Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lights At The End Of The Tunnel: Restoring an original SEELITE sealed beam headlight

As I was rummaging through my supply parts boxes, I came across two sets of original SEELITE headlight bulbs.  One set was from my GPW and the second set was from one of the parts jeeps in the yard.  Well, since I do not have a working set of 6-volt headlights, I figured now would be the opportune time to try to undo the sealed beam frame and replace the internal bulb.  Originally, these headlights were meant to be discarded upon burning out.  That was back in 1944 and the supplies were virtually unlimited.  In 2012, however, nothing gets tossed (in the jeep world, at least) and I might as well "give it a go".  I chose the bulb that was in the worse condition of the four...just in case...
Step one, is to flip the bulb over and remember which way is up!  The next step would be to cut the outer edge of the frame.  In my case, the frame had already separated, due to rust, at the bottom edge.  At this point, I just needed to gently coax the frame off of the perimeter.  There is one spot that has a clip that sits in the outer frame.  Simply (I use it loosely), pull the frame away from the clip.
Front.  See that SEELITE on the bottom?!

Backside.  The "top" as actually at the 3 o'clock position. 
You can read "Corcoran Brown" on the outside edge of the frame starting at the 5 o'clock position.
Rust had already separated the frame near 9 o'clock.

Frame is off.

The glass lense practically fell out.

The old bulb was soldered in place.  Patience and heat removed it.
 It took a bit of research to figure out what style/type of bulb was needed to replace the original AND that would plug into the headlight wire harness.  The sour part is most local auto part stores do not carry 6-volt stuff, much less the unique style of plug needed.  I kinded of thought/guessed/hoped that the bulb I needed was labeled P45t (or P45t41).  I will be the first and foremost to admit that I cannot read,nor understand lightbulb charts!!  Next off, I had to find a place that sells them.  Although I found the bulb available in the US, I ended up sourcing the bulb from a company in England.  Amazingly with the price of the pound AND shipping, it was still more *economical to buy them overseas!  (*if I was to buy more than one AND it was, indeed, the correct fitting lamp!)  If somebody finds them cheaper, let me know!
The new bulb (R) and the original bulb (L). 
The new bulb needs a bit of trimming to give it a chance of fitting.
 I used a dremel cut-off disc to cut most of the skirt away from the bulb.  When it got too close for comfort at the base, I used some cutting pliers to do the rest.  It was kind of like rolling open a can of sardines.  I think the skirt was actually soldered to the base. 
Now, with the new bulb standing bare, it still will not fit into the old matter how much I filed it down.  If I remember correctly, the base was 20.93 (give or take) mm wide.  The original hole was smaller.  I clipped four spots in the round edge and then chose a socket that was very close to the same diameter of the bulb.  The socket (15 mm socket) was then pressed through the opening, expanding it.  The opening was still a tad too small, so I placed the socket back back into the opening and wiggled it around with a screwdriver.
Pressing the socket through.  I thnk my closest socket was 20.76 mm.

At this point, I stuck a screwdriver through the socket and wiggled it 360 degrees to slightly open it.

New bulb slid right into place...reminiscent of socks on a rooster!

New bulb soldered. 
Before soldering, I checked the depth of the bulb to make sure it was suitable with the glass lense.  Also, it looked like there was some sort of detoriated gasket between the lense and the shell.  I smeared a thin bead of permatex #2 around the perimeter to help seal the two, as well as hold the lense in position during final assembly.

Ideally, I would have preferred to use solder to seal the rust-through area.  However, the gap was too wide for my amateur soldering skills, so I opted for a bit of JB Weld.  Same difference, I guess.  The scar will not be visible when the light is in the bucket.

Old rust-through spot is sealed with JB Weld.
 I placed the bulb in a pair of clamps that held it in place over night so the epoxy could set.
Bulb installed and tests A-OK!  The headlight buckets are on hinges that flip upwards so if the GI is making a repair at night, he can use the jeep to light up the engine bay.
Now multiply this by FOUR and I'll have all of the SEELITES done!  For now, I'll just do one more and have this jeep done.  The other two will be saved for a rainy day next year.

 And as a bonus feature, Nora and I changed out the old 12-volt bulbs from the blackout marker lights and installed new 6-volt #63 bulbs.  The springs on the back of the housing wire has lost a bit of their "oompf" so I built up the soulder tip on the bulb so it would make a better connection...although I do not plan on using these to drive!
Nora is putting the final touches on the marker light cover.

Jack is at school full time, so I need to start training another assistant.  She appears to be glowing. 
That is not an angelic light, but rather the humidity playing games with the camera's lense.
This is mainly my reference for future replacements, but read on if interested!

6- volt bulbs used:

Headlights-       P45t
Marker lights-  #63
Dash lights-     #51

I didn't post anything about the dashboard lights, but what I did was A LOT of sanding with a dremel wire brush (and a dab of solder on one bucket) in order to get a REALLY GOOD GROUND to the tub.  That is the secret with those guys:  make sure you have a bare metal touching at all of the connecting points of the small dashlight housings.  And now they, too, work!

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