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Old 11-17-2020, 12:30 AM #1
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Drop-in headlight upgrade?

Wife and I hit an elk one night last week. Rig was nearly totaled so I've been trying to think of what might have prevented it. Compared to the bi-xenons on my Audi, the stock 3rd gen lights are atrocious. I'm convinced we might have seen that elk if we had been in the Audi so I'm looking for ways to upgrade. Are there any drop-in solutions for better lights that don't involve tearing the housings apart?

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Old 11-17-2020, 12:35 AM #2
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Originally Posted by texadelphia View Post
Wife and I hit an elk one night last week. Rig was nearly totaled so I've been trying to think of what might have prevented it. Compared to the bi-xenons on my Audi, the stock 3rd gen lights are atrocious. I'm convinced we might have seen that elk if we had been in the Audi so I'm looking for ways to upgrade. Are there any drop-in solutions for better lights that don't involve tearing the housings apart?

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Nothing but an HID retrofit will give you anything close to the Audi headlights.

www.bxbuilt.com - He does custom retrofits. You can get brand new everything, with the latest Projector tech.
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Old 11-17-2020, 01:05 AM #3
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Originally Posted by shadow247 View Post
Nothing but an HID retrofit will give you anything close to the Audi headlights.

Home | BXBuilt - He does custom retrofits. You can get brand new everything, with the latest Projector tech.
I respectfully disagree. My headlights are amazing and I have halogens at a fraction of the price of retrofits (I'm guessing the OP needs to save his money for some repairs right now).

I've tried a few different combinations and this is what's worked out the best:

New TYC headlights - $80 on Rockauto.com. The old headlights, especially 96-98, lose their ability to reflect light on the road over time. New housings is literally like night and day. Just be sure to adjust the beams after you put them in.

Upgraded wiring harness & 100/80W bulbs - $30. Yes, 100/80W. If you change the wiring setup by adding a pre-made relay harness, it's no longer running the power wire from the headlight stalk in the interior all the way into the engine bay and to both headlights. That wire just become the power wire for the relay with then draws power straight from the battery. No more voltage drop. The harness allows you to safely run 100/80W Hella bulbs. Let's just say I can see everything now with 100W high beams.

Amazon.com: H4 LED Headlight Wiring Harness [Negative Switched Conversion] [Fused] H4 Head Light Relay Harness Kit for 9003 H6054 H5054 H6054LL 6014 6052 6053 Subaru Toyota Head Lights: Automotive

Amazon.com: HELLA (H4 100/80W) 12V Bulb: Automotive

So for $110, you can have fantastic headlights that work better than when the 4Runner was brand new.
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Old 11-17-2020, 01:22 AM #4
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I could be wrong but I feel like your only options for cheap, drop in upgrades are brighter bulbs. Then you run into being that jackass that blinds people with your low beams. If you have the opaque 96-98 lights you could try the 99-02 clear ones?
Lots will recommend retrofitting projectors, but it can be a little pricey and I've heard it's a little tedious your first time around. You can buy them assembled but it'll cost a fair amount more - and be careful who you look at, people like SRQ will convince you they're $1000+ and I would recommend someone like BXB above if you're interested but don't wanna fiddle with them yourself. Regardless, projectors are top of the line when it comes to visibility and there's very good reason why new cars use them as standard. Projecting light is much better than reflecting it. (not to mention the looks, some are straight out of this world)
What was the situation? I personally would recommend some auxiliary lights or maybe a small spot/flood bar, but I don't want to sound ignorant recommending something that using your high beams could've done similarly. Still something to consider, LED bars around 12in in size can be fairly inexpensive (especially compared to big ol 40in flooders) and still throws tons of light. There's plenty of write ups on how to hook up aux lights if you're unfamiliar, it's pretty simple at it's core
Glad to see you're okay. Moose are such stupidly huge animals. First time seeing one was near Spokane and it was a giant bull stuck between the highway, easily twice the size of every car passing by
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Old 11-17-2020, 01:46 AM #5
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Doesn't necessarily have to be cheap, but it does have to be an improvement, and I just don't want to take the housings apart.

