by Hib Halverson
Since 2014, Corvettes have been equipped with headlights, brake lights, directional signals and daytime running lights (DRL) which use light emitting diodes (LED) as light sources.
An LED is an electroluminescent semiconductor that emits photons–the atomic particles which make up light–when an electric current is passed through it. The semiconductor has two parts: “N” and “P”. N material has extra electrons and P material has a shortage of electrons or “electron holes”. When a current is applied. The holes cross the junction between N- and P-type semiconductors and are filled with free electrons. In the process, light is emitted.
LEDs are “solid-state” lighting devices, distinguishing them from other automotive lighting such as incandescent bulbs or high intensity discharge (HID) bulbs. In the last decade, LEDs have gained wide acceptance by the automotive industry because of their brightness, color, temperature, efficiency, durability, versatility, and cost.
C7 and C8 Corvette LED lighting is distinctive because of its brightness. Why so bright? It’s their high “lumen-per-watt” output, meaning they produce significantly more light for the amount of power they consume. An LED bulb with power consumption equal that of an incandescent headlight bulb, used by all 1953-2004s and 2005-2013 high beams, would put out about 35 times as much light. Obviously, a 3500% brighter headlight would be unnecessary, so LED arrays are engineered to consume less power and about the same brightness rather than being total overkill. Additionally, their color is less yellow and more whitish. Finally, this lumen-per-watt advantage is also true of the HID bulbs, used in 2005-2013 low-beams.
So, if LEDs are so cool, how can we put them on those “old fashioned” 2005-2013 C6 Corvettes? These days, popular aftermarket lighting products are LED headlight bulbs that are “plug-and-play” replacements for incandescent bulbs, and in fact replacement LED bulbs are available for the C6’s H9 incandescent, high-beam bulbs. However, there can be problems with simple bulb conversions. Some replacement LED bulbs are not optically compatible with the reflectors or projectors into which they are installed because the light emitting diode array is not in the same position in space as was the filament in the bulb it replaces. If the geometry of the light source and the reflector/projector are not correct, the “down road” light the headlight puts out might be diffused or improperly aimed. If that happens, its ability to light your way will be degraded. Other LED bulbs, such as those one might use for turning signals, have a problem with rapid flashing if the car’s directional signal circuitry is not modified.
Another problem: While LEDs do not emit infrared radiation and, thus, run cooler than do conventional bulbs; heat is still produced by current flowing through the diodes. The hotter an LED becomes, the less light it puts out, so virtually all plug-and-play LED bulb conversions have a heat sink on the back of the bulb and a few even have cooing fans. That makes them longer than stock bulbs. That extra length prevents installation of the dust cover which goes over the high-beam bulb access port in a C6’s head light assembly. Leave that dust cover off and your head light assemblies ingest dust which is a bad thing because it’s nearly impossible to clean the interior of a C6 head light assembly.
The solution is an aftermarket LED headlight assembly rather than just bulb conversions. Zip Products has just the thing for C6 owners wanting to take that step. The Morimoto XB LED Headlights for the 2005-2013 Corvette replaces both stock headlight assemblies with new headlight units.
Zip’s LED headlight upgrade for the C6 is designed and manufactured by Morimoto, an Atlanta-based supplier of aftermarket lighting products. Each has a single LED projector replacing the stock C6’s HID low-beam and incandescent high-beam bulbs. The projector’s low beam is enabled by a “cut-off shield” which moves partially into the light beam cutting off the upper part of the beam which causes glare to oncoming drivers. When the driver goes to high-beam, the shield retracts and the projector’s full “down-road” light is available.
Additionally, besides the low- and high-beam LED projector, Morimoto designed its “XB LED Headlight” unit for 2005-2013 Corvettes with three other visually distinctive features. The first is a “hockey stick” LED daytime running light, the style of which was inspired by the C7’s DRLs. The second dims the DRL for use as a nighttime parking light. The third is an array of six yellow LEDs that serve as a turn signal. The array’s operation is user-selectable for sequential or all-at-once flashing.
