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-   -   Why do I keep ripping on p46 headlights? (Don't buy crappy crap) Retrofit to RX330! (http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=830742)

infinite012 03-18-2011 05:52 PM

Why do I keep ripping on p46 headlights? (Don't buy crappy crap) Retrofit to RX330!
 
Introduction
If you have seen any of the threads asking about which HID kit to buy or how to get projectors for cheap, I will probably have chimed in saying, "You're an idiot," or, "Die a terrible death," or something along those lines.

Why? Because most people and vendors recommend the Depo P46 headlights as the best alternative to the OEM projector headlights. While I agree that P46 headlights will do "just fine," that doesn't mean it's the best alternative, especially when the alternatives are things like Morimoto Mini H1 ($120) or Mini D2S ($110) projectors which *screw into your headlights* making mounting the projector as simple as changing a blown bulb.

Procedure
Recently, a fanatic asked me if I would like to help him make some room in his garage by taking a box of stuff out of it. I was excited to help. The box's contents: Depo P46 headlights, 9 CCFL rings (4 installed, 5 spares), and an H7 HID kit (5000K). Now I can finally put to rest all the hearsay about "P46 is just as good as OEM."

As soon as I got the headlights home, I cleaned them up and tore one of them apart. The other headlight is still mostly in-tact, with just the front lens being taken off for testing/cleaning purposes. The headlights are being torn apart so that I may test these without the excess bulk of the headlights.

I will be comparing the Depo P46 projector against itself (halogen vs. 5000K HID) and against a Lexus RX330 single xenon projector with a suuuuuper old Philips 85122 bulb and Denso ballast. I would test it against the e46 Bosch bixenon, but I don't want to take my headlights apart, again.

Results and Discussion
Test setup (top = RX330; bottom left = P46 5000K; bottom right = P46 halogen):
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7384.jpg

http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7385.jpg

And now the output pictures. Top to bottom: RX330, P46 5000K HID, P46 halogen:
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7377.jpg

A little bit closer together
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7380.jpg

Now I know most of you will come in here screaming, "HAHAHA YOU'RE SUCH A FUGGIN NEWB THE P46 IS BETTARER!" but you'd be wrong. The P46 does a great job of throwing light directly in the middle, way below the cutoff. Translate this pattern onto the road and you will have a very bright foreground with barely any light going into the distance.

You might also be saying "THE P46 IS WIDERRRR" but is it really? The P46 projector, both halogen and HID setups, bow downwards near the edges. Sure, the light on the wall stretches further to the left, but again, translate it to on the road performance and you have sub-par lighting performance at the sides. Do you want to light up the mailbox or the grass?

The RX330 shows exactly what the OEMs want and what you need: smooth light output, brightest along the cutoff (not just at the step/middle) and dimming as it gets lower. This gives you the most light far in front of the vehicle so that you can, you know, see.

Conclusion
As an alternative to the OEM bixenon (or even the single xenon) projectors, the p46 just isn't up to snuff.

As an alternative to the OEM halogen reflector headlights, the p46 with halogen bulb will give you a more updated looking front end, but lighting performance will probably suffer. I can't imagine the OEM halogen headlights performing worse than these. If, however, you decide to "upgrade" from OEM halogen reflectors to the p46 with HID kit, you may put more strain on your eyes by concentrating too much on what's directly in front of your bumper instead of what's out 100+ feet away from the car.

Note: if the vendors want to chime in saying they "modify" their P46 projectors to not be as crappy, there's absolutely no way in hell that you are going to modify these headlights without actually replacing parts. And if you're going to go that far, you might as well just RETROFIT A BETTER PROJECTOR!

Solatso 03-19-2011 08:41 AM

Nice write up and demonstration. My wife has a RX330 and while I'm still running halogens a friend of mine has the P46 on his 325 and I will absolutely agree that the P46 is a kids toy compared to what her RX330 has going on. With her car you can see sooooooooo far down the road it's crazy and street signs light up before you're even close enough to read them, I'm totally jealous :P
In all honesty my PIAA Xtreme White Plus setup has better lighting to the sides than his P46's. Light output "looks" nice and updated (he's running 6000k, or 5000k I forget now) but they don't look much brighter than my PIAA's they just have a different color. When it comes to actually illuminating things I personally think the PIAA's do a better a job although distance is about the same (wish I had pics, no one ever believes me). His light output isn't as uniformed and, as you showed, tends to be more about what's right in front of you and not so much about what's coming up soon.