I like HIDs for the function but I'd like to keep things looking as stock as possible. Most of the HIDs out there seem out of place to me on a 20 year old car appearance-wise, especially with halos and all the doo-dads. The most basic chrome housing that BXBuilt offers might be an option, but $500 is something I'd need to clear with the boss first.

I like the idea of upgrading the housings, harness and bulbs, if it really improves things. I looked at rockauto and the housings for a '97 are $100/piece. For a '99 they're $40/piece. Did they change to plastic lenses instead of glass or something? Are the '99 housings functionally better than the '97 housings?

We were on a 2 lane highway at night with oncoming traffic so low beam situation. Having auxiliary lights or a bar wouldn't have been an option.
Although we do have plenty of elk closer to where we live which is mostly back roads so something like auxiliary lights might make things better. But again, I'd like to keep things looking stock as much as possible.
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Old 11-17-2020, 02:05 AM #6
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Yeah guess I was assuming your rig was built up, if you're retaining a stock look some fancy HIDs would look a little out of place lol
Do you have a hood scoop? If you want a stock look but some more light, you can try mounting an LED bar behind it.
In regard to oncoming traffic, that's what I figured. Perhaps some brighter bulbs and upgraded wiring like aforementioned would be up your alley. edit: Maybe throw some extra bright ones in the fog lamps to use on a whim
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Old 11-17-2020, 04:16 AM #7
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New housings, OEM(old style) or TYC, plus brighter bulbs, plus the upgrade wiring harness are recommended.
Keep in mind that your original 97 reflectors are yellowed and coated with dust, as mine were. They are probably outputting less than half the amount of light compared to when they were new. I replaced the old 97 headlight assemblies with new OEM '97-style housings. I also use the add-on wiring harness.
The original 97 headlights are universally acknowledged to be at least a bit inferior to the later 99+ headlight design.
Unfortunately, Toyota ran out of OEM 99+ units a few years ago, so you're left with aftermarket 99+ units, like the TYC. The TYC units are very close copies of the OEM 99+ headlights and most users seem satisfied with the quality and the better reflector/lens design.
For a while, you could get Philips 67/60w bulbs, which are a step brighter than the stock 55/60w bulbs, without being 'blasters'. I've had trouble finding the 67/60w units lately---some retailers will sell you packages that say 67/60w on the outside, but inside are standard 60/55w bulbs. I may try the 100/80w bulbs if I can't find the 67/60w bulbs.
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Old 11-17-2020, 11:16 AM #8
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New housings, OEM(old style) or TYC, plus brighter bulbs, plus the upgrade wiring harness are recommended.
Keep in mind that your original 97 reflectors are yellowed and coated with dust, as mine were. They are probably outputting less than half the amount of light compared to when they were new. I replaced the old 97 headlight assemblies with new OEM '97-style housings. I also use the add-on wiring harness.
The original 97 headlights are universally acknowledged to be at least a bit inferior to the later 99+ headlight design.
Unfortunately, Toyota ran out of OEM 99+ units a few years ago, so you're left with aftermarket 99+ units, like the TYC. The TYC units are very close copies of the OEM 99+ headlights and most users seem satisfied with the quality and the better reflector/lens design.
For a while, you could get Philips 67/60w bulbs, which are a step brighter than the stock 55/60w bulbs, without being 'blasters'. I've had trouble finding the 67/60w units lately---some retailers will sell you packages that say 67/60w on the outside, but inside are standard 60/55w bulbs. I may try the 100/80w bulbs if I can't find the 67/60w bulbs.
New OEM '97 style housings look to be about $200/piece. Why they still stock the '97 style but are out of the '99+ style escapes me. I'd prefer to upgrade to the '99+ style but several Amazon reviews indicate that the TYC units have a problem with the position of the bulb shield on the driver's side units. It appears they're using the passenger side bulb shield in the driver's side assembly. I suppose I could roll the dice and see what they look up when they show up and return them if they look off.
Would using 100/80w "blasters" be a problem for oncoming traffic if they're aimed correctly? I don't want to be "that guy" and spend my days getting flashed by oncoming cars.
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Old 11-17-2020, 12:05 PM #9
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The complete '99-02 headlight assemblies are no longer available, but it appears you can still buy the glass housings from Toyota (they ain't cheap, p/n 81130-35320 and 81170-35300) and swap over the rear/adjuster housings. Or just pick up some nice used OEM Toyota '99-02 headlights, they are out there, since they are glass they hold up better than the plastic ones. I got a nice set off FB Marketplace recently for $50.

