04 Broken auto leveling headlights - fixed!

Discussion in 'Knowledge Base Articles Discussion' started by joules, Nov 18, 2007.

  1. joules

    joules Junior Member

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    For those DIY owners who are experiencing trouble with their Prius headlights not leveling properly here's my write-up on the solution

    Headlight sensor repair

    My problem was the headlights pointed very low. They illuminated about 25 feet of the road with a sharp light-dark horizon. I've driven the car like this for 9 months.

    Jason
    04 Prius
     
  2. efusco

    efusco Moderator Emeritus
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    Thanks for posting this here. I'm going to put this into the Knowledge Base....do you have a PDF version of your write up I could post there more permanantly?
     
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  3. sparkyAZ

    sparkyAZ übergeek

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    Very nice write up, Jason, and welcome to PriusChat!

    One comment on the repair: before reassembly, I would add some dielectric grease to the springs to help delay future corrosion.

    Evan, I copied Jason's write-up to a PDF for you to add to the kb:


    [attachmentid=12523]
     

    Attached Files:

  4. pvdo

    pvdo New Member

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    Sorry for asking the question, but is auto leveling system only in HID headlight type or in regular as well? Somebody told me, that auto leveling is for HID. I have the problem, that I get warning (triangle and icon on MFD) that it is not working. Should you have any advices how to behave.
     
  5. Bill Merchant

    Bill Merchant absit invidia

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    Re: 04 Broken auto leveling headlights - fixed!

    Hello pvdo. The auto-leveling mechanism is installed in North American Prius with HID headlamps, it is not installed on our Prius with halogen headlamps. Since the HID lights are so bright, they can temporarily blind on-coming drivers if they shine up into their eyes. A heavy weight in the back of the car could point the HID headlights up, so the leveling mechanism compensates. I think European Prius may have a manual control.

    Make sure your headlights are adjusted properly.
     
  6. krousdb

    krousdb NX-74205

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    I have had the MIL on and off for 2 years now. I just removed mine and took it apart. All 3 springs were rusted and broken. I checked with the dealer and they want $335 for a new one. I checked my local bone yard but they don't even have a Prius. Any ideas on how to get one for less than $335?
     
  7. Ct. Ken V

    Ct. Ken V Active Member

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    Re: 04 Broken auto leveling headlights - fixed!

    pvdo & krousdb,

    pvdo : 1st, do you know when you took delivery of your '05? Actually, it's the "in-service"date (which may be different from your delivery date) that the 3yr/36,000 mile warranty (whichever comes first) will probably determine whether or not your auto-level'g sensor is still covered. Your dealer can look on Toyota's database & print out for you the information that contains your "in-service" date, but most likely (if you haven't already exceeded the 36,000 miles) you have exceeded the 3 years from your "in-service" date (unless you got your Prius later than July 5th of 2005). I would report your auto-level'g problem to your dealer's service dept today(if they're open) just in case your warranty is still in effect (it also may be covered under the extended warranty (if you bought one). That way if it takes a few days to get the car in for service or for them to print out the info with your "in-service" date, you will already have put them on notice that it failed before the warranty expired (if that may be the case). I'm cross'g my fingers for you. Make sure you get a replacement sensor with the suffix letter "G" after the part number on the label (that's the improved one) if you don't attempt to rebuild/repair yours.

    krousdb : Mileage-wise I don't know if you were still covered under warranty [but time-wise you most likely were back in 2006 (2 yrs ago, you said)] when you started getting the warnings on your screen. Did the dealer not fix the condition for you when you reported it, or did they just say : "can't reproduce the problem" which a lot of them used for a non-repair excuse in the past? If you have any paperwork from past dealer visits (& if you don't, they keep their own copies for a long time) that indicates you reported to them that you were having an issue with your HID headlight aim or were getting the MIL message that something in the system was not work'g [& they either didn't/couldn't fix it or they didn't fix it properly & it continued to malfunction afterwards (& you have additional documentation that you brought it back for continued MIL messages], then even if you are out of the factory warranty period, they should still make it right for you at no cost because they didn't take care of it for you while it was covered. Like I asked pvdo, did you bother to get an extended warranty that may cover it?

