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Old 01-28-2019, 06:23 PM   #1
BayAreaRider
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Default 2002 L300 questions

Hello all, first time posting in this forum. Iím here on behalf of my partner who acquired a mint condition 2002 L300 with 60k miles. Sheís since put on about 20k in the past year and a half and she loves it. Iím actually a little impressed with the quality of the ride, it sits very low and has a nice solid feel to it. I disassembled her doors, used CLD tiles, MLV and CCF to sound deaden and installed 7Ē woofers into the panels with a little fabrication. I also added oversized tweeters in the upper door panels in place of the ďAdvance AudioĒ garbage that came with it. I canít believe that was the upgraded sound system for 2002! Now this thing rocks for sure : )


I just have a few questions about maintenance and the like -

She replaced the gaskets in the heating coil under the dash as it was leaking antifreeze into the car, but refilled with some autozone green antifreeze. Is this going to be a problem? The cooling system was only partially empty when she refilled. I have read about these cars needing dexcool I believe.

I am going to upgrade her headlights, but Iím not sure which direction to go. Iím leaning toward Phillips LED that Iíve had good luck with in my own cars, but am open to other suggestions. Price has never really been an issue, I just like to do things once the right way. Her lights are very dim for some reason but the plastics are crystal clear.

Her brake pedal is pretty stiff. The braking feels heavy so to speak. Previous owner said it has always been this way and felt it was normal. Can anyone weigh in on this? Seems like booster maybe going out but it is still retaining vacuum no matter how long it is parked.

She is coming up on 100k maintenance. What should I be realistically looking to replace? I have done CPS and EGR so far and car has been very reliable.

Thank you for helping me with with this fairly lengthy post!

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Old 01-28-2019, 08:29 PM   #2
Dsaturn
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2001 L-Series 2.2L Sedan
Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

I can help with the coolant issue. Drain it all out, refill with water and a coolant system flush. Follow the direction on the bottle and after you flush it flush it some more with water until it comes out pretty clear.. Green and gold coolant do not mix well and can cause a sludge buildup in the system. Then refill with either just the gold or the green but do not mix them.

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Old 01-28-2019, 08:41 PM   #3
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

100K service interval is fairly substantial.

Spark plugs all need replacing with new plugs, then they will be good for another 100K miles.

Major bit is the timing belt on the V6 which should be changed at 100K. Given where it is, it is economic sense to replace timing belt as a kit, along with the water pump, etc. As they are all in that area it makes sense to replace all these at the same time.

If you have a drivers handbook with the car, it will tell you what needs doing at 100K.

As for the brakes, it might be a useful exercise to check out all 4 calipers for any that may be sticking. You can also check pad wear.

An old car with a low mileage highlights low use. That can be a double edged sword. Cars like to be driven. If they are not parts can and do stiffen, seize and generally begin to expire. Much will depend where the car has lived in its life.

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Old 01-28-2019, 09:44 PM   #4
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

1-No service manual info about mixing coolants so a general guideline may be determined in regards to each coolant formula and whether its compatible with other coolant. Dexcool was GMs introduction to long life antifreeze and a different antifreeze as aluminum engine blocks and cylinder heads required a different coolant for compatibility. Dexcool was the first to be recommended for 5yrs or 150k miles before replacement compared to conventional coolant that was only recommended for either 2yrs/3yrs or 36k miles. Fast forward and all brands are marketing antifreeze for longer life (3yrs +). The problem is mixing with possible incompatible formulas. Reading the labeling is best to be informed while following each coolant manufacturer's advice.

One incorrect but seldom problematic issue is mixing Dex with 3yr coolant. Dex life is shortened to the 3yr life while coolant mix doesn't seem to create issues. If it can be avoided, use only recommended coolant from each auto manufacturer. Second suggestion is to use compatible coolant that's made for the engine. Every engine is either all cast iron, cast iron block with aluminum cylinder heads or all aluminum engine block and cylinder head(s). Coolant is made in consideration to materials used.

If coolant is compatible with Dexcool then by all means use it. Its just easier to stick with one brand. Colors are a good guide. Dexcool is orange/red, Prestone is yellow or green, Blue for Toyota.

