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Products we tested – and which later failed

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to try all sorts of products. Some of them were “new” in the sense that they were industry breakthroughs, new concepts. Others were a company coming online with its own version of the “tried and true.” We usually report fairly soon after we’ve tested those products and give you our impressions.

Flipping back in the old test notebooks, we thought we’d come forward and fess up about a couple of products we tested and felt were “pretty good,” at the time – but now, with the passage of time, maybe weren’t quite as up to snuff as we thought.

Headlight lens refreshing systems
Back in the “old days,” if your motorhome or tow rig’s headlight element flicked out, you made a trip to the auto parts store, bought a new headlight, popped a few screws, and replaced that puppy. With the advent of replaceable headlight lamps, you don’t replace the whole headlight – just that expensive little inner element.

That may be good in some respects, but instead of having glass out in front of your rig, manufacturers have “blessed us” with acrylic headlight lens assemblies. And with time, these cursed things tend to haze over. Replacing them is far from an inexpensive proposition, so the alternative is using a “headlight lens restoration treatment.” These usually boil down to pastes or polishes that are often applied with an electric drill. All of these nostrums promise increased light output and visual clarity.

Back in 2012 we reported on our experience trying one of these systems out. We settled on one that the Consumer Reports testing organization rated fairly highly: the 3M headlight lens restoration kit. While the testing group suggested about a $17 price tag, we paid $23 at an AutoZone store. We stepped through the process of how to use the kit, and we shared our immediate results: “The appearance of the headlights after the whole process was amazing. We had started out with a toad car that had milky-looking headlight lenses, both on the low and the high beam side. With an investment of about a half-hour and less than $25, the lenses looked incredibly better.”

And better they were – throwing more light out on dark roads, giving us an enhanced feeling of safety. But whatever gremlins that caused our original “hazing” situation weren’t content to leave well enough alone. Some three years later, it dawned on us that for several months we’d been complaining to each other about how thick those “cataracts” were on the headlight lens covers. Yep, with time, that great, clear view we once had faded out. Was it worth another $25 or so, plus an hour-and-a-half of labor to try it again? Since the little buggy was then pushing 200,000 miles, it would have probably been a more reasonable bet than laying out $95 EACH for new covers. We didn’t get to spend much time stewing about a decision. A few months later the car flipped a timing belt, rendering the old toad car useless, and a donation to a public radio station.

Push-on electrical connectors
If you’re a do-it-yourself RV repairman, you know that electrical issues will likely be a major part of your “job.” We keep a good selection of electrical connectors in our electrical tool bag because we never know when something will require repair – and most likely when we’re out on the road.

A half-mile short of the freeway on-ramp, we were headed out on a 4,000-mile road trip and noticed a brake issue with our travel trailer. We found a shady spot, pulled in, and sent the pilot/repair tech under the rig to ferret out the problem. Somewhere on the last trip, we’d snagged an electric brake wire and yanked the thing loose, effectively wiping out a good portion of our brake power. Happily we had suitable wire for the replacement and, as always, that “wide selection” of electrical connectors.

Well, back in 2014 we had crowed to readers about a new electrical connector system we were trying out. At that time we wrote: “In-Sure Push-In wire connectors, marketed by Ideal … have “ports,” wherein you strip back your wire insulation and simply push it into one of the ports. Strip off the next wire you want to connect, push it into another port. The connector electrically connects all wires. Need to join more than two wires? These connectors come in a variety in terms of the numbers of ports and allow various wire sizes to be used on the same connector. For example, you could connect a small 18-gauge wire into a circuit with a couple of large 12-gauge wires.”

Having these In-Sure connectors in the assortment, we hooked up the replacement wiring in no time flat, and skated off down the highway. But 4,000 miles down the road, I have to do what one of my mentors advised I would occasionally have to do: Eat crow.

Crawling under the rig to do an inspection, I, your pilot and RV technician, discovered with a great deal of dismay that those same In-Sure connectors that I’d dutifully installed a couple of months earlier were still with me – but were hanging by a thread, and had simply failed to keep at least one wire per connector in place. In short, I was lumbering down the road without the benefit of my rear axle brakes.

Bc999 (Black crow) on wikimedia commons

I can assure you that I pushed hard, following the manufacturer’s instructions for this product. But here the end result was, staring me in the face. Now, I’ve used these connectors on other repairs and installations in the rig, and I’m a bit worried about it. Yes, physical snagging force brought that seemingly solid connection to a ruin, but what about ordinary vibration? I’m back to using electrical end crimp connectors. Not those cheesy “slip the wire in one end, crimp. Slip the wire in the other end, crimp,” types. No, I mean the ones that look a bit like a bell, wherein you firmly physically wind the wiring together, slip it in the bell, then crimp the bell. Properly sized and crimped, I’ve never had a failure with this kind of connector.

We’ll come back as needed to eat more crow.

##RVT943

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Richard
25 days ago

I spent 40 yrs in the elevator industry. We tried every new connector system that some salesman could sell that was a penny cheaper. My job as a troubleshooter was to fix all the problems these devices caused. They were MANY. Always came back to a screw on type. Originally we used the Scotch-lock. My favorite was the Ideal brand with wings. Took up a little more space, but I found the wings allowed more/easier torque, and the threads seemed to be sharper for gripping. M2C

tom
25 days ago

Look at Anderson Power Poles if you need to repair or replace connectors that must be disconnected. PP15/45 size are very useful. Ask any amateur radio operator.

John M
25 days ago

Thanks for the follow up on your true experience. So few time you never hear about the true results.

Donald N Wright
25 days ago

It’s ok, think of all those “Motor Trend” car of the year models that turned out to be duds. I bought two of the Mazda Rotary cars, with the engine of the future. Remember the SST aircraft ? Remember the “Exxon” business typewriter? Somewhere there must be a museum of failed ideas.

