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Thread: How to: Check and Fix Headlight Water Leak.

  1. #1
    Senior Member HID KING Genes1s's Avatar
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    How to: Check and Fix Headlight Water Leak (Part 1)

    Condensation is very annoying especially when you have to take the headlight on/off the car frequently to fix the issue that keeps coming back. This How To deals with condensation related to physical water leak due to cracks, bad sealing job, improper seal material, and water ingression from loose/bad bulb sockets.

    Condensation in the headlight after hard rain or driving thru water ways on rain storm that resulted in water droplets inside the surface of the outer headlight lens are almost due bad seal. This condensation will cover most of the surface area and would look like raining inside the headlight. Condensation that looks like film or fogging can be caused due to moisture/small water that find its way in or a matter of heat transfer issue which is not very easy to fix. If you get this fogging due to natural convection process inside the headlight, the solution can be tricky and sometimes can't be cured due to law of physics. This How To doesn't deal with this issue, but it would help to eliminate to pin point where water/moisture might coming in.

    There are several ways to test if the seal is good. Some put the headlights in the shower and see if the water is in inside. Some were adding more sealant to prevent it from happening. Some put them in the car and go thru the car wash. On Permaseal headllight where (sometimes) the edges were magled it is very hard to get a good seal around that area. On Headlights that has been damaged/repaired, there are big chances that the crack is propagating and more prone for water to get it. But the one thing still remain unknown is the exact location of the leak.

    There are few ways to detect leak. You either can push air inside the headlight ( pressurized it ) or pull air from in ( Vacuumed). I chosed to pressurized the headlight, because other thing that I can use with Air Compressor such as painting and other cleaning tasks. The idea to check leak by pressuring the enclosure is nothing new, just like when you had pin holes on your tires and you check where it is by dunking the pressurized tire in the water tank and look for the bubble to show. I'm not using water tank to do this, instead I'm using kitchen/hand soap that you can from grocery store. The kind that when you pump, it produces foamy bubles. The draw back about this method is that you need to be sure that the air going in the headlight is clean and dry.

    Disclaimer: If you do this test, do it on your risk. I'm not responsible to any damages/injuries that may occur. Use safety glasses, gloves, and any other safety devices to protect you from any injuries. Safety first.

    What you need:

    AND Compressed air with drying system.

    The air stage dryer system is as the following.
    Stage 1: Air from compressor enters to a SpeedAire 5 micron filter which will remove corrosive, moisture, pipe scale, dirt protecting the precision parts in the regulator.
    Stage 2: From there, It then goes to SpeedAire air regulator where pressure is regulated as needed.

    This SENCO compressor is awesome, it's very quite that I can actually still have conversation and listen to music. I bought a bigger one several days back for the same price, and it was so loud and had too much vibration that I get rid of it the next day.


    Stage 3: It would then go to .01 Micron Motor Giuard Coalescing filter where oil aerosols and microscopic particles down to .01 micron absolute are removed from the air.
    Stage 4: lastly, air enters the Motor Guard desiccant dryer which is dispersed through a 50 micron element. The element distributes air evenly through the desiccant bed. The desiccant absorbs the water vapor and any other vapors from the air, producing very dry clean air with dew point up to -30 degreeF. The desiccant will turn pink to indicate that it is fully saturated and need to be re-claimed or replaced.





    At Stage 4, you are ready to pressurize the headlight. For most headlight, you don't need anything else other than TRS back cap and few butyl tape to plug all the opening, to make sure that you have enough air pressuring inside the headlight. The needle at the end of the desiscant dryer is the smallest I can find and I would just stick the point inside the original hole venting and covered it up with butyl tape.



    In the picture below, I actualy made a small hole to insert the needle valve.



    Here is bubbles being produced by the foamy soap sprayed aroung the turn signal area when the headlight was pressurized which indicated that it wasn't air tight.

    Next, I made a .030" hole on the top and covered it with glue un-evenly. Sprayed some foamy soap water and pressurized it. First there was no buble at 20 psi, when it started to show up at 30 psi. Don't want to increase too much pressure since it might damage the seal. In the beginning I tried with 40 psi before any holes were made, and the headlight seam was OK, but the back dust cap popped.



    We don't want too much pressure inside the headlight. Every headlight is different, so the way I can tell that I have enough pressure inside is by looking at the dust boot cover ( from TRS with different sizes). If they start to pop, then you probably had enough and don't want to go more.

    Before pressurized.

    Enough Pressure.


