In the last decade, LED headlights have made remarkable inroads in the automotive market, based on the powerful combination of superb illumination and low power consumption they offer. But they still don’t come as standard equipment in many car models, and as a dealer option they can often be prohibitively expensive.
Given these factors, the question remains: Are they right for you and your car? To help you decide, here are seven things you need to know about LED headlights and LED headlight bulbs if you’re going to take the plunge and buy a set.
1.Know the Basics.
Light emitting diodes, or LEDs, first started proliferating in modern cars during the early 2000s. They were first introduced on the Lexus brand, and the first American car to offer them was the Cadillac Escalade Platinum model in 2009.
One of the basic differences between LED headlight bulbs and regular headlights is the heat factor, i.e., diodes tend to produce more light at low temperature than at higher temps. To keep the illumination stable across a wide range of temperatures, heat sinks or cooling fans are typically inserted in the back of the apparatus where the emitter is located, which also protects the surrounding assemblies and cables.
Because of their simplicity, though, LEDs are being used for other lighting functions such as parking lamps, brake lamps, turn signals and daytime running lamps. Part of the attraction is that they tend to consume less power, which makes them a popular choice for hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.
2.Know Your Cars.
While some models now come with LED headlights as standard equipment, most are still based on conventional headlight technology, and LED headlights can be expensive as a dealer option. LED headlights are most frequently found in the high end/luxury car market where price is less of an issue for those who prefer them.
It is possible to replace your current headlights with LED bulbs, but the first step is to determine if they were originally standard equipment, and whether an LED replacement is possible if they’re not. If they came as standard equipment, you can simply swap out the bulb; if not, you’ll probably need to replace the entire headlight assembly.
3.Know Your Headlight Style.
There are several styles of LED headlights, but one of the most popular is known by several names: halo headlights, projector headlights, and the more informal designation of “angel eyes.” The common denominator between the three is that they all feature a round halo effect that forms a ring around the standard light.
The bulbs in LED headlights also come as part of a conversion kit, and you’ll need to know whether the kit is compatible with the make and model of your car. You can usually find this information via a standard search.
If you’re looking for a particular style and look for your car, you’ll need to know something about aftermarket headlights as well. Companies like Spyder and Anzo are just two examples of those offering aftermarket headlights, and there are many others as well. There are styles and conversion kits for just about every preference, from generic to sleek to sporty, so most of this choice depends on your ride and what you want.
4.Know How to Shop.
Once you have a decent idea of what you’re after, the shopping process becomes fairly basic. First, do a series of searches to eliminate what you don’t want, then hone in on the specifics of your prospective purchase (i.e., brand, style, color, etc.,).
You can shop online via specialty sites or general shopping sites like Amazon and eBay, but its usually a good idea to visit a store or dealership that carries upscale accessories so you can see what LED headlights look like in person. After that you can do the final price comparison and make your final decision.
In some respects, your search will dictate where to shop. Some items are easier to find in certain parts of the country and more difficult in others, so its important to know who has what near you, and what ordering capabilities different stores and sites have. You can also check on the lead time to get a given brand or style of LED headlights if you find out it will take extra time to get a rare or specialty item.
5.Know the Pricing.
When you do your pricing, make sure you have a budget. Your budget should be based at least in part on based on the longevity of LED headlights, which are supposed to last longer than conventional headlights, although some manufacturers won’t specify how much longer. When you’re researching the prices, find out what the warranty is for the LED headlight you’re buying and the conditions and terms of that warranty as well.
Part of the reason for having a budget it because of the number of options associated with LED headlights and bulbs, with the various combinations making it easy to spend hundreds of dollars. This is fine if you have the money to spend, but as a general rule you can expect to pay a minimum of $50-100 for a pair of LED headlights.
6.Know the Aftermarket Tricks.
Aftermarket LED headlights are often preferred choice for serious style aficionados, partially because of the number of choices that are available. For ordinary buyers, though, one of the most common reasons they end up looking at aftermarket LED headlights is that many manufacturers don’t offer LED headlights as an option for a retrofit in a normal reflective headlight style.
Another is that aftermarket LED headlights are often the best way to get a particular style or look that matches their ride, with the two biggest favorites being chrome and black. The black housing is usually a good fit for Japanese cars, while chrome housing tends to draw more attention for those interested in that particular look.
7.Know About the Installation Process.
With some aftermarket LED headlights, you’ll need to do some modifications to your headlight harness to make it work with the LEDs and the halo rings. This may require splicing wires for the low beams or parking lights to make sure these functions will work with whatever aftermarket product you’re installing.
If you don’t have the skills and knowledge for this, make sure to use a professional to install the conversion kit. And if you do end up using a professional, find out whether you need to buy the conversion kit through his or her shop in order to have the installation done there.