2-I made the switch to HID lights for several reasons. They work in my car but they're at full output in drl mode. There's a little more current draw thru the resistor next to the battery but the setup seems to be working for close to two years now. I chose 35 watt HIDs. I don't know if 55 watt HIDs will work. My projectors may have delaminated inside so I'd have to examine them carefully if the HIDs fail in the next few years.

Old style halogens are used in projector light housings to be compatible with GMs daytime running light configuration. The DRL circuitry is complicated as halogens in GMs scheme can be wired in series for drl use then switch back to conventional parallel wiring for full power to each low beam light. HID lights cannot be wired in series so they fail in specific wiring configurations. I found that a specific HID lamp/ballast assembly does work in my '03 L300 with one exception. I retained DRL lighting for the safety aspect while gaining some better lighting at night without blinding anyone. No one in NYC has ever flashed their brights at me so I must be doing some things right. No headlight realignment needed and the same cutoff line remains - the internal cutoff plate ensures blocking off the upper beam pattern from blinding oncoming traffic.

I'm not familiar with LEDs working in projector light housings of our low beam lights. Perhaps you'll have better lighting too.

3-Its strange when mentioning a soft brake pedal. I too suspected this with my L300 but I can't prove any failures since I bought mine used in '05 (12k miles). My only guess is the power assist unit may be slightly undersized to give a softer braking effect. Compared to a Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla, both cars are very sensitive to brake pedal application. I merely touch brakes and they almost lock up immediately. I have to press firmly on my brakes without ever feeling like the car's trying to throw me thru the front windshield. Your descriptions mirrors my thoughts but I'm fine with my brakes. They work and abs reminds me from time to time to slow down some in some unusual road and weather conditions.

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Old 01-29-2019, 02:16 AM   #5
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

Welcome to SaturnFans, BayAreaRider!

floridasl22002 and fdryer, is distilled water recommended whenever water is added to the cooling system on the V6 engine? I'd always thought that was recommended for either engine available in the L-Series cars. (I know that this information is in my owner's handbook and that the introduction of tap water reduces the DexCool long life to that of the original green coolant, 2 years and 36K miles.)

...
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Last edited by pierrot; 01-29-2019 at 02:28 AM..

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Old 01-29-2019, 10:05 AM   #6
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

Pierrot - thank you and glad to meet you guys. Yes it is always recommended because the minerals in non distilled will eventually cause scalining inside of the block, and with enough time and topping off the minerals will build up and cause a blockage or wear out the water pump prematurely. I understand hydronics fairly well as I am a union steamfitter, so I work with these concepts for a living!

Fdryer - so you have the gen 2, do you know if the gen 1 headlights had the same cutoff plate for HIDs? I read your other posts about this and they were very helpful. What is the HID ballast and bulb you figured would work?
Also, youíre saying your pedal is soft?? Hers is very hard. It will lock up if you press it enough but it is not ďtouchyĒ by any means...

Florida & Dsaturn - thanks for the info. Itís time for a change in coolant anyhow as itís probably acidic by now! First think I do with any vehicle I buy is change all fluids, but alas my girl is not as willing to spend the money. I will have to convince her. How hard is it to access the timing belt on the v6? Any idea what is involved in doing the work? I donít have a problem tackling it but I donít have a service manual.

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Old 01-29-2019, 10:27 AM   #7
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by pierrot View Post
Welcome to SaturnFans, BayAreaRider!

floridasl22002 and fdryer, is distilled water recommended whenever water is added to the cooling system on the V6 engine? I'd always thought that was recommended for either engine available in the L-Series cars. (I know that this information is in my owner's handbook and that the introduction of tap water reduces the DexCool long life to that of the original green coolant, 2 years and 36K miles.)
To flush the engine Tap water is fine. When adding to the system on any engine it should be distilled because tap water has minerals that can cause calcium deposits and clog stuff.

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Old 01-29-2019, 10:53 AM   #8
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

Whilst changing out the fluids at the mileage you have is a great idea, DO NOT ignore the need to change the timing belt and ancillaries & water pump. The engine is an interference fit engine like many others. That means the pistons and valves share the same space only at different times. The timing belt manages that timing. If the belt goes, then both components will smash into one another and you will likely have a boat anchor for a car.

