Sunday, September 28, 2014

Changing Central Door Lock Actuator aka gun!

Hi everyone and i'm back with another practical mods or rather, addressing another common problems on Iswara. It's about central door lock actuator, or so called the gun!

 Sorry but I think the gun fails quite often too...

Why is it called actuator or gun? This is because normally, a stock central lock actuator, sometimes also called central lock solenoid, looks more like a boxy type of design, at least for Protons. For the originals, the central lock actuator should look something like this:

The central lock actuator shown above are the rear left and rear right actuator taken out from a separate day.

And here comes the third party central lock solenoids that claimed to "last longer", "providing higher torque", and yet they're that cheap! Accessories shop usually carries them at a surplus price when you ask them to change your door central lock. And not just that, they'll again make you informed that you'll need a "new mounting points" for your central lock, oh did I say that's how many charges in a row already?
Ini-lah pistol yang selalunya disembunyikan di sebalik pintu kereta.

Alright, speaking about the gun type, you'll first get your central lock actuator replaced to a third party ones, which, some screws that are supposed to be there on your door will be taken and left blank, letting rain water flow into your door like none of his business; Followed by some additional installation charge, which normally is simply, randomly drill some holes on your car door which the accessories guy "think that its not a problem to get your car door drilled and let it rust because its so cheap to replace a door!".

So thankfully enough, I insists originals on all times as that's HOW, WHY, WHEN, WHERE, WHAT, and TESTED. That's how much force it should've needed to pull down or push up the door knob; That's why the central locking mechanism is designed in this manner to minimize wear and tear to your door hinges; That's where the central lock actuator should be, the mounting points also holds together which creates strength for the locking mechanism and hinges; That's when you should replacing your actuator as it won't bulge anymore, rather then getting randomly stucked; That's what the mounting points are, tuned or matched to just that much the door locking sound should be; And that's the PROVEN and TESTED design by the engineers! (Or you mean the bangla that simply drill hole on your car is an engineer too? Well... They'll probably tell you it won't rust your door too.)

So thankfully I insisted on the original boxy type or it is just me. Problem now is the passenger door actuator seemed to quit as it sometimes doesn't lock or doesn't unlock, making the driver to manually lock and unlock manually when the actuator feels bad on that particular day.

So here comes the dis-assembly guide for the door panel. 

First remove the red screws from the panels. If they're covered, get the flap off and unscrew it. You will also need to remove the triangle protective plastic cover on the side mirror adjuster to get the panel out.

After that, the green boxes labels all the clips behind the panels. You'll like to pop them up. Pop one and others will be easy for you.

After popping up all the clips, the purple area is just holder by gravity and "hook" from panel. Simply lift the panel reversing the gravity direction and it'll come out smoothly. Get ready to balance the panel and find a place to put where you won't get scratches on your panel. Accessories guy, nah they'll just rest it on the wall and there goes your panel trim scratches, whole line of it on the most obvious place. If you place it with the "window fabric liner" against the wall, nah get ready for your tinted film to scratch, can be very deep until you'll replace a new film.

Tips: If you need to rest it, rest it on a wall or something height of pail, so you don't get the window liner on the wall. Get some newspaper on the floor and make sure no sands or stones to scratch the panel. If wanted to lay to wall on panel side, get some cloth to cover the panel so that leave no scratches. If you really need to rest the "window fabric liner" against the wall, I suggest masking tape the whole liner before resting on wall as the stones or risk DEEP scratches from minor dirt from wall. (Imagine have a tiny tiny tiny tiny sand/dust on the liner, and you lower down the window and up the window back, GONE! One whole line of DEEP scratch going diagonally across! I don't like it on my cheap tint and I bet you won't like it on your Huper or 3M though)

Peel the weathershield off! Alright just peel off the left side. Basically lower left and upper left. I don't peel all the way as the "gummy gooey" seal will get less and less sticky, and eventually your weathershield doesn't bond anymore due to dust, oil from fingers, age or the weathershield itself. Just peel "enough" to allow your workspace "not to be compromised", rather than "comfortable".

