Ferrari Life Forum banner

1 - 20 of 63 Posts

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,211 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I just completed an HID upgrade for my 550’s headlights, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. This is the 2nd car I’ve upgraded by retrofitting HID projectors to the headlight housings, and it was far easier than the first, which required the old projectors to be cut out with a Dremel, and the new ones epoxied/silicone in. The Maranello was upgraded simply by dismounting the old halogen projectors, and replacing them with like units already setup for HID’s.

For those who already know about the benefits of HID’s (Xenon’s) and their differences from normal halogen headlights, and just want to know what’s involved to convert the 550 to HID’s, you can skip the following paragraph, and go directly to the next one, which is the beginning of my Maranello install. For those who want to know more about HID's and conversions, read on.

For cars equipped with OEM halogen headlights, there are two methods to convert to HID’s:
  1. Buy one of the $69.95 Chinese Plug & Pray kits from eBay that use ballasts that plug into your existing harness, and rebased lamps that fit into your existing headlights. The reason I call these Plug & Pray is because:

    a) They’re known to sometimes overload existing harnesses, and blow fuses, and in extreme cases, cause harness problems and car fires.

    b) Because the optics and focal lengths of HID’s and halogens aren’t the same, the light put out by these is not well focused, tends to be very glary to oncoming drivers.

    c) Expected life of the ballasts and lamps can be anywhere from 5 minutes to a year or two. The lamps are hand modified (new bases glued on to fit H7 or 9006 type sockets that the manufacturer never intended), probably by some 10 year old kid in a Chinese sweatshop, so their QC/QA is nonexistent.

  2. The second way is to perform a “retrofit” conversion of your headlights, which involves replacing all the halogen optics with the correct HID optics, then adding the requisite OEM quality ballasts and lamps. This is the technically correct solution, but it’s not for the faint of heart, as it requires opening up the headlight housings (usually by baking in an oven), cutting out the old halogen projectors with a Dremel, mounting the new HID projectors and resealing the housings. This work is very labor ($$$$) intensive, and requires a fairly high level of skill with a Dremel. Plus, it’s usually an irreversible process……

When I purchased the Maranello, I knew I wanted it retrofitted with HID’s so I could have the same level of confidence driving at night as with my other cars, however when I initially looked at its headlights I felt it would be extremely difficult to retrofit new projectors. Too, I was very nervous about doing an irreversible modification to a set of $5000 headlights. Was I ever wrong! It’s actually very easy to retrofit the 550’s housings, and in fact, is only about a 30 minute task per headlight, and can be done using only basic hand tools, and best of all, without ANY cutting or other permanent modification that can’t be undone. The whole HID conversion, including changing the projectors, mounting the ballasts, doing the wiring, etc. shouldn’t take more than a day, in comparison to retrofitting some cars which requires several days just to get the old optics cut out, and the new optics mounted, plus a half day of wiring.

What I discovered when I initially pulled the 550’s headlight pods out for a look, was that the whole assembly was built by Valeo, a large Belgian supplier to the European OEM’s. It also disassembles quite easily and has a very modular type of construction. Thinking that Valeo probably only made a couple different models of projectors to fit most of their headlight assemblies, I went onto eBay and picked up a couple of 2.5” HID D2S type, single Xenon projectors for $50 that came out of a 2000 Audi S4. Here’s a pic of the Ferrari projector (on the left) and the Audi one:



I’m sure many other models would have worked just as well, as long as they are 2.5” Valeo projectors, and not 3”, which is the other common size. After comparing these to the Maranello’s projectors, I found they were nearly identical, with the only differences being the type of lamp mounting (H7 Halogen vs D2S HID) and the difference in the HID’s focal length from the lens.

So to retrofit the HID projectors, the 550’s headlights have to come out. The headlight pods are held in by 4 x M6 screws with 10mm heads, and they’re easy to get to and cake to remove. Once the pod is out of the car, note how the rear projector assembly is held into the main pod by 4 plastic spring clips at the top & bottom of the pod. By GENTLY prying these clips up and pulling on the projector housing, it’ll come apart very easily. Do NOT force these clips as they’ll break off, and then a silicone job or a new headlight housing from Daniel is needed (@ $2500….). Here's a pic of the rear projector assembly removed from the main headlight pod:



Next, the bracket that the low & high beams are mounted on must be separated from the rear assembly, in order to remove the low beam projector. This bracket is held to the rear assembly by the level adjusting screws, which are a ball & socket arrangement. If the plastic sockets holding these heads are lubricated just a bit, and softened up by heating with a heat gun or hair dryer, the support frame can then be popped off the main frame in 2 places. Do not try to pop the third, brass ball stud out of its socket; use a 13mm wrench and back the ball stud out, but leave the ball located in the socket.