If you are not DIY minded or know your limitations and it is a garage job, then seek out some quotes now and start saving. You are probably looking at circa $1000K +/-.

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Old 01-29-2019, 12:30 PM   #9
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

Service manuals suggest using potable water for cooling systems. Manuals do not mention parts of the country have more mineral content in water so distilled water is recommended by word of mouth. In NYC, the upstate water reservoirs are supposedly the best in the country with long water tunnels supplying NYC water. Mineral content is low, probably due to settling thru the tunnels. I've never read or heard of cooling system failures from using drinking water in NYC. Its safe for flushing and make up water although if I remember to, I'll buy a gallon of distilled water when I flush my cooling system with plain water, refill with dexcool and distilled water make up. Afterwards, topping off will usually be from the faucet.

Anyone outside NYC should check their water content for minerals to determine if drinking water is good enough for flushing cooling systems and used as make up water mixed with antifreeze. High mineral content in water suggests using distilled water for flushing cooling systems and for makeup water.

BayAreaRider, the L-series cars may be 3rd generation Saturns - the S-series may be considered 1st, 2nd and 3rd gen cars as they evolved. '91-95, '96-'99, '00'-'02. 2000 models came with body control modules to handle more electronics. The L-series began in 2000 so I think we're 3rd gen owners. Semantics? In any case, when considering major upgrades to low beam headlights, be aware of two things separating conventional headlights from better lighting using hid or led. Three headlight systems are used; conventional halogen lights in reflector light housings, hid lights used exclusively in projector light housings and led lights exclusively used in led light housings. The differences in lighting starts with light housings before considering lamps (halogen, hid, led).

Examine your low beam lights. Conventional low beams using halogen lamps are large diameter light housings. You can see the halogen lamps in the center. Hid lights are much smaller in diameter and their lamps cannot be seen at all, hidden by the small thick lens. Led headlights are neither large nor small. Led lights are several segments with each segment containing its own led lamp. Examine new cars and you'll see a major difference between older round reflector/hid lights and multiple segmented led headlights. Led lights are very narrow beams and cannot work in most light housings. Specifically designed led light housings aim the narrow beam outwards with each led segment aimed a few degrees from each other to create a light pattern. Three different lighting systems, each unique to each other and each lamp incompatible if used outside their specifically designed light housing.

If your low beams are reflector light housings, hid and led lamps will not work despite claims of them being retrofits. Some issues that aren't addressed and denied; hid lamps in reflector light housings become nothing more than high beam lights blinding oncoming traffic. The excuse some use of adjusting their low beams lower can't admit that the extremely bright hid lamps are blinding everyone. Hid lamps are designed for hid light housings. In low beam applications the light housing have a metal cutoff plate on the inside bottom. The convex lens concentrates and refracts lighting. Bottom light inside becomes the upper beam output. Upper light inside becomes the lower beam output. The metal cutoff plate blocks off the bottom light refracted as the upper beam to prevent blinding oncoming traffic. I have projector low beam light housings with the metal cutoff plate inside and took advantage of this to use 35 watt hid lamps. Reflector light housings cannot use hid lamps due to spreading 100% of the beam pattern outwards, creating a high beam light blinding everyone. Led lamps may not work in reflector light housings due to the scattering effect of reflectors not designed to focus led lamps properly compared to specific designs in led light housings to focus each led into a narrow beam.

Some trying leds in retrofits find out lighting isn't as bright, less powerful and lacking in overall improvement. Spotty lighting. Others seem to have found better lighting and may be due to more expensive leds with much higher power, greater lumens to improve overall lighting. No one has admitted to determining whether or not retrofitting leds blinds oncoming traffic. Those that claim zero glare may not be sitting in opposing traffic as their retrofits are coming at them for a subjective test. The same goes for hid lamps retrofitted into reflector light housings. The ones that already aim their low beams lower are tacitly admitting their low beams are effectively high beams but won't acknowledge it.