Identify the root cause of the problem by inspection. Start by locking and unlocking the door via central lock system or alarm. Saw the green holder connected via a rod to a blue holder? That's the central lock mechanism, yea JUST ONE ROD. A weak central lock motor will not be able to "pull" and "push" the lock mechanism enough to make it lock or unlock. Basically it's just overcoming friction of the door hinges, but at its position, you'll find out pretty much force is needed though. Basically central lock motor doesn't get damaged, it's just getting weak.

If you found your rod had misaligned, loosen or fell somewhere else, just replaced it back to its original position. Retest to ensure that solves the problem.

Here comes the cash part. My central lock motor is weak and guess its time for the 7 years old original Proton actuator to retire. Went to spare parts shop and they'll give you the gun type. Insists on box type, i'm not going to retrofit it with gun type, it's just too unnecessary.

After searching, they can't find the one for Iswara so they gave me a Wira one to fit. This will make me re-use back my old bracket as the bracket is entirely different from the Iswara's one. Note that all the actuators are shaped the same, the difference, if any, would be the inclining angle of the metal piece connecting the motor and the rod. For rear, there is a difference between Iswara and Wira's one and may need more modification to fit. This is due to the angle difference on the metal joining the motor and the rod. So DO insists on Iswara's one as the Wira modification won't work well.

So here it is, original on the right and the Wira's new actuator on the left. The bracket is totally different from the Iswara's one, a google search will bring you a result from another blog. It's a piece of oddly shaped unbalanced design metal. Oh by the way I had checked out the parts at Proton Parts Centre, the original part is OBSELETE! So just settle with anything or brand that spare part shops give you as long as the price sounds reasonable for you.

I then removed the mounting screws from the Wira actuator and test it. The strength of the new actuator is just powerful.

I left it hanging like this while testing the new central lock actuator. The power during rotation can make the actuator shake and not just vibrate!

So enough of testing and lets go to Step 5!

Now you'll like to remove the old central lock actuator from its place. The placement spot is very difficult to reach and to work with, and you have no access to any screws as well. So I re-summon the picture you just looked at again because you blinked your eyes.

You will need to remove the 3 screws around the door latches, one above and two below. This will allow the door latch to be "out of place" enough to install the actuator. Another screw, which is the only screw below the door latch, yes the grey one, will also need to be removed.

Next, remove all the linkages, no matter it is orange or green. You'll realized that the door latch and everything seemed stuck in place even without all the mounting screws. That's how strong the linkages are holding the latches and locks. Removing the linkages will allow you to free more movements that are required to replace the actuator.

Now I should re-summon the last picture cause you didn't stare at it long enough.

You'll then realized that there are two vertically mounted screws beside the green holder and below the orange holder that holds the bracket within. The screws are screwed from within! What kind of design is that? And how are you going to unscrew that? I was puzzled and concluded that to remove that, it will take much more time and probably gonna take apart the whole door knob mechanism as well. As it's getting complicated, I recommend the following steps as an alternative.

Since the bracket loves to stay there, let it stay!

Move the bracket at a slight angle and you shall get enough space to unscrew the motor from behind.
Unscrew two screws in this way!

Now you'll find there's one more remaining screw. And guess what, you just need to angle here and there and you'll find the third screw positioned just nice in the glory hole below... That took me sometime to figure out. Once you unscrew the third screw, the motor can be removed, catch the motor or it'll send an audio shockwave through out your clumsy all metal car door.

So that saved all the hassle you'll need to take apart the bracket, you had just removed the old actuator!

Refit the new actuator by reversing back step 6. You can screw the actuator in any order you want. And hey do remember the metal rod yea, take it out and placed it onto your new actuator! If you don't do it now it'll be much difficult to do it later!

Align the door hinge. Hold it in place and start fixing all the linkages back into its original position. It's not difficult to mess up the order or position as the linkages rods are rather fixed in position since they are out from factory.

Reverse step 5. Test it now! Feel the power of the new actuator! (Or the power of your money well spent at least)

If your new motor is also weak, unable to lock or unlock properly, read further below after these steps.

STEP 10:
Reverse back Step 3, Step 2 and Step 1. Inspect for any abnormalities, place back weathershield, and place back the door panel. You're done!

