Gen. 1 to Gen. 2 Headlight Swap

Cliff Pennock at


Gen. 1 to Gen. 2 Headlight Swap

Not so
long ago my left headlight failed to pop up. The headlight motor had been
rebuild a few years before (or that is what the garage claimed they did) and at
first I was planning to rebuild it again, but this time do it myself. I

Rodney Dickman
to ask what was needed for the rebuild and he said
he happened to get a complete headlight set from an 88 and that it would be
better to swap my “Generation 1″ headlight motors out for the “Generation 2″
headlight motors. He kindly donated the kit under the condition I would do a
write up. So here it is.


The Fiero uses two
different headlight motor systems. One is used in all 84 to 86 Fieros, the other
is used in all 87 and 88 Fieros, and hence they are usually referred to as the
“Generation 1″ and “Generation 2″ headlight system. The Generation 1 motors have
many, many disadvantages. They are noisy and slow and break down often. A lot of
people choose to rebuild them when they fail – which is fine if you want to keep
your Fiero stock or if you can’t find the parts for the Generation 2 headlight
system. Otherwise I would suggest doing this swap since it’s an easy one and one
you will not regret.

What you need

A lot of people wonder what is needed for this swap. Most importantly, you need
the headlight actuators (motors) of course. Make sure they are complete with the
crank arm and the link assembly:

Generation 2 Headlight

If you are removing them
from the donor car yourself (or if you have someone remove them for you), make
sure they are marked “LEFT” and “RIGHT” since there is a difference.
Also, you might want to take the three bolts holding the motor in place since
they are about half an inch shorter than the bolts from the Gen. 1 motor.

The Generation 2 system
uses a motor control module which is not present in the Generation 1 system:

Generation 2 Headlights
Motor Control Module

On the 87-88 Fiero, the
module is located under the driver’s side fender. This really is a strange
location for the module since there are far better locations for this module:

Original location of
the Motor Control Module

Finally, you will need the
entire Forward Lamp Harness, obviously since it’s different from the Generation
1 harness:

Generation 2 Forward
Lamp Harness


Before doing anything
else, either disconnect the battery or disconnect the forward lamp harness
(see “The Harness”). You are working on moving parts and the Fiero’s
electrical system here and to prevent injuries, you need to make sure the system
is not powered!

There’s absolutely no
reason why you don’t want to remove the hood. It makes working on the
headlights so much easier and re-aligning the hood is a piece of cake. First,
open the hood and remove the headlight doors. The headlight doors are attached
to the hood with two bolts:

Headlight Cover

Remove the bolts and
remove the headlight door through the top of the hood. When both headlight doors
have been removed, it’s time to remove the hood support. Unbolt the two upper
support bolts:

Upper Hood Support

With the upper support
bolts removed, lower the hood support and close the hood. If you now look under
the hood through the holes, you can see the two hinges that hold the hood in
place. Remove the two bolts on both hinges:

Hood Hinge

Now you can remove the
hood completely.

The Headlight Assemblies

The next step is to remove
the headlight assemblies (buckets). The headlight assemblies are attached to the
frame with 4 studs, two at the top and two at the bottom. You do not need to
completely remove the nuts from the bottom studs. Loosening them a bit is
sufficient since you can slide the assembly out. To reach the bottom nuts you
first need to detach the link assembly from the headlight assembly:

Detach link assembly

Once that bolt is removed
you can lift the headlight, giving you enough room to loosen the bottom two

Lift the headlight to
get to the bottom studs

Looking at the assembly
from the front, the two nuts to loosen are positioned here:

Bottom two studs of
headlight assembly

Like I said, there’s
absolutely no need to remove these two nuts, just loosen them a bit. You
do need to remove the top two nuts. Before you remove the top two nuts, you
might want to mark their position since that will save you some time realigning
the headlights once you put them back in again. After you have removed the top
two and loosened the bottom two nuts, remove the entire headlight assembly by
tilting them forward at the top, then pulling them up. Of course, do not forget
to disconnect the harness first. Now that the headlights are out of the car,
remove the actuator relays on both of them. They are no longer needed.

