Sunday, October 13, 2013

Understanding & Adjusting Headlights and Fog Lights on the Q50 for Maximum Visibility

Understanding the Q50's Exterior Lighting System

The Q50 has an advanced mechanism for the headlights, especially given the "auto" mode features and the steering adaptive headlights, and the auto leveling system. These are collectively called the "Adaptive Front Lighting System". Unless you test drove and bought your Q50 in the dark, chances are the dealer has been unable to show you this functionality. The working of the headlights is explored below.

The day time running LEDs (powered by 7.5W LEDs on each side) that circle the low beam projector are always on when the car is started. This is with the setting on the headlight stick being OFF.  They project enough light for the Q50 to be seen even on bright sunny days. As for the amount of useful lighting they provide, see the video, but it is not significant for any situation. The DRL LEDs do stay ON in all modes of the headlights.

By selecting the next setting on the stick which is AUTO, the systems many features are enabled. In auto mode, the LED low beams in projectors (powered by 23W LEDS each) come on, but only when the ambient light sensors detect that it is dark enough outside. The sensitivity can be set through the InTouch menu. They also go off after a number of seconds when the car is shut off or locked, again the timeout for this can be set through the InTouch menu.

When in AUTO position, AND the low beams have come ON automatically because it is dark enough, now if one wants to turn the LED FOG lights ON (powered by 13.5W LEDs each), then using the inner ring on the control stick, the fog lights can be illuminated at the same time as the low beams. 
Petty standard stuff. Here is the interesting bit... in the Q50, if you switch to High Beam (powered by a separate 23W LED each side) this is done by pushing the stick forward (not PASS by pulling the stick back). However, nothing happens in my video! Well actually high beams do not come ON unless the Q50 determines that the situation is correct! 

The Q50 will NOT switch on the High Beams if it detects it is bright enough outside, or detects lighting from oncoming vehicles so as not to blind the oncoming traffic, or if the Q50 is moving less than 17mph. Likewise, if the high beams are actually ON while in AUTO mode, and a then traffic comes from the front, or Q50 slows below 17mph, then the Q50 will automatically switch to low beams. The only noticeable thing that happens is that in AUTO HIGH beam mode, the FOG lights do turn OFF. This is by law, one cannot have FOGs and high beams on at the same time. To simulate this I parked the car in my driveway with my outside house lighting on and garage door closed. See the video later on.
Auto Mode - Low & High Assist
At this point you maybe thinking this is pretty standard Nissan/Infiniti stuff minus the "get out of HIGH automatically". Well read on...

An interesting twist is that the FOG lights can be reprogrammed by the CONSULT computer (via dealer for most people unless you own a consult :)) such that if the light control switch is AUTO mode, but the outside is bright enough that the Q50 does not need to turn on the headlights, and then if the FOG lights are turned ON, they will come on and also cause all the other lights (low rear parking lamps, license plate, side markers, etc) to come on. This is kind of manual override to the AUTO, but not programmed to be ON by default.

Another interesting item regarding AUTO is that, if the lights are in AUTO position and the wipers are turned on, then the headlights (plus other rear and side lights) come on automatically.  In these situations most people should have lights turned on for safety. Some states like NJ have "Wipers ON, Lights ON" law to ensure this happens.This is fantastic because chances that it is raining means it is a dark gloomy day, but usually not enough to trigger the ambient light sensor. I usually have to turn the lights on manually for  outside safety, but means all the gauges and navigation display, etc. go into DIM mode making the screens hard to see in the day. So then the brightness of the gauge cluster and screen has to be turned up. No big deal, until next time when I drive at night, then bam!, super bright inside lights that have to be dimmed again. Then the cycle repeats. Well no longer an issue with the Q50. Thanks Infiniti for taking care of a frustrating aspect of headlights.

The next setting, 2ND setting is ON in manual for the control stick. This is the same as LOW beam without any AUTO functionality, i.e. the lights will not come ON and OFF automatically, they will not switch between LOW vs. HIGH automatically.  With Low Beam ON, the fog lights can be controlled to be ON or OFF. If the stick is pushed forward or pulled to activate the HIGH beams, then the FOG lights go OFF and the High Beams come ON appropriately.

The interesting thing is that since there are LED for both Low and High headlights versus Xenon HID or Halogen, when in high beam mode, both the low beams LEDs and High Beam LEDs come on simultaneously. It seems that the high beams are designed to simply project on top of the low beams and augment the light to provide  high beam. This is unlike most "Halogen only" cars that have 2 filaments in the bulbs, OR unlike "Xenon Only Low & High" car in which the projector cutoff shield moves out to change the pattern. It is more like "Xenon Low + Halogen High" cars which will keep LOWs on and turn on Halogen Highs on to of the Lows, this is done because the Xenon HIDs take a little while to fire up. Seems the Q50 uses 2 types of LEDs, the LOW beam LEDs that take a few seconds to fire up and the high beam LEDs that come on instantaneously.

Now onto the Automatic swivel function of the headlights. When the shifter is put into "Drive" the low beam projectors move both side-to-side and up-and-down. Because the US based cars are Left Hand Drive, the left Low beam projector moves only a few degrees but the Right side projector moves up to ~38 degrees. A few degrees to the left but mostly to the right. This is fantastic for illumination during turning. After driving the Q50 at night, other cars simply seem inadequate. The passenger side light will swivel regardless of the speed of the Q50, but the left side will swivel only when the Q50 is moving faster the 3.5mph. See the Video.

