Can a Model T be driven at night safely? My Headlight are too dim. I fear getting caught out at night and still be safe. Does anyone have lighting tips for safety?
Six volt headlight bulbs are bright. Problem is that the lamps sold by the T part sellers are not necessarily headlamp bulbs.
The key to having bright headlamps is three things:
1. Proper voltage
2. Good reflectors
3. Real headlight bulbs
Good six volt headlamp bulbs from back in the day are available. You may have to buy them on eBay or from a swap meet. Your reflectors may be able to be polished. Good silver polish is available at most grocery stores.
A six volt system with the engine running should give about 6.2 volts measured at the bulb socket. Often old wiring connections and switches can reduce this. You might have to clean each of those items until voltage is appropriate. Obviously the charging system must work too.
Popeye has bright headlamps when the engine is running. This photo is with the engine off.
Add this to Royce's list:
4. Headlights must be properly focused according to the Ford manual.
Dan, here's my non-scientific philosophy about the headlights...first, they're at least bright enough to let the other guy know you're coming at him. Second, for the most part, when I do drive at night which isn't very often, I'm in areas where I know where I'm going anyway, so what little they "project" is good enough. My real concern is the dim tail light. When I have someone coming up from behind I'll throw on the 4-way flasher on my E-lights.
Royce, thanks for the headlight advice, I'll look for them.
Dan according to your profile you are driving Improved Cars if you are also running the repro headlamp socket like this one
they seem to be made 90 degrees off in other words the beams wont focus on a horizontal plane but instead try to focus on a vertical plane this makes the lights appear dim because of improper focus as per the ford service manual. With the headlight lens and ring removed look at the filaments of the bulb if they are vertical then you have the repro sockets you would need to find an original socket or drill a new hole in your headlight bucket 90 degrees out from the original hole and then focus your headlights according to the service manual. If your filaments are horizontal then you may need to polish / re-plate or get new reflectors. I use temporarily mounted battery operated LED lights for running lights in the rear and they are bright enough to get the attention of any driver approaching from the rear. Sorry for the long post but I hope this helps.
I think it's the modern bulbs that have the filaments 90 degrees wrong, not the headlamp sockets. Drilling a new hole and a cut in the sleeve in the headlamp bucket will help, but the real help is vintage bulbs that were made right.
I wonder if it would be economically feasible to get proper repro bulbs if the vendors actually asks the bulb producers for correct bulbs?
I have good voltage, properly focused vintage bulbs and they give an OK light. My profile picture was shot with the engine at idle, so the voltage isn't as high as it is when the generator is charging, thus the yellowish light.
I would not drive a Model T at night unless it was on a local two lane road with a speed limit of 35 m.p.h or less & I was familiar with the road ....
I had some reflectors resilvered and the improvement was phenomenal! The reflectors in the car when I acquired it still had much of their silver coating and the light projection was OK, but the resilvered ones "blew them away".
The chrome plated reflectors available from all of the vendors are better than silver painted reflectors and that is the only positive thing I can say about them.
I am using the 50/32 CP bulbs from Langs. Focused as best as I can (see above posts regarding modern bulbs). Good grounds everywhere. Tight shiney contacts everywhere, including the switch. Six volts. Additional reflectors on the rear of the car and a big orange triangle for Slow Moving Vehicles.
One year when I drove (not trailered) to the Mainely T Tour in Bethel Maine I was traveling about three hours in complete darkness on two lanes roads. I could see just fine. My two cents worth, perhaps overvalued. Bill
Mr. Harper, Were you satisfied with the light ? Thank you. Dan C.
Yes, I was, and still am, quite pleased with the lighting provided by the headlamps on my '24 coupe. I was cruising along at between 35-38 mph and the light was fine. Mind you, I did not have wildlife jumping out in front of my car as that could have created some other narrative. I don't hesitate to drive my coupe at night. Bill
I would have no problem driving in the city where the traffic is slow and there are many streetlights, but not in the country with dark roads and higher speed.
You have two problems as I see it. 1. Seeing where you are going. 2. Being seen by others. Others can usually see your headlights even if they are dim, but with the usually one tail light, people are used to seeing cars with multiple lights on both sides of the back of the car. They are also not accustomed to having a slow moving black car at any time of day or night and especially at night when they don't see you very well.
My recommendation would be to avoid driving at night, but if you must do so, add many additional lights and also turn signals. These lights can be clamp on, if you do not wish to change the appearance of the car.
Driving an open T at night is a very enjoyable experience in my opinion.
We usually take the T out for 4th of July fireworks and driving home in the dark is the part of the trip I enjoy most... wife and kids asleep, top down, starry skies, secluded country roads, and the coilbox ticking away. No more peaceful way to enjoy the Model T experience than that!
It's a shame that some are afraid to experience this hobby at its best... so afraid of dying that they never truly live.
