Just placed an order for an HID projector retrofit kit

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Accessories & Modifications' started by VFerdman, Oct 24, 2018.

  1. VFerdman

    VFerdman Senior Member

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    I bought my '07 in July 2017 with 175K miles on it. It now has very close to 200K and I am absolutely loving hte car so far. when I bought the car it came with HID bulbs stuck into the stock halogen reflectors and was just terrible. First of all, the bulbs were some ridiculous color (8K or even 10K degrees K) that made everything purple tinted. Also it blinded the oncoming traffic something awful and it put (a lot of) light EVERYWHERE. After about a month of living with them, I took them out and went back to halogen bulbs. I went a head and purchased very expensive PIAA bulbs that promised 4K degree K color and super high intensity light. Well, they were really nice, actually, in terms of color and brightness. I would have been totally content with them, though they were nothing like the HID in terms of brightness. However, one of the bulbs just died just a bit over a year after being installed. At $45/pair I decided it was way too expensive and began to look at other options. I live in the countryside and many of the roads are not lit and the nights are dark and long in New England in the winter, so good headlights are a must.

    After some looking I found an online store called TheRetrofitSource.com. They offer a kit for $130 that includes retrofit projectors that fit into existing reflector housing, ballasts, bulbs (choice of color temperatures; I chose 5000 degrees K) and wiring harness. I upgraded to a higher end projector for a total of $155 and there is a 10% off code they run (TRS10) brought it down to $140. Free shipping.

    I will update this thread with my retrofitting experience when I receive the kit and do the install. In the meantime I wonder if anyone else has done this to their Gen 2? It seems that the lights in this car are kind of a weak point, even the stock HID lights are reported to be of mediocre quality and longevity. As I said, I would have been happy if the super-bright PIAA halogens lasted more than year for the money, but as it is, this HID kit will pay for itself in 3 years and will supposedly provide much more light down the road, which I can definitely appreciate as my night vision is not what it used to be.
     
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  2. VFerdman

    VFerdman Senior Member

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    Update.

    I received the order from TheRetrofitSource.com. I have not had time to play with it too much. This is just an unboxing and first impressions.

    The packaging is excellent. Not too big a la Amazon (I ordered a few fuses and they came in a box that was larger than a medium proirity box). Everything was very well protected with minimum of packaging materials (mostly blank newsprint paper). I ordered and received the following items.

    quantity 2 projectors that should fit the existing H4 headlight housing
    quantity 2 projector shrouds
    quantity 2 ballasts
    quantity 2 5000 degree K HID bulbs
    Quantity 1 wiring harness to connect it all

    This was their so-called ACME Super kit, which was an upgrade from their cheapest ACME kit. The upgrade was better projectors and cost $25 extra. I was told that the better projectors are well worth the premium, so I went for it. This is the second cheapest kit they offer for our purposes of retrofitting a Prius with halogen headlight setup.

    I unboxed and examined one of everything and I must say I am very impressed with the quality based on visual inspection. The harness looks custom made and appears to be of very high quality. Think Prolong harness or better. Very good sealed connectors, every wire is covered with nylon sheathing. Ballasts look good, I was told they are excellent electronically (I can neither confirm nor deny this at this moment) and get the bulbs to full brightness in less than 3 seconds. We shall see. The harness contains an aluminum box with a relay in it. Every box in this kit is weather sealed with gaskets. Very good looking harness, I must say I am impressed. The projectors are fairly heavy and the lenses are nice and clear. They utilize a solenoid to retract a blinder for high beams. Bulbs look like HID bulbs. I can't really tell the quality, but they were not very expensive ($20 per pair range). Certainly cheaper than the PIAA halogen bulbs ($50/pair) that lasted a year for me.

    So now I am just waiting for an opportunity to install everything. I will need to brush up on how to remove the headlight assemblies on the Gen 2. Then decide on a plan to house all the components. Space is tight in that engine compartment.

