Hangar works #27 – The LED headlamps

Our beloved Morgan 3-Wheeler has many points that can be upgraded. Some are more important than others, of course, but there is one critical improvement to be done if you ever pretend to drive your car at night; and this is to change the standard halogen front headlamps for a much brighter and performant LED ones.

Why is that? Are standard halogens that bad? They are. I’m sorry to say this so directly and crudely: but they are ridiculous in terms of lighting. Simply terrible.

If you drive your 3-Wheeler in daylight, and just on few occasions at night but in nice painted and illuminated roads or streets, you’ll be ok with the H4 halogen bulbs in the standard headlamps. But if it ever happens that you have to drive at night, under a heavy summer thunderstorm, on tiny secondary roads with no white lines painted at all, you’ll immediately remember this post and understand why we say that the standard headlights are terrible.

We suffered this situation last year, on our way back from Grindelwald to Montignac-de-Lauzun. We had to stop at Cahors because it was raining cats and dogs again. That was a truly awful day. You can read about it in our post Long range campaign #2 – 3rd to 17th of September 2021 – The Speedy Marmots’ Journeys – look for Day 12 – September the 14th: Nyons to Montignac-de-Lauzun – and you’ll get an idea of the hell we passed through! Driving at night on those dark, black, unpainted French secondary roads with the so poor standard headlamps was something we don’t want to repeat. Never again…

Changing the headlamps for a new modern, and incredibly better LED version is so simple! We bought from M3W Services the LED set. It seems to be the same one used by Krazy Horse and other Morgan dealers. And installing those units seems a very simple task that can be done anywhere within just 20 minutes. If you have the correct tools, obviously.

The brand new LED headlamps.

The new LED headlamps have a middle horizontal light bar that works combined as a daylight – in white color – and as a turn indicator – in orange. But our 3-Wheelers already have the turn lights below the headlamps, so in our case I disregard the turn indicator wire and only connect the daylight one.

You’ll need a crimping tool to insert and connect the male plug for the daylight. The rest of the connectors are standard and the same that the car has. So, a simple plug&play task.

The standard connectors are good. Just a plug&play task.

Once I have made all the connections, and put back in the headlamp in place, I turn on the lights and… OMG! What a huge difference! Compared to the standard halogen headlights, these LED look like a military anti-aircraft spotlight!

Much brighter! Great improvement!

But I immediately spot a first problem: these new LED lamp sets protrude, and a lot, from the original chromed steel retaining rings. You may notice it if you look carefully at this picture below. There is a large portion of black painted metal protruding from the silver shining ring that holds them into the main shell. You have a much clearer picture later in this post.

Easy to fit. But not really as they should…

It’s not just an aesthetic issue, but this also means that we can’t put back the protection grille we had in front of the standard headlamps.

We can’t put these meshes back, because the new headlamps protrude from the chromed ring.

The result is that we have now new fantastic LED headlamps, but we lose part of the vintage looking of our 3-Wheeler, mainly because we can’t put those grilles back, and the totally transparent lenses of the new headlamps show their modern LED interior.

We will leave them that way for this trip. But a correct installation should be done later.

There is a way to put these LED headlamps properly in the original shell, so they don’t protrude. But it looks like a more complicate job to do right now, and the truth is that when I made this quick swap of headlamps, we’re in Montignac-De-Lauzun, and about to leave for Switzerland for the 10th anniversary of the Jungfrau-Treffen in Grindelwald. So, I leave the headlamps as they are. Because I prefer to have much better lights and lose part of the vintage look of the Morgan than risking driving at night again with the poor halogen ones. And I’ll modify the installation later, with no rush.

We travel to Switzerland and come back home to Madrid without any problem with the 3-Wheeler. The modifications made on our little rocket work neat, and the whole has dramatically been improved from the dynamic point of view.

If you want details about the mechanical improvements, you’ll find different posts in the Hangar Works section of this blog.

And if you want to know about the trip to Switzerland, this is in the Long Range Campaigns section.

