Who Killed the Sealed Beam Headlamp?

I definitely prefer the sealed beam headlights over the modern halogens. Not because of the lighting as much as the plastic lenses they park the halogens behind.The sealed beam being glass never gets hazed over and even if they did you can simply replace the sealed beam. The plastic lenses always get hazed over and then you don’t have near the light. It cost a lot more to replace the lens not to mention the work.

Sure at first Composite headlamps are brighter but in MY experience the edge only lasts as little as 1-3 years. It doesnt take long for the polycarbonate lenses to get faded or blasted by road debris to the point they underperform the old standby, the sealed beam.

I remember in the good ol days you could get a new sealed beam for 4.99 at an Osco. Sure the stryling advantages of the composite cant be argued, and there are some headlamps like the honda crx and my caprice which have glass lenses that last a long time, but really, I liked the sealed beams.

Yes I know they make restoration kits, but restoration is for 68 camaros, not 2 year old headlamps.

Opinions, Debates?

I would bet that within the next 5 or 10 years we will have LED headlights. The price of LED lighting is dropping. My 2011 Toyota Sienna has LED tail lights. I think as the cost comes down we will have LED headlights. I just hope we have a lens that doesn’t fade as easily.

For once I totally agree with you about plastic lenses (didn’t think I was capable, did ya!).
This is one of the stupidest “advances” to come down the pike.
I’m a little surprised the NHTSA doesn’t see this as a hazard.

I propose a compromise:
Perhaps ~5 standard housings of various shapes with glass fronts and the car makers design the “face” of their new cars around one of those.
This could be a feature to market.
It could catch on like the recent return to timing chains on econoboxes.

Well, I’m a big fan of being able to see better at night, and halogens have that advantage. you CAN get halogens in a “sealed beam” unit for older cars, but sometimes you have to upgrade the circuitry a bit to accept the increased power demand.

I just had a passing thought when reading these posts. I wonder if the moron who came up with the timing belt also came up with the idea for plastic headlight lenses? If so…I hope he/she is standing on the unemployment line…permanently.

Yes, sometimes, occasionally, once in a while, newer components are better. Thie is one. Night vision is so important, ease of repair is secondary.

I’m sure safety has played a part in the design, too.
Wouldn’t want even more bits of glass littering the road after an accident. The wrong bit of road debris could also come up and shatter the lamp if it’s glass. More aerodynamic cars would almost attract the debris to their headlamps

It would be great if there was an economical way to replace the composite headlamps, or to restore them to new condition. Those restoration kits can only do so much.

I do agree the new halogen composites are superior when new, but it just doesn’t last long in some cases.

The Sylvania polishing kit is supposed to work well. Mine have done fine, haven’t needed it (17 years). If/when I do, I’ll do the polish, then put on protective film:

I haven’t used them…

I will admit that the cost of replacing the front headlamp assemblies with the stylized lenses is completely insane. I found that out the hard way when #1 son had a fender bender with the Regal. “You want HOW MUCH for that???”

It sounds like, if automakers could solve the hazing problem with plastic lenses, there would be no need to bring back the sealed beam.

I have no problem with today’s $10-ish halogen bulbs. But I agree the premature hazing of lenses is unacceptable.

It seems the marketing departments have taken over the auto market at the expense of the engineers.

Just an FYI: Sealed beams are not immune to degradation. My van had really dim sealed beams that got replaced solely because they were dim. I tend to agree that separate bulbs don’t work well, but they are not alone in their problems.

Rubber timing belt? They are very reliable if they are replaced according to schedule. I don’t see a problem here.

What I do see is people wishing for the “good old days” and forgetting about the bad parts - like changing points and plugs, bias ply tires, and tuning carburetors.

“Rubber timing belt? They are very reliable if they are replaced according to schedule. I don’t see a problem here.”

@CapriRacer…Since I’m a realist, I have to reject your notion that there is no problem with timing belts. There was no “problem” until they were installed on some engines. Also, the human factor comes into play as well. Vehicles get sold or traded and timing belt change receipts are as rare as hen’s teeth. Timing belts are not needed for any legitimate reason. I don’t miss changing points and plugs, bias ply tires and tuning carburetors at all. I just believe in calling a spade a spade.

I would say changing a V6 timing belt is easier than changing all 3 timing chains on a V6.

GM’s LY7 V6, which was used on MANY GM vehicles for several years, has had SIGNIFICANT problems with their timing chains. And that engine uses 3 chains. And there are plenty of other engines out there that use 3 chains.

Even Mercedes had trouble with timing chains. The 3.8l V-8 in the 380SL was initially equipped with single-row chains, which proved to be unreliable to the extent that they were retrofitted with two-row chains.

It’s the interference problem that needs to be slammed and not the rubber bands. Properly placed dimples in piston tops would eliminate engine damage when there is a failure in the valve train. But then some of the rubber band timing belts are so difficult to access and replace that the DIYer just ignores the manufacturer’s advice and drives 'till it breaks and then cries over spilled milk. I just don’t understand why the Ford Pinto engine was never well liked. It was used in so many vehicles, most recently the Ranger and the timing belt was a simple job while a belt failure would only result in the engine going dead.

I wouldn’t mind timing belts if they were as easy to replace as the serpentine belt but you have to disassemble half the engine to get to some of them. A scheduled maintenance item should be easier to access IMO.

I have to revise my visualization of the car assembly line. I used to say that at the start of the line was a single hook with a heater core on it and they built the rest of the car around it. Now I believe there are two hooks…the other has the timing belt :wink:

I’ll take the plastic headlights myself. Polishing them back to as new condition costs about $10. I use Mequiars kit myself. Replacing the entire sealed beam headlight seems very wasteful as opposed to only replacing the bulb. Ymmv


LED headlights have been in the assessment and approval process of the D.O.T for some time now. If they’re not already legal, they soon will be. But they’ll still be put behind polycarbonate lighting units. The plastic modules allow design freedom and the technology to mold them has progressed to where they are less expensive to the manufacturer than the old way.

I agree with you on the superiority of sealed beam lighting, and in that I don’t believe the average person realizes how much light is lost when the fogging develops. It’s exactly like cataracts for your headlights. I also agree that the restoration kits can only do so much. I personally prefer using regular polishing compound (I’ve tried both) using a wet sponge on a variable speed drill.

It seems strange that headlights started out as bulbs behind glass lenses, progressed to seal beam lights that incorporated both the bulbs and the lenses as one, and are now back to bulbs behind lenses. Only now the lenses are plastic.