Let’s talk headlights! Halogen vs LED vs HID vs aftermarket vs retrofit (and more!)

  1. hidprojectors

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    Hi everyone! I am Tom from HIDprojectors.com and wanted to put together a post where we can ask questions and get knowledgeable answers about headlight upgrades.
    I have been modifying automotive lighting since 1998 and building professionally for nearly 10 years. I don’t claim to know everything about lighting but am happy to answer any questions you may have and would like to share some of the more common questions we see here.

    Here are a few popular topics – feel free to ask away and I’ll do my best to help!

    Higher kelvin does not equal brighter lights.
    The higher the “K” rating on a bulb, the bluer it becomes. Here’s a general guide:
    3000K – yellow color – best used for fog light applications
    4300K – white with a slight yellow tinge – most companies use this color stock. Its generally the brightest and the easiest on your eyes.
    5000K – mostly white.
    6000K – white with a slight blue tinge – this is probably the most popular color because it appears to look brighter but is not quite as bright as a 4300K bulb.
    8000K – blueish tinge – this is where you really start to see output diminish in favor of ‘color’ and is not recommended.
    10,000+ blueish / purple – stay far away from this range.

    Lumens are not a good measurement of output.
    You’ve likely seen the overhyped, clever marketing schemes claiming 10,000 / 20,000 / 50,000 lumens for their bulbs. This is a lie. Lumens can be measured at the light bulb source to create nearly any number you want to show. Stay far away from a company claiming anything more than 3,500 lumens. LUX is a far better measurement in my opinion. When we measure output, we use the same light meter, measured from an actual driving distance and we use the same variables for all. If you compare apples to apples, you’ll be able to get a better idea of actual light output vs a dishonest sales pitch.

    You get what you pay for: eBay / Amazon generic branded lights
    That $100 pair of lights you just purchased from eBay or Amazon likely cost less than $10 to make overseas. What kind of quality do you expect from that price? Purchase from US companies with real phone numbers who you can call and talk with. There are tons of pop up businesses online who are just out to make a quick buck on the latest trend. Their ‘’lifetime warranty’’ wont mean anything in 18 months when they’re no longer in business. Don’t be fooled by clever tactics. Spend your money wisely.
    Be wary of aftermarket headlights in general. Ask questions and find out what kind of components you’re getting. The quality of the answer should give you a very good idea about the quality of the products.

    Plug and Play vs Retrofit for your Halogen headlights
    You should never put an LED bulb or an HID bulb in your halogen reflector housings. The additional light created here will scatter and create a blinding glare for oncoming drivers. And no, you cannot simply ‘’aim them down’’ to correct this. You wouldn’t drive around with your high beams on all the time would you? This is essentially the same thing. If you cannot afford a proper retrofit I would recommend upgrading to a better halogen bulb. Sylvania has a nice lineup of bulbs that will give you a bit more lighting without blinding oncoming traffic.

    Affording better lighting / The best way to spend your money
    A HID retrofit is the proper way to go to get world class performance that is safe for oncoming drivers.
    Good quality LED headlights from reputable sources (JW Speaker, Trucklite) are also great alternatives.
    You really want to focus on a set of headlights that have the proper optics to focus the light where you need it (on the road) instead of where you don’t (scattered and blinding oncoming traffic)
    We obviously build headlights for a living and would also be happy to answer any questions about our products as well.

    Output vs stock wrangler overhead.jpg

    output wall shot.JPG
     
  2. WXman

    WXman Well-Known Member

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    #2 Nov 8, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
    I've got $300 invested in LED head and fog bulbs and I'd put this combo up against any factory OE kit or aftermarket retrofit kit on the market any day of the week. More light output, same or better beam pattern, fraction of the cost, maintains factory look during the day.

    As you can see, there is zero light scatter or glare in places I don't want it. And with the fogs on, they provide a wider field of view and cut through foul weather better than HID retrofits. So, I respectfully disagree 100% with your myth that you can't put LED bulbs into halogen housings, and I leave a couple of quick photos as evidence...

