pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/25/24 2:46 p.m.

The headlights in my 2004 Saab 9-3 are apparently self-levelling Xenon projector lights. FAN-CEE! They are a single bulb that gets brighter for high beams. On their low beam setting, they are only a few lumens above a Model T's gas lamps. The fog lights project further than the low beams. They are bad. 

I can certainly upgrade to HID or LED, but there is wiring and ballasts to consider, and old Saabs apparently don't like you messing with their systems. So my question is, would putting in new Xenon bulbs do anything? Do Xenon bulbs dim over time?

New bulbs are not cheap, but worth it if they do something to allow me to see beyond 7 feet.  

Slippery GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
1/25/24 2:51 p.m.

Xenon = HID.

If they are bi-level, they use the same bulb at the same intensity only that they move up/down (or have a shield that does) to go from low to high beams.

I am assuming your low beam and high beam are separate bulbs? If not, and its the same bulb that does both functions, and they are HID (Xenon) then I assume the mechanism is not working properly.

Slippery GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
1/25/24 2:51 p.m.

My experience with HID bulbs going bad is that they start turning purpleish until they barely emit any light.

Aaron_King GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
1/25/24 4:21 p.m.

As the bulbs age they get dimmer and flicker from time to time in my experience.  If everything is working right they should be plenty bright, maybe the PO put in crap bulbs, they can be pricey.

travellering Dork
1/25/24 7:11 p.m.
procainestart SuperDork
1/25/24 9:54 p.m.

My '04 9-5's xenon headlights seem to work fine. I've read that the bulbs are often counterfeited -- is it possible yours are Chinesium? FWIW, I've had Hella bulbs, which didn't make it much past 2 years. I'm running Philips bulbs now, but they're still newish. Because of counterfeit worries, I bought them from a reputable supplier (i.e., not Amazon).

Also, obviously, if your lenses are hazing, the light is significantly diffused. I recently went to town with the polisher on mine and it made a major difference. 

Finally, my understanding is, because HID can't really do flash-to-pass, the inner (halogen) lights, toward the grille, are used for that. On a 9-5, you can replace a relay to make those inner lights your high beams (low-beam HIDs stay on). Going further, if you modify the relay (or wiring beneath it), you can run both the HID brights (that is, shutters up) and the inner halogens at once. All that said, I don't know if the 9-3 can be similarly and easily modified. 

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