Consider sending your reflectors out to Bill Atwood of Uvira Inc. out in Oregon. He's and car guy too and will have his company spray that aluminized reflective coating in the Model T reflectors. Only caveat is that original reflectors have to be nickel plated first. But, he also sprays the coating over the re-pop chrome reflectors without any extra steps. So it might be cheaper to go that way. I have both varieties and can't tell the difference. If memory serves me correctly, it was $75/pair including return shipping. The sprayed reflectors are on par with silver and never tarnish or get thin due to polishing.
Your July 4th journey reminded me of a very pleasant trip home from a friend's home at night in my touring car. A warm summer evening with the top down on a very lightly traveled two lane road. The four coils having their muted conversation in the coil box and the cut out open. When my travels took me out from under the dark canopy of trees the road and fields were bathed in the light of a full moon. The kind of light and brilliance by which you could read the newspaper. A couple of times I throttled down to twenty mph or so and shut of the headlamps. It was magical. The moonlight reflecting off the car and shining on the pavement almost seemed to transport me back ninety or a hundred years. I would switch them back on after ten seconds or so. It was one of those excursions which you don't want to end.
I claim that having a Model T, or almost any antique motorcar, is about as close to having a Time Machine as you can get. Drive safely day AND night, and have fun. Bill
Has anyone tried the halogens? I understand they need an adapter, but are they worth the money spent?
Jim, when I changed my T to Mr. Becker's 12v Alternator and Starter I also changed all my bulbs including the dash to the halogens and they are honestly as bright as my Lincoln... We drive at night all most as much as day in the winter... It gets dark around six.... But it really lights up the road good....Very satisfied with the results....
It's a nice and dark evening over here, so I went for a drive on some dark roads with low traffic. Haven't got any speedo, but it felt like I was driving about 35 mph in high beam feeling equally almost-in-control as when I drive at 50 mph daytime
First photo is the view standing still on a dark road, second photo is when driving so the vibrations tends to make it hard to get sharp pictures with the phone (sorry, Steve ;) ) The dot further ahead is the rear light of a motorcycle that just passed me. The biggest safety issue with night driving with a Model T is of course the tail lights and I have four.. But mostly only three of them working, the kerosene lamp tends to blow out at speeds past 35.
I have driven mine a lot at night, and also on freeways at night.
At first I could not see well, then I bought new reflectors.
If the reflectors are clean the lights are OK. I didn't say great, I said OK. especially if there are other cars in front of you.
"It's a shame that some are afraid to experience this hobby at
its best... so afraid of dying that they never truly live."
Profound advice, for those who might hear it. I drive my TT home in the dark after every
Tuesday night meeting I attend down at the Antique Auto Ranch. It is a wonderful experience.
After touring around two counties all afternoon yesterday in gorgeous 74 degree sun, light breeze, the wife and I took our neighbors (who still work) out in Clarabelle the '13 for supper in the town 12 miles north. Great ride up, great supper, fun ride home, was dusk, but I was too lazy to fire up the carbide headlamps so just lit up the coach lamps instead. It was almost dark when we got home. You could tell by people's reactions they really loved seeing the kerosene lamps "blazing away". Made me wish I'd have fired up the carbides! I will the next time, then stay out a bit later! Baby steps I guess.
I use the LED blinkers on the rear of the '14 Touring and as rear and side markers on my '25 Touring. 1915 and up Model T's are hard to see from the side at night since they have no side marker lights.
One of the positive night driving features of the '09 to '14 cars are the kerosene side and tail lamps. Set properly they do not go out at 40+ mph. I ran them this morning going for a haircut and the looks you get from people tells you they notice the lamps are lit.
It was still twilight, so I fired up the acetylene headlamps (Prest-O-Lite) as well. 90% of the cars on Gessner Road at 7:00 am had their headlights on and so did I. Easy with the POL B tank and I can light all 5 lamps, kerosene and acetylene, in less than 3 minutes.
Ken in Texas
Long ago I replaced my under the bed (pick-up) 6V lamp with two fender mounted brake/taill lights (also 6V). I plastered reflective tape all over the tail gate and have a reflective license plate, so I am very visible from the rear at night. I have those repop chrome reflectors which have worked loose so not focused. The headlights are marginal.
On our country roads I can see well enough to drive at T speeds, but when a car approaches (often with modern high beams on) my dark accustomed vision causes me to become blinded. Also a car following me with brights on will illuminate the road ahead except for my shadow. Then when the car passes I have to wait a bit to become dark accustomed again.
My solution to this is to try and never drive at night!
When I had my 1913 I would light up the kerosene side lights, two aftermarket 12V tail /brake light combination, and the carbide headlights with focused original glass mirror parabolic reflectors. The car was very visible and had headlights so bright that other drivers frequently flashed their high beams to alert me they felt I was too bright (well, my lights were too bright, not me!). The big problem with that car was no turn signals, so I took to wearing driving gloves which had a reflective stripe on them. Other drivers don't seem to understand hand signals in the daytime so at night they probably only made me feel better.