All this is in a headlight module which bolts into stock C6 headlight mounts and is capped with an OEM-grade, polycarbonate lens that has a five-year warranty for cracking and yellowing. According to Morimoto, these headlight assemblies meet or exceed SAE lighting standards as well as meeting US DOT regulations and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 108 which regulates lighting for vehicles sold in the United States.
So…why spend the $1470 to install LED headlights in your C6? For one thing, it personalizes your Corvette by making its DRLs and turn signals much more distinctive. The upgrade also enhances night driving because of the LED projector’s less yellow and more white down-road lighting improves clarity. Finally, it solves a couple of problems with the stock C6 headlight assemblies.
First, there can be a durability problem with the reflective “projector bowl” surrounding the stock low-beam HID bulbs. “The chrome deteriorates overtime. This primarily applies to the HID low beam. The chrome does not flake or fall off, it just fades away and loses its reflectiveness,” John Tobias, spokesperson for Morimoto, told us.
Second, a combination of age and UV radiation from sunlight may cause the lenses on stock C6 headlight to turn a hazy, yellowish-brown. New C6 headlight assemblies are no longer available, so if your light lenses are hazed, you have four choices: 1) “refinish” your lenses with one of the DIY “repair kits” available, 2) replace the lenses, 3) send your light assemblies to Zip for their 2005-2013 Corvette Headlight Lens Replacement Service or, the ultimate solution for C6 headlight woes, 4) the Morimoto conversion. Avoid the first choice. We have used those repair kits on GM clear-plastic-covered headlight assemblies. While the procedure may remove yellow haze and restores transparency to the lens, the repair is not durable with the “restored” lens turning yellow and hazy again in a year or so. The second choice, a DIY lens replacement, is a tough job. The least expensive easy option is Zip’s lens replacement service which runs 600 bucks plus shipping. Follow the instructions in this article to remove light assemblies, then see the Zip Products web site for further information.
The best choice of all is to convert your C6 to Morimoto XB headlights from Zip if you want to rid yourself of hazy headlights, and upgrade the DRL appearance and night driving safety.
01: To that end, drive the front wheels up on ramps to raise the front end enough to get a floor jack under a C6 to lift on a front cradle crossmember. Set the parking brake, then loosen the front wheel nuts.
02: Jack up the front. Install Zip Products jacking pucks (PN X-1107 for C6 except ZO6 and ZR1 or PN X-3197 for ZO6/ZR1) in the front frame slots. Position jack stands under the pucks, then lower the front end onto the stands. If the car has carbon-ceramic brakes, to prevent damage to the edges of the CCM discs, install either GM brake disc protectors or wheel stud guides of the appropriate length. Now, remove wheel nuts and pull the wheels. Finally, disconnect the negative battery cable.
03: Get the air dam or splitter off. If the car has the “base” three-piece air dam, only the two outer panels need to be removed. Remove the three screws (1) behind each panel, remove a plastic retainer (2) in front of each panel then pull off the two pieces.
04: Early ZO6’s, later ZO6’s without ZO7 and Grand Sports have a one-piece front air dam (2) held on with 11 screws (1).
05: The 2012 ZO6/ZO7 we used for photography has an aftermarket front splitter, however, most C6’s with splitters will have stock parts. Splitters (2) are one piece, held with 13 screws (1, 2). In both cases, remove all the screws then remove the splitter. Aftermarket front splitters vary in design. Ours has an under-tray which must be removed first, followed by the splitter itself, and attached in a manner like production pieces.
06: On cars with splitters, remove the two front brake cooling ducts, each of which are held to the bottom of the front fascia by two screws and to the front frame rails by a bolt.
07: The front parts of the inner fenders have an extension (3) under the front fascia. Both these panels must be removed. They are held by two bolts (1), a “free spinning washer nut” (or “spin nut”) (2).
