Batch 3 In Production

Batch 3 is on schedule for Feb 15 ship date! Building 40 sets this time, which leaves 10 sets worth of parts left in Batch 4 to experiment with different designs or for custom orders (harnesses, DRLs, etc).

Batch 3 – 80x PCBs fully assembled

Some fun stats about 40 sets of SKBOWE (80 units):

  • 320 wires cut, 640 stripped, 400 soldered
  • 400 capacitors + 240 diodes + 80 resistors = 1440 leads soldered
  • 80 heatsinks cut and bent, 80 enclosures notched, 80 covers taped
Bending the heatsinks for batch 3

After stuffing the enclosures (heat wire, form wires, tape wires, then test-fit heatsink and insulator), it’s time to mix up some potting compound.

Stuffing enclosures, prepping covers

Then each one gets a thin layer of compound, board goes back in, another layer of compound, cover gets glued and goes on, then the whole thing gets wrapped with electrical tape to compress it. Once all of them are done, into the oven for 2 hours at 165F.

Baking the first potting pour of Batch 3

I ran out of ABS cement (more on order) so for now there are 11 (so the 9 pre-orders will go out on time).

Stay tuned for more updates!

SKBOWE Batch 2 Sold Out, Batch3 open for Pre Order

Batch 2 Sold Out!

Wow! Hard to believe but all 50 of the original Batch 1 / Batch 2 SKBOWEs have sold in just 6 months. They have shipped all over the US, as well as Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, and Netherlands. While there were 16 units in the initial pre-order, sales have been stronger than I expected, averaging 6 units/month from August onwards.

Batch 3 / 4 open for Pre Order

It’s sad to see the bin empty, and thinking of the stories that I have heard I can’t let it stay that way – so I have decided to go ahead and order parts for another 50 SKBOWEv2. Again, some the capacitors are backordered so there will be a Batch 3 shipping in February and Batch 4 shipping some time after that. The pre-order is open now if you want to guarantee yourself a set.

Looking Forward

The original SKBOWE business plan called for 100 units total, and at this time it looks like Batch 4 will be the last of SKBOWE v2. There are several ideas for features to SKBOWEv3, such as a removable harness and a DRL detector, but the design is still tentative. I guess for now, you’ll just have to wait and see!

AL Gen2 Projector Pigtails in Volvo OEM Colors

I found the connectors that AL use on their bi-xenon projector solenoid control boards (Mouser #571-2-1718346-1 and #571-965906-1-CT) and ordered a few to make pigtails that connect the high beam solenoid into the factory wiring. The OEM connector locks securely into place, and the 12″ (30cm) automotive GXL wire is designed to hold up inside of the headlight housing. Wire is color-coded to match factory wires (yellow = +12, brown = ground) to ensure correct polarity and not look out of place inside of the housing.

AL (OEM) Salvaged Projectors

Image of projector pigtails in brown and yellow wiring
Custom made Volvo OEM color AL projector bi-xenon solenoid controller PCB pigtails.

Most used (salvaged) projectors come with short (cut pigtails) of various colors or no harness at all. I have never seen a set in yellow and brown, the wire colors used in the Volvo headlight housing for the 9005 high-beam connector.

If you want to wire up a projector retrofit without using messy splitters, I am selling these for $20 shipped (Priority Mail) to the US, or $12 with your SKBOWE order (just contact me first!) anywhere. Each order comes with a pair (2x) of 12″ GXL pigtails and four (4x) 4″ black zip-ties to match the OEM internals. You will need to provide insulated butt-style (if you cut-and-splice) or 9005 female (join inside of the high-beam connector) crimps – see this post for details.

Replica Projector Pigtails

Replicas use the same connector but a different pinout: the yellow wire is on the center (pin 2) rather than on the end (pin 1). All new replica projectors come with pigtails, usually white (+12) and black (ground). These will work fine, but if you want to go for a 100% OEM look, you can order a set of these color matched pigtails and swap the pin across. It is pretty easy to swap the pin over using a jewelers screwdriver. Or let me know first and I’d be glad to do it for you.

