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Old 11-26-2017, 11:15 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Question White powdery film inside headlight enclosure

My 2010 Insight has an issue with clouding on the inside of the headlight enclosure. I did the whole process of taking the bumper off, removing the headlight enclosure, heating it in the oven to open it, cleaned it, sealed it, and reinstalled it. When I got it open, I realized that it wasn't just moisture, it was a film of a white powdery substance that was coating the plastic inside. It had a strong chemical/metal smell too. I also realized that it looked as if it was being sprayed into the headlight enclosure through the air vent at the top, rear of the headlight enclosure, sort of like a can of spray paint spraying in. It seems like it must be something in the engine compartment outgassing into the headlight enclosure.

I cleaned it out as I said, reinstalled everything, and within a week that white film was coming back and over the course of the next few weeks I watched it spread from the point right in front of that air vent to a large portion of the headlight enclosure as it was before.

Any ideas on what this white film could be from? I've searched everywhere and almost all I can find is people talking about moisture inside the headlight enclosure. I know what that looks like because my old car had that, but this is very different. Also, it's very difficult to look inside the engine compartment back where that part of the headlight enclosure is. I'm tempted to either clean it again and seal that air vent (but then if I DO get moisture in there it will be stuck) or take it to my local dealership to see if they can figure it out because I know if I spend the hours to clean it out, that film will just be right back again.

Images attached.
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File Type: jpg IMG_20171126_104740607 (1).jpg (289.7 KB, 31 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_20171126_104806086.jpg (284.2 KB, 33 views)

Last edited by travisd05; 11-26-2017 at 11:18 AM.
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Old 11-29-2017, 10:20 PM   #2 (permalink)
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This powder metal dusting of the reflector of a headlight.
You need to change the reflector or change the headlamp housing.
What kind of headlights are there? (diodes, halogen, xenon)
If the lamps are replaced with a different type, the reflector may overheat.
Can I get a photo of the reflector?
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Last edited by gms24ru; 11-29-2017 at 11:49 PM.
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Old 11-30-2017, 11:03 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gms24ru View Post
This powder metal dusting of the reflector of a headlight.
You need to change the reflector or change the headlamp housing.
What kind of headlights are there? (diodes, halogen, xenon)
If the lamps are replaced with a different type, the reflector may overheat.
Can I get a photo of the reflector?

Thanks for this idea. I hadn't thought of that possibility.
I'm just using standard halogens bulbs that I picked up at a local auto parts store. Nothing fancy. Are there particular headlight bulbs I should use or avoid?

I'll try to remember to take a picture of the reflector when I get home from work today.

The weird thing is that the white powdery film starts at the top right of the light and radiates out from there over time (see the attached picture with approximate location drawn in). As I said in my original post, I cleaned it all out and watched it start in approximately that location and grow worse and worse over time. I also noticed when I opened it up that there was a manufactured hole through the back of the headlight enclosure in that location that I assume is to allow moisture to escape. That hole was totally caked with the material and it's in the same approximate location as where the film starts to grow from on the plastic enclosure. That caused me to believe that the white stuff was coming in through that hole, but maybe not?

I wouldn't really mind replacing the whole headlight enclosure, but I don't want to do that and then have the problem happen again if it's something coming in through that hole from the engine compartment. I also had my car battery (not the hybrid battery) replaced after the my previous one died and I think that's around the same location in the car at this headlight. I didn't know if that could be leaking somehow and getting into the headlight enclosure.
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Old 11-30-2017, 05:03 PM   #4 (permalink)
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This looks like it was spread by heat, as if something evaporated from the bulb.
First thing I'd do is remove the lamp and poke a stick with a pad or towel through the hole to see if the glass can be cleaned.

The lamps themselves need to be absolutely clean when you insert them; use tissues and acetone if in doubt.
If it had a smear of anything on it, a fingerprint even, or something inside the housing came loose to rest against it it may fail like yours.

