Xenarc HID headlamp installation|
The DeLorean's headlights are marginal at best and suffer from problems
like dimming at idle if your alternator or ground contacts are not completely
up to snuff. I decided that a car with the DeLorean's contemporary design
really deserves xenon high intensity discharge headlamps.
Enter Sylvania Xenarc.
The Xenarc kits contain everything needed to upgrade an old sealed beam
system to a modern HID system. The kits are expensive ($799) but seem to
be very nice. The instructions that come with the kit are lacking in
detail in many places, but hopefully this document will help fill in some
of the blanks and demonstrate an effective installation on the DeLorean in
The following is a walkthrough of the Xenarc installation in my DeLorean (1981, #4115).
Tools and parts required
- Sylvania Xenarc X4656 upgrade kit
- Phillips screwdriver
- Drill bits suitable for drilling hard metals
- Wire stripper
- Socket wrench and sockets
- Various banging implements (hammers, chisels, punches, etc.)
- At least eight feet of 12 gauge wire
- 30 amp inline fuse socket and associated fuse
- Eyelet connector suitable for battery connection
- Butt connector suitable for 12 gauge wire (that's a yellow one)
- Cable ties (larger than those supplied with the Xenarc kit)
Step 1 - Get a good source of unswitched power at the front of the car.
In most vehicles, since large parts of the electrical system at located at
the front of the car, getting juice to the HID system is pretty easy. On
the DeLorean, it's not as easy. I decided to run a fresh lead directly from
the battery to the front of the car to ensure a good supply of power since
the HIDs require a lot of power to start up.
Remove the headlamps by unscrewing the little metal rims holding them in.
Be careful to get the right screws. The aiming screws are at the center
of the top and the center of one side of each light. Don't touch these.
You can do whatever you want with the old lamps, as we won't be using them,
but be sure to save the metal rims and the screws because you'll need them
By reaching up inside the wheel well while pushing a 12 gauge wire though
the passenger side low beam headlamp socket, I was able to get through.
I have very small hands
and arms. This may prove much more difficult for those of you who are
beefier. You'll notice that I'm also attempting to straighten my fascia
while I've got the front apart. This was only marginally successful on the
driver side, so I will reattempt both sides with metal reinforcements at a
Next I got this wire into the car by passing through the wheel well (cable
tying the wire snugly in place so it will not contact any moving parts) and
pushing it through where a bunch of wires pass through the front firewall
and into the car. Finding this spot and successfully pushing a wire through
it is a bit challenging. You're on your own.
I ran the wire along the passenger side of the car, under the carpeting.
One 12 gauge wire passing under the carpet is not noticeable once the
carpet is replaced.
Standard electrical good sense makes it a good idea to fuse this wire near
the battery. The HID system has its own 20 amp fuse for each side, but I
didn't want eight feet of wire before my fuse. I attached a 30 amp inline
fuse and an eyelet large enough to connect to my battery. Since the HID
system draws 12.5 amps at startup (and significantly less
after the lights are running), I don't expect this fuse to blow.
Finally, the wire comes out from under the carpet and into the battery
compartment. Don't hook it up yet! You don't want live power at the
front of the car until after you've finished most of the installation.
Step 2 - Mount the ballasts. This step requires drilling some holes
in the car (unseen, of course). If you don't like the idea of seeing a
Delorean drilled, close your eyes now.
There's lots of space behind the fake grille with the DMC badge. Remove
the grille if you haven't already. Just pull forward on it and it will pop
off. Using the ballast mounting bracket as a guide, mark two spots on the
metal at the back of the space where you want to
drill holes. Make sure the ballast will clear the bolts in this area.
There's almost a perfect amount of space here (see picture for exact
Drill the holes to mount the ballast. You should use drill bits designed
for hard metal or you'll be here all day and you'll ruin your bits too.
Once the holes are drilled, slide the ballast into the mounting bracket
(you won't be able to after you mount it) and screw it into the metal
using the supplied screws.
Repeat this step on the other side to mount the other ballast.