    Another common area that is prone for leaking is the turn signal seam. This time it was all good.


    Here is on the CRV headlight around the seams and covered edges. No big bubbles means air tight.





    Here is around repaired area.



    The nice thing about this method is that you can test small section and clean and move on. This way, there is no mess or dripping water here and there and you can do this test ( assuming you have the air drying system already) in 10 minutes. If it shows bubbles, wipe it clean, mark the location then you can fix it by adding extra butyl or silicone to fix the leak.

    Once you fix any leak paths and waited for the sealant to cure, wipe the headlight clean and run shop vac for 5 minutes to remove any moisture residue OR turn all the bulbs on for 20-30 minutes to vaporize all micro moistures.




    An air tight seal on headlight doens't mean that the headlight is fogging proof. Like I mentioned in the beginining, the thin film fogging issue will not be identified and fixed using this method. At best, it will help since you eliminate the variable of bad seal that can introduce moisture/water inside the headlight. At least now you know that you have a good seal, that the little moisture that produces fogging come from somewhere else

    Having too much sealant is also not a good thing IMHO, especially if you have a very thin wall housing. The more the sealant, the more the wall needs to "squeeze" that sealant out when you clamp the two halves together. This wall will be somewhat deformed and loosing its original shape that could create an open space if the sealant isn't holding it enough. Koito Sealant is the best so far, you don't need to have a ton in there, just to make sure that you have enough on the area that matters.

    On the Part 2, I'm going to discuss about testing the headlight for fogging/thin condensation that is due to non-leaky seal.
    Last edited by Genes1s; November 23rd, 2012 at 01:35 AM.
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    Senior Member HID Recruit torkeyvr6's Avatar
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    Awesome post I am having trouble right now with condensation with a retrofit. Drilled holes in them at the bottom of the light but still having condensation. Have sealed them up 3 times!!! Still no luck

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    Senior Member HID KING Genes1s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by torkeyvr6 View Post
    Awesome post I am having trouble right now with condensation with a retrofit. Drilled holes in them at the bottom of the light but still having condensation. Have sealed them up 3 times!!! Still no luck
    Well hopefully this method would save you time to look for the cause of the problem somewhere else once you know the seal is good. Most of the condensation that we are dealing with is really a think film of fogging ( still considered as condensation though) and these are tougher to crack even if you have proper venting.
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    Senior Member HID KING Genes1s's Avatar
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    How to: Check and Fix Headlight Water Leak (Part 2)

    The fogging due to temperature and pressure gradient is difficult to fix. Different headlight behaves differently. Relative humidty, ambient temperature, engine compartment temperature, housing material, lens material, thickness, air flow inside engine compartment, headlight shape, number of vents and locations, heat source and location, bad seal joints, micro cracks on the housing are some of the variables that effect fogging/condensation. In most cases, Fogging happens when the engine is running idle, headlights are on, and humidty outside is high couple with pouring down rain. Most of headlights are designed to have vents, these vents are allowing gas/air to flow in/out of the headlights to equalize the air parameters (pressure, temperature, relative humidity).

    In a vented headlight design, the heat source heats the air surrounding and cause the air to have lower density,rise, and create the air flow inside the headlight. The moist air from outside (due to the pressure gradient of the air flow being created) would then go inside the headligh thru the venting and the heat source would then heat it again and continue the cycle. While the warm moist air is being heated and circulated inside the headlight, the pour down rain and the air flow cool the headlight lens. These warm moist air inside headlight would start to condense when it touches the cool surface of the lens creating a thin water droplet (fogging). This is particulay more common in HID projector headlight since the natural convection of heat transfer that is from HID bulb is less than the halogen bulbs. Halogen bulbs radiates heat more than the HID bulb inside the housing spreading more heat over more surface area than HID projector would. This increases the rate of evaporation of those thin film of condensation. If you touch the front lens of the hid projector headlight, you can really tell that some area are just way more colder than the area around the projector. Most of the time, those colder surfaces are the ones that are fogging. The air vents helps to speed up the rate of the evaporation process, but even OEM manufacturer struggles. Look at the back of the OEM HID headlight and they have multiple vent. Too much vents are no good either since the goal is to create enough pressure gradient between one vent to another so that the air flow is better. Just like when you have fogging inside your car, the defroster blows air from air conditioning unit that is then heated before it goes to the cabin. This results in dryer air and when mixed with inside cabin moist air, it reduces the realtive humidity of the air and less condensation occurs. Try to use heater instead of defroster and you will actually have more fogging except in the area where the hot air is being directed.

