Clear And Bright: Installing AnzoUSA’s Crystal Headlights

Headlights can get to a point where they’re not so much bright lights as they are dim lamps. Such was the case with this 2001 Ford Explorer. After close inspection of the lights and a couple of tubes of toothpaste – darn YouTube tutorials – the damage to the stock headlights was not external, but on the hard-to-get-to internal side.

Yellow and cloudy, the Explorer’s headlamps looked like they were coated in dried Cactus Cooler. Suffice it to say, they had lost their luster. Even after trying out a new set of bulbs, things were not improving. It was time to look elsewhere.

Years of aging and exposure to the elements left the Explorer’s headlights looking worse for wear.

The folks at AnzoUSA had the solution. Their catalog promotes a healthy spread of options for late-models vehicles, to be sure: from U-Bars to Switchbacks and more, these units dazzle as much as they illuminate, with slick effects and killer looks that accentuate any build they go onto. But these aren’t all they offer.

For those of us with older vehicles, AnzoUSA has a good amount of choices as well. This rig is more of a daily driver that can get down and dirty when the need arises. Other than all-terrains, shock absorbers, and lift shackles, it’s bone stock. It’s kept clean and bright, so we could only make the one choice that made sense – the two-piece Crystal headlights (PN 111040).

The old lights had to go.

Shining The Spotlight On AnzoUSA’s Headlights

All things age in this life, and headlights are no different. Subjected to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, debris, chemicals, and other lovely things, the polycarbonate plastic lenses that shield the bulbs begin to discolor as the years go by. This is to say nothing for the bulbs themselves; on this Explorer, there are four of them per headlight assembly, with one of them the headlight bulb, two of them indicator light bulbs, and the last one a simple corner light bulb.

With so much age and deterioration, we had noticed a beam pattern that was dim at night, bordering on useless. The hope with the new Anzo lights was that we would be able to see more of the road, as well as gain a refreshed look to the Explorer’s “face,” so to speak.

The new AnzoUSA lights were reverse-engineered from Ford’s lights. They are modeled after the same two-piece design like the factory ones.

This was reaffirmed by Anzo’s James Schoenhofen, who said, “One of the biggest advantages in replacing our headlight with your dulled-out yellow factory headlamp is the brighter output from the bulbs, now that the dulled-out lens is not blocking some of the light output. Also, there’s the actual light output, which has more clarity in the light itself. So not only will the road in front be brighter, but the clarity of light should be clearer.”

“As for replacing the bulbs, one advantage to changing older bulbs is that halogens bulb filaments will wear over time, and even though the bulb is not burned out, its output is reduced over time,” he continued. “New bulbs get rid of that wear and bring illumination back to the headlights.”

We were expecting a lot more clarity with the fresh, new AnzoUSA lights and lenses.

The actual mechanics of the headlights were interesting, too. Shoenhofen said, “The factory fluted lens redirects light through the lens, which can sometimes reduce the lumen output from the headlight itself. The Anzo USA headlight uses a diffuser to redirect the light to the reflector and through the clear lens, so the lumen output is not reduced as much.”

One concern was that the beam pattern for the new headlights would not be satisfactory, but Schoenhofen put this fear to rest. “The adjustment screws on the light will be in the same location as the factory headlight, so there is no searching on the headlight for an adjustment screw,” he said.


Our “before” showed the low-beam headlights looking level, but sad.

Before starting, we took a look at the beam pattern of the lights up against the wall of our shop. As expected, it was dim and not nearly enough to really reinforce a sense of security at nighttime. But at least we now could see where the Explorer stood, and how it could improve.

We started by removing the plastic grille guard and undoing the bolts that held in the headlights’ upper housings. With some jostling, the housings came loose. We then unscrewed the three bulbs connected to the housings, and had our housings free and clear of the vehicle. We also used this time to replace the aging bulbs, which were flaking off their amber coating.

The upper housing came out first. The old bulbs' amber coating was shedding, so we took the opportunity to replace them while they were out in the open.

Next, we removed the headlights. Plastic tapered tabs clip into the headlight and were difficult to remove; after removing the driver side headlight, we opted to remove the plastic grille as one piece so we could better see and access the tabs holding in the passenger side headlight. Unfortunately, we broke connector clips while trying to pry them apart, but we fixed them by buying new connectors, stripping the wiring, and using non-insulated butt connectors to crimp the wiring together.

The new headlights went into place and were connected. Next, we put the grille went back on, making sure all of the clips lined up. Finally, the upper housings were installed, and the bulbs were seated into their new homes. By appearance alone, the job was done – but we still had to make sure the beam pattern was good to go.

Out comes the old driver side headlight, and then the grille, as we found it easier to work with it out of the way. The new headlight and upper housing were installed afterwards.

Repositioning the Explorer to where we first measured the beam pattern, we flipped on the lights and saw they were out of sync. Adjustment was done using a 4mm socket, which controlled one of two adjusters built into the headlights. We had the lights lined up perfectly to their proper position after some trial and error.

Voila! New AnzoUSA headlights installed, and a comparison of the new versus old headlight assemblies.

A Difference Like Day And Night

Before and after.

The new lights have made a tremendous difference in the short period that I’ve used them. Nighttime driving is a lot more clear and easy to see, with a beam pattern that shows the road ahead and a light that projects a good, solid, white illumination.

Even more than that, I feel like the Explorer has regained a youthful appearance. Dare I say, it almost looks factory fresh when looking at it from the front! With the exception of a broken passenger-side fog lamp and some scuffs on the bumper, the SUV is nearly perfect.

The new lights look stunning from all angles. And without the yellowed diffuser blocking the bulb, these great looks turn into smooth function as well.

I’m looking forward to seeing how these AnzoUSA lights perform in the long term. And speaking of looking ahead, these new lights have made it easier than ever before. Go ahead and check out more from AnzoUSA on its website and Facebook page.

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About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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