08: Next, remove the inner fender panel which is held by plastic retainers and screws. It’s easy to unlock the retainers with a tool such has shown above. Just pry gently until the center pops out then grasp edges with your finger and wiggle it out.
09: Remove the flexible cover over the headlight service access hole. It uses the same plastic retainers as the inner fender panel.
10: Once you remove those panels, unplug the fog light wiring then remove the front marker light bulbs by twisting to separate the bulb sockets from the marker light housings.
11: Now comes front fascia removal. First, remove the “Christmas tree” fasteners (1) holding the fascia extension to radiator cooling air duct.
12: Remove three screws and two bolts from the bottom of the fascia.
13: Remove the remaining three bolts holding the cooling air baffle to the fascia then remove the baffle.
14: On the inside of the fascia at the top rear of each side, remove four spin nuts which hold the outer corners of the fascia to the fenders.
15: The front fascia snaps onto two “posts” located at the front of each fender. Use a plastic wedge or prybar to apply upward pressure on the fascia such that it pops away from the fender.
16: Remove the four upper fascia screws which attach the top of the fascia to plastic bracket attached to the top of the front bumper beam.
17: Apply blue painter’s tape to the front, lower edge of the front fenders and to the top upper edge of the fascia to protect the paint during the fascia removal process.
18: To remove the front fascia, pull it forward and upward to get it off. Store it where it won’t get scratched. One person can get the fascia off, but the job is easier with a second pair of hands.
19: Remove the three spin nuts holding the bottom of each headlight assembly to the inner fender. These are unique because of their larger diameter washers. Set them aside so they don’t get mixed with the other spin nuts with smaller washers.
20: Disconnect the headlight wiring harnesses. The five-pin connector has a lock on it. To unlock you must use a small screwdriver or other appropriate tool to depress the lock tang. Slide the lock out then pull the connector apart.
21: Starting from the front, remove the seven torx screws holding the top, inside edge of each fender to the front underbody structure.
22: Remove the two spin nuts holding the lower front of the front fenders to the front fender mounts.
23: To remove each headlight assembly, lift the front corner of each fender up about two inches. Then, lift the headlight unit upward to release its mounting studs from the mount. Once the studs clear the mount, then pull it forward for removal.
24: Each mounting stud on a stock C6 headlight has an integral flat washer. Additionally, some lights have shims installed after the washers. The washers and shims determine the headlight’s height in relation to the surrounding bodywork. Since the headlight mounts are installed on each frame rail with an adhesive the shims also compensate for car-to-car differences in the positioning of the mounts. While all the mounting studs have the thick washers, the number of shims varies by location on the light assembly and on which side of the car the light mounts. The mounting studs Morimoto furnishes have no washers or shims. As a result, once installed, they will be positioned too low in the bodywork.
25: The mounting studs with washers and, if equipped, shims, must be transferred from the stock headlight units to the Morimoto lights.
26: “Double nut” the studs in the replacement lights then extract them. Using the double-nut procedure, install the studs with washers from the stock lights into the replacement lights. If any of the stud/washer combinations also have shims, the stud/washer/shim assemblies must be installed on the correct replacement light (i.e. left-hand or right-hand) and in the same position on the replacement lights as they were on the stock lights.
27: Before putting the new lights in place, we suggest washing or blowing the mounting platforms clean with shop air so the surface where the headlight sits is clear of dirt or other debris.
28: Put the new light assemblies into their mounts by lifting the front of the fender up about two inches, pushing the light into place such that its mounting studs drop into the holes in the headlight mount. At this time, do not install any spin nuts into the mounting studs because, as the rest of the installation proceeds, you may need to temporarily lift the light up a bit or reposition it forward, backward or sideways. Morimoto ships these lights with the lens covered by a static-cling film intended to prevent damage during shipping and pre-installation handing. We suggest leaving the film in place until after the front fascia is back in place. The film can be peeled off and reapplied if necessary.