    Including a couple of pictures of the kit. Can't wait. Driving at night is no fun right now. I replaced the failed PIAA bulb with a regular old H4 halogen bulb I got kicking around just to have two working headlights for now, but it is very dim.

    IMG_1175_small.jpg IMG_1177_small.jpg
     
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  3. SFO

    SFO Senior Member

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    The plastic bag looks like it says Morimoto, what did it contain?
     
  4. VFerdman

    VFerdman Senior Member

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    Moromoto was wire harness and projector shrouds. Everything else was ACME.
     
  5. 2k1Toaster

    2k1Toaster Brand New Prius Batteries

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    TRS is a good source for these types of things. I've done a few HID conversions in different cars. I prefer the Lexus RXh projectors with TSX lenses but the light output from any HID projector will kill the stock halogens.
     
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  6. VFerdman

    VFerdman Senior Member

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    This seemed the best and simplest way to get into a retrofit. I have never retrofitted a headlight before. Know very little about it, not sure if I want to get a PhD on it, but know for sure I want lights at least as good as the halogens with those PIAA bulbs, but costing less than $50/year. I actually did not mind at all the performance of those PIAA halogen bulbs in my Gen 2. It was perfectly fine, if a little wanting. If these bulbs lasted a bit longer I would stick with that system, especially seeing as how it is technically illegal to retrofit a halogen car with HID lights. I think I will still pass inspection because I passed inspection with the HID bulbs stuck into the halogen housing when I first bought the car. And those bulbs were something silly like 10,000 degree K color, almost purple. The glare off that setup was horrible and I discontinued using it within a few weeks of buying the car. I went with these PIAA bulbs that admittedly are much more white in color and are way brighter. I am attaching a picture of my current light pattern before I begin the retrofit. The right light is PIAA that is still good and the left one is a regular old H4 halogen bulb I had kicking around that I replaced the faild PIAA bulb with. You can see how much more yellow and dimmer the left side is. In practice it is even worse. Both my wife and I noticed that night driving has become more difficult.

    IMG_1180_small.jpg
     
  7. VFerdman

    VFerdman Senior Member

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    I have performed the retrofit with the TRS ACME kit yesterday. It is about 95% complete and the car is drivable with a fairly good light pattern. I still have to dial in the aiming part, but all the installation of the projectors inside the housings and wiring is done. I am attaching a few pictures. Still did not take the picture of the light pattern because a). my driveway is not level in front of the garage door and it looks like there is a big slant to the pattern. I have verified on a level surface and the patter is level, so not an issue. I still need to aim them per spec of 2" - 4" drop at 25', but after a few trial and error adjustments and test drives I ended up with a fairly well working beam and so far had zero people flash me, so it seems I am not glaring at oncoming traffic.

    Now I'd like to say a few words about the resultant light output. It is very good, but I am not blown away by it. In fact, I would say it is comparable in intensity to the stock halogen setup with the super-expensive PIAA bulbs. The HID projector pattern is a lot smoother with no light/dark spots like the halogen, it is very well balanced and covers the road very well. The sharp cutoff line at the top takes a bit getting used to, but it's definitely a good thing when properly adjusted. All in all I am happy with the results, but honestly, my expectations were a bit higher. I expected a much brighter beam than the halogens, but I got about the same intensity, more white and more smooth coverage. I think it also reaches quite a bit further than the halogen beam did. So definitely a good upgrade, epsecially if the bulbs last more than a year. Also, I may not be using the thing 100% correctly because I just do not have experience with these things. I think I adjusted the bulb in the projector for the best output (there was a tiny bit of wiggle room to move the bulb in its socket and it did make a difference).