Now we’re back in Madrid, and I’m still thinking about a better installation of the new LED headlamps to solve this protruding problem, when I take our Morgan to Retromóvil, the classic car show in Madrid, held from 24th to 27th of November.

Preparing the Morgan 3-Wheeler stand for Retromóvil 2022.

It happened that we talked with Tayre, the official Morgan’s dealer in Spain, and asked them if they will have a stand at Retromóvil this year. And if they will have a new Super 3 for the dates. Talking with our good friend Oscar Pollo, Tayre’s Morgan and Maserati sales manager, I told him about our idea to have three generations of Morgan three wheelers in the stand. And he loved it!

Our stand was the most admired of the whole show!

Said and done! We take to the Retromóvil Tayre’s – Morgan – stand the new Super 3 they just received from Malvern, our 5-Speeder, and Sergio Romagosa’s – another good friend of us – stunning 1934 Supersports. The stand is the most admired during the three days of the event. So many people taking pictures and asking about the 3-wheelers! It’s not everyday that you can admire more than a hundred years of automotive evolution under a same brand!

But the day I took our 3-Wheeler to the show, something weird happened. Again… Believe it or not, the same turn light front right support broke again. Again! This is the third time! And it broke despite the stainless-steel unbreakable reinforcement I recently made for these supports! The crazy thing is that this time it broke just at the very end, exactly after the point where the stainless-steel reinforcement ends. Unbelievable!

Are you kidding me?!?

This is outrageous! I’m furious. I do a very discrete temporary fix for these days of the Retromóvil show, but I’m done for good with these stupid fragile supports!

I won’t be fooled again and won’t let Morgan replace the support for another one, again, made of cheese. I take the decision to remove the front turn lights as they are and use the LED headlamps integrated turn signal system.

And here we are, after the Christmas holydays, beginning of February, and ready to do this modification of removing the standard front turn lights, and do a proper installation of the front headlamps. A nice winter “do it yourself” job.

I ask my good friends of M3W Services about the correct way to install the headlamps, so they don’t protrude.

Here you can see how much the new headlamps protrude. That’s quite a lot! More than 10 mm.

Steve and Chas reply immediately and pass me “instructions” they got from Krazy Horse, as a guide to do this job myself. They’re as follows:

  1. Remove Chrome ring from headlight front by unscrewing retaining bolt.
  2. Disconnect old headlights.
  3. If using integral indicators remove M3W indicators and re-route wiring.
  4. Glue the cork around the headlight, 4 pieces per headlight.
  5. Bend the two clips on the chrome ring and fit the light into it with the rubber trim (x2) around the edge.
  6. Bend the two clips back against the headlight to secure.
  7. Connect the wiring from the sidelights and indicator. Red = indicator, Yellow = sidelights.
  8. Reduce length of retaining bolt by 3mm as it will be too long.
  9. Refit chrome ring and retaining bolt.

Everything makes sense. Nothing strange with these basic instructions. I check if I have everything to do the job, and the first thing that attires my attention are the cork pieces.

The cork pieces look like slices of Danish Rye Bread!

I’m supposed to glue four small pieces on each headlamp, to solve the protruding problem. These pieces, measuring 40 mm long, 10 mm large and 5 mm thick, are made of soft cork. Too soft in my opinion. They will be in contact with the inner side of the chromed ring, pinched between this ring and the main heavy body of the LED headlamps, acting like a spacer to pull inside the headlamps. But I’m convinced that they will disintegrate very quick because of the permanent vibrations of our 3-Wheeler’s headlamps.

And there is also another issue: if I use only these four small cork pieces so that the headlight is more inside the housing, flush with the chrome ring, I don’t see anything that prevents water from entering the headlight between the corks.

I don’t like this solution. And I think there is a much better way to get the same aesthetic result, using much more resistant material that will absorb perfectly the violent vibrations, and sealing for good the headlamp avoiding any water ingress.

So, I do a quick visit to a shop in Madrid, specialized in rubber pieces. I buy one meter of a good rubber band, 50 mm large and 5 mm thick. The material is quite cheap. I get the meter for less than 10 €.