Halogens get hotter than HIDs or LEDs. Even so, HIDs need to be as clean as halogens anyway; still scalding, and fingerprints do burn in on the glass.

LEDs don't get very hot at all under normal conditions, but if they do overheat they may create a mess (most just fail without outward sign though).
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Old 12-01-2017, 10:36 AM   #5 (permalink)
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It looks like it's definitely something with the headlight fixture itself. I took some more pictures last night (see attached). I could see that there are chunks of the white stuff at the base of the headlight projector lens, and right above that lens is where the deposit started on the enclosure. I also took the bulb out and saw that there's white powder on the glass of the bulb itself. That can't be good. It seems like it would definitely be coming from behind that lens if it's even on the bulb itself.

I bought this car in 2014 and I don't think I've ever changed this bulb. I've changed the daytime running light/bright bulb, but not the regular headlight. Maybe the bulb is nearing its end of life and creating too much heat?

It looks like I'm going to just buy a new headlight assembly and replace the bulbs while I'm at it. I think that's about all I can do at this point since cleaning it out is more work than replacing the whole thing and it doesn't seem to have lasting effects.
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Old 12-01-2017, 10:46 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Has this car ever been wrecked? I'm wondering if the headlight was replaced at some point with an aftermarket one that can't take the heat.

Sam
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Old 12-01-2017, 10:50 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Has this car ever been wrecked? I'm wondering if the headlight was replaced at some point with an aftermarket one that can't take the heat.

Sam
Honestly, I wonder the same thing. It's a 2010 and I bought it used in 2014 from a small dealership. There wasn't a wreck on the CARFAX report, but that doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't in a wreck. Another bit of evidence is that the hood seems to be a slightly different shade of white compared with the rest of the car. I've wondered if that's been replaced with a knock-off due to the color difference.
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Old 12-01-2017, 03:47 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Did you look at the other bulb, is that one still clean?

Can you see the wattage of the lamp? Chances are the PO replaced the standard 55W halogens with more powerful ones, but those then get hotter than the lamp unit was designed for.

If you want to be safe heat wise go with a 35 Watt HID kit. HIDs produce way more light at a lower wattage; also, because more energy goes into light, less heat is produced; a 55 Watt halogen bulb produces maybe 52 Watt of heat, a 35 Watt HID will produce 5 times as much light per Watt, so there rests only about 26 Watt of heat; just half the heat a halogen lamp produces.

Some of the heat is radiated out though. If you put your hand in the beam of a halogen lamp close to the unit you will feel the heat. Do the same with a much brighter HID beam, hardly any heat at all in that.
In winter snow builds up on the lamp housing even when lit. Less so with halogens...
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Old 12-01-2017, 04:18 PM   #9 (permalink)
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There's no problem with the daytime running light/brights on the driver's side (where the white buildup issue is located) if that's what you mean. And everything is perfectly fine on the passenger's side of the car.

I'll definitely check out the wattage to see if it's the right bulb in there. If so, I might look into the HIDs to see if that will fix the issue with the cooler bulb. Thanks to everyone for all of the insights!
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Old 07-16-2018, 09:26 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Just an update on this post in case someone else finds it and wants to see the conclusion. Today, I finally went to a junkyard and got a used headlight assembly to replace the one on the car. When I took the old one off, I noticed that the headlight reflector cup was completely disintegrating. That's where the white powdery stuff was coming from. I'm not sure why this happened. I checked the bulb and it was the proper type of bulb to be in there. I do have a suspicion that my car was in an accident before I bought it (one bit of evidence is that the hood is a very slightly different color of white than the rest of the car), so maybe the assembly was replaced with a knock-off. Anyway, below are some pictures of the back of the reflector cup where you can see it falling apart and then a front picture of the headlight assembly when I took it off.
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File Type: jpg IMG_20180716_154333423.jpg (114.9 KB, 12 views)
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