Ballast Testing: What NOT to buy – $20 eBay Kit

This is a post about things you should NOT buy. Please DO NOT BUY things on this page.

I’ve noted that the SKBOWE will work with just about any HID kit, but when it comes to choosing a kit, there is a difference between “can” and “should”. The old adage “you get what you pay for” is very relevant, so avoid listings like this one:

eBay auction listing of what to avoid
An example of what *not* to buy for your Volvo

Of course, I couldn’t help myself in seeing how they could possibly sell an HID kit for less than a single D2S bulb, so I put in an order and the kit arrived 7 days later:

Warning Signs to look for before installing HIDs

If you observe any of these warning signs, you should not install the kit. They are easy-to-recognize:

Warning sign #1 – It was cheap. Obviously, at under $20 for 2 ballasts and 2 bulbs, this was not going to be top quality. The Kensun (Amazon) brand kits are $60, and are significantly better than this.

Warning sign #2 – It feels cheap. The first thing I noticed was the weight of the ballast – it feels like an empty case.  My postal scale says 3 Oz (85g), including the internal ignitor! Compare to the Morimoto XB35 at 10 Oz (295g). This is a DC ballast design, so even if it did work the bulbs would wear out very quickly.

Warning sign #3 – It looks cheap. Crummy sticker placed off center with no brand name, “input corrent [sic] : 10A” (this would be 135W, BTW). Back side has wood screws holding an aluminum plate onto the plastic case, didn’t bother to countersink so the heads are proud of the surface. No weather sealing whatsoever. No strain relief on the output cord (it looks like there is a nut, but it is cast and part of the case, the wire easily slides in and out).

Warning sign #4 – It’s built cheap. The internal construction of this ballast is actually scary, reminds me of the counterfeit usb chargers that routinely cause fires – but this is running at 5000 times more volts! No potting or through holes, which will shred this in an automotive environment. Integrated ignitor with no insulation. Random transformer rather than an actual boost converter. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

Guts of a super cheap HID kit.

Please do NOT use this type of kit in your Volvo (even with the SKBOWE)! When there is talk about “EMI” issues, it is these sorts of ballasts that are to blame. Any decent company producing a reputable ballast will be 100x better than this garbage.

Honestly, I am not even sure I want to hook it up to the testbench. But if the SKBOWE can run this, it really can run anything! Stay posted for an update with electrical performance.

HID Bulb Types and Identification – D1S D1R D2S D2R D3S D3R D4S D4R etc

You may have seen references to various D-Series HID (xenon) bulbs in the context of projector swaps, D1S, D1R, D2S, D2R, D3S, D3R, D4S, D4R, sometimes even D2C and D2H. So what’s the difference?

All of these bulbs have the quartz envelope and arc positioned in the same place – so any D-series projector can use any D-series bulb by bending/cutting out the indexing tabs. For example, if you buy a AL Gen2 projector from an Audi but want to use aftermarket D2S bulbs + ballasts, just bend down the key tab! Please don’t use D*S bulbs in reflector headlights as it will effectively be a high beam and blind oncoming traffic!
HID bulb types. Read more about them in this HIDPlanet thread. ECG is the technical name for ballast. All aftermarket ballasts are designed to use D1 and D2 bulbs only, and will not operate the other bulb types.

D-Series Naming System

D-Series bulbs are named using 3 characters, like “D1S”.

D - "Discharge"
N - 1,2,3,4 is the type
T - S is for projector, R is for reflector

To illustrate this

1. Ignitor: integrated (D1*, D3*) vs. separate external (D2*, D4*)

The D1 and D3 bulbs have an integrated ignitor (silver box) on the back of the bulb. D2 and D4 bulbs use ignitors that detach and stay with the headlight.