    Top is low beam, bottom is high beam+fogs. Out on the road the difference over stock is amazing. No more wondering if a deer is about to dive bomb me. In the bottom pic, the fence and cedar trees are 250 feet away.

    SupernovaBeam2.jpg

    SupernovaFogs2.jpg
     
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  3. OP
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    hidprojectors

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    Can you post a photo against a wall, from about 30-40 feet away? Something similar to this photo attached. You might not think that the light is scattering but I'd bet that you have light leaking above the sight line, which causes glare and can blind oncoming drivers.

    35W fence output.jpg
     
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  4. RodRecket

    RodRecket Well-Known Member

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    I'm gonna bump this thread up cuz I'm curious @WXman
     
  5. ShadowsPapa

    ShadowsPapa Well-Known Member

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    LUX is lumens per area. So a light can have xx lumens total output but if it's spread over a large area such as an incandescent bulb output would be it's not as useful in a given area as if that same amount of luminosity is in a given area, say a square meter.
    One LUX is equal to one lumen per square meter. Now when dealing with headlamps - that light is indeed directional, focused, so it's not as bad as trying to compare shop lights - where the total light may be spread out all the way around a tube, just for example. This is why a 5,000 lumen LED shop light can be twice as effective as a 5,000 lumen fluorescent light because that's the total light output all the way around the tube where the LED is pointing downward.
    It's interesting to note that the standards have changed recently because LEDs often put out light more useful to the human eye - so light meters have been re-thought.........
    I went through all of this about 4 years ago when I converted my shop first floor over to 100% LED - even over my benches. I got by with about half the lumen output using LED for at least two reasons - the LEDs are focused light - and, they put out light more useful - or actually seen and used by the human eye.
    Beware marketing as I've been all through all of this - I spent months researching it all. In headlights it's not as bad as it is trying to compare other lights.
    If the light is focused in a given area then you can compare........ I've also found that some head lamps that advertise a far greater LUX also don't cover the areas I WANT TO SEE. I live in a very hilly area where most roads curve a lot and the trees may be up within feet, if not inches, of the road - and I need that light to show me the roadside, not just straight ahead.

    I also need to see AHEAD so lights that cut off abruptly like many do these days, you can't see the deer out there ahead of you on the road. (this is where in one respect I liked the light pattern of my 2011 Chevy and like the sealed beam halogens in my SX4 running full system power through relays and my own wiring harness. I can see a distance and can see the sides of the road.

    This is the only guy I totally trust on automotive lighting. Unfortunately a lot of his work has been stolen and passed off as the work of others so his FAQ is no longer published on his site, but he's got great info on why HID and blue lights may be "cool" but that's about it....
    http://www.danielsternlighting.com/tech/bulbs/Hid/HID.html
     
  6. OP
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    hidprojectors

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    Great points Bill! When we test lighting we use the same light meter, distance, and components so we have consistency in our numbers. We also publish those numbers so customers can use the data to determine what's best for them. For example, when we measure hot spot versus width, we put a 50/50 weighted average on the numbers. In some cases (like yours) you might weight width more important than hot spot and our numbers allow you to apply your own weight and determine which upgrade might be best for you.

    Here's an example graph that we use for our DIY kits.

    D2S LUX test graph Dec 2018.JPG
     
  7. mikesjt

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    I also replaced my halogens with the Supernova V4's as WXman did. I like the light output, and I don't get flashed by oncoming drivers, but mine definitely doesn't have the sharp cutoff across the top as the factory LED headlights do. My wife's X5 also has factory LED headlights and has the distinct sharp cutoff line at the top. So I'm sure, even tho the V4's are really good LED bulbs, I still have some light being scattered since it's inside the halogen housing.
     
  8. WXman

    WXman Well-Known Member

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    In my top picture, the first tree is around 25 feet and the bucket is around 30 feet. The buckets are then spaced fairly evenly from there. There is no "leaking" or scattering of light, and the HID retrofits I've seen actually have more "shadowing" above the beam than my LED bulbs do.

