Traction Avant Upgraded Lights

April 2019 - Upgrading the Traction Avant Lighting.

One of the weaknesses of a 67 year old car is it's lighting which is way below modern standards and in some instances it's potentially dangerous so it was time to try and improve things and is one of the reasons we upgraded the car to a 12 volt system some time back.

The rear light fittings are designed to hold incandescent 'festoon' bulbs. LED bulbs need to be the same colour as the lens they are shining through i.e. for a red rear light you need a red LED and whilst it's possible to source LED festoon bulbs in red, they are a different length and are 'directional' with a narrow beam spread so unless you are looking directly at them they can be as poor as the original festoons so I took the plunge and bought some specially designed dedicated LED units from CAS in the Netherlands.

There are 2 LED units linked together so when you turn on the tail (or marker) lights they both glow but when the brake pedal is pressed they both glow brighter again. For a post 1952 Traction they are a straight swap for the existing rear light fittings. Simply remove the old fitting, fit the new one and couple the 'orange' wire on the LED unit to the tail light connector and the 'red' to the brake lights and your good to go.

They are expensive compared to festoon LED bulbs so had been thinking about it for a while before finally deciding to go ahead with them.

In the image on the left you can see the unit on the car. In the centre once the lens is in position you can't really see the LED unit but once lit up as on the right side image of the Brake lights, they are very bright and a big improvement over the original incandescent festoons and are even brighter than the high level unit.

New LED Fitting The LED behind the lens The New Tail lights The New Brake lights

The next stage is to upgrade the indicators to LED. Now post July 1952 the Traction Avant was fitted with a simple flashing indicator system which had a switch with a clockwork timer built in. Most of these will have failed over time, my own cars had and was replaced with a simple 3 pole, 3 position on|off|on switch with a flasher unit between the power in and the switch itself. It used standard P21W bulbs under orange lenses. I have already fitted a modern flasher unit which at 0.1 watt-150 watt can run ordinary incandescent bulbs or LED ones, or a combination of both.

The unit also has an inbuilt 'buzzer' so when the indicators flash there is an audible warning to remind you to switch them off as unlike modern cars, the flashers don't auto cancel.

Non LED friendly SwitchHowever, I also had to change the actual dashboard switch that I had previously used. The one shown on the right has a bulb in the centre that lights up and unfortunately that makes it incompatible with LED flashers and bulbs.

Why? You may well ask and it had me baffled for a while as whatever side you turned on all 4 indicators went on like hazard lights.

Putting 2 incandescent bulbs back in the rear flasher units instead of 2 LED ones and everything worked, madness!

LED Indicator LightBasically it was down to the centre bulb in the switch making a circuit to both sides of the circuit at the same time but at a power level to low to light up incandescent lamps. So I fitted a similar switch, but without the centre bulb and everything is now fine.

Thinking about it and looking at the switch later I could have simply removed the centre bulb wires to the small LED as shown in the image on the left and achieved the same result....

LED Indicator LitI may also fit a hazard switch to flash all 4 lights sometime, just in case.... but it's not a priority and not so simple finding the correct type of switch.

Fitted the new Amber LED P21w indicator bulbs but it is hard to get a good picture but they are brighter than incandescent bulbs and draw 75% less power.

The cost of the LED Flasher unit and 4 360 degree Amber LED bulbs, £15.90, so not an expensive upgrade to improve safety.

Headlights well I'm leaving those alone for now. LED headlight bulbs are expensive and it would also currently mean changing the actual bulb fitting away from 3 pin Marchal.

Another real issue would be beam pattern as the Marchal Units in the Traction are simply concave reflectors with basic beam shape casting in the glass which are not designed for anything other than round incandescent bulbs so they may cause glare and be hazardous to other road users.

There is a company developing LED bulbs for the Marchal fitting so they may be available in a few months however, I have only ever driven the Traction in the dark once in 5 years and that was when we were out in France in 2014, so do I really need to upgrade those bulbs?

Probably not, but....

Last Update: 6th April 2019