Note for those coming from Gun type into Box type:
If your car is modified into gun type and the bracket and screws are gone, congratulate your ex-owner or your accessories men. You've made your life harder to re-convert into boxy type.

Boxy type central lock actuator is also much quieter and elegant when working. Boxy type actuator locks the door lock more softly and due to its mounting and constructions with the door and bracket, sound is minimized a lot. The gun type is just making too much noise as its powerful, that bothered me, making the locking and unlocking feel like breaking something everytime.

Speaking about powerful, the gun types are normally mounted parallel to the door knob. Yes in theory this gives the most powerful force to lock and unlock as its a direct drive, rather than rotational drive instead. But sometimes I don't think I need that "powerful" force to lock or unlock. It's like punching the hinge down and sending the door knob flying during locking and unlocking. And that is further worsen by the hinge design where locking and unlocking will strike a middle metal. Here comes the cheap locking noise and hopefully you didn't make any metal bent yet.

Now about the metal part, if the accessory installer drilled on your car door metal, you're going to have a bad time, you'll suffer from rust on the car door panel, or the useless screws they used that catalyze the rusting process. Please note that water does goes in to the area we're working here and rusting is pretty much easy without any paint/coating on. That is why Proton had coated a layer of anti-rust in the door and even weathershield it in first place! Try running your finger on the inner door panel metal, sticky right? Not mentioning the working noise is amplified by the thin door metal that's holding the gun.

My previous genius owner changed all four to gun-locking type. I spent sometime to re-convert them into the originals ones. I'll now speak from my experience in converting the gun-type into they box type for my car: 

In Step 5, you may not have the screw. Get the screw from spare parts shop or ask from you mech friends for one piece to screw the actuator bracket. That's the important link that'll hold the bracket and the actuator together. Nothing replaces that, you can't even reach to glue or weld the bracket if you want to.

In Step 6, you don't have any screws! I replaced mine with cable ties instead, making it to loop together with the bracket and the holes from the door hinge. You wanna make sure the cable ties are good and tight. If it's not tight enough, your actuator can't efficiently transfer the power to the lock rod as it will move, and you'll pretty much peel your weathershield again very soon to readjust. If any of cable ties snaps, not only it causes the the door lock and unlock to fail, you'll get annoying metal clunking sound when your car vibrates as the bracket comes into contact with another metal, that are supposed to be fastened together.

One thing good about this step by using cable ties is it'll be unnecessary to unscrew the 3 screws on the door hinge. This is actually good as you can see the washer on the door hinge is pretty sharp to pierce the car paint into door body. This is to make sure the door hinge doesn't got loosened up overtime due to vibration and age, causing door randomly open or flew off during cruising. By using cable ties, the 3 screws will stay with the car door forever and each time you replace the actuator would only need you to cut the cable ties off, not mentioning you can change the bracket for new one too!

Note for unable to lock or unlock even changed a new actuator:Get a new one from where you bought. But I think most slightly they will reject as you had, opened the packaging, and, OPENED THE PLASTIC BAG. But it's really their product fault! The actuator is so weak that it can't even push it in place! Nope sorry but they normally won't admit it, they'll give some sort reason of your central lock relay weak and all sorts of reason even blaming you installed not properly or had spoiled it or blaming wiring problem, for not exchanging it for you.

So I guess I can't get an exchange? Here's what you can do: (It's complicated, I took few days to fine tune after installing)
You'll need to get some metal rod in this process. Have a look at the picture below:
You'll need to get the metal rod (stick) and the link connector fastener (gold box with screws). Its sold at car accessories shop or some car accessories shop in Jalan Pasar. First, you'll parallel the new metal rod with your door knob pin metal rod. Then, you'll reach the new metal rod to the hook shaped metal rod from the boxy central lock actuator. Some adjustment will be needed on different lengths of the connecting rod to enable the lock to lock and unlock properly. Once you've decided the length, proceed with cable tie on the yellow circled part. This will hold the rods together properly. Link connector is not used as the boxy actuator will make rotations during lock and unlock, we do need some free play on rotations, but what we need the more lateral force from it. It'll take some time to adjust this and you'll need to place the door panel back to reconfirm whether is it working properly as some rotational force is "convert" into lateral force through the door pin hole on the door panel. This will make the door unlock. Locking action will require much less adjustment.