29: You can clearly see why you must transfer the stock mounting stud assemblies from the stock lights to the Morimoto lights from Zip. There is about a quarter inch of washer and shims on that stud at the right rear of the driver-side light. Without them, the right rear corner of that that light would sit too low to the surrounding bodywork. The passenger side light had less shims.
30: The new lights have resistor modules which Morimoto installs into their wiring harnesses to prevent the directional signal arrays from flashing too fast.
31: They can be screwed in place, attached with zip-ties or bonded with adhesive tape. We applied an inch-and-a-half of “Alien Tape” to the back of each module and stuck them on a vertical surface underneath the headlight mounts. Join the five-pin headlight harness connectors, replace their locks, tuck them under the headlight mounts and zip-tie the wires.
32: Make sure the butt connector with the two orange wires is accessible through the bulb service access hole near the top of the inner fender. If the two wires are connected, the directional signal array’s six LEDs flash together. If the two wires are disconnected, the arrays will flash sequentially. We left ours connected but, as we can reach it though the access hole, if desired, we can change to sequential.
33: The final wiring task is to install Morimoto’s “splitter/fuse tap” harness which powers the LED Daytime Running Light in each Zip Products headlight assembly. This harness is required because the yellow light in the OE C6 headlight assembly serves as both the turn signal and the DRL. In the Morimoto lights from Zip Products, the turn signals and the DRLs are separate light sources and, thus, are powered separately so power needs to be run from the under hood fuse panel to the Morimoto DRLs. Insert the fuse tap into any 15-amp fuse location in the under-hood fuse panel that is hot with the ignition switch on, however, the easiest to use is fuse #6 which protects the circuit feeding the four oxygen sensor heaters. Use the fuse puller to extract the fuse. Move it to any empty spare fuse location, then push the fuse tap prongs into the #6 socket.
34: This fuse tap is a clever “dual-fuse” device which retains 15-amp O2S heater fuse and adds a 3-amp fuse for the DRLs but plugs into a single fuse socket. There are two ways to route the first part of the wire running from the fuse tap to the DRL connection at the rear of each replacement light. The easy way is to run the wire along the side of the fuse panel to its front corner, then use a utility knife or other sharp blade to notch the fuse box cover and the fuse panel edge such that the wire can pass under the panel cover when it closes.
35: The second–and we think better–way is to cut the wire downstream of the tap. Acquire a snap-together, butt connector and crimp its female end onto the short wire running from the tap in fuse #6 then lay that wire into the panel and route it as shown in our pictures.
36: Unsnap the fuse panel cover. Drill a 3/8-in hole in the fuse panel top right between the two hinges. Install a small rubber grommet in the hole.
37: Push the single wire Weatherpac connector through the hole in the underbody structure nearest the passenger side hood support. Reach though the hole used to change the stock headlight bulbs and connect the two parts of the Weatherpac. Take the wire which runs from the Weatherpac back to the fuse tap, snake it under the fuse panel so it comes out beneath the fuse box top hinge. Push the end of the wire through the grommet. Crimp the male end of the butt connector to that wire. Lastly, push the butt connector together and close the fuse panel top.
38: Use short black cable ties to attach that wire, running from the fuse panel to the passenger side DRL Weatherpac connection, to another wiring loom running towards the passenger-side hood support. Make sure that wire goes under the hood support.
39: Run the other wire–the one going to the driver-side DRL–under the passenger-side hood support. Then, route it along the coolant hose that runs above the upper radiator shroud and connects the radiator and the coolant fill tank. Zip-tie the driver-side DRL wire to that hose.
40: Route the end of that wire under the driver-side hood support and through the hole in the underbody structure near the support.
41: Connect the single-wire Weatherpac just inside that hole and behind the driver-side headlight unit.
