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77 308 -- new H4 Hella headlights have gone out!

Discussion in 'Technical Q&A' started by greg328, Jun 1, 2005.

  1. greg328

    greg328 F1 Rookie

    Nov 17, 2003
    4,134
    Austin, TX USA
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    Greg
    Driving home tonight, my new Hella headlights with +50 H4 bulbs went out. During the drive home, I noticed the red "G" dash light was dimly lit.

    Got home and parked her in a dark garage, so I haven't checked for burned fuses/relays, but I wanted to post here for ideas....

    I've read several posts on F-Chat about 308 owners w/upgraded lights installing a new, heavier-duty harness with relays. Can anybody provide a model/part number/website?

    I bought these from Susquehanna a few weeks ago......

    Could my alternator be bad? The car still ran fine. I'll check alternator output tomorrow....

    TIA for any help/ideas...


    Greg
     
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  3. Mike328

    Mike328 F1 Rookie
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    If the "G" light was on, that indicates that the battery was NOT receiving a charge from the alternator. It is possible your alternator failed, and you were running off of the power in the battery. The voltage/current in the battery may have been enough to drive the ignition coils, but perhaps not your high-current lights.

    The wiring harness / relays, while a good idea, should not make a difference in your symptoms right now - they just power the headlights direct off the battery and basically bypass the fusebox and associated wiring.

    First step is to (1) check the battery VOLTAGE (warning: do not measure current [amps], but voltage [volts]) with a voltmeter or multimeter set to "Volts" mode. Do this with the car off. You'll be checking using the two battery terminals.

    Then start the car (TRY to - no guarantees that it will start!). Rev the engine a bit past 3k rpm to engage the alternator. Then check the voltage again at the battery terminals (this is the voltage the battery sees as a result of getting "charged").

    Alternators will eventually fail and need to be rebuilt (not an expensive thing, maybe $100 to $200). Often times it's related to the voltage regulator, internal to the alternator itself.

    First step is to check the voltages... That will give you more info.

    What happened to me: Voltage regulator inside the alternator failed, causing the alternator to output TOO HIGH a voltage (~ 17V), essentially "cooking" the battery. This was in my old 308. Battery exploded... Would not hold a charge... Car eventually stalled on the side of the road as a result of losing ignition on one, then both, banks. The undumped fuel ignited in the cat, causing it to become red hot. Another minute, the car would have caught on fire--very bad. All due to alternator issues.

    Be proactive with this one!
     
  4. Birdman

    Birdman F1 Veteran

    Jun 20, 2003
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    Greg,
    I have the same lights in my 308, stock wiring, and I have never had a problem. In the dark with the lights off, I can always see a tiny bit of glow from the alternator warning light. I think it's normal. If the lights just went out entirely, you likely blew a fuse. I know you have one of my fuseboxes. What value of fuse did you put in there? Maybe the old box used a 10 and you used an 8, and that was not quite enough?

    Birdman
     
  5. greg328

    greg328 F1 Rookie

    Nov 17, 2003
    4,134
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    Greg
    Mike,
    Thanks for the great info.... I'll check the alternator today. I put a brand new Optima red-top in a couple weeks ago, so it was probably strong enough to power the car home, if indeed the alternator has failed.

    Birdman,

    I think I'm using the same fuse rating as before, but I can tell you they're very thin, maybe a 5. Should I uprate those (all 4) to 10s?
    My "G" light usually is very dark....


    Thanks guys. I'm learning more and more about my baby......!

    Greg
     
  6. greg328

    greg328 F1 Rookie

    Nov 17, 2003
    4,134
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    Greg
    Mike,
    What values should I expect to see at the battery, in both tests?
    Because I have a small Alpine amp, and new Hella lights, is my alternator possibly not robust enough? I've heard of rebuilding them to a higher amp rating. Isn't stock 60amp, with some people modifying them to 80amp?
    Or, is the thing just finally at the end of its life? My car has 26,850 miles, so it's not a high-mileage car, but it is 27+ years old. Do these things fail with age, regardless of mileage/use?
    Greg
     
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  8. Mike328

    Mike328 F1 Rookie
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    I believe carb alternators were 55A or 60A output, with people upgrading them to 80 or 85A output when rebuilding them. Definitely a smart thing to do... 328s have stronger alternators (perhaps matching the 308 QV, not sure), 80A or 85A stock.

    Target numbers for battery voltages - 12.5V with everything off. Wouldn't be the end of the world if it's just 12, especially if you ran the amp or lights with the car off for any period of time. Much lower than that (11, 10.5) and your fuel pump won't work (mine stopped pumping between 10.5 and 11.0A when my red top failed).

    Then, when the car FIRST starts, and AFTER you've kicked up the RPMs to ensure the alternator kicks in (one burst over, say, 3000 RPMs - you should see the Alternator light go out), then the battery starts to charge. Here you expect somewhere between, say, 13.5 and 14.5. Just approximate voltages. If you see greater than 15, or no change, then there is an issue.

    Many, many threads have been posted with alternator failure. I am in no position to really "know" when they'll fail (the statistician in me says that there is HUGE variance with this variable, and I can't even begin to speculate where the mean would be). It is certainly not "Shocking" that your 30 year old car had an alternator failure, put it that way.

