For the Volvo Enthusiast

Project V70R: European Bi-Xenon Headlight Upgrade

Lighting. At certain moments it can the difference between a trip to the body shop or just an elevated heart rate and sweaty palms. Good lighting is invaluable for safe driving and Volvo, known for its safety innovations, has incorporated their bi-xenon lamps into several models since 2002.

Lights commonly referred to as Xenon or high-intensity gas-discharge (H.I.D.) lamps use the element xenon rather than halogen in the creation of light. With a much longer service life than halogen, nearly 3000 hours of use, xenon lamps are becoming popular options in non-premium brand automobiles.

Xenon delivers a luminous flex rating nearly twice as high as halogen - a light that is much whiter than halogen, making halogen appear almost yellow in comparison. Xenons sometimes appear to have a blueish or purplish hue to them and slightly blue halogen headlight bulbs have even been marketed to mimic the look, though Xenon gets this, not from actually being blue/purple. Rather, the color purple is on the opposite end of the color spectrum than yellow. When the more yellowish Halogen light is constantly seen and perceived by the brain as perfect white, perfect white of Xenon lighting is then perceived as blue/purple, the opposite of yellow.

The configuration of the light from xenon lamps is superior too, casting a wider beam. Volvo’s Bi-Xenon lights make use of the entire surface of the reflector and have a wide glass opening, which minimizes the risk of dazzling other drivers; a criticism sometimes associated with headlights of this type. In addition, the xenons are able to cut through poor weather conditions including fog and rain. This additional visibility and added safety keep in theme with Volvo’s heritage.

Volvo’s headlights are typically referred to as “Bi-Xenons”. Another common practice in the auto industry is to use xenon lights on low beam settings, and switch to halogen for high beams. Because Volvo’s xenon headlights use the xenon lighting for both high and low beam lighting, they are referred to as “Bi-Xenons.”

Ask North American R-series owners their opinion on the performance of the bi-xenon lamps and the results may contradict the marketing line. Yes, in the low beam position the lights have a good pattern and are quite adequate. Engage the high beams, however and be prepared for a disappointment.

There is probably a U.S. regulation somewhere that requires Volvo to deactivate the supplemental high-beam found in equivalent European units, which may explain the difference. Nevertheless, retrofitting European headlight units has become a common and attractive modification for R-owners on this side of the pond.

Jim Lill, Doug Hess and some other Swedespeed members tried soon after the 2004 launch of the S60R and V70R to convert the North American DRL bulb into a supplemental high beam, like the European couterpart. No viable solution resulted from their attempts. Considering some of these owners have backgrounds in engineering, we took it as gospel when they told us that purchasing a set of European lenses would be the best method of upgrading our Project V70R.

Ordering a set of euro headlamps is exactly what we did. Delivery from Germany took just under two weeks, and we now hear that Viva Performance will be offering euro bi-xenon headlamps in the coming weeks.

Installation takes about an hour and a half to two hours for most attempting this modification. If you are a shade tree mechanic, this is a straightforward installation and it can be done on a set of ramps. We recommend having a second person on hand to assist.

Once you have the front of the car up in the air and have your tools ready to go, start by opening the hood and removing the top clips for the bumper cover. Unplug the various harnesses, fog lights and headlights. Pop the bumper corner strips to gain access to the bolts. There are several bolts on the underside near at the fender well. You do not have to remove the fender liner because you can bend it to access the rear bolts. Be sure to remove the headlight washers and remember how the fluid tubing connects. Once the bolts are removed, you’ll have to give a strong pull on to release the plastic tabs. Take your time and have your partner hold the other side as you work the bumper cover off. Make sure to place the now-removed bumper cover in a position where it does not get scratched - we used a trashcan to hold it suspended.

After you have removed the headlamps, you will have to remove the wiper motor and reuse the hardware to mount the motor on the euro lenses. Reinstall the lenses, then the bumper and finally the wiper arms.

Seeing the bumper cover removed may look like a complicated job but with a little patience the process should go smoothly.

Looking for a clean place to do our install, Don Beyer Volvo in Dulles, VA kindly offered their facilities to assist with Project V70R. Their continued involvement with this project will give their dealership exposure and experience with various parts. This is good news for members in the D.C. Metro area.

Related Links:

Project V70R Main Page

Project V70R Photo Gallery

Don Beyer Volvo

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