42: With the Zip Products Morimoto XB headlights installed and wired, it’s time to test them. Turn lighting switch to the parking light position and verify the DRLs are on but dimmed. Turn it to the headlight position and verify the low beam lights are on, then flick the stalk to high beams and listen for the movement of the cutoff shade in each light assembly. Turn the headlights off. Turn the ignition on, but do not start the engine, then test each turn signal. Finally, confirm that the DRLs are full on. If you’re all good, move on. If not, recheck all wiring and connections and correct any problems.
43: Then, reinstall the six special spin nuts which hold the two headlights to the headlight mounts. Thread them on but leave them a bit loose so you can adjust each light’s position once the front fascia is back in place.
44: Now comes the hardest part of installing Zip’s LED Headlight Kit: putting the front fascia back in place. The job is easier with two people, but one can do it if he/she is strong enough to lift, push and manipulate the fascia in the early stages of moving it into place.
45: We found several potential trouble spots during the fascia installation. First: once you have the fascia close to its normal position, start two of the spin nuts, one per side, which secure the top of the ends of the fascia to the bottom front edges of the front fenders. Do not screw the nuts on all the way. Run them down just until the nut is over the end of the stud. That keeps the ends of the fascia from slipping out of place while you move it around to push it into its proper position.
46: Second: make sure the edges of the vertical side panels which are part of the plastic air duct that’s behind the grille, are inside of the front under body structure. The passenger side of that underbody structure has the outside air temperature probe sticking out of it. The side panel behind the grille has a hole in it for that probe. Make sure the probe goes through it. Then replace the Christmas tree fasteners which hold the duct in place.
47: Third: look behind the fascia. On some C6’s, attached to the fascia, behind the grille insert, is a thick fiberglass reinforcement. Sometimes the edge of that reinforcement will get hung-up on the bottom of the foam impact energy absorber. Make sure the corner of the reinforcement slips under the edge of the energy absorber. If the reinforcement’s edges get stuck, you can’t get the fascia into the correct position. To free it, you may need to push and pull on the parts until the reinforcement pops behind the absorber.
48: Fourth: it takes a fair amount of strength to both push up and back on the fascia, then stick your fingers through the faux air scoop and push the fascia edge over the top if its mounting bracket, but if you apply the right force in the right places, it will pop over the bracket. I pushed up and back on the fascia with one hand then used the fingers on my other hand through the scoop to push the edge of the fascia over the bracket. It was a tough, but not impossible, job.
49: Fifth: once you have the center edge of the fascia behind the mounting bracket on the front bumper, push down on the edge so it snaps under the two “locking tabs” which stick out of the mounting bracket.
50: Sixth: push rearward on the part of the fascia that is between the inner corner of the headlight and the front outer corner of the hood opening, check to make sure the hole in the edge of the fascia lined up with the slot, then push down on the fascia edge and it should snap in place.
Once you have those issues addressed, then the rest of the fascia replacement is installing hardware in the reverse order of how you removed it.
51: Now, adjust each light’s position laterally and longitudinally such that they are close to centered in their openings as possible, then tighten the three spin nuts under each light.
52: Reinstall any brake ducts and put the outer parts of the front air dam back in place or reinstall the front splitter. On cars with splitters, retaining screws of two lengths are used. Screws which hold the center of the splitter, between the two brake ducts, are shorter so, once installed, they don’t poke through the upper side of the front fascia. Use short screws in those locations and the longer screws in holes outside of the brake ducts. If your car has other front spoilers, reinstall them.
53: Put the larger of the two inner fender panels back in place using its torx-head screws and plastic push-in fasteners. Keep in mind that panel uses three, large plastic retainers along its upper edge. The smaller plastic retainers are for the smaller, flexible panel which you install after an initial headlight aiming adjustment.