I have never driven at night. I have been chasing the sun and gotten home at dusk. I am most worried about being rear-ended. I have added a couple of red bicycle blinking lights under the rear deck. They are really noticeable when flashing.
I have both a 6V and 12V power system on my T (12V turn signals and brake LED lights). I have been thinking about adding a couple of LED fog lights to the front end. I have found a few on Amazon that are not too expensive. They are not super bright, but being LED, they will be very noticeable to oncoming traffic. I am thinking about mounting them down low, below and to the side of the radiator.
The big problem with many 6 volt lighting systems is not having a solid ground. (Also a problem for hot-starting many 6 volt cars.)
I have used the halogen bulbs available for pre-focused 3-pin sockets in many of my early 1930's cars and they are great. A bit more expensive, yes, but you can see - and be seen. About twice a bright as the old 6 volt incandescents with no extra power draw. They are really comparable to sealed-beams when properly adjusted with well-polished/silvered reflectors.
Like Jason, I have two batteries, a 6V for the coils, and a 12V for all the LED lights. Both are small gel-cell batteries that fit alongside the gas tank in my '15. The only problem is that the '15 has clear glass headlight lenses, and I keep getting flashed for high-beams. The headlights I use are these 210-lumen lamps. They are more than adequate for driving on totally dark roads. I recharge the 12V battery once or twice a season, and I drive at night fairly often. For the tail light, I use this unit that combines stop, tail, and license plate lights all in one bulb. LED turn signals are next.
The real problems are the time it takes a car driving 60 mph to close on a car driving 30 mph, the time or distance it takes the rear driver to realize how slow the car in front is going and how many feet the braking action requires, along with the flat windshield glare that makes seeing in front of the T almost impossible when another car approaches.
Anyone going 60 in a 30 zone is not going to have "an accident". It is intentionally and willfully
placing any and all innocents they cross paths with in direct threat of death or injury. In my state
the charge is negligent homicide and/or vehicular homicide.
Of course, if you are the idiot driving 30 in a 60, well ... you are just begging to be killed or injured
and placing everyone else in peril !
I face this latter situation often, as the old TT has a hard time exceeding 20. I am forced to back
roads and lightly traveled streets just about anywhere I take it.
After reading all the reports and caveats, I decided to get my courage up and take my car for a night drive. There's very light traffic on the roads up here in the jack pines this time of year, so I thought why not? To my surprise, the 25 watt 6 volt halogens and Uvira reflectors did a good job of lighting the road. The LED tails and stops were clearly visible from some distance. Even better, my generator had no problems handling the load. Now I don't know if I really want to make a habit of this, but it was nice to know that I don't have to worry about driving home if it happens to get dark before I'm ready to leave.
The Gunny would be proud.
Real Westinghouse No. 1000 Headlight bulbs (6-8volt, 32/32cp) with fair reflectors have done well in my car, often driving to work at 4am. So far the only surprise was on a section of dark asphalt road with no street lights at about 30-35mph. A black skunk (known by some as El Pussy-Gato Malodoro) was in the center of the lane, just raising it's tail as I first saw it. It stayed centered and was seen scampering to the curb after we passed. The car had only a mild odor for a couple days after, probably on the rear axle.
Kevin where did you get the Uvira reflectors or did you have them done by the guy in Oregon? Cost?
Mark, I sent mine to Bill Atwood out in Merlin, OR. just give him a call (541) 474-5050. He's a very knowledgeable guy who knows his stuff about old cars being and affecianado himself. If my memory serves me correctly, if was $75 a pair and that included return shipping. Find out the details from him. If you send out stock reflectors you will have to have them nickel plated and polished first. However, he can do the chrome re-pops for the same price with no further preparation. I have both varieties and can't tell any difference.
I was out driving tonight and thought I would take some pictures of the light. they don't show in the pictures as good as they do driving.....Oh well, I tried....
Mr. Lowery, Would you tell me what you have done to your lights? They look great. Any secrets? Dan
Like I stated in my previous post I bought all halogen bulbs for front and rear lights (12v) after I changed to 12v alternator from Mr. Becker who sadly has since passed.... I have been very satisfied with the results and drive very much at night time as long as I stay on roads where the speed limit is 35mph... which in town and on side roads here in Hendersonville that is what most are...I sure don't want to get real ended... That's why I added the additional right tail light...
Are you running 6 volts or 12 volts?
The only problem I've had driving at night is in my Fordor. I had all the windows rolled up since it was a little chilly. I was driving out in the country and a car approached from a side street. Because all the windows are flat and exactly parallel and perpendicular, the guys headlights reflected off all the windows and windshield about 20 times and I honestly couldn't tell which direction the car was coming from or see anything else but the 20 pair of headlights. I don't drive at night with the windows up any more.