread) and the LED position lights (post below) is clearly a lot bluer than the 4300K HIDs. I prefer the warmer 4300K color, but that is personal. As the HIDs age over the years the color temperature is said to slowly rise to a more bluer hue. Indeed, the HIDs on my 7-year old car are bluer.

Night driving showed quite a difference! Even though side-by-side the HID did not seem that much brighter, the visibility is clearly a lot better. Every HID thread (e.g. this one or this) triggers questions on how 'asocial' the HIDs are for other road users. Though the lights are somewhat stronger and therefore more noticeable, the 35 Watt HIDs do not 'cross the line' and are in no way worse than the factory HIDs I have on my Toyotas. The optics of the Volt's light houses seem to be designed for HIDs.

The Morimoto HID takes a few seconds to reach full strength, which seems longer than the OEM HIDs in my Toyota. The slow startup makes the HID not very suitable to use as a flash signal during the day. For this reason most OEM HIDs have an incandescent flash light. The Volt doesn't. This is a disadvantage of the HID mod, albeit not a large one given how often the flash is used at daytime.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Switchback LED turn light installation: a PITA

This mod will turn the default position light color from unfashionable amber to cool blueish white. It has no other advantages, other than keep me therapeutically busy tinkering with the car for a while :eek: . I had ordered these Chinese switchback LED lights on-line. The switchbacks change color: in their 'on' state they are blueish white, and as turn lights they switch between dark and amber. They are about the size and shape of a wine bottle cork.

It turns out that changing the front turn/position lights is not easy. There many fewer posts on this forum by people who did that. For most consumers it will be too much of a DIY challenge. They will rack up a $100 light change labor cost once a bulb burns out. Here is why. Update: I just found the official GM instructions, that indeed specify to remove the entire front bumper...

To better access the blinker lights, I jacked the left/right front side of the car. The Volt sits low, and the extra ground clearance is needed to access the underside. I turned the wheel inward and removed the 12+ screws that keep the plastic wheel well lining in place. Removal also loosens the front air dams, which turn out to be a pain to put back together properly later. After pushing the wheel well lining aside, the lamp housing can be accessed on either side.

On the driver side lamp access is somewhat OK, as most of the space behind the bumper is empty. On the passenger side the large charge control module seriously obstructs access to the bulb housing. The space near the bulb is very tight. With a lot of grunting, turning, cursing and twisting I finally managed to turn the bulb loose using the tips of my fingers. It looks like better access can only be achieved by removing the entire front bumper, which I was not prepared to do... Putting back the bulb on the passenger side is an even tougher task, because it requires quite some force to twist-lock the bulb in. I used a spanner as an extension, which after some 6 tries worked.

The second problem is that the wine-cork-shaped LED are just a little too big for the hole. Using a box cutter knife I widened the hole a bit to push the LED through. I was careful not to let the shrapnel end up in the bulb housing. On the passenger side that was quite a challenge to manoeuvre the knife to the proper spot. It took me about 30 minutes of suffering and grunting.

Once through, the third problem: It turns out that the Chinese LEDs sits a bit too loose in the fitting. They popped out during install multiple times and might pop out as a result of vibrations. I partially resolved it by wedging in a shim piece of wood to better lock the LEDs in the fitting.

The Volt senses the current of the turn signal. Since the LED consumes a lot less (3 watt instead of 25), the Volt thinks that the bulb is broken and starts flashing at a higher frequency. Its rather stupid that it doesn't just display a message in the DIC instead, but it seems that GM just used stock hardware for turn signals. The blinking problem is resolved by clamping a ginormous 50 Watt 6 Ohm resistor in parallel to the blinker which simulates the old bulb. Its needs to be big since the incandescent bulb is a hot 25 Watt. I had ordered it as well and clamped in on the wires.

Putting it all back together also took some time. In all, it took me 3 hours from start to finish. The next time will be half of that, but that is still long to change a light bulb.