Step 3 - Install the high voltage wires. The HID lamps will be
powered by new high voltage cables. These cables have special ends
that plug into the ballasts and the HID lamps. Plug the end with the
black plastic cover into each ballast, making sure the plastic clips
onto the ballast so it doesn't decide to come out later.
Pull the other end of each high voltage cable over to the low beam light
sockets (the outer ones).
Step 4 - Attach the trigger lines. While the ballast pulls its
power from its own power lead, we still need to trip the relays when the
low beams are turned on. On the low beam plug on each side, locate the
wire that's +12V when the lights are on. On mine, it was the red and
blue wire. I make no guarantees about yours. These are Deloreans, after
all. Verify by connecting a multimeter with the positive probe in the plug
and the negative probe at any ground location and turning on the headlights.
Once you have located the +12V low beam wire, clip it off near the plug,
strip the end of it, and crimp on one of the supplied yellow-jacketed
spade connectors. On each side, plug this spade connector into that side's
green wire labelled "trigger." This wire is at one end of the black-sheathed
bundle of wires suppled for each side.
Step 5 - Wire up the high beam sockets. The high beam lights that
come with the Xenarc kit are regular halogen bulbs, as are the high beams
on most cars with HID low beams. Locate the +12V high beam wire using the
same method as with the low beams (but be sure to turn on the high beams
when you're testing this one). Once you've found it, clip it, strip it,
and crimp on another yellow spade connector. Also locate the high beam's
ground wire, clip it off, strip the end, and crimp on one of the blue
Step 6 - Install the bridge. The bridge is designed to make sure
that the HID lights remain lit when the high beams are on (which is
required to make them legal in the U.S. and Canada). Since the Delorean
already leaves its low beams on when the high beams are active, this part
is probably not even necessary. I installed it anyway because it's not
going to hurt anything.
Mount the bridge somewhere where its white wire is within reach of the
high beam light socket. You'll have to do this on only one side, as
there is only one bridge. Pull the white wire through the socket so
it's ready for later when you install the bulb. Connect the green
wire to the green wire labelled "bridge" in the black bundle. The
bridge connection in the other side's black bundle can be ignored.
You may be asking yourself "why did he mount that right at the front?
Will those screws even hold in that soft material?" They might not.
Honestly, I mounted the bridge at the front because I forgot to find a
good place for it earlier. Since its white wire needs to reach the
back of one of the high beam bulbs, its placement options are limited. If
I find that it doesn't stay here, I'll probably glue it on a little further
back. Like I said before, it's probably not even necessary, so you may
wish to ignore it altogether.
Step 7 - Mount the relays. Each side's ballast has a relay to
power up the ballast when the headlights are turned on. I chose to
mount both relays on the passenger side because the positive power lead
coming into the relays is not particularly long, and the wire I ran in
step one terminates on the passenger side. If you prefer to mount each
relay next to its corresponding ballast (or even somewhere else altogether),
be my guest.
Using a relay as a guide, mark the point where you want to drill the
holes to mount them, then drill them and screw the relays in. See my
picture for the exact placement in my installation.
We are now done molesting the car with a drill. If you closed your
eyes in step two, you may once again open them.
Step 8 - Attach the black bundles to the relays. When you first
opened the kit, you found the relays already plugged into the black
bundles. If you're like me, you unplugged them to mount them. Plug
them back in at this point.
Step 9 - Attach the incoming power from the battery. Strip the end
of the wire you installed in step one and crimp it in a butt connector.
Clip the two loop connectors off the ends of the red power wires going into
the relays, strip the ends, and crimp them into the other end of the butt
connector. A wire nut would probably work here too, but I like butt
Step 10 - Attach the ground wires. Remove one of the bolts in the
center of the metal piece where you're mounting everything. Don't
worry--nothing will fall off behind it. Clean the area so you get a good
ground contact, put the loop connectors at the ends of the two black relay
supply wires labelled "negative" and put the bolt back in.
