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1982 380SL
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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

I am new here and I'm hoping to get some fresh information regarding a couple of safety issues regarding my 1982 380SL. I have used the search function and also searched threads using Google, but all of the results I've read on the topics are from almost 10 years ago.

I often find myself driving at night and the stock sealed beam bulbs (US spec - 2 bulbs per side) are terrible. They hardly put out any light and driving on a street without streetlights is tough. I have read about replacing the stock bulbs with the Hella H4 and H1 conversions. I guess my only question would be the installation. Is it as simple as buying the Hella bulbs and plugging them into the car or is there some wiring that needs to be replaced too? I'm wondering if this is something I can tackle myself or if I should have my mechanic do it.

The next question I have is in regards to tires. Mine are showing some slight cracking on the sidewalls. My mechanic says they're okay for occasional street driving, but would avoid the highway and suggested replacing them sooner rather than later. They're Michelins that are about 18 years old. I know I'm looking for 205/70/14 tires, but wondering what people would recommend for brands. I've read good things about the General Tire RT43 and the price is good too. Everything I've read on here suggest Kumho or Sumitomo, but I haven't been able to find any online and this was from 10 year old threads. What do people recommend these days for a price conscious and well performing tire?

Thanks for your help

Craig
 

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Premium Member
2007 ML320CDI, 1959 220SE, 1971 280SL, 1982 380SL
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593 Posts
Any tire which has reached approximately seven years old, should be replaced (some sources say ten years, but that is pushing it). I have seen way too many gorgeous classic cars suffer severe fender and structural damage from tread separations and exploding older tires. In the old days, having a low-mile, always garaged tire with no sign of sidewall or tread deterioration or cracking meant you were good to go. This is no longer true with newer steel-belted tires! Age becomes a primary consideration beyond visible rubber condition, storage or miles.

In the old days, tires were constructed with fabric belts. These belts were molded firmly into the tire and would only be a problem with rubber cracking which allowed oxygen to deteriorate the fabric. In the “old days” a tire would most commonly blow out a sidewall, and sometimes a location on the tread itself and then it would quickly lose air. Again, this was generally trackable to the age of rubber and cracking visible on the surface.

Things are different today with our steel-belted tires. The steel belting does not bond as well to the inside tread rubber as did the fabric cords of days past. The constant pressure of tire inflation is continually and slowly pulling the steel belt apart from the inside rubber it was originally molded to. Industry estimates that after seven years of “in-use” time (in-use time is defined the time a tire is inflated with air pressure and has nothing to do with miles driven or how it is stored), a tire has lost 40% of its strength, or more.

When these older tires are exposed to higher speeds, the chances of a dramatic tread separation goes up exponentially as compared to a newer tire. This separation is not just a loss of air (like would have been more often experienced with an older fabric style tire). The tread separation can be sudden and can cause major fender and structural damage as well as a potential loss of control.

And yes, that beautiful, crack free, fresh appearing, original spare which has always stored in the trunk under pressure (since 1980?) is a tread seperation ready to happen. I have seen these types of spare tires shred within 10 miles of being installed.

You can read the date of manufacture of your tire per its DOT code on the sidewall. Tires made after 2000 have a four-digit date code (see picture). This code was imprinted only on the inside of the tire sidewall until approximately 5 years ago when it was placed on both sides. A three-digit date code means the tire was produced somewhere before year 2000, but you have no way to know which decade it was made? If you find a three-digit date code, the tire automatically too old and must be replaced!

Take the time to verify you have safe tires, please. It is not worth a tire explosion to ruin a trip. Tires are not all that expensive compared to what you can lose.
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« Last Edit: August 29, 2019, 20:39:18 by Rick »
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Registered
1982 380SL
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25 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Any tire which has reached approximately seven years old, should be replaced (some sources say ten years, but that is pushing it). I have seen way too many gorgeous classic cars suffer severe fender and structural damage from tread separations and exploding older tires. In the old days, having a low-mile, always garaged tire with no sign of sidewall or tread deterioration or cracking meant you were good to go. This is no longer true with newer steel-belted tires! Age becomes a primary consideration beyond visible rubber condition, storage or miles.

In the old days, tires were constructed with fabric belts. These belts were molded firmly into the tire and would only be a problem with rubber cracking which allowed oxygen to deteriorate the fabric. In the “old days” a tire would most commonly blow out a sidewall, and sometimes a location on the tread itself and then it would quickly lose air. Again, this was generally trackable to the age of rubber and cracking visible on the surface.