Once the projector mounting bracket is free, the halogen projector can be removed. Two screws at the bottom, and one spring clip at the top hold it in. Then replace the halogen projector with the HID projector, refit the screws and clip, and pop the support frame back onto the leveling screws.



Next, it’s time to do a test mounting of the ballast either under the headlight pod or next to the radiator. Choose the best location where the ballast doesn’t interfere with the pod, and the cable will still reach the lamp, and have some free length, then the ballasts are mounted with industrial strength Velcro. I initially mounted mine next to the radiator, but may relocate them in the future.



Now the HID lamp cables are passed through the rear access covers. Valeo thoughtfully provided little breather tubes on each cover, which work perfectly as cable entries, and when heat shrink tubing is put over the cables, they become water tight. Obviously to pass the ballast cables through the cover, the lamp connector has to be lopped off – I cut the cable as close as possible to the connector, then I purchased aftermarket HID adapter cables with AMP connectors, and lopped the connectors off them. Then I passed the free end of the adapter cable through the cover, from the inside out, put WeatherPack connectors on it and the ballast end, and added heat shrink to seal everything up.



To get power for the ballasts, I took +12v from the switched power provided for the halogen low beams in the harness, and simply pushed the green conductor & its pin out, and inserted a new conductor for the +12 power to the ballasts, then made a new ground point to the frame.
After all the wiring is reconnected, it’s time to remount the headlights temporarily and give the system a try to ensure it works before everything is buttoned up permanently.





For anyone interested in doing this upgrade, I can highly recommend The Retrofit Source: The Retrofit Source online: headlight upgrades for all applications for parts, and their owner, Matt Kossoff for assistance. Matt's a car enthusiast and currently owns a Murcielago, and had a Cayman before that. The keys to this project are 1) the Valeo HID projectors, and 2) a good ballast. While Matt doesn’t typically stock the Valeo projectors, he can get them on special order, but he has everything else. I used his Morimoto ballasts, extension leads, and his Philips 85122 D2S lamps in the 4300 Kelvin temperature output. This gives a very white (not blue), natural light.

The output of this system is astounding. With the halogen setup, I felt I was driving in a tunnel, because most of the light was being projected in front of the car, and very little to the sides. With the HID's I have as much or more light being projected in front, but far more light than before is being projected to the sides. Road signs to the right are now clearly illuminated at least 100 yards away, and conservatively, I think there's now at least 150 degrees of useful beam spread
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,211 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Eddie, much appreciated, particularly coming from someone who works on these cars for a living.

When I purchased the Maranello, I must say I was disappointed with two of its features:

  • That it didn't have HID lighting, and
  • That it didn't have a COP (Coil-on-Plug) ignition system
Particularly since both these points were addressed by Ferrari when they updated the car to the 575 spec. I've now covered a simple, and technically correct HID lighting upgrade, and will cover the COP ignition upgrade in another thread. The COP conversion could be an interesting upgrade for any owners (not just 550's) who are having problems with aging plug leads, or who would simply like to modernise the system, and enhance its performance and appearance.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,211 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
I have the parts ordered and will attempt this next week
Dave, only one caution/hint - be sure to use some lubricant and/or a hair dryer/heat gun when you're pulling the projector frame out of the main assembly. As I mentioned in the writeup, it's held together with a ball & socket arrangement and the heat & lubricant makes the plastic socket much more willing to release the ball. Otherwise, with this winter weather, it could be a real bear to get them apart and you might wind up damaging the bracket.

Thanks for sharing - between this and the fuel pump I can only imagine what's next.
Doug, thanks for the comment. I do have some other little projects in the mill, and when they're further along, I'll post up some details. A couple of these could be interesting for your 612.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,022 Posts
Dave, only one caution/hint - be sure to use some lubricant and/or a hair dryer/heat gun when you're pulling the projector frame out of the main assembly. As I mentioned in the writeup, it's held together with a ball & socket arrangement and the heat & lubricant makes the plastic socket much more willing to release the ball. Otherwise, with this winter weather, it could be a real bear to get them apart and you might wind up damaging the bracket.



Doug, thanks for the comment. I do have some other little projects in the mill, and when they're further along, I'll post up some details. A couple of these could be interesting for your 612.
Looking forward to seeing them - the illustrations are well documented.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,833 Posts
Just a couple of comments.

Valeo is actually a French based company and has grown to be one of the largest OE suppliers world wide. They have a huge presence in Detroit and it was the Detroit based division that brought us the Valeo transmission in the Mondial t Valeo. I would not doubt the 550 headlights are from Belgium but that would just be a satellite operation.