    Ken (in Bolton,Ct)
     
  8. krousdb

    krousdb NX-74205

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    I have 135k miles currently. When it first started happening, I had 77k so I didn't bother taking it to the dealer. In fact, it has never been to the dealer. I have done my own maintenence. I will start looking around at other junk yards. This is really just a nuisance issue. I rarely drive at night and the aim seems fine when I do. I only get the MIL when it rains.
     
  9. krousdb

    krousdb NX-74205

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    After finding out the replacement was $335, I decided to repair it. I pulled the spring out of two ball point pens and cut them in half. I soldered three of them to the copper pads after cleaning the corrosion out. I put everything back together and viola, no more MIL.
     
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  10. berkley

    berkley Junior Member

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    Re: 04 Broken auto leveling headlights - fixed!

    thanks for your suggestion regarding removing tire when fixing,,,,,I contacted "Toyota Assistance" to see if they could help with costs. I have to take my car into dealer for diagnosis before they evaluate level their help.....['05-47,000]
    Question:
    how often has this malfunction happened in models up to "new&improved" sensor ?? numbers??
    I'm trying to post this on chat but having problems...the answer may give me some ammunition when dealing with Toyota....
    thanks
    berkley
     
  11. Ct. Ken V

    Ct. Ken V Active Member

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    Re: 04 Broken auto leveling headlights - fixed!

    berkley,

    My headlight level'g sensor failed on my 2005 Prius when it was only 13 months old & had around 21,000 miles on it (back on Aug 22nd of 2006). Within a week my dealer had what Toyota calls a "coutermeasure replacement part" (with a suffix letter "G" after the part #) in & installed. That was the new & improved part with the better sealing to keep out the moisture & corrosion. No problems since & my Prius is now 37 months old with 60,000 miles on her.

    I was on PriusOnLine long before I came over here to PriusChat & I seem to remember a fair amount of postings over there about the headlight sensor fail'g. Try a search over there, but be warned that the search function doesn't work all that great. Even though I had the exact thread title my post was in (from a reference I made in another thread I posted in) & used myself as the author of my post, the search function still couldn't find it. Fortunately I also referenced the date range & the category (for somebody else to be able to find it way back then), so I was able to scroll through the pages of that category just after that date to find the thread topic I had posted my failed sensor experience in [it was in a different topic with nothing to do about the sensor, but nevertheless that's where I posted it (& I did know the thread topic name)]. So much to be said for the search function's abilities.

    My postings on the subject were in "Steering recall done" authored by wayneswhirld (but it still should have found my posts within that thread). I did 3 postings in that thread, but only the ones (with the same name I use here) of Aug 22nd & Aug 28th deal with the sensor problem. Try search'g for headlight sensor, auto leveling sensor, headlight leveling trouble, or some variation/combination of those words & you may have some luck (I just did but remember I was look'g for a different topic title to find MY known post in, so I didn't even try to look for the other threads by their possible names until just now).

    Ken (in Bolton,Ct)
     
  12. gggGary

    gggGary gggGary

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    I repaired my 2005 sensor once in winter of 07 08 it went bad again this winter. I took a flier and bought a used ride height sensor from a Lexus off eBay. Linkage is different but the sensor itself is the exact same mechanically and electrically. It plugs right in and my headlights aim properly again. I found one for $50.00 shipped. It appears the Lexus SUVs have one at all four corners. You might want to find one from a drier corner of the country.
     
  13. steevr

    steevr New Member

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    I have an '09 with the HID's. I could have sworn that when the car was new, when the HID's were first turned on, you would see the HID's level up and then back down again (as with my Lexus RX300 with factory HIDs). Was I just imagining things?? Now when we turn the headlights on (whether with the switch or if they were already on when starting the car), I don't see the beams level up or down. Does anyone else's Prius do the level thing when turning on the HIDs? Thanks.
     
  14. Politburo

    Politburo Active Member

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    I don't think I've noticed the headlights moving upon startup. The color changes, but I think the position stays constant.
     