Igniter built-in: D1, D3
No integrated ignitor: D2, D4

2. Voltage: mercury (D1*, D2*) 85V vs. mercury-free (D3*, D4*) 42V

Mercury bulbs (D1S, D1R, D2S, D2R) run at 85V AC. Mercury Free (hg free D3S, D3R, D4S, D4R) bulbs run at 42V AC.

3. D*S is used in projector vs. D*R is used in reflector headlight with shield on envelope glass

S series bulbs (D1S, D2S, D3S, D4S) are used in projector lamps, R series bulbs (D1R, D2R, D3R, D4R) are used in reflector lamps.

Bulb Identification

What if you are given D1R and D3R or D2S and D4S without label? You can’t see if there is mercury inside (and thus the voltage). It is possible to differentiate using the notches on the bulb.

Location of notches on D-Series bulbs
This diagram shows the notches on the bulb base, looking at the bulb, as well as the location of the notch on the lamp holder (in red)

Aftermarket Bulbs

The closest to OEM we can get without paying dealership pricing are the Philips line of D1S, D1R, D2S, D4S etc… which run around $50-60/bulb. However, off brand aftermarket manufactures offer HID bulbs at a fraction of the price (e.g.  HID warehouse  , RCP , and HYB with comparable reviews – HYB also makes knockoff projectors BTW), though (in general) they won’t last as long or have as consistent of a color temperature.

Since all of these bulbs have the same base dimensions and hold the arc in the same location, aftermarket manufactures have cut costs by reducing the number of different models to produce. The result, sometimes called the D*C type (though this isn’t a real specification), universally fits multiple project key notches. For D1/D3, a removable ignitor adapter is available.

5 notches? What is going on?? These are “Type-C” bulbs
4 and 5 notch D-Series bulbs are type “C”

Aftermarket manufactures don’t want to make a lot of different models. D2C that can replace both D2R and D2S. D4C for D2S, D2R, D4S, D4R and D2C. D1S with 5 notches won’t be hard to understand.

D2C replaces D1S and D2S, D4C replaces D3S and D4S

All of this makes it simpler for production, but much more complicated for consumers… And most sellers even don’t know about the real reason or the difference. But there is still the voltage difference – even though they might fit, D1/2 bulbs must not be used with D3/4 ballasts or vise versa!

C-type bulbs with integrated ignitors can be differentiated by the keying on the ignitor connector

Another way to differentiate D1S vs D3S is based on the keying in the ignitor connector.

Finally, the last aftermarket type is sometimes called “D2H” which includes AMP connectors for aftermarket ballasts. It is always 85V / Mercury.

Aftermarket bulbs (used when the OEM ballast fails, or for projector swaps) with AMP connectors are sometimes called “D2H”, and have enough notches to fit anything.

These are designed to allow aftermarket ballasts to be used after the OEM ballasts fail, or when projectors are retrofitted. These have the same downside as re-based HID bulbs: using them requires drilling into the headlight assembly to pass through the wires.

Many thanks to this post, and the HID planet thread.

AL Gen2 Projector “de-key” Modification

You can easily modify AL Gen 2 projectors to fit any of the D base bulbs by bending the key tab out of the way (aka dekey the projector):

This is the key tab that prevents using a D2S bulb in a D4S or D8S projector
Key tab partially bent on an AL gen2 projector
Finishing the bend, using pliers to curl it completely out of the way
When complete, the back should look like this.

This removes the key entirely, so you are free to use whatever bulb/ballast combination makes you happy.

How to: “factory” wire bi-xenon solenoid

I had previously written up how to create a bi-xenon high-beam adapter using a 9005 extension. If you don’t mind modifying your headlights permanently, and have long enough wires on the solenoid pigtail (8~10″), with a little work you can mimmic the “factory” solenoid wiring found in the OEM AL bi-xenon headlights that use “Gen 2” (2-wire) (aka “E46”) projectors. This will also work for replica projectors, but not 3-wire “Gen 1” projectors – those require a solenoid controller.

