In Summary
  • Let’s start with the legality of installing military-grade searchlights on your car.
  • The police will give you grief for your enhanced front-end wattage.

Hi Baraza,
I have been driving at night for some time now, and I can no longer tolerate the glare from all sorts of contraptions, add-ons and LED light bars that have suddenly found themselves on just about every car on Kenyan roads. So I have decided “dawa ya moto ni moto (to fight fire with fire)”. I want to dump my halogens for either LED or xenon, but I can’t understand all the terms being thrown around like lumens/watts/temperature/heat sinks/ ballast, etc. Could you shed some light on this and also advise on their legality?

M.N

Police will give you grief for your enhanced front-end wattage. PHOTO | FILE

Police will give you grief for your enhanced front-end wattage. PHOTO | FILE

Let’s start with the legality (or the lack thereof) of installing military-grade searchlights on your car.

Unless you roll up in one of those high-end tractors gleaming with intimidatory menace designed for dictators and arrogant, hell-raising celebrity types — instruments such as over-chromed, oversized and overpriced SUVs or battleship-length luxury limos, then perhaps you are better off straining your eyes to see better in the dark, or trying not to drive at night. The police will give you grief for your enhanced front-end wattage. Yes, there are two sets of laws for humankind, and both sets read exactly the same, the difference being that these laws are optional for one lot — the shiny 1 per cent — and compulsory for thinner cattle like us, who form the majority. Spot lamps, particularly of the eye-searing LED kind, are verboten by law.

I’ll start with the second-to-last term: the heat sink. It is simply an element made from a good heat conductor for the purpose of cooling the lamp. These lamps, to generate that kind of luminosity, heat up quite a lot — to the extent that they can cause serious burns if mishandled — and, therefore, need to be cooled down lest they melt or evaporate their componentry. Having a dedicated cooling system for your lamps is the kind of stuff that shoots car prices skywards and increase potential trouble spots as far as maintenance goes, so the most cost-effective method is by using a heat sink, which is nothing more than a sheet of metal.

Ballast:this is a type of resistor that limits the amount of electrical current in a circuit. As stated above, high currents have heating effects so one way to control this — besides the obvious cooling — is to place a bottleneck on the flow of current in the circuit.

Temperature: this is an interesting concept of light that might not be directly connected to heat by use of example but is actually connected to heat by means of calculation. Ignore that sentence if it doesn’t quite add up in your head and read the next one instead: Temperature is essentially the combination of colour and brightness of visible light, in layman’s terms. Cool lights have colour temperatures above 5000K (kelvin), while warm lights fall in the 2700-3000K range. Categories fall between the orange flame of a matchstick at 1,700K and the blue polar sky at 27000K. If I go any deeper, we will require a lot more pages than I am currently allocated.

Lumens:this is a unit expressing the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source. Yes, someone somewhere thought they can measure the amount of light coming out of a source.

Watt:unit of power; 746 of them add up to one horsepower, but this being an electrical discussion, I don’t think my example is pertinent.

 

 

Adding LCD screens, a sound system and loud exhaust comes with some risks

 

Hello JM,

First, I would like to commend you for your excellent work. I always look forward to your column and have learnt a lot. God bless you.

I have decided to buy a Toyota Fielder X202 and I would like to make some modifications and fit it with a nice sound system, three small LCD screens (one on the dashboard and the other two behind the front seats) and finally, a medium-loud exhaust pipe.

With this, I feel it will be fit for me as a lad in my mid-twenties. I have already identified one garage that does such pimping work nicely from references.

My concern is what dangers this poses to my car, bearing in mind that in one of your recent columns, you said that tampering with the exhaust can harm the engine. And what are the measures to prevent it? Also, what should I be prepared for in terms of service as far as the engine and the battery are concerned?

The car will cover about 20km a day and, occasionally, 160km to from up-country.

Lastly what are the differences between the 2010 & 2011 model of the same.

Vincent

LCD screens might be an unnecessary distraction while driving and at night, depending on placement, can hamper your vision. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

LCD screens might be an unnecessary distraction while driving and at night, depending on placement, can hamper your vision. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

We seem to be having a modification theme going today.

Now, I won’t judge your tastes but I find them questionable anyway. Three screens? What on earth for?

The dangers your intended mods pose to your vehicle are not limited to the exhaust. Let’s start with the audio kit and the three screens. These will attract ‘TWOCcing’ (Taking Without Owner’s Consent). The screens might also be an unnecessary distraction while driving and at night, depending on placement, can hamper your vision. Also, if you go heavy on the sound system, then it’s true you might need a supplementary battery, which adds weight and complexity and is a fire hazard due to the high-tension wiring.

Then there is the pipe. A loud pipe that was not engineered for that car is just noise, it is not charismatic. It is extremely annoying.

There are also the pitfalls I brought up some weeks ago that come with undoing what millions spent in R & D tried to establish at the hands of highly educated engineers. Expect a drop in performance and a rise in consumption. There is a risk of burning the valves as well.

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