Rubber band: a much better solution than the cork pieces!

The idea is very simple: cut it and make my own rubber O-rings and place them around the headlamp instead of the four fragile corks.

To do the O-ring, I use a metal ruler and a sharp cutter. And a special ultra-resistant flexible glue for rubber.

The rubber band, a cutter, a metallic ruler, and special rubber glue. Everything easy to find!

I cut out of the rubber band two 10mm wide strips, the same width as the cork pieces supplied with the kit. The metal ruler is not damaged by the cutter, so I can use it as a guide for the cut.

Use the metallic ruler as a guide for cutting.

For the length, I simply use a measuring soft tape, and then cut the stripes to the exact length matching the circumference of the headlights, make sure it fits properly, and glue.

And here it is! A nice rubber O-ring!

It’s an easy task. Everyone can do this at home!

The rubber O-ring will go where the corks should to be glued. But no need to glue it!

When the glue is dry, I can check the result. I gently slide it in position, and I find it way better and satisfactory than using the corks!

That’s a good looking O-ring!

In order to insert the headlamps into the chromed rings, now with the rubber O-ring, it’s mandatory to follow the step 5 of the instructions: bend the two clips on the chrome ring. If you don’t, you won’t be able to insert the headlamp properly.

Clips are easy to bend with small plyers.

The result is obvious. The headlights are now perfectly flush with the chrome ring.

Doesn’t it look better? Much better!

The protruding problem is now solved. But solving it arises other problems. As you can see in the next pictures, the headlamp fits into the chromed ring after bending the two clips.

The bended clips become almost unnecessary, as they can’t be bent back to their original position.

But at the bottom of the chromed ring, there is a tab. And this one is just in contact with the headlamp body now. And this is a problem, because the main chrome casing has a slot in which this tab fits, and if this does not happen, the closure is not achieved.

Now that’s going to be a problem!

With the tab touching the headlamp body, there is no room for the insertion into the main chrome casing. This is something I’ll have to deal later, cutting the tab on the chromed ring enough to allow the insertion, but not too much so its task as retaining tab is still effective.

I’ll have to cut the tab to allow the new headlamps fit properly into the main chromed casing.

Now I must make sure that the headlamp is holding properly into the chromed ring, making sure it doesn’t move or rotate with the vibrations of the 3-Wheeler. Because the S&S huge V-Twin does shake the car for good!

To retain the new LED headlamp in position, I reuse the clips the original headlamp had. But as the new body is heavier and thicker, I bend the clips a bit to reduce the tension they’ll transmit to something reasonable. Otherwise, with the strong spring force they have it will be very difficult to put them in place or remove them.

Bend a little bit the removable clips. Easy to do with the small plyers.

This is an easy task with the help of small plyers. Now I can put four clips back on each headlamp to retain them solidly to the chromed ring. I’m just careful to place them properly around the diameter so they don’t bother with the tabs or bolts I’ll have to insert later.

Then put them back in place to fix the headlamps within the chromed ring. The clips will hold the headlamps position by pressure, and the rubber O-ring will not allow it to rotate.

The home tasks are complete! Now it’s time to go downstairs to the garage and fit everything on the car. I take all the tools and my large LED work lamp and start working on the Morgan.

First thing to do: remove the front turn lights. They come out easy. Then I remove the connectors, cut the wires there by the connectors, and pull out the cables gently, because I want to recover the LED orange modules without damage. They’re the same as the back ones, and we never know when we’ll need one as spare!

I remove the original turn lights and keep them as spare, just in case.

Now it’s time to use the Dremel and saw out the soft turn light supports. Why keeping them when you know they’ll break sooner or later? And without the turn lights, they’re useless.

Time to saw the turn lights’ supports.

The removal is incredibly easy. These supports are truly made of mild steel. A Simple thin indent with the rotor blade, and I can remove them by hand with little effort.

Cutting carefully!

Look at the video! It was so easy! Now the problem is solved: I have no more front turn light supports to be worried about!