I researched how hid and led lighting changed and improved lighting and how each is designed specifically with their own light housings for best performance without creating blinding light to oncoming traffic. USA vehicle lighting standards is well behind European lighting. With Europeans crossing borders all the time, they settled on accommodating rules for lighting much quicker so everyone benefits without conflicts. Unfortunately, America has politics driven by agendas interfering with car companies eager to adopt changes in lighting but USA lighting standards fell behind. Retrofits are the consumers way of dealing with changes on their own to improve their night time view. This created the aftermarket supplying every light made and leaves it to diyers to deal with local lighting regulations. I pursued my choices and took advantage of existing components to use hid lamps in my low beam projector lights. I chose conservatively for 35 watt hid lamps. I could have chosen 55 watt hids since stock halogen are 55 watts. The smaller ballasts fit inside each housing and do not seem to over heat. I also presume the projector lens and housing are temperature tolerant of heat whether from 55 watt halogens or 35 watt hids. So far, nothing melted, current draw is about the same so wiring isn't taxed. This was my first attempts to improve night time lighting. 55 watts may be better but chose conservatively. NYC is well lit everywhere. Without street lamps, the hids come into their own with adequate lighting. My costs were less than $75. Other than screws to mount each ballast, the lamps are plug 'n play. The only caveat are the plugs. They're not keyed and can be plugged in reverse polarity. Following red and black connections made it almost bullet proof.

Examine your low beam lights. Are they reflectors and you can see the lamps or are they smaller projectors looking like tiny lights resembling fog lights and lamps cannot be seen from the front lens?

If you search past threads you'll come across several threads describing timing belt replacement, snapshots included.

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Old 01-29-2019, 01:43 PM   #10
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

Ooo ancillaries, I like that lingo. *deposits into word bank*

Iíve rebuilt one engine before when I was younger, wasnít too bad but it was out of the car when I bought it, so itís a whole other story doing it under the hood. After owning and maintaining bmws for the past 6 years Iím pretty much thinking any other vehicle would be a DREAM to work on! Did I mention I donít own bmws anymore?
A grand ainít bad for parts and labor though, Iíll have to price out the water pump and ancillaries though too.

Fdryer- so youíre saying yours came stock with those projector headlights, but they contained halogen? Iíve got to get a closer look at the l300 when I get back from the city tonight.
For what itís worth to future readers, Iíve run Phillips LED in a few cars with great success. Three LEDs for low, three for high in each ďbulbĒ and a nice decently sharp cutoff line. They utilize a cup below the LED low beam to prevent the beam scattering upward. You can see that other single LED designs donít have this feature.

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Old 01-29-2019, 02:39 PM   #11
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

Many use Rock Auto for their parts. If you go on their website you can buy a "timing belt, water pump and component kit". Prices range from $155.00 to $206.00. That should everything you need for that job.

Of course, if you use a garage, they will want to use their parts (may be higher priced for the same thing). The upside of biting the bullet and handing the whole job over to them is WARRANTY. They should warranty the Parts AND Labor. If you supplied the parts, they would not warranty them and if one failed, they may not even do the redo under warranty because of that.

So unless you feel competent to do that whole job, I know what I would do. My son's L300 went into the garage when we bought it 120K miles as the belt had not been changed. As I pick up the tab, I view it as a good insurance.

Forums are littered with folks who ignored changing belts or did a bad DIY job and ended up wrecking the engines. Given the resale value of these orphan cars, a big repair quickly equals junk it.

As for using distilled water. I have no wish to get into that debate. Suffice it to say, you can buy a gallon of purified water from Walmart for 97c. You can also buy a gallon of distilled water from Walmart for 97c. Enough said on that.

IF you are Flushing the cooling system, then use water as it's going in and coming out. Then refill with proper antifreeze coolant. GM recommend Orange Dexcool, so refill with that. There are a couple of folks on the Saturn forum who continue to bang the drum about Deathcool. A good number of years ago, GM had engine issues that had Dexcool. The problem was found and a fix done, but still these people think you will have issues with Dexcool. You will not if you follow changing intervals.

Like with most antifreeze coolants you can buy it either 100% neat and add your own water OR you can buy it pre-mixed. KISS just buy pre-mixed. If you have to add to the level periodically, then you are losing coolant. You can ignore it and add pre-mix or water or find & fix any leak.