    Jonathan could be correct, though, it could have nothing to do with the alternator / battery and everything with your fuse choice (possible, but unlikely IMO).

    And on a side note, I know we've all outgrown obsessing about the smallest thing with these cars (because on 308s there's always a list of very small things). But. I really don't think you should be seeing your alternator light at all (i.e., 'dimly'). It's not a very smart light, I think its brightness is linearly related to how much between 0 output (extremely bright) and +1.5V output (guessing) (no light) the alternator is putting out. Thus if you're below some threshold (in this case, 1.5V), the light will begin to illuminate.

    Chuck ('atlantaman') and Verell really helped explain its exact nature of operation a few years back, might want to hunt for that thread.

    In any case, you're going to be fine. You need to check that headlamp fuse (there are two!), as Jonathan states. You also need the data points for the battery. Invest in a good, $40 to $50 multimeter from radio shack if you don't have one.

    And, remember, when the alternator fails, you could actually damage / render useless your battery, even a red top. A quick test at the store will tell. I actually lost a cell (or something) in an optima red top before, and had them test the battery--it tested bad and they replaced it. If it tests good at the store, you're fine.
     
  9. greg328

    greg328 F1 Rookie

    Nov 17, 2003
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    Greg
    Thanks, Mike. Your info is very valuable.

    Greg
     
  10. Steve Magnusson

    Steve Magnusson Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Jan 11, 2001
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    Greg -- What wattage H4 are you running?
     
  11. greg328

    greg328 F1 Rookie

    Nov 17, 2003
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    OK, this is really embarrasing, but here goes:

    The condition described above in post #1 was actually experienced by my wife last night, as she drove the car home. I posted as if it happened to me, but to save time, I just said it was me driving. I related everything exactly as she told me.

    Well, I finally had time to go out just now and check it out. Guess what was going on? She had accidentally moved the light lever into the "up" position, which causes the headlights to go out on my car, for some reason.
    I just pushed it down to the middle position, and the lights came on!!

    I am sorry for the big alert/cry for help. I promise I'll check out the problem more closely in the future before I post asking for help.

    Now, she promises me that she moved the lever around last night, with no success, so MAYBE, JUST MAYBE a problem may still exist that somehow fixed itself overnight, but I highly doubt it!

    BTW, my new lights are Hella H4 w/ 60/55W Xenon +50% bulbs.

    Sorry everybody,
    Greg

    PS--Do you guys think I should fit a heavy-duty harness/relay for better performance? Seems like I read Verell said this will take some wear off the light switch. Would this place a greater stress on the battery, since they'd be running directly off of it?
     
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  13. f355spider

    f355spider F1 World Champ
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    Steve,
    The +50% bulbs he is referring to are standard 55w low beam, 60w high beam H4 halogen/xenon gas bulbs. The +50% refers to the halogen/xenon gas blend which lends the "appearance" of being a bit brighter due to the slightly higher color temperature (not blue though).

    Dave
     
  14. Mike328

    Mike328 F1 Rookie
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  15. Birdman

    Birdman F1 Veteran

    Jun 20, 2003
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    Greg,
    Let me get this straight......


    You let your wife drive the 308? Say WHAT??

    Birdman
     
  16. f355spider

    f355spider F1 World Champ
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    May 29, 2001
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    The wire harness is not needed with the bulbs you are using. They are higher wattage than OEM for North American cars (came with sealed beam 35w/45), but same as Euro which was the 55w-60.

    You are fine. If you go higher wattage, then a harness would be recommended. If you do get the harness, even the bulbs you are using now will probably perform better (brighter) with it.
     
  17. Dr Tommy Cosgrove

    Dr Tommy Cosgrove Three Time F1 World Champ
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    May 4, 2001
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    It is correct that you do not need the harness with the bulbs you have. However - and I have been saying this on this site for 4 years now - that harness is the best bang-for-the-buck- upgrade a 308 owner can do. I have 90/130 bulbs and can finally see (they are properly aimed and NEVER have I been flashed to dim my dims) I have it in all 5 of my cars and I will never go back. My 80 Scirocco has had it in for nearly 20 trouble-free years now. It's a 4 headlight setup with 90/130 and 130 in the highs. I can bounce light off the moon in that car.
    WARNING : DO NOT put 90/130 in without the relays!!!! In fact I wouldn't install anything higher then stock without them. By the way, for some reason the kit is not fused so you have to put a couple on yourself.
     
  18. greg328

    greg328 F1 Rookie

    Nov 17, 2003
    4,134
    Austin, TX USA
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    Greg

    Yea, I know, I'm crazy!

    Actually, I was at work, in the Ferrari, and there was a threat of rain, so I called her and asked if she'd come and switch w/ me! (I work only 4 miles from home.) Am I crazy or what?
    I weighed the risk--chance of rain -vs- chance of her wrecking it, and I went w/ her. She's proven to be a decent driver, so I gave her a quick course on the oddities of the car, and sent her on her way. I wish I would have explained the crazy light stalk to her.....


    As far as the harness goes, don't know what I'm going to do. My bulbs are only 60/55, so the stock wiring shouldn't melt, right? If I can gain brightness by going with the harness, I'll do it. Can anybody provide pros/cons regarding the harness? Is there any detrimental effect to the battery?



    Greg
     

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