HID lights actually substantially reduce the current load on the cars electrical system so they are a great way to improve the lighting on Ferrari's with their sometimes fragile headlight power supply system. Going to high wattage halogen systems pretty much assure a system melt down without a big redesign. I installed an HID system in an F40. It dramatically improved the lighting and cut the system load roughly in half.


One thing I would have done differently. The ballast location will be in the way for any number of routine repairs. I would have mounted the ballast on the bottom of the light assembly.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,211 Posts
Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
One thing I would have done differently. The ballast location will be in the way for any number of routine repairs. I would have mounted the ballast on the bottom of the light assembly.
Brian, that was my preferred location, too, however I think my ballasts were too thick to fit there.

As it turned out, the radiator location did not work out either, as the sticky side of the Velcro couldn't get a grip on the wrinkle finish of the radiator duct.

So the ballasts are currently mounted to vertical supports in the left & right fenders, and are out of sight, but as I'll be pulling the headlights out again soon to replace their outer rubber trim rings, I may have another go at getting the ballasts mounted under the pods.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
128 Posts
I just got some of the parts today and came to the same conclusion as John, I plan to mount the ballast on the vertical fender posts.

I have Phillips 35 watt Ballasts and the black plastic boxes they fit in which have mounting tabs. It's close because they are pretty big but testing seems to look like they will fit, and they'l be out of the way but still get some ventilation.

It also looks like I will have an extra set of Valeo D2S projectors that will bolt right in the 550 housing, I'll know later in the week if anyone's interested.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
11,888 Posts
John- Very ingenious.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
128 Posts
I started on this project today. The first order of business was to locate a good place for the ballasts. John has already covered dealing with the headlight module so I'll do that later.

I wanted a place where the ballasts would not interfere with anything else, be accessible, be within reach of the cables, and lastly be systematical side to side.

I spent literally hours putting them here and there, nothing fulfilled my requirements. Under the headlight module is cake on the passenger's side but the oil tank in in the way on the drivers side.

Just putting them on the fender supports meant they had to fit diagonally. I finally decided to try the back side of the fender supports. This will work if only I can drill holes in the vertical tubes.

It took a while to figure this one out but I'm happy with the results.

I can't figure out how to label each pic so here they all are including the drills I had to use and the template.

Tomorrow I'll get started on replacing the projectors and maybe get some wiring done.
 

Attachments

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
128 Posts
This morning I realized I could have taken off the wheels and inner fender lining to get at the vertical fender support. Oh well!

I started to look at getting the old projector out and the new one in per John's description. I found that by backing out the 13mm standoff I could swing the bracket out enough to get the old one out and put the new one in without forcing the ball joints apart so that was good.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
11,888 Posts
Dave- Just like the visors, a refinement that allows less things to be disassembled and makes the conversion less scarey.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
128 Posts
Yeah, the second one took me about 5 minutes.

Now I'm waiting for the WeatherPack Connectors from McMaster's then I can finish up the wiring. I plan to do it a bit differently from John, I'm not coming out through the vent tube in the cover but through the vent on the side, the one with a cap on it.

The power to the ballasts are cake, cut off the H7 plug, pull the green wire out through the rubber and push the grey wire through that hole, put a WeatherPack on them and connect to the ballast.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
128 Posts
Here a couple more pictures as I progress.

I brought the D2S wire out of the case on the side. The cavity under the cap is filled with dielectric silicon grease.

The Ballasts are mounted and everything is now waiting for the Weatherpack connectors then I can button it up
 

Attachments

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,211 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
Very nice Dave! I like your approach better than mine, but I just didn't have the stones to use that vent port for the cable exit. I kept telling myself "Don't do anything to these that's not reversible" I even bought an extra set of those covers to use, so I wouldn't have to touch my originals, and I didn't cut the H7 sockets off - they're still tucked away inside the pods :)
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
128 Posts
You had the stones to do it in the first place. It's always easier to follow the trail when someone else has broken the ground.

I feel the same about not doing anything irreversible but then that's kinda like leaving your girlfriend a virgin for the next guy. ;)
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,211 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
You had the stones to do it in the first place. It's always easier to follow the trail when someone else has broken the ground.

I feel the same about not doing anything irreversible but then that's kinda like leaving your girlfriend a virgin for the next guy. ;)
True dat.....

But, unlike the girlfriend, the Maranello is probably worth more in "untouched" condition. And who wouldn't be more than a little suspicious of a 35 year old virgin :)
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
128 Posts
True dat.....

But, unlike the girlfriend, the Maranello is probably worth more in "untouched" condition.
You're probably right about that but at my age and considering I don't foresee selling anytime soon (this one's my last sports car) I don't much care anymore what depreciation it incurs due to my tampering with what the gods of Maranello haft wrought.

I'm leaving it to my sons to fight over ;)
 
1 - 20 of 63 Posts
Top