Dan
1 year ago

I guess I’ve lived a sheltered life. I prefer using solder and heat shrink to join two wires together. And zip ties to hold the repaired wire in place when possible.

Bob p
25 days ago
Reply to  Dan

Yep!

William Clower
25 days ago
Reply to  Dan

Tried & true; works👍

John T
1 year ago

Toothpaste works perfectly well to buff the haze off the headlights.

Bob_B
1 year ago

You’re eating corn on the cob.

Bob_B
1 year ago

What makes you say that the 3M headlight cleaner didn’t work? You say that it did a good job, making the lenses cleaner and the lights noticeably brighter. Why in the world would you think that the same forces — road grime, pollution, bugs, and other factors — that caused the lenses to discolor when new would not have the same effect over time again, and then blame it on the product? If you wash your car and it later is dirty again, is that the fault of the soap and water that you used?

Tony
10 months ago
Reply to  Bob_B

My thoughts exactly.

Colin Grant
5 months ago
Reply to  Tony

You can buy a lot of toothpaste for $23 that works well.

BILLY Bob Thronton
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob_B

Not true. Your headlights are made of Lexan..type plastic. Also, a good repair kit. Comes with a ” clear” to be applied over the plastic after you remove the discolored part by what ever method is prescribed. If you use a kit that does not have a clear coat application as the last step, they will haze much much quicker.

Bill Pearson
1 year ago

As an electrial controls technician I have made perhaps thousands of wiring connections, and not all of them were successful. You have to keep in mind the conditions the connector was designed to be used.

The push in connector may work fine when installed within an enclosure that did not have any movement or outside conditions like vibrations,wind or water to affect it but not so well hanging out underneath a mobile,vibrating josteling RV! I learned long ago to always install a tie wrap on the wires below any connector I was using. If you keep the wires from moving the connector can be more successful at holding on to the wires.

If you are looking for an easy connection take a look at the Wago connector. It is a snap lock connector that makes a tenaciously tight connection.I have had good results using them.
https://www.wago.com/us/wire-splicing-connectors/splicing-connector/p/222-412

Only issue I have had was not pushing the wire in far enough to lock it, thinking it was locked when it wasn’t.. (operator error) . And always use a tie strap to keep the conductors from moving by strapping them altogether. I have also found that if I use the correct type of splice and it does not work,it is almost always operator error.

This could make a good series of Articles for Mike..All the different types of electrical splices and how and where to use them..

Thanks for all your hard work,
Stay Safe, Stay strong

Bob p
25 days ago
Reply to  Bill Pearson

Looks good if you are joining 2 wires together but why not use a much less expensive wire nut or crimp connector unless you are planning on taking them back apart in which the wire nut works just as well. I prefer the age old process called soldering the wires together and wrapping electrical tape on the bare wire.

Bob Godfrey
1 year ago

RE: Headlight restoration. I’ve used WD40 and 2000 grit sandpaper and it did a nice job on my 2002 Honda CRV toad.

Heraldo
1 year ago

Would you please give a link to The bell shaped electrical connector

KellyR
1 year ago
Reply to  Heraldo

I thought they were referring to the long standing “wire nut”.

WEB
1 year ago
Reply to  Heraldo

https://www.amazon.com/closed-end-connectors/s?k=closed+end+connectors
These are only a ‘one time use’ connector unlike a twist on or screw wire nut.

William Pritz
1 year ago
Reply to  Heraldo

I think the crimp connector referred to is called a Buchanan metal crimp connector with a plastic push on cover a Buchanan crimp tool is needed to crimp the connector

Montgomery Bonner
1 year ago

Advertising the headlight lens restore kits for years. Acrylic plastic is the worst stuff on the planet, lets go back to glass lens. I would pay extra for it, one time fix, unless rock, and done.

The electrical industry uses something called a “saker” block for hooking in lots of connections on switch panels, but you cannot use them to splice or connect wires. You choice of the old tried and true method is the best option. I guess the adage don’t mess with success is word here. Looks unsightly, but they work every time.

Another option, more time consuming, is to use a wire nut, for the correct sized wires, then put layer of Scotch 23 Rubber Tape over it, then use scotch 88 electrical tape over that. It will never come lose and never fail. Used again in the electrical substation/distribution construction to splice high voltage wires and connections. You can use the rubber tape on anything you want to vulcanize, like we did way back on tire tubes. Now, scotch 88 is overkill to a lot of people, but when working in high voltage field, it lasts for over 20 years in direct sunlight and weather. It’s rated the highest, and seems to me to be a little more mailable in using it, you can use the other grades, but always use a “good quality” brand of electrical tape, the cheap stuff will only last a short time in the elements.

Ken
1 year ago

I used the 3M Headlight Restoration Kit (<$11 on Amazon) on my 2008 Tiffin Phaeton last year and got wonderful results, saving me over $500 for new fixtures. I think I remember that the instructions said to re-polish the lenses annually with the final buffer to maintain the clarity. After one year, my headlights still look fantastic, but I also protect them with 303 every couple of months as well. You may not have followed the instructions all the way.

Mike Sherman
1 year ago

Spray your headlights with “Off” bug repellent and rub dry….repeat if necessary. The results will surprise you.

Bob Harnish
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Sherman

When using mosquito repellant for headlight restoration, buy the one with the highest percentage of DEET. Like Mike Sherman said, it works great. I coated mine with a “clear coat” afterwards that I got at O’Reillys that was beside the headlight restoration kits. Been 2 years they are still good.

Robert Doak
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Sherman

I have done that and it worked but only for a couple of months.

Bob p
25 days ago
Reply to  Robert Doak

Yep

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