Do ensure the "lock" and "unlock" operations are smooth. If there is jitter on joins, place more cable ties to make sure the force doesn't split up in the intermediate yellow circled part. It's difficult to find a balanced lock and unlock position in this case. Always make sure the central lock actuator is more favourable or bias to stay in "lock" rather than stay "unlocked". You'll rather manually unlocked your car than locking it. Why? Imagine if the lock doesn't lock up properly and you had moved away from your car, thinking that arming your alarm had locked it well. And a grasp of door handle will pop the lock up if its not locked properly! The latch on door hinge has not traveled far enough to stay locked.

Alright, if this is not worth your time, I suggest getting another from another spare parts shop. Sometimes maybe it's just manufacturing defect or sometimes the product may had been stored too long, stacked together and magnets repelled until its weaker than usual, not sure with that.

Hope these helps!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

YES Go USB Dongle Repair and Refurbished!

Alright, today's topic are going to address the infamous problem of a local telco 4G USB Dongle. Oh did I say 4G?

So here you go, a YES GO USB Dongle!
In reality, it's an USB Wimax dongle. YTL YES does their marketing and branding well especially they promoted themselves as "4G" at local's pre-4G era. A search in web will make you informed that it's a product of INFOMARK, probably made in Korea and OEM's their product to many Wimax telco in the world as well, Sprint and Clear Spot are some of the remarkable ones.

The stylish, sleek yet sturdy dongle does it jobs well, boasting a 270 degree freedom-angle for you to adjust for fitting tight spot. Well, I do not really agree with the statement on tight spot fitting as it takes about 1.5 USB space itself. For horizontally mounted USB port, such as laptops, you're going to have a bad time as it'll take 0.25 USB space of your next USB port, rendering the limited USB port unusable. But still, my obserbation tells me that many of my friends continued to be able to force fit thumbdrive into the next USB port, slanted. Well that's cool but for long term effect on your USB port, it's non of my business.

Back to the topic, as the dongle is 270 degree rotatable for "best-fit", rather than for "best-reception", many users had found it frustrating as the dongle will be out of service maybe in 3 months, 7 months, 11 months, or if you're unlucky enough, just after the one-year warranty expires. This is caused by the twisting and flexing of the internal connecting ribbons whenever you decided to change the angle of the dongle, or rather just "unpacking" the USB side to plug in the dongle. If you're under warranty, yes the replacement is free, however you'll need to settle for RM99 once the warranty expires. Mine quit working after 9 months of fairly light usage, just to surf during critical time where university's WiFi loads webpage slower than a snail. The symptoms, no "power" light even though you'd connected the dongle, nor does it shows up in your device manager.

Anyway I consider myself a happy customer as I was exchanged for a new one for free, with the old one took back of course. However, my friend who sent me this dongle was not very happy with it. It damaged right after the warranty period. 

I then offered my help to alleviate the issue, renting my friend the dongle whilst I carry out repair for the dongle.

Lets get our hands dirty shall we?

Joking, the dongle is damn tight sealed and probably cleaner than your laptop.

First, I stripped out the cover of the dongle on it's back. You might wanna take note of the clips position of you're following the steps here. I used only fingernails to strip the cover, it's only held by clips! Just forcefully slide your fingernail in near the clips and NOT on the clips, once one of the clips gave way, the other will get off much easily in the same way. Be extra gentle so that the clips won't broke of as it's exceptionally fragile if you worked it out the wrong way. I seemed like did not broke any clips so i'm happy :)

Picture are post-pics, that's why you'll find they're wired already.

(WARNING: BEFORE you proceed, have a look on the ribbon located near the rotating USB male and check the condition of it! It looks like a brown shiny tape with thin shiny copper lines on it. If the ribbon seemed undamaged, it might not be the fault of the ribbon itself!)