54: It is likely the lights that come from Morimoto are aimed too high. Aiming adjustments are performed through the hole at the top of the inner fenders previously used for stock headlight for bulb changes. There are two adjustment screws on the back each LED light assembly, one for vertical (clockwise, up or counter-clockwise, down) and the other for horizontal (clockwise, left or counter-clockwise, right). The best tool for adjusting is an 8-mm nut driver, but an 8-mm socket, short extension and a 1/4-drive ratchet also works. Your first adjustment will be quick and dirty, say…a full turn down for each light. The adjustment screw travel is three turns in each direction. Do not exceed that or you will damage the adjustment mechanism. Once you have your initial adjustment, reinstall the front wheels. Set the front end back on the ground and tighten the wheel nuts in a star pattern to 100-ft/lbs. in increments of 40-30-30. Now, do a first road test of your new headlights.
55: To get the headlight aim finalized, we suggest making a “headlight aim screen.” You need a section of cardboard, poster board or thin plywood about 72-in wide and 36-in high. Using a yardstick, near the top of your screen, measure in 36-in from one side and, using a black Sharpie, make a mark. Do the same near the bottom. Now, draw a line, top to bottom, between those two marks. That’s your centerline. Make a mark on that centerline 18-in from the bottom. From the edge of the screen on each side, measure 18-in up from the bottom and make a mark on each side. Using the yardstick, draw a line linking all three marks. Finally, from where the vertical centerline and the 18-in high horizontal line intersect, go out 25-in each direction and make a mark. Those two marks on the 18-in. line will be where you aim each LED projector’s bright area.
56: Fill the car with a half tank of gas. Find a reasonably level surface facing any vertical object–could be a wall, a well-trimmed hedge, other vertical structure or even a tripod adjusted to hold your aim screen. Secure your screen with duct tape, zip ties or other method. Measure from the centerline at the bottom of your screen out 25-feet and 90° to the screen. Mark the surface with tape or marking paint, then park the car so an imaginary line downward from the center of the front fascia or the splitter ends on your mark on the ground.
57: To access the vertical and horizontal adjustment on the Morimoto headlights, pick a side and turn that wheel all the way out. Remove the upper plastic retainers holding the flexible cover over what used to be the headlight bulb changing hole and fold the cover down.
58: Turn the headlights on low beam. Using the vertical and horizontal aiming adjustments discussed earlier, move the projector inside each LED headlight so their bright areas are about centered on the two marks you made 18-in. high and at 25-in. left and right of center.
59: This is our aim screen. It has a lot of additional markings we used during development of the numbers we posted above. Our final aim points are marked on the screen with two orange crosses. Consider what you get with your aiming screen as a starting point, but road test to validate the adjustment. With your headlights on low beam, if you’re getting flashed a lot by oncoming drivers, fine tune aiming by lowering the lights slightly. Follow a car about 7-10 car lengths back. If your low beam cut off is below that car’s bumper, try adjusting the lights up a bit.
60: Do a road test on a two-lane road, without streetlights. Once the lights are aimed properly, when on low-beam, because of how Morimoto designs the LED projectors’ cut-off shields, down-road light should extend a bit farther on the right lane than it does on the left lane. This is to give your lane better down-road lighting on low-beam without oncoming drivers seeing glare.
61: Next, flick to high beam. Light should extend as far down the highway as did your stock headlights. Don’t be surprised if, after initial road testing, you need to make additional changes in headlight aim. In our case, we had to adjust them a little bit up and left with the passenger-side light getting a skoosh more adjustment to the left than did the driver-side light.
This is the mid-range, down-road lighting from the stock headlights.
This is the longer-range, down-road lighting from the stock lights.
This is the mid-range, down-road lighting from the Zip Products Morimoto XB Headlight Upgrade and is the greatest improvement we noticed.
This is the longer-range, down-road lighting from the XB Headlight Upgrade.
All imagery was shot with the same camera, same lens and at the same ISO.
2005-2013 Corvette Morimoto LED Headlight Install
Source: Zip Corvette Parts
8067 Fast Lane | Mechanicsville, VA 23111 | (800) 962-9632
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