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#4488180 - 08/14/17 09:04 AM HID light intermittently won't turn on
L_Sludger Offline


Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 3947
Loc: Ohio
I'm wondering about the generalized failure mode of an HID system where the following conditions are met.
1) Of the two headlights, the right side headlight no longer comes on every time.
2) When the headlight won't come on, it stays that way. It won't turn on later with the light switch still turned ON.
3) On several occasions, I was able to get the bad light to turn on by cycling the light switch through on/off cycles several times.
4) When the faulty headlight does turn on, the light output is normal, and it stays on and works properly until it is shut down again.

The system is the headlight setup of a 2002 Acura TL-S. Factory HID lights.
I verified that the electrical connections are clean, secure, and that +12v is being supplied to the bad headlight's interface point at the electrical transformer box. (I think that's the one, the ballast.)

Long story short, I am leaning towards just ordering a replacement ballast. I don't have the means to test whether the ballast is providing +25,000V to the headlamp for obvious reasons, and I am not inclined to do any left to right switcheroo diagnosis to narrow out the bad parts.

So, anyone who has had any experience or anecdotal knowledge of the failure mode of an HID system, regarding which component is likely the culprit among the several components that are involved - what say you? Any reason for me not to just order a ballast?

In the time it took for me to type out this rambling nonsense, I could have had a ballast already ordered and on the way. But I wanted to bend some ears first.
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#4488191 - 08/14/17 09:15 AM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
Blokey Offline


Registered: 02/21/03
Posts: 1027
Loc: GA, USA
This happened with my '00 Acura 3.2TL. I replaced the bulb and I never had the problem again.
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#4488255 - 08/14/17 10:20 AM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
jaj Offline


Registered: 08/21/03
Posts: 1060
Loc: Vancouver, Canada
Can you swap bulbs or ballasts from side-to-side? Try that - then you'll know if the problem is the bulb or the ballast.

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#4488262 - 08/14/17 10:25 AM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
Wolf359 Offline


Registered: 04/27/12
Posts: 4741
Loc: MA
Standard way to throw parts at a problem is to replace the bulb first and if that doesn't fix it, the ballast is next. Just don't get cheap bulbs, fake bulbs for $10 will also give you problems.

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#4488286 - 08/14/17 10:51 AM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: Blokey]
L_Sludger Offline


Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 3947
Loc: Ohio
Originally Posted By: Blokey
This happened with my '00 Acura 3.2TL. I replaced the bulb and I never had the problem again.
Wow, so the bulb would sometimes work and sometimes wouldn't, and replacing it fixed it?? Shows what I know about HID lights. I figured once a light bulb is dead, it should really be dead and not play half dead.
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#4488291 - 08/14/17 11:00 AM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
L_Sludger Offline


Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 3947
Loc: Ohio
Thanks guys, watch this space. My replacement bulbs arrive tomorrow, and I will update accordingly. Prepare to see a post where someone actually follows up on their problem's resolution, rather than leaving everyone hanging on the edge of their seat with nowhere to go!
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#4488301 - 08/14/17 11:12 AM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
SHOZ Offline


Registered: 06/28/03
Posts: 5742
Loc: Illinois
Some bulbs have the ignitor circuit in the bulb base (DS1) and some have it in the ballast.
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#4488304 - 08/14/17 11:15 AM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
Clarkbug Offline


Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 30
Loc: NY
Originally Posted By: L_Sludger
Wow, so the bulb would sometimes work and sometimes wouldn't, and replacing it fixed it?? Shows what I know about HID lights. I figured once a light bulb is dead, it should really be dead and not play half dead.


Yup, I had a similar experience. One light wouldnt fire up, but would after cycling. Replaced the bulbs and was back to them operating as intended. Ordered a pair of them to get consistent color temps between the bulbs. I hope that fixes it for you!

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#4488440 - 08/14/17 02:37 PM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: jaj]
shinyWheels Offline


Registered: 03/24/13
Posts: 159
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: jaj
Can you swap bulbs or ballasts from side-to-side? Try that - then you'll know if the problem is the bulb or the ballast.


+1 I would try ^^^ first.

Other thing you might try is starting the engine first and revving it a little and then turn on the headlights. If there's not enough current, the ballast sometimes may have a hard time starting the bulb.

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#4488456 - 08/14/17 03:00 PM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
mk378 Offline


Registered: 09/27/15
Posts: 1414
Loc: USA
HID bulbs do that. They start by a high voltage pulse ionizing the gas inside. As they get older it requires more an more voltage until it is more than the ballast / starter can always supply. So, put in a new bulb.

Swapping parts side to side runs the risk of breaking both sides. All of the parts are the ones that came with the car, right, so they're 15 years old. If it turns out the problem was the ballast you have a well-used "good" bulb to keep as a spare.


Edited by mk378 (08/14/17 03:01 PM)

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#4488484 - 08/14/17 03:36 PM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
440Magnum Offline


Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 8754
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: L_Sludger
Originally Posted By: Blokey
This happened with my '00 Acura 3.2TL. I replaced the bulb and I never had the problem again.
Wow, so the bulb would sometimes work and sometimes wouldn't, and replacing it fixed it?? Shows what I know about HID lights. I figured once a light bulb is dead, it should really be dead and not play half dead.


Its a gas-discharge bulb, more similar to a fluorescent tube or metal-halide streetlight than a regular bulb. They can (and do) fail by becoming hard to "ignite," but once on they'll work fine. Its not like an incandescent where there's a filament that fails and never works again.

Be careful with the old bulb, they're under pressure and once they get hard to light they are at higher risk for bursting.
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#4488535 - 08/14/17 04:53 PM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
L_Sludger Offline


Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 3947
Loc: Ohio
The fluorescent analogy is perfect 440Magnum. Gas discharge. Eureka! I am disappointed in myself for taking the blame straight to the HVDC transformer. I'm eager to put the new bulbs in. This thread is going places cheers
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#4488552 - 08/14/17 05:14 PM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
SHOZ Offline


Registered: 06/28/03
Posts: 5742
Loc: Illinois
Like bigger industrial HID lamps what goes wrong is the center bulb eventually gets coated with black something inside. This then cause too much heat retention ad the bulb and pop with melted glass. had some do this over stored cardboard at the old cheese factory once and stared a fire.

With the bulbs I have and replace about every 18 months they turn pink and if you look closely at the center bulb it is dark colored.
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#4488608 - 08/14/17 06:25 PM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
L_Sludger Offline


Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 3947
Loc: Ohio
SHOZ - sodium vapor?
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#4488715 - 08/14/17 08:20 PM Re: HID light intermittently won't turn on [Re: L_Sludger]
SHOZ Offline


Registered: 06/28/03
Posts: 5742
Loc: Illinois
Originally Posted By: L_Sludger
SHOZ - sodium vapor?
For the fire it was 400w MH, sodium bulbs are a bit different. When they get bad they start to cycle, but the center filament will be dark too. But until they start to cycle their light output is fairly stable. The MH and mercury bulbs will start to get dimmer almost immediately.
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