Auto Q&A: Upgrading headlamps to LED bulbs sounds great but can pose problems

The placement of the light emitted may not match the original bulb, causing glare or alignment issues.

Upgrading a truck's headlamps to LED bulbs sounds great but can pose problems as well.
Upgrading a truck's headlamps to LED bulbs sounds great but can pose problems as well. –Roberto Machado Noa/Dreamstime/TNS

Q: My left headlight is dim on my 2013 Ford F-150. I’m wondering if a new bulb might fix it? I was also thinking about installing new lenses, as they are cloudy and have been polished once without much success. Another thought is to upgrade the bulbs to LED type. What are your opinions on this?

–Dave K.

A: It sounds like your truck might be equipped with the standard halogen incandescent headlights rather than the optional HID (high intensity discharge) lamps. This will be a good thing if you’re replacing the lamp housings as the HID equipped ones list for about $600-700 apiece (OEM parts) vs. $250 or so for the standard ones.

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Let’s look at your dim bulb first. Incandescent bulbs typically emit about the same amount of light until the moment they burn out, so renewing the bulb isn’t likely to help. What’s more likely is a fault in the circuit leading to the headlamp.

With luck, perhaps there’s a loose or corroded connection at the headlamp electrical connector. Accessing the connector will require removing the headlamp housing, which is pretty easy to do. With the hood up, after removing a pin type retainer, the radiator side air deflector can be folded back a bit, allowing access to all three headlamp housing retaining screws. The housing can then be pulled forward, allowing bulb/connector inspection or replacement. It’s easiest to inspect/test the connectors by removing both high and low beam bulbs from the housing and setting the housing aside. A slight twist counter clockwise ([ turn) will disengage the bulbs.

You didn’t mention if it was just the low beam that is dim, or perhaps both low and high beams. There are three wires in each headlamp connector. If it’s just the low beam that’s dim, the blue/green wire circuit connected to the headlamp isn’t doing its job. If both high and low are affected, this should be easy; the black/grey wire leads to a possibly loose/corroded ground connection (G-101), the wire screws to the radiator core support right behind the headlamp housing.

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Try also wiggling/inspecting the headlamp connector; if headlamp performance improves, a bad connection exists there. Look also for corroded or overheated terminals. Unplugging and reconnecting will clean the terminal connection slightly. If the connector terminals are in bad shape, connector replacement will be needed (wires are cut and spliced).

If it’s just the low beam that’s dim and the connector looks OK, the fault may lie in the body control module (the source of power for the low beams). Testing there for output voltage is likely a pro level job, this would confirm if its the BCM that’s faulty or possibly an issue with the blue/green wire.

I’d tread carefully if considering aftermarket/inexpensive headlamp housings. They are notorious for poor optics/glare. Look for good reviews and a generous return policy? Upgrading to LED bulbs sounds great but can pose problems as well. The placement of the light emitted may not match the original bulb, again causing glare/alignment issues. I tried a set of these a few years back and they were exquisitely bright, so much so that I had to remove them due to antagonizing oncoming drivers.

If drain plug is shot, no need to replace entire oil pan

Bob Weber, Chicago Tribune

Q: A chain oil change place stripped the screw that lets oil out from my oil pan, which causes small amounts of oil to leak out. A local auto shop said I have no choice but to replace the entire pan. How is it possible there isn’t a replacement screw of some sort that can produce a seal? I’d rather buy a screw than a pan.

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— W.E., Boston

A: If only the drain plug (screw) itself is damaged, replacements are readily available. If the threads of the oil pan are damaged, you need not replace the entire pan — which in some cases can be labor intensive. You don’t tell us what kind of car you have, so we will suggest a universal-type oil drain plug. There are several designs, and one may do the trick for you. One design has an expandable rubber plug that has a drain plug in the center. Another installs like a toggle bolt (envision a swag hook) with a drain plug. Still another is simply an oversize drain plug with self-tapping threads that replaces the stripped plug.

Q: A few months ago, I bought a 2019 Ford Fusion. After everything was signed, sealed, and delivered, I learned that every time you start the engine, you have to press a special button or your engine will turn off and back on every time you come to a stop sign or for any other stop such as in slow-moving traffic. I find this to be an annoyance and haven’t found anyone else who likes the concept. Why is this function there in the first place?

— J.U., Riverside, Ill.

A: The function is to increase fuel economy and reduce exhaust emissions. You get zero miles per gallon while stopped. Many first-time owners dislike the system but get used to it after a while. Switching it off when you first start the car is not terribly difficult.

Q: My question concerns the rear radio speaker on my 2009 Toyota Corolla. No one has been able to turn off that speaker, and the owner’s manual is of no help. Is it possible? If so, please give me detailed instructions for the fix so I can take the car back to the dealer and have it adjusted, if possible.

— M.L., Delray Beach, Fla.

A: Try the draconian approach. Pull the plug or cut the wires.

Q: Regarding the use of silicone on weather strips. Ace Hardware’s brand “Pure Silicone Lubricant” dries after a while, eliminating the possibility of getting any on your clothing. It doesn’t have a chemical smell. A friend’s car doors had frozen. After it thawed, I sprayed all the weather strips and waited until it dried. The next week he called me to let me know everything was good and asked what kind of air freshener I used. He wanted to get some for his other cars.

— R.R., Evergreen Park, Ill.

A: Wow, a lube without the chemical odor. I may have to check it out.

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