    The quality of the kit is top notch. Everything worked perfectly well. The only minor gripe is they did not include screws that hold the shroud to the projector. Every other fastener was included, but not these 8 screws (4 per side) for some reason. The harness is excellent and was very simple to install. I connected the +12V lead at the jump point in the fuse box. The lug on the harness was the perfect size for that purpose. Then I connected one of the headlight sockets (driver's side) to the harness and taped up the other with some electric tape and left it dangling. Harness routs the halogen connector's signals to its own relays and uses the +12V wire to distribute power to the ballasts. Ballasts are small (about the size of an altoids tin) and have external igniter boxes hanging on the output. The come on fast and the color goes to steady state within a few seconds. The harness is designed with different lengths wires for the headlight that is near the +12V connection and farther from it. It works perfectly in the Prius. I attached the relay box on the mounting point on the inverter where another relay hangs. Ballasts went near the headlights and everything connected right up. See pictures for more details.

    The look of the install is very understated in a good way. It's hard to tell that it's not stock unless you are familiar with the car. So far so good.


    IMG_1182_small.jpg IMG_1183_small.jpg IMG_1185_small.jpg IMG_1192_small.jpg IMG_1193_small.jpg IMG_1196.jpg IMG_1197.jpg IMG_1198.jpg IMG_1202_small.jpg IMG_1203_small.jpg IMG_1204_small.jpg IMG_1205_small.jpg IMG_1208_small.jpg IMG_1210_small.jpg IMG_1211_small.jpg IMG_1214_small.jpg IMG_1217_small.jpg
     

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  8. 2k1Toaster

    2k1Toaster Brand New Prius Batteries

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    After you get the aiming done see what it looks like. When they are aimed too flat or high, lots of the light goes into the air and not to the ground. It's amazing what a difference a good aim makes.

    Having said that, I haven't used those exact projectors. But now that you've done one, it's like a disease. One day maybe you'll open them back up and put in higher and higher end projectors in.
     
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  9. VFerdman

    VFerdman Senior Member

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    Yes, I learned that. I did three test rides the night I finished installing them. The first one was just the way they were aimed before, i.e. no aiming on my part. Went out and they were so low I could see the cutoff line maybe 10" in front of me on the road. Nothing else was lit, lol. Second time I aimed way too high. I have not yet looked up the proper setting online and just cranked them up approximately to the lines I marked with the halogens. I went out and there was a lot more light on the road, but also no fewer than 3 people flashed me within a short test ride. So I went back and lowered them a bit and went out again and the light was still very much there and no one flashed me. I have a piece of road that is completely unlit for about a mile not too far from me and I have to travel it pretty much 50% of my travels out of the house. It's fairlry straight and flat, but very dark. People drive it with high beams all the time. I mace do with my low beams since I know the road, but these projectors make a big difference in how far they throw the light, if not how much intensity. So this is where I am now. I have not re-aimed them from that initial third try yet. My driveway is not level at all, so I need to do some calculations as to where the cutoff should be given the incline the car is on while aiming.

    What I find pretty irritating is that I can not access the aiming hardware while the unit is is mounted on the car. So it's take the light assembly off, do a few turns on the adjustment screw, put it back, check, rinse and repeat. It's very cramped in there to get an 8mm socket on, epsecially on the right side.

    I hear you. It's like the audio systems when I was younger :) I doubt I will be redoing these if I continue to be happy with them. Maybe a there is a better (brighter) bulb? The bulbs were ACME, so maybe not the top of the line and perhaps there are brighter ones out there? I realize that the projector itself is probably where most of the performance is, but honestly, I think this projector is not bad. The lens is very well ground glass and is super clear, though it has that greenish tint that glass can have. Maybe that robs some light output... But I think even the better ones out there have glass. I suppose an optical quality polycarbonate would be better. Like the one used in modern eye glass lenses.

    Well, I will give TRS a call today and see what they have to say. When I first called them before purchasing they were very helpful and explained things pretty well to me, so I expect they will help again. They seem to be a good outfit.

    BTW, where do you get your beloved Lexus projectors? from the dealer? How do you install them in a Prius? I am already slipping down the rabbit hole.....
     
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  10. xliderider

    xliderider Senior Member

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    Hehe, I can only think of the Roadrunner cartoons as far as that ACME brand goes.