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Old 01-29-2019, 03:04 PM   #12
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

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Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Service manuals suggest using potable water for cooling systems. Manuals do not mention parts of the country have more mineral content in water so distilled water is recommended by word of mouth. In NYC, the upstate water reservoirs are supposedly the best in the country with long water tunnels supplying NYC water. Mineral content is low, probably due to settling thru the tunnels. I've never read or heard of cooling system failures from using drinking water in NYC. Its safe for flushing and make up water although if I remember to, I'll buy a gallon of distilled water when I flush my cooling system with plain water, refill with dexcool and distilled water make up. Afterwards, topping off will usually be from the faucet.

Anyone outside NYC should check their water content for minerals to determine if drinking water is good enough for flushing cooling systems and used as make up water mixed with antifreeze. High mineral content in water suggests using distilled water for flushing cooling systems and for makeup water.
When I lived in AZ we used tap water for our Coffee machine, We were wondering why our machine had to replaced about every two months. I took one apart to see a bad build up from Calcium because the water source was from wells with limestone that produces a high calcium content.
Also when looking for a radiator in the junk yards I noticed that 90% of the cars did not have one. I ask about it thinking maybe the junkyard took them out to scrap and they said it was because people used tap water in their cars causing them to clog with calcium. After I bought a new radiator I tore mine apart and it was white with calcium thous the reason it was clogged.
For the 90 cents distilled water cost at walmart I will be on the safe side and use it.

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Old 01-29-2019, 05:41 PM   #13
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

Here's are two extreme cases about mineral content. None about vehicle radiators.

Many have a steamer at home for removing wrinkles from clothing. I repaired one (dumb luck) from a relative. It was already twenty+ years old and became less 'steamy'. A no name brand until it was disassembled. Stanley made, all brass main unit. Somewhere around 1200-1500 watts with a thermal switch to cutoff power if run dry. Heating element and thermal switch was fine. Upon further examination, the solid cast brass unit with one small water feed hole was blocked with white (calcium?) deposits, letting less and less water into the heating chamber. It was obvious that deposits formed over many years of reliable use from heat cycling NYC water. Scraping off this deposit to open the feed hole restored this back to like new condition for another twenty years - great hand me down or until it clogs again in the next twenty years. The feed hole is around 3/8ths inch in diameter.

I have a new tankless heater in my home. Stainless heat exchangers are used and are prone to mineral deposits. I've since learned a secret most plumbers have known until youtube - lime deposits clog heat exchangers and they use commercial deliming or plain distilled vinegar. With NYC water ph neutral@7 and little mineral content, I learned about lime ruining some tankless heaters when all that's needed are a small water pump and two gallons of vinegar to act as a mild alkaline in dissolving deposits. Youtube is spreading this to anyone wishing to save on plumbing costs. Even the tankless manufacturers are spreading the word for anyone capable of twisting shutoff valves with fittings to allow anyone to perform flushing methods acknowledged by all tankless manufacturers.

Boating have their share of lime or calcium deposits in their cooling systems with fresh water feed. They use a commercial product with before and after snapshots of how easy it can be to remove deposits from ruining expensive heat exchangers.

There's always something to learn......

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Old 01-29-2019, 05:51 PM   #14
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

I use water, vinegar and baking soda for my radiator flush. Works as well as store bought stuff without the harsh chemicals.

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Old 01-29-2019, 07:27 PM   #15
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

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Pierrot - thank you and glad to meet you guys. Yes it is always recommended because the minerals in non distilled will eventually cause scalining inside of the block, and with enough time and topping off the minerals will build up and cause a blockage or wear out the water pump prematurely. I understand hydronics fairly well as I am a union steamfitter, so I work with these concepts for a living!

Fdryer - so you have the gen 2, do you know if the gen 1 headlights had the same cutoff plate for HIDs? I read your other posts about this and they were very helpful. What is the HID ballast and bulb you figured would work?
Also, youíre saying your pedal is soft?? Hers is very hard. It will lock up if you press it enough but it is not ďtouchyĒ by any means...