  15. GypsyWolf

    GypsyWolf New Member

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    Re: 04 Broken auto leveling headlights - fixed!

    Would it be possible for you to provide a bit more details as to where the sensor is located? I'm not someone that works on cars or anything like that, but if I can at least get more of an idea I'm hoping that I can avoid taking my 05 Prius to the dealer for this headlight leveling crap.

    Thank you,
    Christy
     
  16. Patrick Wong

    Patrick Wong DIY Enthusiast

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    Hi Christy,

    Look at the left-hand side of the rear beam axle under the car. You will see a very small arm attached to the axle. That arm pivots and attaches to the sensor mounted to the body.
     
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  17. Dranoel

    Dranoel New Member

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    Re: 04 Broken auto leveling headlights - fixed!

    FYI - I just had the dealer fix our leveling system: $347 for the part and $210 labor... ooouch! :mad:
     
  18. Ct. Ken V

    Ct. Ken V Active Member

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    Re: 04 Broken auto leveling headlights - fixed!

    Dranoel,

    I know some of us here don't work on our cars any more for whatever reasons (age, health, arthritis, bad weather conditions or whatnot), & therefore take it to the dealer. But I would seriously question your dealer about the $210 labor they charged you for. When I had my failure, I was still under warranty (seems like a lot of the '04 & '05's had a headlight sensor failure in a very short time---one year for me & as short as only 3 months for some others), so I wasn't aware how much the repair would cost.

    But click on this link & look at posts 7 & 8 & my post #11. It looks like your dealer charged you for the 2.5 hours of labor that poster #7 got charged for [to remove 3 or 4 bolts, un-snap a wire harness connector, swap the part, re-snap the connector, & re-tighten the bolts (probably only 5-10 minutes), & another 20 minutes or so to electronically re-calibrate the headlight aim (if really needed)]. Compare your dealer's simple part swap to the time it took poster #8 to remove, dis-assemble, clean, rebuild, re-assemble, & re-install his sensor (less than an hour & he didn't even have a lift to put his car up on). Here's the link I promised you at the start of this paragraph : http://priuschat.com/forums/gen-ii-...ng/45884-headlight-level-sensor-corroded.html

    Ken (in Bolton,Ct)
     
  19. bufffy21798

    bufffy21798 Junior Member

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    Fix my sensor this weekend, easy as pie and man what a difference! Two of my springs were really corroded, replaced with pieces of a ball point pen spring! Works great!
     
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  20. kenmce

    kenmce High Voltage Member

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    Comments on my Dead Load Leveling Sensor

    I got a new (to me) error icon on my MFD along with the red exclamation mark in a triangle. It looked like maybe a picture of a soft tire, except I don't have tire pressure sensors, or maybe-sort-of an eyeball or something. Anyhow, I sketched it and stopped by the Toyota dealer to see what's up.

    (Me) " I have a problem, I have some kind of error icon on my MFD, and the red triangle with an exclamation mark is on"

    (Him) "What's an EmEffDee?"

    (Me) "Multi-function-display." (pause) "The little TV screen thing on the dash"

    (Him) "Oh, a Prius"

    (Me) (Shows him sketch) "It looks like this"

    (Him) (Goes out on the floor, talks to someone, comes back) "It's a headlight problem"

    (Me) "How much to pull the error codes?"

    (Him) "Fifty-eight dollars" (Plus tax)

    (Me) "How far in advance should I schedule it?"

    (Him) "Oh, a day should be enough"

    (Me) Kthnxby.

    So I drove down to my local mechanic and they sent one of the guys out with a little bitty scanner. He couldn't find any codes with it, so he went back in and came out with the big "Snap-On" scanner. It turns out that there are different places that error codes are stored and he browsed around in them for a while, couldn't find anything. We didn't know at that time that the load sensor doesn't leave a trouble code. Since my dealer doesn't either, I don't feel bad about this. We looked at the screens a bit and there are all kinds of mysterious and interesting sounding things that (I think?) you can reconfigure in there.

    I asked him to work up an estimate on spec for a replacing the headlight height sensor. They charged me nothing. I went home, pulled the unit, opened it up, and the **** thing had leaked, all the springs were rusted solid. I don't know why it was still working at all.