After sawing out the supports, the main arm that supports the headlights has an ugly scar where the support was welded and I made the cut.

This needs “plastic surgery”!

It’s important to do some “plastic surgery” and reduce the sharp edges to get the area as smooth and aesthetically correct as possible. Again, a little bit of Dremel with a proper sandpaper head helps me to do it.

A little bit of Dremel with the appropriate sandpaper head.

After letting the area smooth and clean, I apply a little bit of black metal paint. The scar is finally hidden, and not even a keen eye will suspect there was a support welded there before.

And the final make-up! Just a little bit of black paint spray.

Before working on the cabling, I do a little easy task, which consist of inserting a M5 rivet nut at the bottom of the main chromed casing. Why is that? Well, our 3-Wheeler was ordered with the option of the headlight meshes. And these meshes were attached by two claw-like metal tabs which held the outer ring of the headlight meshes. One was at top of the chromed ring and fixed with the upper closing M5 bolt. And the other was at the bottom, riveted to the main chromed casing.

I need to fit a rivet nut here!

Instead of riveting again the bottom tab, I prefer to put a M5 rivet nut that will be more useful than a simple rivet, to fix the meshes again in front of the headlights.

Fast and easy: make the hole large enough for the rivet nut!

That’s a very easy task with a drill and a good quality metal bit, and with a proper tool for the rivet nut. The rivet nut gets solidly fixed to the main chromed casing.

The appropriate tools on hand!
And done! That was easy!

This makes the fixing of the metal claw-like tab much easier. And therefore, the installation of the metal mesh too!

The bottom claw-like tab, bolted in place.

And now it’s time to work on the problem of the chromed ring’s lower tab. The one that touches the headlamp body and doesn’t leave enough room to insert the thin metal sheet of the main chromed casing, so this tab inserts properly in its slot.

Back to this! I need to remove the excessive material from that tab!

In the picture above, you can see how this tab gets into the main chromed casing slot. Once inserted, the tab protrudes quite a bit. Please allow me to repeat the same picture, explaining the problem. It makes sense here!

Remember? Let’s do it now!

This unnecessary material is what doesn’t allow the chromed ring to fit properly into the main casing, because it touches the headlamp body leaving no gap at all for the thin metal sheet to pass through.

More Dremel and problem solved!

This is much better now. I’ll be able to fit the chromed ring with the headlamps on now.

I test the whole assembly with the headlamps fixed onto the chromed ring, and now it works. Just a little fiddling but nothing difficult.

Now it’s time for the wiring! The good news are that the new LED headlamps have the turn signal light integrated in the middle horizontal bar. And therefore, the neutral cable is the same of the whole lamp. This means that we only must take one cable from the turn signal connector under the bonnet to the headlight, instead of two.

The connectors at the back of the new LED headlamps.

The headlamps box has a couple of yellow cables, long enough, and with the Faston connector matching the headlamps one.

I try to pass the cables through the flexible plastic hose, from the headlamp to under the bonnet. But it seems an impossible task. The cable is too flexible, and the flexible hose already has four cables inside, leaving very little room for an easy insertion.

The cable guide that I have is too thick, and therefore useless for this task in such a small flexible hose. Then I call my father. I’m sure he has a solution. He comes down to the garage and checks the situation. Then he leaves to come back minutes later with many options. Amongst them, a nice looking long thin rod made of soft brass. This is the perfect guide to feed the wire through the flexible plastic hose!

It’s so nice to have his support! After decades of building his own H0 train models, his experience and resources to solve this kind of tiny delicate wiring operations is stunning!

My father always has the solution! A thin and soft brass rod.

With this guide, I gently push the yellow wires through the hoses on each side. And once there, the task is easier. I do the pin connection, securing the connection with a bit of soldering.

A little bit of delicate soldering and we’re done!

Electric job done! I proceed with the appropriate tests and everything works fine. Right, left, warning lights… Now our Morgan has the headlights properly fitted, with the turn signals integrated, and the vintage looking metal meshes protecting the glass. Excellent!