For my case I can see the ribbon copper line is already torn on 2 connection lines. So yeap is literally gone. But i'm not gonna give RM99 to replace the ribbon problem that WILL EVENTUALLY RETURN BACK! This shall be deemed as a DESIGN DEFECT, although it may also be considered as MANUFACTURING DEFECT. And yeap, WE'RE CHARGED FOR THE DEFECT LOL!

Back to Step 1 again, Once the back cover is out, you're gonna be happy as you do not need to work out the front cover. You'll just need to use a precision flat screwdriver and get the circuit board out of its securing clips, no worries to the ribbon, just break it and hold your tears. What you'll get is below:

Step 2 will require you to remove the soldering connections of the ribbon of the circuit board. You'll need to desolder the connections of the connecting ribbon out. Make sure you desolder and sucker off clean enough on BOTH SIDES and make sure no short circuit between the connections pads on either side. Use screwdriver to divert the solder off or penknife for extreme cases when isolating the two contact pads. Also note that the soldering gun temperature might need to be upped higher (if you have an adjustable constant temperature ones), as the solder is somehow very hard and rather thick.

(Your warranty will VOID once you perform this step. You may not be able to reverse the process as it involves physical damage to the device. You can always choose to close the cover back and the dealer or retailer can't tell any signs if you broken it apart before.)

Now you'll need to take out the rotating part of the USB male port. I did it by using a precision screw driver and pressed down between the casing and the USB male port. A bit of strength will send the port slid out of its holding places.

After having fun examine the mechanism of the USB hinge, go to step 4. (Take a plier and hold the "square" part of hinge, then turn the USB male port, the "click" is really sturdy made)

Step 4 will require a functional 4 wire USB cable, with at least one side a USB Type-A, or simply the standard USB male plug. Now about why 4 wire USB cable? Many cables on the market now carries only the "power" lines of the USB, which is only 2 wire as opposed to traditional or "real" USB cables which are supposed to be 4 wires. If you're getting it from printer, harddisk, mouse, keyboard, mobile phone cables, etc which carries data rather than "power" only, you're good to go. If you're thinking of powerbank USB cables, bear in mind that they may not have "data" link supported. To confirm your cable before you messed the cable up like me, plug in your phone and the cable. If you're able to transfer data with the cable, that cable exactly is what we needed. 

To show you what happened on my case. I used an old powerbank cable which had loose Micro-USB port, but the result is...

After splicing it I found it has only 2 inner wires inside! We needed 4 wire type to proceed. There goes my charging cable... Saving it for something else for now. (Pic is blur sorry)

This is the correct cable! 4 wires and they adhere to USB colour coding standard! (Adhering to colour code, blue, green, red and white makes identifying the pins easier for connections on Dongle)

Cut the USB cables short! I have learned it the hard way as cables that are too long will affect the reception signals! (See after Step 7) You might also want to measure some distance so that you'll be able to clip the dongle on some places of your laptop for better reception.

Alright we continue to slid the USB cable up to the circular holes. It's a very snug fit for my case as the wire insulation is pretty thick and the hole is really just nice enough for a cable to fit in. Do pull in the wires a bit more as the picture below, you'll appreciate it for easier soldering later.

Get the wires insulation stripped:

Here's how to get your dongle to work again. You'll need to identify the wires of the USB cable and the dongle too. There is some kind of wordings on each connector pad of the USB, and is easily guessed from its label. If your cable does not follow the colour code, identify them by a multimeter. Anyway you can refer to the pictures below if your USB cable colour code matches.

Oh ya get them soldered! The soldering will test your patience as the connector pad is minute for hand soldering. Be careful not to spill the solder to the next pad or short circuit will occur! Isolate them with method same as step 2, either via screwdriver or pen knife. I took few tries as my solder just spills to another connector pad. (The connector pad surface is also cleaned by the few times solder, making next solder easier and faster) My technique is keeping the wire on the right to its extreme right, while on left to extreme left. Then the solder would just flow as where I wanted to.

An extra note, keep the module with the orange sticker in place and make sure it's tightly fitted to its socket all the time. (It's removable, probably removable to cater for different Wimax frequencies and bands around the world.)

