Saab 900 HID Xenon lamps installation

It’s handy when the head of a car magazine is a Saab nut. Such is the case with TotalCar in Hungary. This installation guide was published recently there, and Ivan has worked hard at a translation and gained permission from TotalCar so that I can reproduce it here.
Trollhattan Saab provides no warranty to you about this process. It’s a translation only. You’re all big boys and big girls, OK?
Thanks very much to Ivan for providing an article that I’m sure will be of interest to some 900 owners out there.

HID Xenon light installation DIY

Some blue lighting thing is coming. One light points to the sky but the other one illuminates the ground in front of the car, and I’m getting almost blind: it must be an aftermarket DIY HID xenon kit. I hate it, but really, it’s time to have one for myself.
HID Xenons
HID replacement set for H4 bulbs
Of course, I don’t need HID. The factory installed lights are perfect, especially since the mirror coating has been refurbished and the glass replaced. However, I was still interested and the set I found on Ebay- HID AKA High Intensity Discharge – was affordable, priced at 100 EUR. We can also buy them direct in Hungary nowadays, but I ordered it some time ago and just kept it on the shelf until I brought myself to tinker around with it.
HID Xenons
Electromagnet moves the light source back and forth
My Saab C900 uses H4 bulbs, so I have chosen a bi-xenon set for replacing them. “Bi” means that the low beam and the high beam are both xenon. It’s a little bit deceptive because even thought it is descrived as dual light, there is only one light source and a mechanism moves it.