    Posted via the PriusChat mobile app.
     
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  11. VFerdman

    VFerdman Senior Member

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    Yes, same here. I was actually surprised that this is an actual brand outside the Roadrunner/Coyote dynamic.
     
  12. xliderider

    xliderider Senior Member

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    On our Gen 3 stock projectors with the standard non-clear lenses, putting in 35w AC ballasts with decent quality 4300K bulbs yielded light output at least 2 to 3 times brighter than the stock halogen bulbs.

    I have also blocked the squirrel finder cutouts to ensure that no light is emitted above the cutoffs.

    Here is a picture I took in the garage at work, of my Camry's cutoffs. Pretty much the same setup as our Prius. The cutoffs would be much sharper with clear lenses, but I'm happy with the results onroad. FYI, this picture was taken about 3 years ago and the HID bulbs are still going strong. 20151115_205222.jpeg

    Posted via the PriusChat mobile app.
     
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  13. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

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    Be careful with the aim. While TRS is probably the best in the business for retrofit kits, they still don't include the automatic leveling or safety cut-out systems required for legal compliance. This means you'll need to be extra conservative with the angle, and be aware of payload weight and its effect on ride angle.
     
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  14. 2k1Toaster

    2k1Toaster Brand New Prius Batteries

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    I've always done my aiming pre-bake-back-together. So take old headlights off, bake, remove clear plastic. Put in new projectors on mounts and copious amounts of tape. Drive slowly the mile or so down to the large supermarket loading dock. Nice flat area with a flat clear cinder block wall, easy to mark and measure. Get the car back 25ft, measure on the wall and mark with tape. Then do the final adjustments, and I would JBWeld those adjustments into place one they're perfect. Wait about an hour in the car as the headlights "cured" then drive the janky thing back home where I would let it cure a couple days. Then remove and finish up the aesthetics like shrouds and rebake and put back together. I'd do the whole thing usually in the base of the reflector. Meaning I could use the reflector adjustments to then make minimal adjustments in the future with just the thumbscrews just like OEM. Yes it's a PITA, but it comes out perfectly.

    On my Prius I actually bought the projectors, lenses, and then a set of "ebay projector" headlight assemblies that take halogen bulbs that people use for HID kits and then an extra set of cloudy/yellowed halogen assemblies. So I had 3 of each the left and right headlight assemblies of various forms. I always take my originals off, put them in a box an store them because I'm a pack rat, and never know when I might want to revert to stock (like if I sell). Then I used the internal shroud and clear lens of the ebay set on an old set of halogen assemblies.

    Inside are RX400h projectors with Acura TSX-R (the 3rd party ones made to be like the OE Acura TSX lenses) and about 2 thicknesses of Lucky Charms cereal box to space between the projector rim and lens. It is a pretty standard output. At one point considered in the top 2-4 of setups you could do, not sure now.

    prius_headlight.jpg

    There is a huge variety of projectors. There was a reason the RX with AFS projectors were going for $400 EACH back in the day when retrofits were all the rage. The lenses are about $100/set for the knockoffs I use, more for originals. This is not my photo as I don't have one handy at the moment but this is a RX350 AFS with a TSX lens. Note the sharp heavy blue cutoff line. I like the minimal Z-step. The light on the ground is as even as can be thanks to that slight starburst in the centre which spreads out nicely on the ground. The TSX lens is clear, no colouring like what you have now.

    625a1c94___g98cRlR9Sw.jpg

    I buy most things on eBay. You can buy whole housings from wrecked vehicles.
     
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  15. VFerdman

    VFerdman Senior Member

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    Good point. I wonder if all the factory projector headlights include leveling adjustments. I know Prius did on their HID in Gen 2, but as far as I know they did not run projectors. Also, I often get momentarily blinded by some stock projectors running at a certain angle to me (due to topology of the moment). I am not sure this can be avoided as those kinds of things are in constant state of flux during driving. But the load leveling is a different thing and can definitely effect things.

