1999 Ford Ka Headlight Valve Repair

One of the nasty things about a car accident, assuming people haven't been directly injured, is the amount of niggling damage left to your car that insurance should cover and fix but often gets missed. In my case, because the other party ran a orange turning red light, I got very lucky that I didn't proceed particularly quickly into the intersection. That meant the bulk of the damage was concentrated on the front of the car rather than coming through my drivers door. In the end most of the damage was to the front bumper and it ended up being a bit of a protracted process because despite admitting fault on the day that admission was subsequently retracted and an attempt was made to shift the blame to me. Perhaps the most shocking bit was that I had been nice and deliberately not involved the Police because he had admitted fault only to find at the Disputes Tribunal hearing that he had gone to the police that same day in attempt to put the blame on me and in particular to see if I had a driving record that would let him do that. Lesson from all this, admissions of guilt are largely meaningless even if you get your insurance company to record them - it is far better to simply involved the police from the get go.

So with the bulk of the damage repaired under insurance one of the units not replaced was my front right headlight assembly. Having only recently had the headlights replaced with newer Xenon ones I was pretty happy about that and the unit itself looked to be in pretty good condition. Because the impact ended up being a T-bone one the bulk of the stress inflicted on my car was right down the vertical frame in the direction of normal travel. There some little lateral twisting to the passenger side but that was by far the weaker component - thanks mostly to my car being lighter and actually shunting sideways around a bit. But while the headlights still functioned it seems they didn't escape entirely without damage. Once we had some rain I began to notice moisture clouding up the unit. What with my warrent of fitness inspection rapidly coming up I needed to deal with this as it would cause the inspect to fail. Having seen my headlight trying to function with the moisture in it I can definitely see why - the beam is scattered immediately and barely has any reach effectively turning the car into a single headlamp one for night driving.

Fogged headlight and initial bumper opening. So I figured given that the unit was pretty undamaged when externally inspected it probably was a seal failiure that would be pretty straight forward to fix. Checking online I could see the advice was that the bumper would have to be removed but it was otherwise a straightforward task. Having now done it I can agree with that with a proviso - the bumper coming off is definitely important but needs to be done the right way which they don't mention. Also while the bulk of the screws holding the bumper together are phillips head there is one that is a hex indentation head just to be different. Using a multi-head ratchet screwdriver is advised and a good torsion wrench is wanted for unscrewing the bolts.

Final fixing screw for the bumper. I started with the central plastic bumper piece and removing the screws from it and I suggest not doing that. It turns out the bumper effectively 'peels' off and this is easiest to accomplish by starting at the fixing screw - this is placed at the end of the bumper peice nearest the doors. Unscrew this first and then start unpeeling the bumper to the front corner of the car. Then our friendly hex indentation screw comes into play - it links the two bumper pieces to the corner of the metal frame of the car right down at the bottom of the corner. Unscrew it a little, but not out and you should be able to loosen the bumper right up to the seam with the central bumper piece. Next comes the fixing screws for the central bumper. These are all Phillips heads from here on it. There are three in plain sight up at the top of the plastic fixing it to the metal frame. Two lurk underneath the bumper below where the license plate is mounted. Finally you need to remove the two fixing screws for the plate to get at the sixth mounting screw hidden centrally behind the license plate. Now you should be able to unpeel the bumper enought to drop it down to let you get at the headlamp. In my case I disconnected the two pieces of the bumper - mostly because I made the mistake of starting at the central bumper and working back. If you do that you will quickly discover that you have to pull the side bumper peice off when it comes to reconnect it all.

It turns out the two pieces are locked together with a key piece which slides up and over locking teeth on the inside of both the central bumper and the side bumper. To do this sliding you have to have the side bumper off entirely - it is impossible otherwise. This is why I suggest starting with peeling the side piece.

Closeup of the third hidden bolt behind the bumper. You can see in this shot the third bolt that is hidden behind the bumper. These come off nice and easily with a torsion wrench but unplug the indicator bulb first while the unit is still firmly mounted. This can be laid on the metal frame where the central bumper piece was which keeps it out of the way for the time being. With the three bolts off the headlamp will come free and you can start to pull it out - the main lamp connector still needs to be unplugged so wiggle it forward a little and then unplug that. The whole unit then slides out and being plastic it is pretty light. I then spent a good three quarters of an hour using a hair drier to blow warm air through the unit to get the moisture out. A quick roll first to collect the moisture droplets together and pouring them out is worth doing to. To give the air a path through the unit I popped the covering cap behind the main bulb off and I was glad I did. I got the headlamps replaced by an auto-electrician a while back because it looked like being a bit of an arse to get them in without removing the headlight completely. And it was an arse as the electrician commented - the car has not been designed with replacing the bulb in situ at all. But in replacing the cap he trapped one set of the wires and was crimping them - which probably would disconnect that wire over time as the vibration of movement moved the cap around.

Once the water was finally out (and remember not to get too hot with the hairdryer, it is only plastic thus can melt.) and some automotive seal is applied it becomes pretty much this procedure in reverse. So relink the main lamp connector, slide the headlight back in, fix it in place with the bolts then put the indicator bulb back in. It is better to do that before remounting the bumper as you have more finger room and it does fit quite snuggly requiring a bit of finger pressure and leverage to place. If you have kept the bumper all linked together then it simply is screwing the central piece back on, fit the hex indentation screw back into is clip point on the corner of the metal frame and clip the side piece back on. Last screw to go in for the bumper is that final fixing screw down near the front of the door. Don't forget your license plate and job done. As you can see from the final shot below.

Seeing the mounting frame for the headlight. Reassembled once again.

All in all this was indeed a nice simple job to do. Much easier than my last one of replacing the heater control valve. The one thing I can't understand is why that one screw is a hex indentation when everything else is a phillips screw. It isn't like it is the key locking screw that stops people from getting easy access to the bumper. If it was intended to do that it would make more sense to be the fixing screw at the end of the side bumper piece. It just seems to be a slightly weird choice for no good reason. It doesn't help that this particular screw is down pretty low to the ground so clearance for the screwdriver I was using was not particularly great. Still now the wait begins for a bit of rain to check that I have actually managed to seal the unit properly.

Philip R. Banks
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