Things are different today with our steel-belted tires. The steel belting does not bond as well to the inside tread rubber as did the fabric cords of days past. The constant pressure of tire inflation is continually and slowly pulling the steel belt apart from the inside rubber it was originally molded to. Industry estimates that after seven years of “in-use” time (in-use time is defined the time a tire is inflated with air pressure and has nothing to do with miles driven or how it is stored), a tire has lost 40% of its strength, or more.

When these older tires are exposed to higher speeds, the chances of a dramatic tread separation goes up exponentially as compared to a newer tire. This separation is not just a loss of air (like would have been more often experienced with an older fabric style tire). The tread separation can be sudden and can cause major fender and structural damage as well as a potential loss of control.

And yes, that beautiful, crack free, fresh appearing, original spare which has always stored in the trunk under pressure (since 1980?) is a tread seperation ready to happen. I have seen these types of spare tires shred within 10 miles of being installed.

You can read the date of manufacture of your tire per its DOT code on the sidewall. Tires made after 2000 have a four-digit date code (see picture). This code was imprinted only on the inside of the tire sidewall until approximately 5 years ago when it was placed on both sides. A three-digit date code means the tire was produced somewhere before year 2000, but you have no way to know which decade it was made? If you find a three-digit date code, the tire automatically too old and must be replaced!

Take the time to verify you have safe tires, please. It is not worth a tire explosion to ruin a trip. Tires are not all that expensive compared to what you can lose.
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* tire dates.jpg (9.11 kB, 245x205 - viewed 228 times.)
« Last Edit: August 29, 2019, 20:39:18 by Rick »
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73.220.69.200
Thanks so much for the very informative post. I did not know that it is recommended for all tires to be replaced every seven years. That's very interesting. I wonder how many cars on the road are riding around on older rubber.

I did know about reading the code on the sidewalls. My mechanic showed me how to do that and that is how we determined they were 18 years old.

Do you have a recommendation for a brand or a specific tire that fits the R107 best?

Thanks again, Craig
 

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1982 380SL
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Discussion Starter #5
Did you use the Advanced Search? Click the three dots next to your Avatar upper right. Enter search words. (Hella headlights) Scroll to the R/C107 Forum and search. Here is one I found that isn't that old https://www.benzworld.org/threads/upgrade-your-sealed-beam-headlights-to-hella-h4.1843818/page-2#post-17727948
I did not know about the advanced search function and in my research I must have missed that specific post. Thanks so much for the help.

The Hella housings and Phillips LED replacement bulbs seems to be a safe, price conscious and easy way to upgrade the lights without getting into changing the wiring, etc. The only thing I don't like about it is the 6500k colour of the bulbs. I would prefer a more stock look but more light output.

Have you upgraded your lights in any of your cars? If so, what option did you go with?

Thanks again, Craig
 

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R/C107 Moderator
1986 560SL: '84 500SL: '84 280SL 5 speed: other 107s
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31,763 Posts
I haven't done anything. I don't have to drive at night.
 

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Premium Member
2007 ML320CDI, 1959 220SE, 1971 280SL, 1982 380SL
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593 Posts

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1987 560SL (L.Tonk) [92,700 miles]
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OP is in Canada so TireRack may not be an option due to tax and duty. US made tires should be covered by NAFTA, so it would just be the GST due, plus the usual exorbitant Canada shipping rates. If you're near the border, you could ship to a US installer and cruise back with new tires and hope nobody notices. I imagine it's something the CPB keeps an eye out for, but as with all things depends on how bad a day the guy at the gate is having. Might not be worth it after gas and time.

For lighting, lots of folks have installed the Hellas and seem to like them. Some complained of slight protrusion of the lamp vs. the originals. If you want a more expensive option, check out Daniel Stern Lighting. Either way you go, adding brighter bulbs will only get you so far, as the original wiring is too high a gauge to carry sufficient current to let the lights operate properly. You'll want to have the light switch power some relays that route directly from the battery via small gauge wires. Also, after installing new lamps you may need to re-aim your headlights (Daniel's website has lots of info on this).
 

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1982 380SL
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Discussion Starter #9
I haven't done anything. I don't have to drive at night.
Fair enough. I love driving on a cool summer's night with the top down and with two young kids sometimes it's the only time I get to cruise around.

Thanks a lot for your help. I have checked out Tirerack and being in Canada puts me at a disadvantage. I can get a better deal here. Have you heard or had any experience with the General Tire RT43. They are a great price, have great reviews and are readily available up here. I will also ask my mechanic for a quote, but I thought that if I can buy tires myself and have him install them, it would save me some money in the end.