Florida & Dsaturn - thanks for the info. Itís time for a change in coolant anyhow as itís probably acidic by now! First think I do with any vehicle I buy is change all fluids, but alas my girl is not as willing to spend the money. I will have to convince her. How hard is it to access the timing belt on the v6? Any idea what is involved in doing the work? I donít have a problem tackling it but I donít have a service manual.
There is only 1 generation of the Saturn L series and it's a common mistake that you have made. In 2003 Saturn did what's known as a mid cycle refresh. Your 2002 uses reflector headlights and it's highly advised against using led or hid lighting in them. The reflector optics will scatter light everywhere except where you want it. You will blind oncoming traffic no matter how low you aim them. I had this same issue and I retrofitted bi-xenon hid projectors into the reflector housing. The lighting is worlds above stock. This is a pic of the final product.

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Old 01-29-2019, 07:29 PM   #16
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

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...Fdryer- so youíre saying yours came stock with those projector headlights, but they contained halogen? Iíve got to get a closer look at the l300 when I get back from the city tonight.....
Yes, my '03 came with low beam projector lights using halogen lamps. When I searched for info, I came away with unusual info I believe was GMs compromise on adapting European lighting on some L-series that have roots in Europe as Vectras. I don't know anyone in Europe with Vectras and how their lights are configured but I do know how it came to be for the US market. Briefly put, GM wanted daytime running lights using low beam mode and automatically switch them to regular low beam for night driving. I should mention older eyes need more lighting compared to younger eyes.

For '03, DRLs are run with low beams using a big fat ceramic resistor to reduce current with low beams wired in series. For daytime lights, no one notices any dimming of low beams while halogens can run at lower current while remaining bright. This also prolongs halogen lamps since they're running as reduced power during the day. Mine lasted ten years and still worked when I decided to try Sylvania SilverStar lamps. No improvement. The lenses were slightly aged and not cutting down on light output. After SilverStars I decided on searching for a better solution. GM cannot runs hid lamps in drl mode if lamps are wired in series as GM configured drl mode in the L-series - one of the problems many may not understand with series/parallel wiring and hid demanding full power at startup. Hid Ballasts require around three times of starting current then settle down to low running current. GM already use projector light housings for low beams for '03 but cannot use hid lamps while retaining drl mode so they went with halogen lamps. If hid lights are wired in series, each ballast pulls a large amount of starting current to startup hid lamps. One ballast will always get power while the other suffers with usual results - flickering as if the hid light failed. The unique properties of hid lights using ballasts requires them to run in parallel (all lighting runs parallel) wiring mode (never in series mode). The resistor is used only in drl mode/series wiring. When detecting less daylight, drl mode is switched out with parallel wiring running full power to each low beam. I wasn't prepared for experimenting when I decided on hid lighting. The metal cutoff is already in my stock projector light housings so lighting doesn't blind oncoming traffic. Why did GM retain projector light housings and switch to regular reflector housings?

I decided to disconnect the resistor to let the series wired circuit a better chance to run hid lamps. Lights flickered and wouldn't stay on. Manually switching to low beams verified they work. The just won't work in DRL mode. I wanted to retain DRL mode for safer daytime driving. I tried capacitors and one other setup to no avail. Nothing worked until I restored the factory resistor for drl mode. The bcm has electronics monitoring drl mode and sensitive to modifications. To my surprise, removing the suggested caps and any other mods (tech support didn't have an answer and the hid kit wasn't suitable for my configuration, making it difficult for a solution), restoring the resistor made my hid lights work. No flashing drl indicator to alert me of lighting issues. Literally plug 'n play. Factory lighting with zero mods. Just plug 'n play. DRl mode works flawlessly in daytime. Nighttime lighting is automatic too. Nothing changed. I do not know if any hid kit will work but I have one that does. I cannot vouch for other hid kits working in GM low beam drl mode. For others, perhaps giving up drl mode is the price to pay to have hid lights for better night time lighting as long as they're used in projector (not reflector) light housings containing the metal cutoff. There are dual headlight setups that lower the cutoff plate to allow full light output. These are combination low and high beam lights using one HID lamp to serve dual lighting. My guess is European vehicles, none in the USA market.

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Old 01-29-2019, 09:58 PM   #17
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Default Re: 2002 L300 questions

Wow awesome information you guys! You all have been very helpful. Thank you for the pictures too. Iím off to see what I can make of this now. I will make sure to give an update as well of course when we move forward.

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