Step 11 - Plug the black wire bundles into the ballasts. Each
black wire bundle has a grey plug on it. Push these plugs into their
matching receptacles the ballasts, making sure once again that the little
plastic clip firmly attaches itself to the ballast.
Step 12 - Plug in the lights. We are approaching the end of the
project, so now it's time to test the lights. Making sure the writing
on the bulbs is right side up, attach each bulb to its wires. The HID
lights (labelled "Sylvania Xenarc" on the front) go in the outside sockets.
Just push the high voltage line installed in step three into the socket
on the lamp. The high beams are a little bit trickier. Connect the
wire with the yellow jacketed spade connector to the positive line on
the bulb, the wire with the blue jacketed spade connector to the negative
line on the bulb, and, if you are on the side with the bridge, the white
wire from the bridge to the wire on the bulb labelled, surprisingly enough,
Just set the bulbs on the bumper in front of their sockets for the time
being. We're just going to test them for now.
Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this step.
Step 13 - Apply power. Inside the battery compartment, attach
the new wire to the positive pole on the battery. Assuming nothing
blows up at this point, you're probably doing well.
Step 14 - Test the lights. You are now ready to test your new
HID headlights! Get in the car and turn on the headlights, again
hoping for no smoke, fire, or explosions. None? Good. Checking the
front of the car, you should find the two HID bulbs are now on. They
may not look bright, but if you get your face down to where they shine,
you will disover that they are.
Now go turn on the high beams to check them too. You should now find
that all four lights are on. Turn them off after you're done.
Step 15 - Modify the low beam sockets. Bet you thought all the hard
stuff was done. Well, you were wrong. This is the hardest step, which is
why I saved it for the end. The HID light will not quite fit in the
Delorean's low beam light socket. The plug on the back is too big. You're
going to have to modify your low beam sockets to accommodate the big plug.
Those of you who closed your eyes earlier should do so again, because now
we're going to attack the car with a hacksaw.
Using a hacksaw or any equivalent implement of destruction, extend the
open circle at the back of the light socket about an inch or so. A mixture
of sawing and banging with various objects seems to accomplish the task,
but it's not particularly easy. Keep checking with the light as you go.
Once you've bashed enough that the light fits all the way in the socket,
with all four of its little feet in the spots for the feet, you are done.
Now go do it again on the other side. The pictures below demonstrate two
different cutting methods, both of which work, and neither one of which
was the clear winner in the difficulty department.
Those with closed eyes may now reopen them for the remainder of this
Step 16 - Gather and tie up excess wire. Since this kit isn't
designed to be installed with the power source so close, there's a lot
of extra black bundled wire. Gather it up neatly and, using a cable tie
or something of that nature, attach it to one of the fascia supports.
The grill has enough space here that the cable tie coming around the support
won't affect its ability to lie flat. Also bundle up and cable tie any
excess lengths of the various other wires. These should be bundled
separately from the black wires in order to remain neat.
Step 17 - Screw in the bulbs. Using the metal rims you removed in
step one, screw the new headlight bulbs into their sockets, making sure
their feet remain in the right places. Some of these screws are pretty
tricky, and it may help you at times to have a friend carefully pull up
on the fascia to make room for your screwdriver.
Step 18 - Replace the DMC grille. Hide all your work by popping
the fake grille back on the front of the car. Just line it up and push
it in. Congratulations. Your project is complete and your Delorean now
has the headlights it deserves. Since the new lights likely shine a bit
differently, it's a good idea to get them reaimed by a professional.
Low beams on after project completion.
High beams on after project completion.
Light output prior to Xenarc upgrade.
Light output after Xenark upgrade (as yet unaimed).
Sitting in the driveway, lights on.
Similar shot, sans flash.
Special thanks go to my father, who helped with a lot of the muscle work.
In fact, I think he did almost all of the muscle work.
This document and associated pictures may be copied and disseminated freely,
provided appropriate credit is given.
I hate to have to say it, but I take no responsibility for anything you
do to your car, yourself, anything else, or anybody else if you attempt
the project on this page.
Any comments or questions may be directed at me.
26 April 2002
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