If you check the normal H4 bulb, you can see that the filament of the high beam is closer to the socket and the low beam (semi-covered by a small metal mask) is further away. My system moves the light source to the direction of the socket using an electromagnet when I turn on the high beam. The proper masking of the low beam is done by the frame around the light source.
HID Xenons
The packaging advises me about the trends of the Chinese…..stuff.
Using the prism of the headlight glass, the aftermarket installed xenon produces 3 times more bright light than my H4 bulbs, by and large with the same projection area. I say, by and large, because what works in theory, doesn’t always work in practice. More on that later.
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The transformer and the light source for one headlight
I opened the box and tried to understand the components. I went about it in a similar manner as to when I buy furniture from IKEA: I tried to do it my way, and read the instructions only in the case of emergency. In this case, the manual was not very detailed so it was obvious that I wasn’t going to read it.
First I thought it’d be better to install the system on a test bench – to avoid any disappointment if the system didn’t work on the car after sitting for so long on the shelf. But in the end I changed my mind. I was too lazy for the double workload so I put all my eggs in one basket and began the real installation.
HID Xenons
I fixed the transformer onto the plastic cap of the headlight
I started on the right side because my battery is located there. The power supply cables were no problem to place there, but the troubles started when I tried to find a place for the transformer in the crowded engine bay. After many unsuccessful trial-and-error attempts, I realized that the best solution was to fix it onto the removable plastic cap of the headlight with some screws, so the cables are also in place and it looks cleaner. I was very satisfied with the results and I needed only 2 screws per light. Drilling of the chassis was not necessary.
HID Xenons
The electric arc is produced by the small gray ball inside the glass tube
The principle of the system is similar to classic neon-tube lighting. A transformer supplies the high ignition voltage (23-35 kVolt) for each lamp. After the electric arc is stable, the voltage is reduced to 80-100 Volts to keep it working. You can not see any filament, there is nothing there. To be more exact, there is a spheric hole filled with some gas. Turning on the electrodes in the ball filled with xenon gas produces an amazing electric arc. Don’t look into it directly without protective glasses!
HID Xenons
Their have the same armature for the socket.
The admixtures injected into the xenon changes the color temperature, defined in Kelvin. The normal bulbs have 3200 K, the xenon sets could have 4300, 6000, 8000, 10,000 or 12,000 K. Increasing the value, the light became more “stuck-up”, to be scientific the red components of the light decrease, while the blue components increase. The higher value is the more blue-ish color, the lower value is the more red-ish one. If we choose high enough the light will be an amazingly bright violet – but it gives you a good chance of being stopped by the police while hardly being able to see the color of the environment during a night drive. I have chosen 6000 K as it is the closest to white. One more interesting fact is while 6000 and 8000 K lights have about 3 times brighter light than the H4, 10-12,000 K have only 2 times more bright intensity. Those lights are more for exhibition than for the roads.
HID Xenons
The old H4 replaced by the xenon
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The small screws are for setting the focus precisely.
After you remove the original H4 bulbs you should install an armature first. The armature is the same as the H4; you should fix it in exactly the same way. This armature has 2 functions: it keeps the xenon light source in place and also masks the low beam light. There are 3 small screws on the supporting tabs. These screws are responsible for setting the focus of the new light so that it is as sharp as the original factory H4. You can see that even one millimeter difference is enough to set it out of the factory designed focus, so our brilliant HID light could be worse than the original.
HID Xenons
I draw a line on the wall as a reference for setting the proper light projection position according to the original
HID Xenons
The cables of the HID are connected to the old socket
I had to install and uninstall the HID “bulb” several times to find the right focus but it’s done at last, I think.
After placing all the cables in their proper place the right light was ready. You should connect the plug of the new cables to the old socket on the right headlight. The system has a separated power cable per transformer with a fuse, the old socket is only for control. It will switch between low and high beam. Of course, don’t forget to set the proper light projection position. Mine was fixed by an instrument originally by the service mechanics so I drew a line on the wall as a reference and I used it to set the light with the xenon.
HID Xenons
With HID…. and with H4
One circuit was complete so I took a deep breath and turned on the light. It started very similar to the factory HID sets, it was weak for several seconds and after half a minute it reached the full intensity. The spectacular leveling of factory HID is missing, of course, because those cheap aftermaket sets are not equipped with it. This is the main concern with these aftermarket installations: without dynamic level setting you could punish others with a dazzling light if your car has a heavy load at the back.
The regulations.
The Hungarian regulations only allow the use of HID lights if the set includes automatic level setting and automatic headlight washing as well. Of course, you can buy such sets but they cost 10 times more, so they are not affordable for most people in Hungary.
Summarized: the installation of HID in Hungary without the automatic self-level setting and automatic headlight washing is officially prohibited. In other countries you need to check your own local regulations. Don’t believe the seller if he tells you that there will be no problem, and don’t wonder if the police will stop you and charge a high penalty. In Hungary they can even order you to have an unscheduled technical re-examination. Of course, you should keep away from the examination if the HID is installed.
HID Xenons
The left transformer have just enough place near to the intercooler
After practicing with the right light installing the left one was routine work. I completed it within two and half hours. The first doubt I had was what the new 3-times-brighter HID light would do with my “as new” refurbished mirrors. They did nothing, due to the HID systems power consumption being less (35 W) than the H4 (55/65 W), they don’t warm up so hot. This means they are easier on the mirrors and they don’t put so much load on the car’s electrical system. It should be noted, too, that you can see more and more 55W HID systems nowadays.
HID Xenons
It’s color changed to white from yellow
The lower power consumption can cause troubles, of course. The electronics used in newer cars (CAN bus, AKA Controller Area Network) are used to check the components, and to warn of any bulb failures. Installing cheap HID kits will result in instant and constant error messages. As a workaround, the warning may could be turned off in the system by an expert mechanic, or better to buy a more state-of-the art HID kit which can “pretend” that it’s a 55W bulb.
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You can check what kind of color temperatures you can buy.
The xenon “bulb” is not as sensitive to temperature changes and is also more “shake-proof” because it doesn’t contain a filament. Its lifetime is 2500 work hours, which means 6 times more than the traditional H4. You don’t have to worry if you reach the 2600 either, as many shops sell parts. Usually you should choose carefully what you buy – it’s worthwhile to find a better quality unit. Don’t choose the cheapest one. It is highly recommended to search for the opinions of those who have installed it already. And you should keep two backup H4 in the car, just in case… you can convert it back within a few minutes.
HID Xenons
LED bulbs for brake light, position light, direction light.
You can modify the rear lights as well. It’s not cheap, though. If you replace all the normal bulbs to LED, you can spend the same (or more) money what you’ll pay for the HID. Those LEDs are faster, especially recommended for brake lights, but practically you can replace all bulbs with the longer lifetime LEDs.
I had problems with the direction indicator lights. Because of the smaller resistance they flash quicker. The proper workaround is to modify the relay, but I tinkered with it by connecting a normal bulb parallel to the LED at the luggage compartment.
The HID is quite new for me, but it seems that my car earns more respect driving in the inner lane of the highway with it. But really, who cares? The important thing is that I did it myself and if I change my mind, I can remove it within half an hour.
A really useless Big Thing (a head-up display) is waiting for installation on my shelf now. Hold on just a little while, the time will come to do it soon!