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Install Angle-Based Bulbs in '98-'04 Chrysler/Dodge w/ Straight-Bases

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What is this?
This is an easy method of adapting angle-base bulbs to the '98-'04 Chrysler Concorde, LHS, and 300M. The '98-'04 Intrepid already accepts angle-base bulbs with no adaptation.

Why do this?
The original straight-base 9005XS and 9006XS bulbs are generally available only in standard types. This simple modification will allow you to use any of the many angle-based 9005 and 9006 bulbs such as Philips Xtreme Power, or even the ultrahigh-performance HIR bulbs.

What’s involved?
  1. Make a bulb retention clip out of spring wire (also called music, or piano, wire) for each bulb socket according to the detailed instructions given in this How-To – 4 clips per vehicle. It takes about 20 minutes to make each clip.

  2. Do a small amount of grinding of one area of each socket.

The headlamps have a two-part black plastic ring assembly on each bulb socket. One of the two ring parts twists in and out of place to install and remove the bulb. The other ring part (lower, and larger in diameter) is stationary, held in place by three screws.

In this first photo, both rings and the original straight-base bulbs are installed. The screws are partially hidden under the wings of inner ring:

This next photo shows the inner ring and bulb removed. The 3 screws are now visible.

Materials required
(per vehicle – to do 2 headlight assemblies, 4 bulbs):

    Thirteen inches (33 cm) of spring wire, 0.041" (1 mm) diameter. Stainless steel is recommended for corrosion resistance; this can be had locally or from McMaster-Carr under part number 9495K84, about $8 for a much larger quantity than you will need. The recommended wire looks like this:

    Wire from a hardware store spring can be used, though it is not ideal because it won't be stainless and it will be much harder to work with and shape correctly:

  1. Eight #4 x 3/8" long pan-head self-tapping screw, available locally or as McMaster-Carr part number 94629A550, a stainless steel type with threads ideal for this type of plastic.

  2. (as needed — these are to use in case the threads in the headlight assembly strip out with #4 screws – you may not need any of these; max. needed would be 8 if all holes were to strip out, which is not very likely) #6 x 3/8" long pan-head self-tapping screw such as McMaster-Carr part number 94629A560

    The #4 and #6 screws of the type recommended look like this:

    Tools required
    • T10 Torx wrench for removing the bulb retainer screws in some headlamps
    • #1 and #2 Phillips screwdrivers
    • A handheld grinder such as a Dremel Mototool with a cutoff wheel
    • Ruler, 6" (15 cm) or longer
    • Ultra-fine point Sharpie (permanent marker – black works best)
    • Two smaller size needle nose pliers in good condition)
    • Ø7/64" drill bit (to aid in forming loops in wire retainer for screws)

    Wear safety goggles while grinding, bending, drilling, and cutting. All of these operations can create debris that can be thrown quickly and with great force, and can injure your eyes if they are not protected.

    Perform steps 1 through 5 for each bulb location, then continue with step 6:

    1. Remove the three screws holding the bulb retaining rings to the headlight assembly. Remove the rings and bulbs, and discard the rings and the screws.

    2. If the new bulb is an HIR type, trim its base tab as needed for it to fit in the socket keying — see here.

    3. Grind a recess in the socket area as shown below to allow the bulb to fully seat into the socket with the connector end of the bulb pointing downward (as the headlight assembly will be sitting when installed in the vehicle). It is important that the bulb be able to sit fully flush with the socket for proper focusing and aiming of the headlight. Put tape over the bulb socket hole while grinding to keep grinding dust out of interior of headlight assembly. The tape is also useful in helping avoid nicking surrounding material that should not be ground.

    4. Make the spring wire bulb retainer as follows:
      • Cut a 3-3/8" (80 mm) long piece of spring wire using the hand grinder with cutoff wheel. Smooth off any points or sharp edges on the ends.