Here is the result:

DSC00411.jpg

The white position lights are slightly brighter than the stock amber lights. Their color matches the blueish hue of the LED headlight liner strips that I had installed earlier. The latter are very bright and comfortably light up the street on either side. In reality the hue is less blue than the above picture suggests.

The white and amber LEDS of the switchbacks have the same light intensity, while in the OEM bulb the turn signal is about 5x brighter than the position filament. This means that the LED turn signal is not as bright as the stock incandescent turn signal. Not a big problem, but its definitely less strong in direct sunlight. The noticeability deficit is partially compensated by the abrupt switching of the LEDs between dark and amber (instead of a slow 200 ms transition between bright and dim amber).

Together with the GloRyder wheel lights, this makes for a pretty nice and consistent 'white lightning' glow, appropriate for an advanced electric car:

DSC00421.jpg
 

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Nice work Robbert! If your ever in the Seattle area, let me know :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
LED backup light mod: disappointing

While I was at it I also installed this huge 120-LED backup light bulb, replacing the stock incandescent bulb. I need to drive some distance backwards along a dark driveway each time I back out of the garage. A stronger illumination seemed a good idea to improve the picture on the backup camera. Actually, why bother: I don't need much of an excuse to tinker with my Volt ;)

Installation is a relatively easy 15 minute affair: just remove some screws of a rear liner panel.

Result is quite disappointing, especially given the high cost of these bulbs ($50 for a pair, only need one). The LED is just not any brighter than the stock bulb. Actually, it seems weaker, even though the web site claims 'amazing super bright lighting[sic] output'. Perhaps other Chinese LEDs are better, but for now I would recommend this mod and save the money.
 

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The mods look really nice.

This is one of my few pet peeves of the Volt. The appearance does not look "electric" and could have been easily done with a little thought.
 

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I'm definitely going to do a number of your mods when I get my Volt. Thanks for posting!
 

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I changed my backup to LED (I don't think it was the 120 LED one) and was quite happy with the results. Try the one with fewer (but brighter?) LEDs
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
After driving the HIDs for a week I'm happy with the clarity. Both legs of my commute are in the dark this time of the year....

The passenger side headlight seems to squint a little to the middle. Its not much, but a little more light to the right would be welcome. I was looking for a way to adjust that. GM's Volt service manual contains a description on headlight aiming. Most of it is a cut-and-paste of a poorly written generic aiming procedure. At the bottom its states that the Volt's lights can be adjusted vertically, but not horizontally.
 

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1) Nice work!

2) Is it possible to remove the turn signal housing from the bumper without removing the bumper? I was thinking about tinting my turns and tails 10-20% as I have a black car.

3) I'm local (Woodside), and a brand new Volt owner - are there any meet ups or local owner groups? I'm likely to do a lot of modding of mine :)

Cheers,
Jason
 

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I'm planning on doing the switchback indicators swap like you have, and I have also ordered switchback side-firing LED strips for the tops of the headlight lenses. I plan on wiring the LED strip on top of the headlight such that when the "driving" lights in the corners are on, the white LEDs on the strip are on (as shown in your images), but whenever the turn signal is on, the LED strip will have the white lights go out, and the amber LEDs on the strip will light up. This will effectively double the visibility of my turn signals, especially from oblique angles.

Given all the extra wiring involved, I plan on doing the "easier" route of removing the entire front bumper fascia which I may well regret, but it should make it a lot easier to do the wiring properly and not screw anything up. I've got all the materials I need for the job already on my workbench, now I just need a day to work on it - maybe this weekend! I'll be sure to take photos as I go. I have removed the front bumper and headlights on my Vue multiple times, so I'm familiar with the ritual of the thousand plastic pop rivets.
 