    My dealer has come up with a delicious new wrinkle for annoying customers. They won't talk about parts for say, an '04 Prius. They now require an exact VIN number before they discuss anything with anybody for any reason. No VIN number == No parts. Eventually we met enough of their non-negotiable demands and they decided that I could get a new sensor for $357 US. (Around $380 with tax) I *think* that comes with the mechanical bits. I looked over the mechanical bits on mine and thought that the ball joints seem worn and loose. The lever that moves the rheostat is stiffer than I think it should be.

    I looked into the existing sensor. The springs came to pieces if anything moved them, so I gave up on saving them and just yanked them, scraped the wells somewhat clean. I have read of European cars where the driver adjusts the headlights on the fly, and I thought about this while I was studying the old sensor. The sensor is basically a rheostat, and I can get a really nice rheostat for a lot less than almost four-hundred dollars.

    The sensor has three pins on the outside. The center pin leads to a question mark shaped piece of conductive material inside the sensor. The two outside pins connect to each other via a high resistance path. The sensor is mounted on the car and as it moves closer to or further from the axle a connection between the two paths varies. When I measured the wiring harness, I found that 6 volts DC comes in to one of the side pins and nothing comes in to the others. As long as the car is on, that one pin has power. Doesn't matter what the lights are doing. This means, if I am correct, that the unit always has a signal of six volts coming in one side, always has a steady signal of less than six volts coming out the other side, and has a signal coming out the center pin that varies with the height of the car.

    I tried bypassing the sensor and jumping various wires together to see if I could turn off the trouble light. The car will not be fooled. I think that if it doesn't get a weak signal back out the other side it assumes there is a problem. At this time my options seem to be:

    * Pay dealer $ 380 for new unit which may come with mechanical bits.

    * Pay 1sttoyotaparts.com ~ $275 for the part which comes with the mechanical bits (only the ones that wear), mix and match with old unit. (With a tip of the hat to Tom_06 for this lead)

    * Pay $ 50 ~ 100 on eBay for a Lexus height control sensor, hope it will mate with my mechanical bits.

    * Try to come up with a solid, long-life way to mate up with the wiring harness and put some effort into building a rheostat that can sit in my dash and send the proper signal. This has the advantage that it would finally do something with that blank cover on the dash, disadvantage in that it would make Akio Toyoda cry. :Cry:

    * Replace the springs and try not to think about the loseness of the linkages, the stiffness of the rheostat, and the fact that it will continue to leak (I supect the leak comes in the back around the rheostat, as the O ring on the front shows no sign of failure. If true, this is not user repairable)

    * Do nothing, but don't drive at night anymore.

    I will note in closing that the vehicle was five years/ fifty thousand miles old at the time of failure, and had spent all those years in the salty Northeastern US. The TSB on this item is US TSB EL004-06:

    http://www.alldata.com/tsb/Toyota/1146207600000_1147676400000_EL004-06/41.html

    I would also like to thank sparkyAZ for PeeDeeEffifying, and Bill Merchant for keeping available this article by joules:http://priuschat.com/forums/attachm...us_headlight_height_control_sensor_repair.pdf

    which gives one a splendid intro to finding and pulling the part, which has the Toyota part number of 89408-47010.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I got the new part in from 1sttoyotaparts.com. Went over it carefully, it's authentic OEM. Compared it carefully with the old one. The lever that changes the rheostat moves easily on the new one, stiffly on the old. The joints on the "dogbone" part (middle link) have the same range of motion, same stiffness. On the old one the rubber that covers the joints has slightly failed around the edges. On the new one they make a perfect seal.

    I take the springs out of the new one. Roll them in dielectric grease, put them back in the well, fill the wells with more dielectric grease. Worry about if this will change the resistance of the unit, or ooze out over the miles, make the unit fail. The conductive paths inside the new one are noticably cleaner.

    The car knows instantly when the new unit is plugged in. The trouble lights all go out. The grease hurt nothing. You don't have to turn anything on or off, reboot or clear anything.
     
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