      • Mark the wire with a black ultra-fine point Sharpie at the 7 points (including centerline) indicated in this figure. Make each mark completely around the wire for maximum visibility:

      • Make the four 90° bends as shown in the following photos – use two pairs of needle nose pliers to make the bends tight (the general curvature along the length of the wire is from the way the wire was purchased coiled – if your spring wire is straight, keep it straight; if already curved, leave it curved):

      • Form the loops for the screws in the ends of the wire using the two needle nose pliers. Bend the loops into a generally round shape (doesn’t have to be perfect), and squeeze the end of each loop with the 7/64" drill bit in the center to accurately control size for good fit of the screws. The loops should be formed such that the black marks nearest each end of the wire are approximately centered on the loop (center of the screw diameter). The loops must be closed enough to completely capture the screws (i.e., not be able to slip off from around screw). Screws must slip freely lengthwise in the loops without any binding.

      • Make a gentle, radiused bend in the center of the retainer. It should look like this when finished:

        NOTE: DO NOT make any shape adjustments, no matter how minor, to the retainer with either of the screws holding it in the headlight assembly. The plastic of the headlight assembly bulb socket is relatively weak and brittle. Any stresses of tweaking the shape of the retainer would be sure to break the plastic.

      • With the retainer still not installed, be sure to look across it and ensure that the screw loops are on the same plane with each other (i.e., not going off at angles relative to each other). You should view it like this (notice that screw loops are flat relative to each other):

      • Test the spacing of the screw loops to line up with the two upper screw holes of the headlight assembly bulb socket. Adjust the gentle bend in the center of the retainer to line those two holes up so the two screws can both easily be started in the threads of the holes without applying significant bending force to the retainer.

      • Adjust the two center-most 90° bends to achieve approximately 3/16" (5 mm) for dimension ‘A’ with the screw loops held to a flat surface:

      • Re-check the flatness of the two screw loops relative to each other, the lining up of the screw loops to the bulb socket screw holes, and dimension ‘A’ after any adjustment – adjust until all three are correct).

      • Test fit the retainer with the bulb in the socket. Tighten both screws only moderately snuggly – just tight enough to pull the retainer screw loops flat against the tops if the screw bosses – you do not want to crack or break the plastic of the headlight housing by overtightening.

        Final test fit of bulbs, low beam and high beam:

      • If any #4 screw should strip out the threads in a bulb socket retainer screw boss, simply replace the screw with a #6. Use the needle nose pliers to open up the screw loop just enough to allow the #6 screw to slip freely in the loop. (The type of #4 and #6 screws in the materials list is recommended because they will cut their own threads without creating undue stress in the weak/brittle plastic of the type used in the headlight assemblies.)

    5. Remove and discard the blue plastic piece from the vehicle harness bulb connector. (This step is necessary for clearance between the harness wires and the walls of the recessed bulb socket area. Note that this blue part that is being discarded is not necessary to keep the connector and its wires together. It was intended to keep moisture out. Removing it will not cause any problems since the exposed end of the connector is nowaimed downward for good drainage. However, if this is a concern for you, you can seal up the cavities around the two wires of the connector with black silicone sealer.)

      This photo shows the blue plastic piece on connectors – remove and discard:

    6. Remove 1 screw and loosen the other screw of each retainer, swing the retainers out of the way, and remove the bulbs.

      Removal of bulb with one screw loosely holding retainer to headlight assembly:

    7. Plug each harness connector into the proper bulb – make sure the latch of each connector engages.

    8. Carefully clean the glass of each bulb with rubbing alcohol or common glass cleaner (Windex).

    9. One by one, being careful not to get fingerprints or other contamination on the bulbs, install each bulb, ensure that it keys and fully seats in the socket, and secure its retainer with both screws. Tighten both screws only moderately snuggly – just tight enough to pull the retainer screw loops flat against the tops of the screw bosses – don’t overtighten. Be sure harness wires do not interfere with bulbs seating flush into their sockets – the retainer spring force should overcome any harness wire stiffness against the wall of the socket area (bending/shaping of the harness wires will aid in that).

    10. Properly install and secure the headlight assemblies in the vehicle.

    11. Be sure to properly aim the headlights—see here for detailed instructions.