Just a point of reference, we're talking about dark country roads with no street lamps. I was all set to get the P46's last year until I drove his car one night and realized the difference wasn't worth the price tag.

EDIT :
Also worth noting is that she's running stock Philips bulbs and I'm not sure what temp they're at but they look more white than the ones you showed here. She's one of those "why da eff does this person have their highbeams on" drivers when she goes past ya, one of the best setups I've ever seen. Even better than my friends '06 TL.

infinite012 03-19-2011 09:22 AM

Yeah my Philips 85122 bulb is old as fawk. It's probably putting out somewhere closer to 1500 lumens instead of the brand new rated output of 3000 lumens.

Also noteworthy: the 5000K bulb actually looks more like 6000K. I can confirm this with my camera white balance setting (set to 4300K, the Philips bulb looks white; set to 6000K, the kit bulb looks white)

Aaron90 03-19-2011 12:13 PM

hell yes, finally an objective overview of the p46!! :bow:

anyway you could post output pics, one at a time? rather than all 3 on at the same time?

Solidjake 03-19-2011 12:55 PM

I agree.

Btw, I love how all of that electrical stuff is on a carpet...

infinite012 03-19-2011 01:05 PM

Fire hazard? What? hahaha It's cool. I don't own a fire extinguisher.

I'll get 3 separate pictures up later tonight. I'm working on adding LEDs to the shroud :D

zander271 03-19-2011 01:35 PM

Great writeup. Glad I didn't buy p46's.


If I want to replace my stock reflectors with some halo's with Xenon or Bi-xenon what do I need to buy then?

I want to make sure I am describing my lights correctly. I have the h7 bulbs in both the running and main lights.

infinite012 03-19-2011 03:08 PM

Retrofit or buy OEM projector headlights.

infinite012 03-19-2011 05:30 PM

LEDs added to shroud:
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7387.jpg

Comparison (Left to right: 3000K CCFL, custom LED shroud, vendor's LED AE):
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7395.jpg

A little bit brighter:
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7397.jpg

I also took pictures of the projector outputs. To try to be as fair as possible, I had to "weight" the H7 halogen bulb so it wouldn't wiggle around in the projector (wtf? why is this even something we should worry about when purchasing headlights? bulbs wiggling loose...) giving the best possible hotspot and light output. The HID bulb fits very snug in the projector, but as I already pointed out in the OP, it creates a hotspot far below the cutoff. This is less than ideal. The RX330 projector, I have learned, can be modified slightly for an even brighter hotspot along the cutoff.

Halogen:
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7405.jpg

5000K HID (I still think this is 6000K):
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7403.jpg

RX330, Philips 85122 bulb:
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7404.jpg

Every picture I just posted was processed the same, using 4300K white balance, shutter speed 1/80, aperture f/5.0, ISO 200, 24mm on a Canon 5D with 24-70mm f/2.8L, on a tripod.

Still not convinced that the P46 isn't as good as OEM? Go suck a goat.

sillieidiot 03-19-2011 05:47 PM

lol yes they do suck. but you know why i suggest them. it's just a cheap alternative that's easy for noobs to install. i would say buying p46s are like the gateway to better OEM lighting in the future. it's like back in the days with angel eyes. everyone had them at one point and went from there. plus a lot of people care mainly about looks than the performance. it's great if you can the performance, but if it's too hard, people shy away.

there are very little people like us that would rather save up for quality items than cheap knockoffs.

infinite012 03-19-2011 05:56 PM

My costs so far for the p46 headlights with HID kit (3x bulbs, 2x ballasts): $0
LEDs for shroud project: I had LEDs from my interior LED conversion.
2x RX330 projectors: 1 was a gift from a friend, the other was purchased off ebay for $45, but normally will cost anywhere from $80-$160 per pair.
2x Slim 35w ballasts: $25
2x D2S bulbs: $0, reusing my old/original D2S bulbs off of the car. A new pair of Philips 85122+ will cost $95 (or $50 if you get "slightly used" like I did).

So, if you're lucky and you happen to be an engineering student, you will also have amassed a good bit of extra stuff like wires, soldering supplies, and hand/power tools (most important one: Dremel). Otherwise, you will need to invest in this stuff.

