Replacing Sealed Beam Headlights

If you're driving a Mk2, Mk3 or a pre-loved Mk1, this guide probably won't apply to you because your car either came with headlamp units that are quite effective, or have since been replaced with a decent set. Likewise, if you're a Mk1 owner whose car hasn't already had its sealed beam headlamps replaced and you actually like being able only to see as far ahead as you can spit when hurtling down country lanes at national speed limit, this guide isn't for you either. If you're a Mk1 owner whose car hasn't had the sealed beams replaced and you're also very familiar with replacing car headlamps/bulbs, then this guide is well beneath your level of experience and so won't be your cup of tea.

Having ruled out those who won't need it - if on the other hand, every time you get behind the wheel of your Roadster after dusk and find yourself wondering if wearing a head torch would make the road a little more visible, but you go a little pale at the thought of working on your car yourself - this guide is for you. Whilst it's non-pictorial, it should be simple enough and clear enough to give you the confidence to replace your dated headlamps with something a lot more effective (and thus, much safer). The guide can be this simple because it's actually a very simple job and nobody should feel it's beyond them.

Quick warning to start with: Make sure you do this when the car is cold, that is, when it has not been driven with the headlamps on for quite some time. They get hot, and you don't want burnt fingertips.

Step 1 - Acquire some replacement headlamps.
You will need 7" diameter lenses that take H4 halogen headlight bulbs. There are several differing types out there - some include pilot lights/sidelights in the assembly, others don't. Assuming your car is standard (ie, has the sidelights in the more-or-less oval unit beneath the main pop-up lights), you need 7" lamps that do not have pilot holes/sidelight holes in them. Examples:  Be aware that not all lamps are created equal - ones with crystal lenses will produce a clearer beam for better visibility. A set of Raybrigs will cost you a great deal of cash, but some like the Wipac FreeForm do the same job at about half the price. You'll also need a set of rubber "boots" to place around the base of the bulb where it joins the wiring, just to help keep the moisture out.

Step 2 - Acquire some bulbs
This is a doddle. You can pretty much select from any standard 12V H4 headlamp bulb. Both Osram and Philips are recommended by most review sites.

Step 3 - Remove headlamp surrounds
Again, very simple. Press the headlamp service button / "flippy light switch" on your dash, the one below the hazard lights. Take a smallish crosshead screwdriver and unscrew the screws that hold the two black plastic shrouds around your headlamps; there should be four on each surround. Then, with a little gentle pressure simply tug it down off the headlamp assembly and then forwards and out. You'll find it much easier with the bonnet up.

Step 4 - Remove the old lamps
Look closely at the lenses of your lights. There are around five or six screws surrounding it; some of them are big and go into a white plastic thingybob behind the light. Three of them are smaller, and form a Y-shape when looked at from the front - two at the top, one at the very bottom. Unscrew these a little, and the metal ring that surrounds the headlamp should loosen up. You can then rotate it a few degrees and it will pop free of the screws, which can be left in place. As you do it, catch the headlamp and unplug the plastic connector at the back, you may need to squeeze the sides gently for it to give. Put the big ungainly sealed-beam unit down (it's a sealed beam unit if it has no separate bulb; the connector plugs straight into the back of a big glass lamp).

Step 5 - Insert bulb into the lens and secure
Being careful not to bash the bulb on the lens itself, of course. The lens will probably have "TOP" marked onto it, but if it doesn't, again, you've got it easy as the three flanges sticking out of the bulb's base will fit neatly into three slots on the back of the lens, and because it's another Y-shaped formation they'll only do it one way. It's then a simple matter of securing the bulb in place using the metal clip supplied with the lenses. This will only fit in one way and will be very obvious. It can be worth wrapping some electrical tape neatly around the clips, to hold them in place as they can dislodge on bad roads.

Step 6 - Place boot over the bulb and clip bulb into loom/holder..
Pop the rubber boot over the base of the lens, being careful not to dislodge the clips. You'll know if you do it - you'll hear a "PING!" as they come loose. The base of the bulb will protrude; plug it into the wiring harness. It should just slot straight in, and will only fit one way up. (The three pins form a triangle, pointy-side up.) Be careful not to touch the glass of the bulb, as grease and moisture from your fingers can significantly damage the bulb when it heats up (it may go pop); luckily they have a big metal base that is easy to hold on to.

Step 7 - Secure assembled lens in place
Hold the lens up into place, and put the metal securing ring around it - checking that the lugs match the positions of the securing screws. Push it back onto the screws and rotate so it's locked in place and then re-tighten the screws. Don't go nuts, just firm enough to ensure they'll hold in place.

Step 8 - Check they work!
Do I really need to explain this...?! Turn the lights on. Check they glow in both full and dipped beam. If they don't, remove them and check you've done steps 1-7 correctly. If you have, then suspect the bulb is dud and get a replacement. It's better to do this before the next step rather than after, as if there's a problem it saves you having to remove the surrounds again.

Step 9 - Replace headlamp surrounds, admire handiwork
Push the headlamp surrounds back into place and then secure with the previously removed screws. Have a cup of tea whilst getting an assistant to turn the headlights on and off, dazzling you with their immense brightness.

Step 10 - Go for midnight drive, on a cloudless night with the roof down
Just because that's pretty much the best thing you can do with a Roadster, regardless of what headlights you've got installed!