Most carmakers now fit LEDs into the headlights of new vehicles. LEDs certainly have benefits over old-school halogens and even HIDs that were all the rage just a few years ago. But times have moved on, and so has technology. Better lighting options are now also available for older vehicles, and simple upgrade kits will bring better visibility and increased driving safety. What’s even more important is that prices have tumbled and are more than reasonable for what’s on offer.
Why and When You Should Upgrade
Low visibility can be a concern in older cars with stock halogens. This is especially true in low-lit rural areas, and when taking your vehicle off-road. And it’s not just when the sun sets that you’ll be using headlights. Haze, fog, and dust will see you turning lights on even during the day. If you’re having a hard time seeing what’s in front, then the likelihood of an accident or damage to your car is more pronounced.
Drivers can either replace older halogens with a new set of bulbs or spend a little more and get LED headlight upgrade kits. The upfront cost may be more, but you’ll be saving on replacement bulbs in the long run. Not to mention the night and day difference in lighting performance.
Halogens vs LEDs – How They Compare
Let’s get the spec sheets out for each type of light first. Halogens may be upgraded versions of the incandescent lights we used at home ages ago, but the improvements in cars are few and far between. They wear out quite quickly, with average working times of 2000 hours. You’ll be replacing bulbs every 2-3 years, assuming no other issues arise. This is largely down to the tungsten filaments wearing out under high heat. A related issue is that they get extremely hot. In fact, 80 per cent of the energy they consume is converted to heat and only 20 per cent into effective light.
Power draw isn’t their trump card either, and you’ll be draining more of the battery than you’d like. On average, this is around 60 watts per bulb. In cars fitted with more complicated electrical systems, lighting output may also depend on the juice left in the car battery. And this results in dim lights.
More important are the brightness levels and how far this is projected. Halogens at best can produce around 16-20 lumens per watt, so an average bulb rounds out at 1000 lumens. A decent number in theory, but as bulbs get hotter the numbers drop significantly. In addition, you’ll be needing much larger and more power-hungry halogens to project light at a safe distance of 1000 metres. Here space is another limiting factor.
LEDs are better than halogens or HIDs in every way. They’re not bulbs in the traditional sense, but light-emitting diodes. No gases or filaments here, so there’s less of a chance of something going wrong. They run much cooler than halogens, and the heat sinks in LED headlight upgrade kits help in three important ways. Less heat means they’ll last longer, averaging 50000 hours, or a conservative estimate of at least 10 years. This is 5 times longer than comparable halogens.
Another aspect is that they need less power for the same brightness levels. An LED headlight optioned in 60W will be 5 times brighter than a 60W halogen bulb. And that’s a huge difference in effective light, which will also reach greater distances. The benefit is that LEDs can be optioned with lower power draw, and this allows them to be much smaller. Where space is an issue this is a game changer. This is the reason why cars with LEDs as standard have typically smaller headlights. And why you won’t be worrying about flicking or dimming lights if the battery isn’t topped up.
Lastly, LEDs don’t have that annoying yellow tinge and something that can cause fatigue when driving for longer periods. The colour temperature is more like natural daylight, or around 5000 Kelvin, shining a clear white. Driving will be more pleasant, both for drivers and those in oncoming traffic. Tech advancements mean that the colour of light is adjustable, unlike in halogens (with a colour temperature of 3000K) and you can go choose from warmer or cooler colours. Or whatever works best for you.
What do LED Upgrade Kits Come With
Unlike new LED driving lights that you can add to existing headlights, upgrade kits with LEDs are meant to replace the halogens. And they don’t carry astronomical price tags. Kits consist of the lights, the LED chips (that run the show), heat sinks to better manage heat levels, and the compatible wiring that is a simple plug-and-play unit connecting to your car’s existing wiring.
Light makers make it easier for buyers in that they sell lights compatible with current halogens and the socket bulb fitting that dictates available space. H numbers (H1, H3, H7, H11, HB3, and HB4 denote single filament halogens, and H4 are double filaments with different power needs and connections) and these will be replaced with appropriate LEDs. For example, current-gen Toyota Hiluxes can change out their H4 halogens with compatible LEDH4 lights that cover both high and low beams. Cars with separate halogens for the low and high beam, like the Toyota Prado (H11 and HB3 respectively) will have two separate replacement LEDs. The only thing to know here is your car’s make, model, trim and MY, and you’re good to go.
Replacement lighting kits also have instructions for easy fitment. LEDs are sized to fit in the bulb sockets and connect to existing wiring. All are CAN bus compatible, meaning connection issues are virtually non-existent. If you’re still uneasy about the whole process, or have problems with the lights (not turning on, warning lights in the dash, fitment problems etc.) best leave the job to a pro. Either way, you can change out left and right headlights with longer-lasting, brighter, more durable, and newer LEDs in just a few minutes.