Third and final is the vertical auto-leveling of the low beam projectors. The low beam system of the Q50 uses the front lane camera and the rear suspension sensors to determine if the headlights need to be lowered. If the front lane camera, detects on coming traffic, not only does the system switch out of High beam, when in AUTO mode, but it also lowers the headlights, even in Manual ON mode, ever so slightly so as to reduce the blinding effect. Once the oncoming traffic is gone, the headlights come back up. If the suspension sensors detect that the Q50 is driving uphill, it will lower the headlights, this not only provides more effective lighting for the Q50 driver, but also reduces impact to oncoming traffic. Lastly if the that the back seats and/or trunk of the Q50 has considerable weight that is lowering the rear suspension, then it will automatically lower the headlights to keep the beam pattern at the same level. Now that is a system I wish I had on my truck when towing.

Rear Suspension Sensor
Regarding brightness, the LED headlights put out more light than Halogen 55W/65W bulbs but slightly less than 35W HID Xenon Lights. Also the color temperature seems to be a very clean 5000K white with no hints of blue or yellow. I am curious to see how this lighting will work in winter, both in terms of warmup time and also color reflection off of snow at night. 

Testing all the lights and signals. 

Ever got a ticket for a burned out light? If you service your car at home and are a DIYer like me, it becomes hard to test all the lights without the help of someone else pressing the brakes and turning the flashers. Here is a one person operation method to do the same.

1. Turn the ignition switch OFF.
2. Turn the ignition switch ON, and within 20 seconds, press the front door switch (driver side) 10 times. Then turn the ignition switch OFF.
3. Turn the ignition switch ON within 10 seconds. After that the horn sounds once and the auto active test starts.
NOTE: The text can be exited by pressing the pressing the brake pedal and starting the car.
4. After a series of the following operations is repeated 3 times then auto active test is completed.

Test Sequence:
1. Front wiper motor LO for 5 seconds → HI for 5 seconds
2. Parking lamp, License plate lamp, Tail lamp, Side marker lamp, Front fog lamp ON for 10 seconds
3. Headlamp
         LO 10 seconds
          HI ON ⇔ OFF 5 times
4. Cooling fan LO for 5 seconds → HI for 5 seconds
5. Repeated 2 more times from 1 to 4.

Adjusting the Q50's Headlights and Fog Lights

I found the Q50's Fog lights to be aimed too low. I know they are meant for more side illumination, however I did not like the fact that they were simply providing illumination directly in front of the front bumper, very close actually. This is quite useless when driving at any speed as reaction and braking time are needed. The low beams were adjusted perfectly within the legal limits, but the gap between where the fog light illumination ends and the low beam illumination starts, is what I wanted to close up.

Do not like the blank area left by the fog lights
Rules for adjusting the headlights.
There are multiple sights and videos that show how to do this. The basics of headlight adjustment is that at some distance from the beam pattern or cut-off should be a few inches below the hight of the headlight from the ground. My objective is not blind people, but rather have adequate lighting for back country roads which are usually deer filled for us. I have had true "fog" only once in 2 years. So I really need the fogs to work as aux lights.
Before Adjustment of Fogs
1. Follow Local State and Federal Laws. Read NHTSA website for requirements. You are responsible for your lights.
2. Make sure the Q50 fluids including gas tank are all full, tire pressure are set and no cargo or passengers present, except driver.
3. Park on a Level Surface, against a level wall. 
4. Drive the car up to the wall and mark the height of the headlamp projectors. (We will call the height from the ground to this mark as "H")
5. Move the car back 10m or ~33ft back from the wall in a straight line. Start it and turn on the headlights.
6. According to Infiniti, the cut off beam of the low beams should not be any higher than ~4" below the H mark, and it should not be any lower than ~5" below the H mark. The law says they have to be no higher than be 2" below at 25ft away. Using geometry 101 class, recalculating at  33ft mean 2.65" below the H line is acceptable. Nissan/Infiniti are a little too conservative in my opinion. I have noticed this with a lot for my Nissan & Infiniti cars in the past as well.
7. Mark a line that is 2.65" below the H line.
Headlight Adjustment Measurements
8. Adjust each headlight independently to match the H-line. They can be done with a 6" Phillips screw driver. Cover each light with a cardboard while working on the other.
8. For drivers side light, the adjustment screw can be accessed by looking in the opening near the front.
Clockwise is UP. Counterclockwise is DOWN.  
Driver's Side Headlight adjustment
9. For the passenger's side headlight adjustment screw can be accessed by looking in the opening near the front. Counterclockwise is UP. Clockwise is DOWN.
Passenger's side Headlight adjustment
Rules for adjusting the fog lamps. The NHTSA rules state that any fog lamps, driving lamps, auxiliary lamps must be adjusted per the low beam adjustment pattern. The combined wattage cannot exceed 55W, which is not an issue with LED lights. I found that the fog lamps of the Q50 are way, way too low for any useful light.

10. With the same settings, as 1-3 above. Mark the horizontal height of the center of Fog Lights from the ground. We will call this H' line.
11. Infiniti states that the fog lamps should be no higher than 4" above the cut off line. Again I would prefer the 2.65". So mark a line 2.65" below the H' line for the fog lights. Turn on headlight and Fog lights. Cover both headlights with cardboard pieces.
12. Insert the screwdriver into the slot opening in the bottom of the bumper just underneath each fog lamp. You must feel around to find the adjustment screw which looks like the picture below.

Fog Light Adjustment Screw
13. Looking from bottom up, turning the screw clockwise makes the light go UP. Counterclockwise is down.
14. Adjust each one independently.
15. Done
After Adjustment
Overall, I think Infiniti has done a fantastic job of taking something as simple and basically essential as a headlight and maximizing the safety that it can provide. From the smarts that the auto ON/OFF system brings beyond just ambient light sensors used in most cars today to the leveling system the moves the lights in 2-axes. They have really done a great job of implementing the best of the available technology today to provide a very useful system.