    I will also mention that I've been running LED bulbs in Halogen housings in both a F-150 and JL/JT Jeep for two years now and I NEVER get flashed by oncoming traffic. Ask guys running factory LED housings and HID kits how often they get flashed. There are entire threads dedicated to "why do I keep getting flashed?"

    I realize that there are crappy Chinese LED bulbs on the market. There are also crappy Chinese HID kits on the market too. The key is buying quality. I only buy from a reputable vendor who also has a fantastic YouTube channel where they show evidence of functionality of LED bulbs and they do a lot of work to dispel the myths of LEDs in halogen housings. My results have been fantastic. Yes, $140 for a pair of bulbs is a lot, but my results have been fantastic.
     
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  9. OP
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    hidprojectors

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    @WXman - sounds interesting. Can you share your supplier? I'd like to test a pair and can show the results for everyone. If there's a less expensive plug and play option that performs as well as you claim, everyone can benefit from the info.
     
  10. ShadowsPapa

    ShadowsPapa Well-Known Member

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    One thing the WJ guys run into is the depth or space needed for true projectors - something to keep in mind without me writing a book on it again LOL So they have trouble sometimes retro-fitting real projectors into those Jeeps because of the lack of required depth. Projectors are just that...... and need space.
    How does the JT compare? I dunno, I'm too new to the JT world - I'm more used to the unibody Jeeps like the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee of the XJ and WJ versions.
     
  11. OP
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    hidprojectors

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    We have built a few WJ lights and XJ lights too. Space is an issue but there are smaller high performing projectors that can be used when space is an issue. Here are a couple of examples:

    WJ headlights: https://www.hidprojectors.com/collections/wj
    XJ headlights: https://www.hidprojectors.com/collections/5x7
     
  12. ShadowsPapa

    ShadowsPapa Well-Known Member

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    I bought my WJ from my dad's estate after he was killed by a sleeping driver. It was his pride and joy - other than his 2010 Ranger, it was the nicest vehicle he'd ever owned - by a LONG shot. 113,000 miles when I bought it - obviously was used and sat outside a bit because the headlights were yellow, foggy and you literally could not see inside the housings they were so bad. I had a body shop I like put new rocker panels on the Jeep and had them polish an clear-coat the headlights - they are a ton better than they were but I know at some point again they'll look like heck and not put out the light they should. I considered full replacements but even the stock type was crazy expensive and some "brands" saw a whole lot of complaints so I opted for "repair" instead of ending up with crap replacements worse than my "faded" originals. The light patterns on some of the stock style replacements are nasty. I've seen examples.
    Not sure what I'll do next time it needs headlight attention but since it was my father's Jeep and I talked my brothers into letting me buy it ( I LOVE the WJ body style and it's a great stable vehicle in the winter - I've owned well over a half dozen Grand Cherokees over the years because my wife loves 'em too)
    Anyway, good to know there are options. Next time around that WJ will likely need full headlights. They've been "repaired" once already.
     
  13. WXman

    WXman Well-Known Member

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    Fast forward to 2:09 to see what LED bulbs in halogen housings are supposed to look like. By the way, I wasn't going to mention the supplier because I didn't think it was proper to do that in a thread created by a competing vendor. But since you asked, I get my stuff from Headlight Revolution. They do fantastic YouTube stuff also.

    No need to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on good lighting.

     
  14. OP
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    hidprojectors

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    Sorry for the late reply here. Thanks for sharing that video. I would say that if there's a good alternative we should encourage it. The Supernova V4 looks like a pretty good LED bulb. There's obviously some light leakage above the cutoff (see red circled area) which may cause glare to oncoming driver, and most of the light is focused on the hotspot with very little width (see blue arrows). That said, its better than most plug and play bulbs that I've seen. Its certainly nowhere near as good as a proper HID projector setup but for someone who just wants a bulb upgrade this seems to be better than stock for sure.

    I can purchase some do to a lux reading but this picture shows the shortcomings of LED bulbs in general.

    light leakage.png
     
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