You will need: 9005/9006 female crimp terminals, a molex crimp tool, a wire stripper/crimper, a paper clip, and some zip-ties.


First start by removing the terminals from the OEM 9005 high beam connector, by inserting a paperclip to depress the retaining tab as shown below.

Removing a terminal from the connector housing.

Next cut off the OEM terminal, re-strip the wires, and include the pigtail wire:

In addition to the two original brown wires, I’ve added a third black wire that runs to the solenoid ground, shown here inserted correctly into the terminal prior to crimping.

Using a molex-type crimper, ensure that the terminal is securely fastened to the three wires.

Crimping in progress, showing the correct length of stripped conductor and insulation position.
The new ground terminal after being crimped. The same process is repeated on the supply (yellow, +12) side.

The same process is repeated on the other wire (yellow, +12v). Finally, insert the new terminals into the housing

Insert the new terminals into the OEM housing. Retaining tab faces center.

Finally, zip tie the new wires along the harness, and plug it in…

Ziptie everything in place, and it looks totally stock!

This not only looks nicer, but also frees up some much-needed space inside of the housing.

How To: DRL Disarm aka LSM Position 0 Disable

This How-To describes what I will call the “DRL Disarm” (because “DRL Disable” has been used extensively to mean the VIDA software part #30679690) – making it safe to retrofit HIDs in P1 Volvos using the SKBOWE error harness. The “Dimmed Low Beam” DRL issue with HID conversions in P1 only occurs with the LSM in Position 0, as shown below, so this mod prevents the CEM from sending low-duty-cycle PWM to the HID ballasts during the day, when the LSM is in Position 0 (“off”), essentially turning Pos 0 into Pos II.

OE USA SWDisable SWDRL Disarm
Pos 0 (Day)Dimmed 9VOffPWM 13V
Pos 0 (Night)PWM 13VOffPWM 13V
Pos I (1)Off (parking)Off (parking)Off (parking)
Pos II (2)PWM 13VPWM 13VPWM 13V

Many advantages to this solution:

  1. It’s super easy!
  2. It’s free! No cost to flash software, or need to explain to dealer, or record with Volvo.
  3. It’s 100% reversible (also free) if you need to remove the HIDs later
  4. Just as safe as DRL disable for SKBOWE operation
  5. Function compared to stock remains unchanged (low beam still on in Pos0), in regions where DRLs are required, this keeps the functionality intact.

Only disadvantage compared to DRL disable is that you can’t be cool and turn off your lights (not that you could before!)

Remember, you don’t *have* to do this – the same thing is accomplished by leaving the LSM in PosII all of the time. But it prevents any potential issues if you (or other driver, or shop) forgets to do so.

How does it work?

Inside of the LSM, there are two small switches, one for Position 0, and one for Position 1. There is no switch for Position 2 (which is detected when neither 0 or 1 is closed). The CEM thinks that the LSM is in Pos0 when Pin 6 of the LSM (black/green wire, and B:2 of the CEM) is connected to ground, so by disconnecting this wire as shown in the diagram below, the CEM will never think the LSM is in Position 0, and the daytime dimmed DRL condition can not occur!


The LSM in position 0
For reference, this is the LSM in position “0”, when DRLs are activated on cars with the CEM program installed.
LSM diagram with pin 6 hack
By removing LSM pin 6 (shown by red X above) the CEM will never think the LSM is in Position 0.

You could cut this wire and be done in 10 seconds, but this can be done reversibly in about 5 minutes. Either way, it’s simple, effective, and free!

How To: Reversible DRL Disarm

Step 1: Gather Tools / Materials. Easy!

Gather parts: Small flat screwdriver, spudger, large paperclip, and electrical tape
  • Large paperclip, or other similar size stiff wire. You could probably use a small/normal size paper clip, but the large ones are exactly the right size to release the pins.
  • (Optional) Small flat screwdriver to disengage connector lock
  • (Optional) Nylon spudger to remove LSM
  • (Optional) Electrical Tape will to secure the removed pin.