    I am still having trouble finding a good flat spot to do the proper adjustments, but I am extra sensitive people flashing me and that has not happened yet. Once I get to a place where I can properly aim the lights I will definitely aim for the lower range (-4" at 25'). I don't often carry heavy things in this car, so that should be sufficient.

    @2k1Toaster, thanks for the explanation of your process and the pictures. It is all educational to me. The kit I bought has no adjustments. The projector goes into the H4 bulb space and is registered there with an H4 adapter included in the kit. Once you install the projector into the housing using the adapter, there is no real wiggle room and you got what you got. They also provide a silicone washer to go between the stock reflector and the projector body. So you tighten up against that and the whole thing centers very nicely in the reflector. Then I just use the reflector adjustments (I only have vertical). These are easy-install projectors. No need to futz with alignment, etc. I am sure some degree of performance is sacrificed, but the ease of install is superb.

    I am attaching the picture I just took after getting the beam sort of level (I jacked up the car on the low side). The right side is a tiny bit higher than the left, but I am not done yet as I really do not have a good level place I can get this done yet. But the color (5,000 degrees K) and the cutoff pattern is there. Not too bad for an inexpensive and relatively simple to install kit.

    IMG_1223_small.jpg
     
  16. Shaunius

    Shaunius Junior Member

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    I’m druling over your projector set up!
     
  17. VFerdman

    VFerdman Senior Member

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    No need to drool. It's inexpensive to buy and fairly simple to install. You too can do it.

    I don't think it's the brightest setup you can get. I think larger projectors may be in my future. If you decide to go for it, consider going bigger. Mine are 2" lenses and I think the next step up on TRS is 2.5". Your money will go much further increasing the size of the projector than upgrading to "better" components in the same size. From physics (and photography) we know that to double the amount of light from a circular opening you need to go up sqrt(2) = 1.4 in radius. So going from 2" to 2.8" diameter doubles the amount of light that lens can put out. A 2.5" projector will be almost twice as bright, therefore. Well worth the extra price. Whereas going from ACME 2" to Morimoto 2" projector gets you next to nothing in measurable light output.

    Just some thoughts.
     
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  18. Shaunius

    Shaunius Junior Member

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    That’s crazy great input I’m in film so I always want to project things lol! So can you send me a link to the 2.5? Does that mean just adding the spacer the maximoto website is beyond confusing
     
  19. VFerdman

    VFerdman Senior Member

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    No, it's not adding a spacer. It's getting a different (larger and more expensive)projector. If you are in film, you may be familiar with the concept of aperture on the camera lens. The aperture is usually denoted with numbers that go something like 1.4, 2.0, 2.8, 3.5, 4.0, 5.6, 8.0, 11, 16, etc. Those numbers represent an opening afforded to the light path. The bigger number means smaller opening and each neighboring number in my sequence halves the amount of light reaching the photo medium (film, sensor, what have you). In photography the aperture number is actually f/aperture number, so the bigger numbers mean less light. The math is similar for the light escaping from the project of your headlight. The bigger the opening (the lens), the more light will come out of your projector. If you go from 2" lens to 2.8" lens you will double the amount of light. As far as I know there is no 2.8" projectors, I saw 2.5" and 3". Either one will have a lot more light than 2". I am pretty happy with my 2" ones, but if I knew then what I know now as far as performance of these, I would have gone for the 2.5" projectors to begin with. The 2" setup is very inexpensive, good quality and certainly worth doing, but for my aging eyes it's a bit lacking in brightness.

    Here are the links to TRS site:

    2" ACME retrofit kit I bought
    2.5" Morimoto kit
    3" Morimoto kit

    I am in no way affiliated with TRS, BTW.
     
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  20. Shaunius

    Shaunius Junior Member

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    Understood So this is the kit for factory hids though right? I have a touring 09 and it has factory hids not sure if that changes anything
     
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