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While I was at it I also installed this huge 120-LED backup light bulb, replacing the stock incandescent bulb. I need to drive some distance backwards along a dark driveway each time I back out of the garage. A stronger illumination seemed a good idea to improve the picture on the backup camera. Actually, why bother: I don't need much of an excuse to tinker with my Volt ;)

Installation is a relatively easy 15 minute affair: just remove some screws of a rear liner panel.

Result is quite disappointing, especially given the high cost of these bulbs ($50 for a pair, only need one). The LED is just not any brighter than the stock bulb. Actually, it seems weaker, even though the web site claims 'amazing super bright lighting[sic] output'. Perhaps other Chinese LEDs are better, but for now I would recommend this mod and save the money.
The bulb you used have a color temperature of 6,000K, which is a bit bluer than these LEDs with a temperature of 5,000K, which is a bit whiter. The bluer colors seem not as bright as the whiter colors, with the yellower colors (stock bulb in Volt) being the dimmest.
 

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I just did this HID install with the kit linked on this thread. They work great! I did swap the wires on the connectors so I wouldn't have to wire tie the connector together. It was easy. I used a small drill bit to release each wire pigtail from the connector then I just flipped them.

I also ordered new bulb covers, the twist on and off round covers, so I could go back to stock if I wanted too. These covers have to be drilled for the HID wires to pass through them. I had to remove the wires from the connector I filled the wires on to get them through the hole I drilled anyway so putting them back into the connector reversed was easy. Now I have a water and dust free install that looks factory.

I did this same mod on my silverado two years ago but those headlights were very bright to other cars. I had to adjust them way down to reduce glare to oncoming traffic. The volt does not have this same issue. It's a great mod!
 

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Thanks again for posting pics/directions. I got one side done today - took about an hour taking my time. Wanted to wait for night to compare before doing the other side - incredible difference.

I went 55w and 5000k - very happy with the results. I put my ballasts in a slightly different location - looks factory. Will try to get pics soon.

I used a 1/2" drill bit and then metal shears to oval the hole to fit the plugs through.

JP
 

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The Volt senses the current of the turn signal. Since the LED consumes a lot less (3 watt instead of 25), the Volt thinks that the bulb is broken and starts flashing at a higher frequency. Its rather stupid that it doesn't just display a message in the DIC instead, but it seems that GM just used stock hardware for turn signals. The blinking problem is resolved by clamping a ginormous 50 Watt 6 Ohm resistor in parallel to the blinker which simulates the old bulb. Its needs to be big since the incandescent bulb is a hot 25 Watt. I had ordered it as well and clamped in on the wires.
How and where'd you mount the resistors to dissipate the heat? You went from the flasher to ground, correct? Not from the fog to ground?

Cheers,
Jason
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
How and where'd you mount the resistors to dissipate the heat? You went from the flasher to ground, correct? Not from the fog to ground?
It must be from the flasher to ground (double check with multimeter which of the two it is). I simply clamped the ends of the resistor on the wire and let it hang there. That is not the most solid or fail-safe solution, but it works. Its near-impossible to find a location where the resistor can be screwed to the car and where its close enough to the existing wire.
 

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I recently took the plunge and changed to HID lamps as well. It is noticeably brighter 20-30 feet in front of me, not too helpful at speed though. I used a kit from DDM tuning, and I went without a relay harness. It has been working fine without the harness; it has been about two weeks since I've made the swap. I still have the harness in case I need it in the future.
Even though it doesn't contribute substantially when driving, they do look nicer than the halogen lamps. I ordered 5k, 35 watt bulbs.
 

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It must be from the flasher to ground (double check with multimeter which of the two it is). I simply clamped it on the wire and let it hang there. That is not the most solid or fail-safe solution, but it works. Its near-impossible to find a location where the resistor can be screwed to the car and where its close enough to the existing wire.
Got it - I have the $45 4w from jdmtoy, but thinking about ponying up for these - http://www.vleds.com/v3-triton/bulb-system/v3-wa-5k.html - 600 lumens - should be pretty awesome.
 
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