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Old 11-17-2020, 12:31 PM #10
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The complete '99-02 headlight assemblies are no longer available, but it appears you can still buy the glass housings from Toyota (they ain't cheap, p/n 81130-35320 and 81170-35300) and swap over the rear/adjuster housings. Or just pick up some nice used OEM Toyota '99-02 headlights, they are out there, since they are glass they hold up better than the plastic ones. I got a nice set off FB Marketplace recently for $50.
Interesting. Any idea of these would fit directly in my 97 rear housings? I'm assuming construction/assembly is the same, just different glass and reflectors.
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Old 11-17-2020, 12:55 PM #11
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Looks like it, I looked up the rear housing p/ns '97 vs. '00 and they are the same. (p/n 81105-35231 and 81106-35211) and they appear available too. ($23 each) So even though the complete headlight assys are not available, each individual component seems to be. I could take a couple of photos, I've got a loose pair of headlights if you want.
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Old 11-17-2020, 01:29 PM #12
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Looks like it, I looked up the rear housing p/ns '97 vs. '00 and they are the same. (p/n 81105-35231 and 81106-35211) and they appear available too. ($23 each) So even though the complete headlight assys are not available, each individual component seems to be. I could take a couple of photos, I've got a loose pair of headlights if you want.
Nice. I trust that if the p/ns are the same that they would drop in. I think I might just drop the coin on the new glass and reflectors since I've got a 2000 mile road trip coming up at the beginning of December and I'd rather not wait for something to show up used. Thanks for pointing out that option!
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Old 11-17-2020, 01:51 PM #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shadow247 View Post
Nothing but an HID retrofit will give you anything close to the Audi headlights.

Home | BXBuilt - He does custom retrofits. You can get brand new everything, with the latest Projector tech.
Yes everyone is right replacing the housings/bulbs will be a great improvement over stock but to me the bxbuilt lights are basically the ultimate headlight. It will be close to as good as your Audi headlights imo. Definitely going to be one of my next upgrades. If you wait for Black Friday I bet they will have a decent sale. My .02...
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Old 11-17-2020, 02:28 PM #14
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Yes everyone is right replacing the housings/bulbs will be a great improvement over stock but to me the bxbuilt lights are basically the ultimate headlight. It will be close to as good as your Audi headlights imo. Definitely going to be one of my next upgrades. If you wait for Black Friday I bet they will have a decent sale. My .02...
I don't doubt this one bit. I think the updated housings and bulbs will get me to a better place without altering the stock look and saving some money though. If I'm not happy with it, maybe I'll bite the bullet and install one of BXBuilt's DIY upgrade kits in the '99+ housings.
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Old 11-17-2020, 02:52 PM #15
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Is upgrading the bulbs and housings going to mess with the cutoff similar to an LED bulb swap and blind oncoming traffic? From what I can tell the HID retrofits have a cleaner cutoff than the reflectors. Found my answer: Why LEDs should not be run in Halogen reflectors | Tacoma World
Also, is there a high beam with the HIDs? My Audi had a solenoid actuated shield that blocked part of the projector for low beams. I'm guessing the retrofits don't have that.
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