If you look at the
headlights from the side, you will see the headlight motor is held in place by
three bolts. You will need to remove these three bolts to remove the headlight

Three bolts hold the
headlight motor in place

The Gen. 2 headlight
motors will drop in without any modifications. But as mentioned earlier, the
three bolts use to hold the Gen. 2 motors in place are about half an inch
shorter. If you were unable to save the bolts from the Gen. 2 headlight
assembly, you will need to shorten the bolts (with a Dermal or something) once
you have bolted the Gen. 2 motors in place, otherwise the motor will not be able
to make a full turn without the crank arm getting stuck on the bolts (there’s in
fact only one bolt that’s too long. You will be able to see easily which one it
is once the motor is bolted in place). Do not attach the link assembly to the
headlight assembly just yet (so the headlight can still freely move up and

Once the new motor is in
place, put the headlight assemblies aside. It’s now time to concentrate on the


Now it’s time to remove
the original harness. First you will need to unplug it from the bulkhead – it’s
the bottom connector near the brake booster:

Front Harness Main

You can’t simply pull out
the connector. The entire connector is bolted to the bulkhead with a single
bolt. This bolt also holds the connector in place. So in order to disconnect it,
you will need to unbolt it first:

Remove the bolt

Once the bolt is loose,
you can unplug the entire connector from the bulkhead and remove the front
harness’ connector by sliding it out:

Slide the connector out
to remove it

Now remove the side turn
signal lights and remove the bulbs from the housings. The harness is also
connected to the horns which can only be reached from the bottom of the car.
Just look under your car just in front of the wheels and you will see the horns.
Disconnect them both. Follow the harness around and disconnect every plug
(master cylinder, side turn-signals, horns, headlight motor, headlights, front
turn signals, and radiator). Also disconnect the plastic retainers holding the
harness to the frame. Now completely remove the old harness. This is another
moment you will be glad you removed the hood.

Take note how the old harness is routed while removing it. You will need to
route the new harness as closely as possible. But before we can route the new
harness, we must find a spot for the motor control module. The original location
is under the driver’s side fender, but to make things a lot easier I
would suggest another location. The best location I have found is under the left
headlight assembly, just behind the left turn signal. You have more than enough
room there and you don’t have to do some creative routing to make the harness
fit. Put the module just behind the turn signal and drill two holes through the
screw holes to hold the module in place:

Placing the Headlight

Some people are concerned
about it getting wet in that location. The module itself is pretty much
waterproof so as long as the plugs are in good condition, water shouldn’t be a
problem. If you want to be absolutely sure water can’t get into the plugs, use
some dielectric grease on the plugs and reseat them.

The Gen. 2 harness I used
only had one connector for the (left) horn. Apparently the 88 harness has the
wire for the right horn missing while the 87 harness does not. So I cut the wire
for the right horn from the old harness and spliced that into the left horn wire
in the new harness. So before routing the new harness, check if you need to add
this wire too.

Now route the new harness, and connect all connectors and bulbs. Do not
reconnect the main connector just yet!
Use the plastic retainers to hold the
harness in place. Screw the actuator relay to the front end panel:

The Actuator Relay

Once the new harness is
routed, test fit the headlight assemblies and move the lights up and down by
hand, checking if they can move freely without catching the harness. If you are
satisfied both headlights can move freely, bolt them back in place and attach
the link assembly to the headlight assembly. If you want, you can connect the
headlight motors and the main connector to test if the headlight motors are
actually working.

Now put the hood back on
and bolt the hinges through the headlight holes. To align the hood, simply move
it around. When the hood is aligned, fasten the bolts. Bolt the hood support and
headlight doors back in. Finally, reconnect the harness’ main connector. There,
you have just finished the swap!


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