DO MAKE SURE that you check for SHORT-CIRCUIT! Any connections between connector means you shall either:
1) Clean the solder paste off, check for short-circuit! Check for wire or solder paste traces if you've already clean it and still short-circuit! No short and you're ready to resolder.
1) Clean the solder paste off and resolder if your solder paste "mistakenly" flow across 2 connector pads.
2) Make sure the remaining wire strands that are uncovered from solder not to overlap each other, trim them if its too long! A sharp penknife with light pressure and patience can cut the copper wires.

Another side: (Take note NOT TO ACCIDENTALLY resolder the Surface Mount resistors and transistors. Keep the solder paste on connector pads only!)

DO NOT PROCEED IF THERE IS STILL SHORT-CIRCUIT DETECTED.. This is abnormal, and might be due to unknown reasons, it's better to get a new dongle then to blow up your dongle, and maybe followed up by your motherboard, your computer, etc and probably yourself. DO NOT PROCEED IF you're unsure of whether there exists a short-circuit or not.

UNPLUG IMMEDIATELY upon any presence of smoke, smell, melting of wires or components or your plastic table or whatsoever abnormalities, you've fried something, pray is only your dongle and not anything else!

Make sure the module in orange sticker did not fall out or loosen!

Enough of warnings given before you proceed.

Now plug in your refurbished dongle! Make sure your table is made of electrical insulator and free of any soldering or metal debris though.

Once you heard the USB plugging in sound, you're probably safe, then wait for the red power LED!

You may start connecting software in your computer and test run for a while to see whether the dongle is operating is normally. Of course, unplug upon any abnormalities.

If the reception signal strength is too weak, consider to desolder and trim the USB cable shorter. (See after Step 7) It's handy if you have another dongle nearby so you can compare the signal strength. Mine gives the same signal strength!

Step 7:
Disconnect the USB cable from the computer. Now you're thrilled that you just saved 99 pieces of Roti Canai or 99 packs of Nasi Lemak.

Okays now just reverse back the process. I slowly pulled the wires out of the dongle to shorten the wires inside the dongle. At the final process, I pulled the wires and click the circuit board into place bit by bit. Be gentle as the soldering connections might not be very strong in handling mechanical forces. Finally you'll make a small "U-Turn" with the wire around the dongle. I will say the wires fits just exactly the spaces in the dongle as well!

Close the back cover it back and congratulations! You'd successfully refurbished your dongle!

Close up:

Comparison between Original YES Dongle and Refurbished a.k.a Modified for endurance use!

I bet you'll save even more on long run as compared to purchasing a new dongle as this turgid wire would not break down as easily and as often as the ribbon, saving you even more than just 99 packs of Nasi Lemak! The electronic components are solid state and probably Korea manufactured, so it'll probably last a lifetime! (Even if it breaks down on the same problem, you'll know same steps will revive the dongle)

Of course, i'll now post a proof video that this tutorial works!

Details for wire length and reception:
I had first tried using a very long USB cable from a keyboard. This is the original length of the USB cable soldered to the YES dongle.

It eventually didn't work out as expected as the reception is so bad that it will have trouble connecting. Even if its connected at outdoor, positioned at some weird angles didn't helped. It will keep disconnecting and searching for network, which makes internet surfing impossible. Plugged in an original dongle and Voila, full bar of network. This proves that wires that are too long just doesn't match the original impedance of the intended circuit, or perhaps it''s just pure long wires characteristics which gives lower voltage, thus lower reception and so. The issue is solved once I trimmed the wire to a shorter length, where the pictures and steps of the above are actually taken during this second attempt.

You might wanna get some bulldog clips to secure your dongle and wires in a position of better reception. Or cute binder clips to show off your personality as well!

If you're experiencing this problem where you had plugged in your dongle and red light is on, and
1) "Connect" says "We can't detect your Go. Please quit connect and remove your go....." . OR
2) Device Manager had identified the Yes Go "Connect" shows "Please insert your Go."

The solution to the problem above is to run the "Connect" as administrator. Then it will detect your go accordingly. This problem is evident on the first restart after installing the software on your PC. Also occurs after rebooting your PC and plugging in the dongle for the first time. After the first time, you may not require to run the program as administrator anymore. However, I do recommend so to avoid problems later.

