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Mercedes E430 Headlights
© 2006 KenRockwell.com

Mercedes E430 Headlight

2000 - 2002 E430 USA Headlight, Standard Halogen.

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The big light to the left above has the low beam on the bottom and the yellow turn signal on top.

The smaller light is the high beam and parking (European "City") light. The parking light is a small bulb in the smaller light. It won't light the road: it makes the light look like it's on so people can see the car when parked.

Low and high beams are dedicated H7 55W assemblies.The low beams remain on when the high beams are selected. The low beams have only one filament, not two as American cars with four sealed beams had in the 1960s through 1980s.

Turn signals are yellow 1156NA bulbs, and parking (city) lights are H 6 W (6-Watt) halogen bulbs. Leave it to Mercedes to use halogen (premium) bulbs for the parking lights!

USA E430s have the standard H4/ECE pattern with the bit of the beam poking up to the right to illuminate pedestrians and street signs. The lights are marked SAE, not (E1).

E430 with light out

See anything wrong here?

This is how clean my E430 was after returning from 1,000 miles of driving to and from Las Vegas and several trips to and from Pahrump, including two days of track racing.

When I was about 6 miles into my return trip, I got a warning note on the dash.

Can you see it the problem?

Here it is:

Can you see which light is out?

The E430 is a very smart car. it knew that one of the parking lights was out. See the passenger-side parking light (the one closer to the center of the E430?) It's out.

Smart car!

Headlight Care

The headlights have plastic lenses. In case of a broken or worn lens one needs to replace the complete high/low headlight assembly. The lenses are not available separately for replacement.

These lenses turn milky tan if the E430 is abused by being parked outside in the sun over a few years. This requires complete replacement of the headlights, or some crafty work with a sander. No car should ever be left outside except when it's being driven. If garaged, as mine is, the plastic lenses are fine and last forever. The top photo is my car with over 100,000 km (60,000 miles) on it.

Real cars, like my 1997 SL500, 1988 190D and even 2002 Saabs, have glass lenses. Economy cars like GM, Fords and Oriental brands downgraded to plastic headlight lenses decades ago.

Cloudy mercedes Lights

A very poorly treated Mercedes.

If any car has yellowed, milky or cloudy headlight lenses it's been abused and left parked outside for a long time. Don't buy it.

If the lenses are pitted or sand blasted, but clear (not yellow), then that's normal for a car with miles on it stored in a garage. If the headlights are completely new (no pits) then they have been replaced or the car has very low mileage, or the driver doesn't drive in traffic. Pits come from driving fast while tailgating. Pits and chips are avoided by driving more slowly or not driving in traffic.

Low Beams

H7 bulbs have about 50% more light output (1,550 vs. 1,000 lumens) than H4 low beams, even though they share the same Wattage. This is because H4 bulbs hide 3/8 of the low beam filament behind a shield to create the low beam pattern. The H7 bulb has only one filament and much more of it's light is channeled to the resulting beam. The E430's low beams are better than any other standard European H4 headlight I've used.

High Beams

The high beams are 55W H7 bulbs in the smaller headlight.

Fog Lights

Fog lights are 55W H1. The lenses cost $24 each, unless you have the sport or AMG packages, in which case the entire fog light assembly has to be replaced at over $200 each.

Parking Lights

It's illegal in California to drive with just the parking lights. This is the position between off and all headlights on. As I've read in the vehicle code and confirmed with the CHP, we must drive with all the lights off or all the lights on. Driving with just some of the lights, like the parking lights, is illegal since it could be confusing to other drivers and cause accidents.

Required in Europe but a mystery to most Americans, parking lights are also dim exterior lights left on when parked on a small dark street at night. They keep other idiots from running into your parked car in the dark.

These European parking lights are the two positions on the left of the headlight switch marked "P" with a left or right arrow. Either position leaves just the left or right rear tail and front parking light on. Since it's just these two bulbs and not the interior and other lights these lights can be left on all night.

Daytime Running Lights

Popular as standard equipment in other cars but illegal in California, the E430 has none.

Automatic Lights

Sorry, you have to turn the switch on and off yourself. The lights are completely manual.

Just as well. Automatic lights always bug me because they never turn on and off when I want them to.

The best system is in Swedish cars like our SAABs: the lights turn on and off with the ignition. They turn off when you turn off the car so they don't run down the battery, and are always on otherwise.

Xenon Lights

Mercedes Xenon Headlight

2000 - 2002 E430 Xenon Low Beam

These are a $900 option new. They are about a $4,000 project to retrofit. The headlights are completely different. It's a lot more than just a bulb.

They replace the low beams with D2S xenon assemblies. The high beams are the same 55W H7 lights as the standard headlights. These high beams are dimmer and yellower than the Xenon low beams, and both stay on when the high beams are selected. This can drive some people, like me, crazy.

The Xenon lights also come with high pressure washers. They pop out from the little hatch you see in the bottom middle. These bug us in sunny California since we never have snow or dirt to get off our lights, but the washer fluid gets all over our clean cars.

Xenon Spotter's Guide

The xenon option:

1.) Has a low beam (the larger, outer lights) with a second flat, patterned lens inside a clear outer lens. This photo doesn't make that difference clear. The standard headlight has just one patterned outer lens.

Mercedesd E Class Xenon

Xenon has a lens behind a lens. Front lens is clear except for thin vertical lines each cm. (enlarge) My apologies for snapping this dirty car for illustration.

2.) Headlight washers (the rounded rectangular cover below the two lights).

Mercedes E430 Headlight Washer Switch

The first switch on the left is the headlight washer. This isn't my car, it's a gross gray interior with black wood trim.

3.) A headlight washer switch on the top center dash.

4.) A high-voltage warning sticker under the hood near the lights.

5.) When turned on, real xenon lights take 10 seconds or more to warm up. Standard halogen, and those awful phony "xenon blue" bulbs, turn on immediately.

6.) High beams and fog lights exactly the same as standard. Only the low beam is xenon.

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