My total cost for this project is $25 so far. I still have to either make/buy a harness and get some clear lenses for the RX330 projectors. If I had halogen headlights, this is the route I would go: wait for quality parts to show up cheap, get friendly with dealership service/shop workers, look at www.hidplanet.com for deals and knowledge.

sillieidiot 03-19-2011 06:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by infinite012 (Post 12944352)
My costs so far for the p46 headlights with HID kit (3x bulbs, 2x ballasts): $0
LEDs for shroud project: I had LEDs from my interior LED conversion.
2x RX330 projectors: 1 was a gift from a friend, the other was purchased off ebay for $45, but normally will cost anywhere from $80-$160 per pair.
2x Slim 35w ballasts: $25
2x D2S bulbs: $0, reusing my old/original D2S bulbs off of the car. A new pair of Philips 85122+ will cost $95 (or $50 if you get "slightly used" like I did).

So, if you're lucky and you happen to be an engineering student, you will also have amassed a good bit of extra stuff like wires, soldering supplies, and hand/power tools (most important one: Dremel). Otherwise, you will need to invest in this stuff.

My total cost for this project is $25 so far. I still have to either make/buy a harness and get some clear lenses for the RX330 projectors. If I had halogen headlights, this is the route I would go: wait for quality parts to show up cheap, get friendly with dealership service/shop workers, look at www.hidplanet.com for deals and knowledge.

lol that doesn't count. most were given away etc. not like everyone on here gets that. and you don't need to be an engineering student to have those parts, i have a bunch too lol random parts i collected that seemed like it would be useful.

but yea the cost of the parts is low, but it's the actual retrofit that's the hard part. most people don't have the courage, skill or the time to do that. what you think is easy, isn't necessarily the same for others. i found this out over the years when i'm installing stuff for people. it's also the same reason why a lot of people don't DIY like brakes or something (which is easy as hell to do)

i totally agree, the dremel is the single most useful tool you can ever have.

infinite012 03-19-2011 06:13 PM

Agreed on all counts. I didn't mean to sound like a pompous ass by implying only engineers would have these things laying around the house, but it's come to my attention that many of my classmates also have piles of tools and supplies spread across their rooms in their houses.

sillieidiot 03-19-2011 06:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by infinite012 (Post 12944374)
Agreed on all counts. I didn't mean to sound like a pompous ass by implying only engineers would have these things laying around the house, but it's come to my attention that many of my classmates also have piles of tools and supplies spread across their rooms in their houses.

oh i wasn't saying you were an ass or anything. i think this is more for people who work with their hands. i find that all my friends who works on cars have the same stuff laying around even if they don't use it lol except they have more random car parts, and i have like headlights and electrical items.

sillieidiot 03-19-2011 06:29 PM

btw, what soldering iron do you use? mines broke awhile ago and i haven't replaced it lol just wondering if there's anything better. i had a weller, don't remember the model.

infinite012 03-19-2011 07:04 PM

I'm just using a cheapie thin/small corded soldering iron from Radio Shack. It was like $15 and came with like 9 different tips. Works alright. I wish I had the $$ for a better one lol

zander271 03-19-2011 07:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by infinite012 (Post 12943915)
Retrofit or buy OEM projector headlights.

Retrofit looks to be to much work...I'm more of a guerrilla delicate things I am not good at.

Are there any light kits that are all just one piece that don't require me to rewire?

infinite012 03-19-2011 07:33 PM

Buy OEM projectors, then.

Aaron90 03-19-2011 10:27 PM

nice new shots, is that bit of light above the rx 330 cutoff what is known as squirrel eyes? used for lighting up road signs in the distance?

infinite012 03-19-2011 10:38 PM

The best part of the p46 projector: clear lens. I harvested a clear lens from one of the p46 projectors and fit it to the RX330 projector along with a cardboard spacer. The p46 lens is slightly thinner/smaller and has a shorter focal length so the width is decreased on the RX projector, but the sharpness is increased significantly. I will likely not run these lenses on the final product.

Also, I was able to cut away most of the material on one of the p46 frames to get the RX projector to fit properly. I will figure out mounting, aim and rotation later.

Sharp and colorful. I don't know what that squiggle of glare is, but I won't be using these lenses in the final product:
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7407.jpg

Kind of put together:
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7406.jpg

I really like this "angel eye" that I made (stole this idea from another member):
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/IMG_7422.jpg

And a quick animation of the cutoff color:
http://my-xi.com/pictures/p46/color.gif


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