Step 2: Remove the LSM. This is easiest using a non-marring spudger, but if you don’t have one: Grab the door-facing panel inside the jamb by the air grate and pull out, then push the LSM out from the backside. Once it’s free, disconnect the electrical connector.

Removing the LSM
Remove LSM using spudger. Alternately, pull out the cover to the side of it and push it out from the back.
LSM removed
Once free, remove the LSM and disconnect the electrical connector.

Step 3: Identify Pin 6. It’s the black/green wire as shown below.

Back of LSM with Pin6 circled
Back of the LSM, showing location of Pin 6
LSM connector showing Pin6
Back of LSM connector showing Pin 6. It’s the black/green wire in MY2005

Step 4: Unlock Pin Retainer Clip. Careful as to not break it off, slowly pry up the pin retainer clip. It swings up and out. I find a small flat-head screwdriver works well for this.

Unlocking the retaining clip
To unlock the retainer clip, insert screwdriver as shown and carefully pry up.
Retainer clip disengaged
Retainer clip disengaged. The little plastic tabs are a backup mechanism hold the pins in place.

Step 5: Remove Pin 6 from the connector. This is super easy once you get the hang of it, but if it’s your first time, it can be a little tricky. Unfold the paperclip and insert it into the upper hole above pin 6. It will slide in easy at first, then there will be some resistance – keep pushing until it gets firm. Then, keep slight inward pressure with one hand, while pulling the wire out with the other. If lined up right, the wire+pin should come right out.

Bent paperclip
Bend the paperclip straight to make a pin remover. Large paperclips work best for the Green Volvo Connectors
Shows where to insert paperclip
Insert paperclip into the remover slot for Pin 6 (click for bigger).

If you can not easily pull the wire out, remove and re-insert the paperclip, maybe wiggle a little bit. The pin should come out with very little force at all. If you pull too hard, it will break the primary retainer plastic and you won’t be able to re-install the pin later.

Step 6: Remove and Secure Pin 6. Once the pin is out (left) replace the retainer clip by pressing it back down gently into the connector. Use some tape (right) to hold the loose pin out of the way.

Pin6 removed.
Pin 6 halfway out of the connector. After pulling it all the way out, press the retainer clip back down gently into the connector.
Pin 6 taped back
Tape the loose wire to the harness so it looks like nothing ever happened!

Step 7: Installation is reverse of removal… It’s now safe to run HIDs with SKBOWE in any LSM position! The low-beams will turn on in Position 0 and Position II.

LSM installed
Reinstall LSM, ensure that the lights come on in 0 and II.



Building SKBOWE Batch #2

I had originally said October (based on the DigiKey backorder estimate) but the caps came early. Haven’t had too many Batch2 orders yet so I thought I’d get a head start on building them…

All of SKBOWE Batch #2 (22 units)

Got all of them soldered together, and 10 sets potted…

10 SKBOWE Batch2 sets potted

I’ll be traveling for the rest of the month, so I am pushing to finish these tomorrow so orders placed before 9/15 will get in the mail on Monday. If you haven’t ordered yet, yours will ship out before October 15th.

AL Projector (“E46”) Identification Chart PDF

I put together a nice cheatsheet to help identify the right type of AL projector when you are looking at listings or out at a salvage yard.

Download the full PDF: AL Projector Identification Guide

The AL Projector Guide (V1).


You want to look for “Gen 2” projectors, they have the best optics and the wiring is simple. Gen 1 requires a solenoid controller for bi-xenon functionality.

Remember that aftermarket ballasts only run D2S bulbs. To use D1/D3/D4 bulbs you need an OEM ballast. D2S bulbs will fit in any of these projectors. The ones with octagon-shaped bulb holders might need a simple modification to allow them to take D2S bulbs. All of them with black plastic rings are designed specifically for D2S.

Low Beam Patterns

High Beam Patterns


Links to Full Images (click to show)
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