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80 Series driving light upgrade; sick of terrible lights?

80 Series Land Cruisers have a great reputation for being  a solid, reliable, capable and comfortable 4WD. However, their driving lights have always had a very poor reputation. On mine, high beam was borderline acceptable, but low beam was downright dangerous.

Even with basic halogen spotlights, the difference when flicking from high beam down to low beam for oncoming traffic was a serious concern for me. At night, we rely on a quality set of driving lights and spotlights (or an LED bar) to push through the darkness and identify potential hazards.

If you want to see the rest of the Land Cruiser build, check this out – 80 Series Land Cruiser build for touring Australia.

Denmark at Boat Harbour

Our 80 series Land Cruiser

Luckily, Narva have an off the shelf lighting upgrade, which fitted the bill perfectly. This involves replacing the headlights with new ones, and installing new globes. I’d been meaning to upgrade the spotlights too, and while I was at it decided to grab a 600mm Narva LED light bar.

Why are the light output so poor from the factory headlights?

Sealed lights

There are a couple of reasons for the 80 series headlights being very average. The first is that they are sealed lights, meaning if a globe blows, you have to replace the whole headlight. With this, comes very old technology, reflectors that don’t work too well and globes that aren’t very bright. To top it off, you aren’t able to open it up and swap the globes over. The new Narva reflectors are very obviously better, and the globes used are considerably brighter too.

Wiring voltage drop

As electricity travels through wiring, it can lose some of its voltage. This can be overcome by installing thicker cables. The factory wiring in an 80 series is quite small, and the voltage flow drops considerably by the time it gets to the lights. Ideally, when you measure the voltage at the headlight, it should be close to that of your battery voltage. On the 80 series though, a significant amount is lost as it travels through the wiring. The solution to this is to install an after market wiring loom, and ARB sell these off the shelf. You can build these yourself, but I didn’t want the hassle and opted to get one through ARB.

Buying the new Narva lighting

Narva sell replacement reflectors and globes for your high beam and high/low beam lights. As the 80 run two of each, Narva sell a kit to do either side of your vehicle. I opted to purchase Plus 120 globes too, which are significantly brighter, whilst are still within the legal requirements (I wasn’t going down the HID/LED/higher wattage globe path).

80 Series lighting upgrade

The new products ready to go in

Installing the new lighting

The whole lighting upgrade didn’t take more than a few hours, and is really quite simple. The below photos will guide you through the process.

Firstly, you check you’ve got the right products!

From there, strip the front of the 80 series apart. This involves removing the centre grill, indicators and headlight surrounds.

80 series center grill

Center grill removed

Headlight plastic

Removing the plastic around the headlights

Unpack the new products, and lay them out in the right position. Then, fit the globes into the headlights. This is a very easy process, and the globes are held in my a little metal clip.

80 series Narva globes

The new globe clipped in place

80 series lighting seal

Make sure its sealed properly

Make sure you don’t touch the globes with your fingers, as the oil will ruin the globe.

Narva supply parking lights for their high beam reflectors, but as our 80 doesn’t need it, you simply install the grommet to seal the light.

Old lights vs new Narva

Old vs new

Narva Plus 120 globes

Plus 120 globes

Undo the old headlights, and unplug them. Install the new ones, and plug them back in. On the high beam light, you need to cut the plug off, and join the lighting cable directly to the factory wiring. It’s best to solder this, as on a 4WD the vibrations can easily work a crimped or twisted wired and taped join apart.

Once you’ve done both sides test the lights work as they should!

80 series light upgrade

Check it all works

Reinstall the headlights surrounds, parker lights and front grill, and you are done.

Plus 120 globes

Narva’s Plus 120 globes are a performance globe, and put out 120% more light volume than standard globes. This translates to around 40 metres longer beam, and they use no additional power or heat. When you do a job, you may as well do it properly, so I’ve now got 4 plus 120 globes in the 80, which are great.

Installing the new ARB wiring looms

The wiring loom from ARB took longer than the whole Narva upgrade, but it too wasn’t overly complicated. I made up an aluminium bracket to hold the relays, and bolted it to the body (which under the engine bay is getting very tight!). From there, its a matter of running the wiring to each headlight (which was a bit of fun, but not impossible. The way the wiring works is to take power directly from the battery to the headlights through 4mm cable, so the voltage drop is considerably less. It uses relays and the factory lighting harness to switch the headlights on and off.

Upgraded 80 Series looms

The new ARB wiring looms

Installing the LED light bar

The 600mm light bar (9800 lumens) is built extremely solidly, and looks like a top quality product. It took all of 5 minutes to bolt on, and we used the existing wiring that was set up for the spotlights.

New Narva LED Light Bar

Out with the old and in with the new

The moment of truth – how bright are they?

I was pretty excited to see what sort of difference the new lighting arrangement would make, so we took the 80 to a quiet back street with no street lights. We spent about 20 minutes adjusting the lights, and to say I was blown away would be an understatement. The difference is night and day. The night before, I came out and took photos on a tripod at specific settings. We used the same spot and camera settings, and took new photos, which you can see below.

Low beam Narva upgrade

Low Beam

High beam Narva upgrade

High beam

Narva light upgrade high beam

High beam and the light bar vs the old high beam and 35W Hella spotlights

The light bar throws light out in every direction, and is absolutely awesome for slow speed work. Even on the highway it provides plenty of light to see out front. I know the HID spotlights shine up to 1100 metres in front, but do you really need to see that far?

My overview

If you have an 80 that is struggling to light up the other side of an intersection, the lighting upgrade is totally worth it. I now feel much safer driving at night, knowing that I have a considerably greater time to break or move out the way, should an animal jump in front, or I come up to something on the road that shouldn’t be there.

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