Now i'll show you the QUICK FIX to this: (Permanent fix below)
These steps will set the "Connect" to run as administrator only for the time it is launched.
1) Navigate to the start menu and find the "Connect" program.
2) Right click it and select "Run as Administrator".
3) A prompt will pop out asking for User Account Control, just click "Yes" and will do. The screenshot as per below:

The PERMANENT FIX will be as below:
These steps will set the "Connect" to run as administrator every time it is launched.
1) Navigate to the start menu and find the "Connect" program. (Windows 7 or other OS skip to step 2)
2) Right click it and select "Open file location". (Windows 7 or other OS, open file explorer and navigate to the "connect" folder at "C:\Program Files (x86)\Yes\Connect\Connect.exe")

3) Right click the "Connect" icon and choose "Properties". (May look different but steps are same)

4)In the "Compatibility" tab, choose "Run this program as an administrator". Click "OK" and you're done!

Hope this helps and clears off many doubts and questions on forums and internet!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Brightening and Straigten up Headlights!

Well In recent days felt that headlights are getting darker or virtually no effect on visbility of road. How I felt it? Just plain simple, when you level front of the car up with another car, you'll felt how much you're lacking on the light, don't even throw any comparison with projector headlamps, it'll seemed l am driving in the dark!

Alright so I first upgraded my bulb, I think its a 7 years old bulb to Osram Nightbreaker Unlimited. So the following are the specs:

  • Up to 110 % more light on the road for fatigue-free and comfortable driving
  • A light cone up to 40 meters longer for better visibility and significantly longer response times
  • Up to 20 % whiter light via partial cobalt coating of the glass bod
  • More efficient generation of light thanks to optimized noble filler gas formula
  • Higher resistance due to robust filament design
  • Eye-catching design with partial blue coating and silver dome
  • The most powerful OSRAM halogen automotive lamp

Alright I admit the brightness is indeed up and colour temperature of the light has been considerably higher as well. Thanks to the cobalt coating for the whiteness, and it's totally visible when on highbeam as the part of filament which lights up will be directly shine through the blue coated area. The spread of the light gets much better compared to the stock 7 years old bulb. The 40m might be a bit or marketing gimmick, probably easily obtained with better headlamp design or projector based headlamp, but the distance that I can catch perhaps extended just a bit.

Whilst it might had been a huge upgrade onto my wallet, costing probably 8 times as expensive compared to normal bulbs, the returns I expected is not as high though. I do not blame the bulb much too as the reflector design of the headlamp housing is ancient as well, in 1980's probably they're the best designed headlamps.

I then begin to realize the headlamps had gotten much unusual with the foggy surface. As the lamp is plastic, or poly carbonate its called, they're prone to fogging up for no reason. Yeap you might think it's just some dirty car but your guess is wrong, car shampoo or whatever you threw at it, the fog is there and seemed like "etched" the surface of the headlamp itself, effectively blocking light output from the tiny essential light you needed to stay on road.


A short trip to local stores Ace Hardware will reveal many products catered for such issue. The famous branded Meguiars and TurtleWax, to brands like Soft99, Abro and even RainX, which claims to restore your headlight into new and mint condition. And the price will slap you far back, ranging from individual headlamp polish about RM28 - RM50, to kit-based headlamp renewal up to RM173! I looked through few of them, which spots similar instructions, and decided I should get the kit type with polish and protector.

Why should I opt for kits type? Well the kits type, which is normally more expensive, will come with the headlamp polish, and whats more important in the pack is probably the protector. Basic principle of plastic headlamps getting fogged is because of oxidation from ultraviolet rays. A new headlamp would normally came coated with some sort of protective coating on the exterior of the headlamp, to protect the headlamp from oxidation. However due to age and probably severe environmental conditions such as dust, acidic rain, contaminants and working temperature of the headlamp, the coating may gradually runs off and oxidation starts taking place, and you'll be greeted by this:

A layer of fog seemed to had just formed out of no where in front of the headlamp. And yes you can feel the "fog" with your fingers running over it. The surface is uneven and feels corroded as well. The headlamp polish will supposed to remove off the layer of oxidation and it should shine clear and bright again. Another interesting question that i have in mind is, yeap you'd just cleared off the oxidation AND the protective coatings of the headlamp itself! Wouldn't this makes the headlamp even more susceptible to oxidation? A simple google again will reveal lots of frustrated users where they often polish their headlamps in months and even weeks to maintain the clarity. Well, if such i'll just leave my headlamps as it would be, or I could consider a kit with protective coatings available, or consider extra budget of whooping RM800 for original pairs of headlamp.