    Most of the fogging that due to the reason above will go away depending on the outside condition. Some headlights have better design than other, thus the rate of the evaporation are quicker than others, but I hate to say it but due to the nature of the conditions, the fogging is almost inevitable.

    This is why we need to make sure that the headlight seals are air tight to begin with. If the fogging still occurs, then it safe to say that we have issue with heat transfer and air flow inside the headlight. It's not easy to re-create the fogging off the car in a work bench scenario since there are tons of variables that effect it.

    Here is my attempt to do it.

    What you need:
    Big plastic container/tote.
    Water hose/spray bottle.
    Heat source ( hair dryer )
    Towels.
    headlight and the hid componenets.

    Disclaimer: If you do this test, do it on your risk. I'm not responsible to any damages/injuries that may occur. Use safety glasses, gloves, and any other safety devices to protect you from any injuries. Safety first.


    In this test, I use heater to produce enough heat in attempt to create the engine bay temperature and moist towel to simulate the 100% humidity. Please BE VERY CAREFUL, electric heater and water don't mix together. You DO NOT want to put the wet towel on top of the heater instead place it at distance so that it doesn't restrict the hot air flow. I would recommend using hair dryer at low setting. This is probably the trickiest condition to re-create.

    The headlight is sitting on top of the plastic container. Put some holes in the container tote to drain the water.




    I used the spray bottle to simulate the rain condition. Connect the HID component to the projector and other bulbs and seal the back of the headlight like you would in the real condition. Use waterproof connection to power the bulbs and ballasts and be extra careful on this. Again water and electricity DO NOT mixed at all. Turn the headlights on and let is sit for 20-30 minutes. Spray the headlights with spray bottle simulating the rain condition. Do this 2-3 times after 5 minutes interval.




    Turn the headlight off and continue to spray the headlight to simulate the cooling process. Watch for any condensation to occur. For these CRV headlights, one of the headlights shows a very very minor fogging at the corner near by the front grill, picture couldn't even see it unless the lighting is good. When installed, these area will be covered by the front grill anyway and the condensation/fogging went away in minutes after the headlight are at ambient temperature again.

    The more extreme way of doing this is to use water hose, but I was doing it inside the garage. In the future, I would probably build a close loop fixture utlizing water pump, inline heater/heating lamp, fan, and sprinkler system inside an aquarium to do this test.

    Anyway, this may seems like a science project but it's been fun to learn and understand this issue.

    Any comments, advise, and questions are welcomed.

    Thanks
    Last edited by Genes1s; November 24th, 2012 at 04:00 PM.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member HID Guru 0212353's Avatar
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    nice thread man!

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    Senior Member HID Learner
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    My retro is never sealed and has free flowing air at the back. Even the rubber caps are seldom installed. It does condense sometimes, usually after carwash, but never when in use. The heat or the airflow dries it off i guess. Another thing to note is that there are no water marks in the areas that had condensation. All these leaves me room for retrofit adjustments whenever.

  7. #7
    Senior Member HID KING Genes1s's Avatar
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    With open back I'm surprised you don't get water at Car Wash. If I had mine open, It would be full of water when I go to brushless car wash.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member HID KING sbdrumr's Avatar
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    Nice information as this is a constant source of frustration. Thanks for taking the time.

  9. #9
    Brightening Up Your Day LORD XENON gold94corolla's Avatar
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    My first retrofit was open-back. It didn't get water in ever, but it did let dust in over time.

  10. #10
    Senior Member HID Guru
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    Yeah OP, I hope you realize that you're not supposed to 100% seal off a headlight. There should be vinyl one-way vents that allow the atmosphere to stabilize. I have quite an opening where my FX-R solenoid wires come out of the buckets and my heads fogged the first hour after I retroed them and never again. They stabilize QUICK. Of course over on my forums most people don't realize this and smother their brand-new headlights in sealant and silicone when they see moisture after they install them.
    There are two kinds of light - the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures. -James Thurber


    50W 5000K FX-R 2.1 Projectors | Retrofitted Philips LumiLEDs in all rear lamps | 60" Plasmaglow Fire & Ice

    Quote Originally Posted by Infinity-x View Post
    SO WHY IN THE WORLD ARE YOU SPENDING $650 SO FAR ON HEADLIGHTS YOU AREN'T EVEN GOING TO USE??????????????????????????????????????????????? ????? THATS LIKE ORDERING DINNER FOR YOUR DOG AT OLIVE GARDEN.

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