For lighting, lots of folks have installed the Hellas and seem to like them. Some complained of slight protrusion of the lamp vs. the originals. If you want a more expensive option, check out Daniel Stern Lighting. Either way you go, adding brighter bulbs will only get you so far, as the original wiring is too high a gauge to carry sufficient current to let the lights operate properly. You'll want to have the light switch power some relays that route directly from the battery via small gauge wires. Also, after installing new lamps you may need to re-aim your headlights (Daniel's website has lots of info on this).
Is this something an amateur can tackle on their own? I'm not very mechanically inclined, but I have changed headlight bulbs in modern cars before and taken apart my R107 housing/bulbs to clean them up. Do you know of a step-by-step online reference or Youtube video which would cover the conversion in depth?
 

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1987 560SL (L.Tonk) [92,700 miles]
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Is this something an amateur can tackle on their own? I'm not very mechanically inclined, but I have changed headlight bulbs in modern cars before and taken apart my R107 housing/bulbs to clean them up. Do you know of a step-by-step online reference or Youtube video which would cover the conversion in depth?
Mine are still sitting in a box so I can't say for sure. Looks straight-forward enough, and other threads will likely have more info. I'm learning-as-I-go on this car too and it seemed doable without a lot of experience.

I sent you a PM about some Hella kits I have, btw.
 

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1984 380SL
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2,278 Posts
Curious are you referring to the regular headlights or the high beams ?

I've found the high beams to be more than adequate in dark mountain country driving. Always drovee nuts when low beams are so bright on other cars that they blind me.
 

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1987 560SL
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I highly recommend these Hella H4 headlamps. Fitment is perfect. Hard to believe they are still on sale here:
I bought both the low beams (two filament bulb) and the high beams (single filament bulb).
You can put any bulb you want inside them but I highly recommend the Sylvania Silver Star Ultras, these are noticeably brighter with better beam spread.
I say it doubled my visual distance at night with lamps properly adjusted.
On my 1963 I wired a relay so it gets juice directly from the battery. On my Mercedes SL I did not find rewiring or a relay was needed, but if you are seeking the brightest possible light, measure the voltage at one headlamp with engine running, it should be near 13 volts. Below 10 I would rewire.

Finally, your fog lights have a metal half-moon beam block built into the case. You can brighten things up by bending the metal beam block up and out of the way of the halogen (or LED) bulb. If you do this they no longer function as fog lights, it will light up the fog or rain that obstructs visibility, but will give you more photons when there are no atmospheric particles in your path.
 

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1982 380SL
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Discussion Starter #14
I highly recommend these Hella H4 headlamps. Fitment is perfect. Hard to believe they are still on sale here:
I bought both the low beams (two filament bulb) and the high beams (single filament bulb).
You can put any bulb you want inside them but I highly recommend the Sylvania Silver Star Ultras, these are noticeably brighter with better beam spread.
I say it doubled my visual distance at night with lamps properly adjusted.
On my 1963 I wired a relay so it gets juice directly from the battery. On my Mercedes SL I did not find rewiring or a relay was needed, but if you are seeking the brightest possible light, measure the voltage at one headlamp with engine running, it should be near 13 volts. Below 10 I would rewire.

Finally, your fog lights have a metal half-moon beam block built into the case. You can brighten things up by bending the metal beam block up and out of the way of the halogen (or LED) bulb. If you do this they no longer function as fog lights, it will light up the fog or rain that obstructs visibility, but will give you more photons when there are no atmospheric particles in your path.
Thanks so much for your reply. Are these Hella conversions plug and play? If I go with different bulbs, like the Sylvanias you suggested, do I need to install a relay? This is all new to me, but I know I need to do something, as the stock bulbs are just not safe for night driving. Is there a detailed step by step instructions for installing a relay?
 

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1982 380SL
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Discussion Starter #15
Curious are you referring to the regular headlights or the high beams ?

I've found the high beams to be more than adequate in dark mountain country driving. Always drovee nuts when low beams are so bright on other cars that they blind me.
I'm referring to the regular headlights. Most of my night driving is in the city and I don't want to blind other drivers with my highbeams.
 

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1981 380SL, 2012 GLK 350, 2008 Corvette, 2002 Nissan Xterra, 1965 Dodge Dart Wagon
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The Hella low beams make a big difference. Easy to install.
 

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1983 380SL, 2000 S430, 1991 420SEL (retired) - RHD
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5,147 Posts
When you buy tires don't get sucked in for V rated. H rated is fine unless you cruise at really high speed (like autobahns)
 

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1984 380SL
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My next tires were going to be Goodyear Eagles but I had 15" rims. One thing you might check is your headlight alignment. You may not need new lamps, just get these pointed in the right direction.
 
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