I then head over to local grocery stores, greeted with bunch of I would say, class B or class C products. They range from local brands such as FormaHero, Magic and some familiar local brands that you can find at any groceries. I finally settled with Waxco Lens Restorer and Treatment as it comes with a kit of headlamp polish and UV protector as well, which is what I initially wanted and wouldn't cost me a bomb, about RM23 as compared to other brands with standalone polish would already cost RM12-RM18.

And that's what my RM23 got me. A headlamp lens restorer, a UV protector, a Waxco proud owner sticker, 2 pieces of cloth which feels like normal polishing cloths, 2 pieces of yellow conventional kitchen sponge, also 2 pieces of probably Royal Gold 3 ply tissue paper. Waxco did I get the brand right lol? Price wise i'll say its worth as the kit comes with 2 bottles of soluions, not mentioning the extra cost that might had been incurred for polishing clothes, sponges and... yea the tissue too.

Then, on a fine day, I decided to put the solution to use. The following picture will show more of the fog prior to any treatment:

It's hazy as hell from this perspective. I started placing masking tape around the edges of the headlamp to avoid me from "polishing" the car paint as well. And from the first try, the results is surprising!

The first try had made a rather conclusive results, it works! It's less than a 3 minutes buff and those are what you get. However I wasn't much satisfied as there are still some hazy area around so I decided to give a good elbow grease on it. Afterall the product instructions says, apply with FORCE, I would suggest pressure as the word though. These are after my second trial:

This time the results are slightly better, just slightly, not as prominent as the first try. Now I can even read my bulbs specifications from the headlamp itself! The results are simply amazing!

Have a look at the comparison:

So I then proceeded to another side of the headlamp:

And some elbow grease with my left hand now, my right hand already give up rocking the car (yes that's how strong the force should be!):

 Greeted by much better headlamps now, with legible headlamps specifications:

It is noted that during my intense wiping and rubbing process, there is still some remaining haze no matter how much or how hard you wiped over it. Perhaps that's the limit of the product, or maybe the limit of the polishing cloth, where sandpaper would be probably needed. Well I decided not to go any further at this point as the results are already satisfying, just not perfect enough.

Also the application polish is polish-like colour and scent, however it is thicker which you can't shake the bottle as like polish. The solution also seems to be thocker when compared to polish on hand, yet compared to scratch remover paste-like compound, its much thinner and smoother.

After deciding that's really enough of car rocking, I then applied the second solution, the UV protector. The liquid pours out like some kind of oil-based product, feels watery, and probably alcohol based as it seemed to be a little evaporative. Using the sponge provided, I applied the UV protector in up to down motion as on the instructions:

I then left the protector to soak for about 2 minutes and started wiping off the coating with a tissue. I also soaked my DRL with the protector, hopefully will get better protection. I used a facial tissue from Scott instead, the provided 3 ply tissue is more suitable for my sweaty hands and face I think?

And what you get afterwards is just the results of restored gorgeous look of the car!

Well that's enough of it, notice the slight uneven headlamp on the right? It's due to small collision that I had before and one of the critical mounting points of the headlamp broke. And that's after fixing it, better than let it dangling though. Prior to this the headlights are skyrocketing the drivers opposite or in front of me, yet drivers still failed to observe me LOL. Maybe my headlamp visible wavelength all shoot to sky instead?

The way of fixing it is rather simple as i'm a cable-tie guy, as well as many mechanics and body shops workers. I got myself a drill and drilled a 3mm hole just sufficient for the cable tie to pass through, and tied towards a piece of metal at the back of the headlamp mounting. It's a 5 minutes fix for me, but identifying the place to drill and holding force took up lots of my time prior to this.

That's all for today! More practical mods coming soon!