Maybe you’ve heard of LED lighting and are wondering what they’re all about. Or maybe you’ve been told that upgrading to the best LED headlights could make you a better driver.
Either way, we’re going to tell you all you need to know to make the smart choice. We’ll tell you why LEDs are better and what to look for. We’ll also talk about life span and even some of the more technical terms.
So just why should you upgrade to LED lighting?
The main benefit is increased lighting performance. Being able to see better in the dark. Also, LED bulbs will last much longer than standard ones.
Things to Look for with LED Headlight Bulbs
CREE is a world-leading manufacturer of LED lighting chips. It’s their technology that you’re buying, not a process or system. Simply put, if it’s a CREE chip, then you’re getting the best lighting chip possible. So, any product using them, should, in theory, be of high quality.
Without getting too technical (like mentioning how color temperature relates to a black-body radiator), essentially what you’re looking at is anything rated above 5000K. The K stands for Kelvin, which is the measurement of absolute zero degrees. It’s classed as a cool color (bluish), so it works well for automotive lighting applications. 5000K is classed as Horizon Daylight.
Lumens (lm) is just another way of measuring light. The higher the number, the more powerful the light. It’s simple, but unless you actually know the rough output, pretty meaningless.
For a long time, people (incorrectly) assumed that light output was directly related to wattage. The higher the watts, the more light. Today, we use lumens because watts are really only a power consumption figure.
To give you an understanding of the lm scale, this is how they compare to what would be similar wattage (in the olden days!)
An old 25W light bulb is roughly the same as 250lm, a 100W bulb is around 1,500lm. As you can see, with some of these bulbs rating at 12,000lm, they’re pretty bright.
First up is the style or pattern that you’ll need. While it’s true that all cars use a selected range of styles (H4, H7, H11, etc), you’ll need to know which bulbs your car takes when ordering. If you aren’t sure, then take advice.
You also need to make sure that the actual LED bulb will fit inside the lens of your car. By their very nature, they are quite often longer than standard halogen bulbs.
Despite claims of ‘anti-dazzle’ technology, you may indeed find that you need to adjust your headlights to stop your new super-bright bulbs from dazzling on-coming traffic. Some of these bulbs are 250% (perhaps more) brighter than standard bulbs.
And if you do adjust your lights, you may find that your main beam lights aren’t as effective because you’ve had to angle your lights downwards. There’s no fixed guarantee that they’ll be as efficient.
Finally, you’ll need to check the fitting of the electrics. Some plugs may differ, and some of the modern cars using CanBUS technology may need an adaptor. Speak to a specialist to find out whether yours will.
Best LED Headlight Conversion Kits
The five LED kits that we’ve chosen all seem to offer similar benefits and upgrades over standard bulbs. None of them are too expensive. This really is a question of picking the kit that you prefer most.
7200lm of light from the CREE manufactured chip, at a color temperature of 6000K. Cougarmotors claims that these led bulbs are 200% brighter than standard halogen bulbs. This could be a problem for dazzling other car drivers. However, these sets of headlights are laser aligned to the body. In theory, that means that alignment is 100% perfect, giving them the perfect beam pattern.
An all-aluminum housing incorporates a built-in fan (spinning at 10,000rpm) for cooling. They’re ‘plug & play’ and also completely CanBUS ready. So they’ll work with pretty much any vehicle without having to alter things or set them up through a computer.
Expected life of 50,000 hours (imagine 3 hours per day, that’s nearly fifty years of use.) The operating voltage is 8V – 48V DC. So again, they’ll work on all automotive systems. Finally, they have a 3-year warranty, so you shouldn’t be having to pay up for replacements any time soon.
The ‘ultras’ from HIKARI have the highest rating of lumens in the list – 12,000lm in total. They’re 270% brighter than standard. Mind you, they also say that these bulbs are “the most high-tech LED headlight bulbs, ever”.
Perhaps there is something to that claim. These were the first LED bulbs to be included in the procurement program for the Texas Transit Authority. They wouldn’t have got that if they were sub-par.
Featuring CREE chips, the HIKARI high-tech LED bulbs will last for 50,000 hours and have a heat color of 6000K. They use an ultra-thin heatsink for cooling.
Whether they’re the most high-tech or not, they’re certainly good, and still at a reasonable price, albeit the most expensive here.
The whole ‘FluxBeam’ thing certainly brings on thoughts of ‘Flux capacitor’. But, that aside, what we have here is a complete LED conversion kit. It’s rated at 68W (34W each bulb), 7,000lm, and 6000K color temperature.
Using the ‘all-new’ ARC-LENZ technology, the proof is in the lighting. It’s also worth mentioning that these are the only bulbs listed here that use LED tech that’s been specifically designed for automotive use.
They have the perfect beam pattern (but most claim to have that). These lights are plug & play and should work with most vehicles without too much fuss. They also have an operating window of 9V – 24V DC – should work with all auto electrics.
The Glowteck solution uses CREE chips to give 12,000lm of light, with a color temp of 6000K, all rated at 68W (pretty much the same as the HIKARI). Where the Glowteck really scores though is that the beam is adjustable. These are the only bulbs here with that feature.
They also have other neat features – a full ball-bearing race cooling fan, copper-core heatsink, and AirFlux dual cooling. Some engineering has gone into these. Not quite as long life, with 40,000 hours (using the same 3 hours/day that works out to about 38 years), but they do have a 2-year warranty with them.
Glowteck will send you a free CanBUS resistor decoder if your vehicle needs one. However, it does not come as standard in the box. And even better, they’ll send you a fancy pair of smaller LED lights that can be placed anywhere. You’ll get a free pair of multi-use LED lights with your order.
These Auxbeam headlights are being sold as bulbs, but what you’re actually getting is a complete conversion kit. It comes with the powerpack, wiring, and everything you need to convert to LED. It’s available in all sizes.
The kit is rated at 60W, what this means is 30W per bulb, but it’s enough to give you 6000 lm of light, at a 6000K color temperature. Effectively, this gives you super bright bulbs. But, because their soft white light beam produced, they won’t dazzle oncoming traffic.
These are made from aircraft aluminum. It makes them look like they’ve been properly engineered. With that in mind, they have a built-in cooling fan to stop them from overheating. It guarantees that your bulbs will produce over 50K hours of brilliant, continuous light.
Finally, the Aubeam LED headlights are a CREE chip fitted and come with a 1-year warranty. Some consumers have noticed electronic ‘noise’ with the bulbs. That means you could get some radio interference.
Buying LED conversion kits is usually more expensive than buying regular halogen bulbs. However, they’ll last longer. In fact, you may never need to replace them, and they give out more light. It’s a win-win situation.
Sure, you do not want to spend 50 bucks (or more) on changing the lighting of your car. But, I can almost guarantee that if you swap over to LEDs, you won’t change back to standard halogen bulbs. The difference really is that great.