Every vehicle needs to have headlights to be road-legal, and for years, halogen bulbs have been and continue to be the most widely used headlight type. That is slowly beginning to change with better headlight technology. LED headlights and taillights are becoming more standard, even among less expensive vehicles for their energy and lighting benefits.
The Best LED Headlights
Better manufacturing processes, better technology, and wider use have made LED lights more accessible and cheaper while providing much better results than halogen bulbs can provide. As a result of this, they are also safer as they can provide more light with less energy and are easier to see in the daylight and at night.
It is also now easier to install LED conversion kits to replace stock halogen setups on more vehicle models than ever before. Some people do this strictly for appearance, but for others, it is more a matter of being able to utilize all the benefits that a brighter, more efficient, and safer light can provide.
1. DDM Tuning Saber ProX Accu/V2 Kit
DDM Tuning took their older design – which was already good – and improved it. They did this by fine-tuning the light’s beam pattern that now features a one-millimeter ultra-thin lamp post gap. This new design is also brighter and stronger than the previous design, producing 12,500 lumens per pair with a color temper of 6000 K.
With their new design, DDM Tuning also added vital Canbus function for broader potential application across vehicle models, eliminating the need for additional LED decoders. In addition to their added functionality, easy physical installation has been made even easier with a simple plug-and-play design.
These bulbs come with a two-year warranty, a 50,000-hour lifespan, and an excellent cooling system. They are rated at 55 Watts and have an operating temperature of up to 100 degrees Celsius. Aside from their functionality, DDM’s design is also cutting edge.
2. Hikari Ultra Prime ZES LED Conversion Kit
The Hikari Ultra Prime ZES LED conversion Kit features some of the best LED technology on the market at an affordable price. It also features easy plug-and-play installation and a universal fit so that anybody can reap the benefits of the 270% brighter-than-stock lighting this kit provides.
Their 360-degree adjustable beam features patented reflector technology designed to focus the beam and reduce light scattering and astigmatism. An ultra-thin heat sink also aids in focusing the light beam even further, and an upgraded cooling system provides a long service life for tens of thousands of hours of use.
Designed to be a direct replacement for your old halogen setup, the Ultra Prime has a .8 millimeter profile, the same as a normal halogen bulb. This light is rated at 6000 K for a great, cool white appearance and better nighttime driving presence.
3. Katana LED Conversion Kit
Katana seeks to improve everybody’s LED experience with their LED CREE chip technology. It offers a plug-and-play installation process for ease of application and produces 6000 Lumens per bulb at 6500 K, a whiter light output than many competitors. Additionally, its low price of under $50 makes it even more attainable for more people.
It features a 360-degree beam adjustment to provide superior usability for any vehicle. Katana’s cooling system is what makes it stand out though. Its coverless design reduces noise, its copper core thermal heatsink is covered with aviation aluminum, and its dual ball bearing fan spins at up to six thousand RPM to increase usable lifespan to 55,000 hours.
Upgrading from your old halogen setup to Katana will provide a 500% percent increase in brightness thanks to its CREE multicore technology.
4. Sealight Scoparc S1 LED Bulb
The Sealight Scoparc SI LED bulb offers a ton of bang for the buck. It is cheaper than many competitors, even though it comes in a two-pack, and its easy plug-and-play installation only requires about ten minutes of your time and no tools. A universal fitment also means that more vehicles can utilize the benefits it provides over your old halogen bulbs.
The Scoparc S1 features an output of 6000 Lumens per bulb, produces 6000 K of light temperature, and is only rated at 40 Watts, less than many competitors. The major advantage it brings to the table is its fanless cooling technology. This means that it is more compact than other products, and there is one less part that can fail over time.
Further benefits include a beam pattern that will not blind oncoming traffic and one that eliminates glaring or dark spots. Producing 150% more brightness than stock halogen bulbs and 50,000 hours of lifespan, the Scoparc S1 is a well-rounded product that can fit almost any vehicle.
5. Cougar Motor Flagship LED Bulb
Cougar Motor’s Flagship LED is middle-of-the-road when it comes to cost, but you get what you pay for. First and foremost, their Flagship LED bulbs and their components are rainproof and can actually work underwater for a short time. A cooling fan that spins at up to 10,000 RPM helps lifespan to over 50,000 hours.
In addition to its rainproof design, its aviation aluminum body provides further durability to the product. Plug-and-play installation allows for easy installation on most vehicles without the need for any modifications, and its relatively small size only adds to its adaptability.
These bulbs provide 6000 Lumens of output, 6500 K light temperature, and 500% better output than stock halogen bulbs. A 360-degree mounting collar offers perfect adjustability to ensure that the beam angle is appropriate for any given application.
LED Terminology Explained
Before getting into too much more, it is important to know several different terms to better understand the intricacies of LED headlights.
CANbus stands for “Controller Area Network bus.” It is a sort of in-between area within the wiring system of your vehicle that allows two components to communicate. In the case of lighting, it monitors the power that your headlights use and the power that the vehicle expects them to use. A fault code is thrown when the vehicle thinks the wattage being used to power your lights is too low or too high.
This is an issue for halogen to LED conversions since LED lights use less power to operate. Essentially, this confuses the vehicle’s monitoring system and light flickering or error codes occur. Adaptors or resistors are often required – legally in some cases – to eliminate this issue.
Lumens are the measurement of the amount of light produced by a light source. Most LED lights produce around 4000 lumens of light. Most Halogen lights produce around 1000 Lumens.
Light temperature is measured in Kelvins (K), and it is often confused with Lumens. Light temperature is a measure of how “white” a light is. A light source with a whiter light will have a higher K rating – some LEDs are rated at 6500 K. A light source that produces a yellower, warmer light will have a lower K rating.
Beam pattern is the spread of light produced by headlights. It involves how far a light will shine, where the light shines when a vehicle is sitting on an even surface, and the angles and edges of light at its farthest reach. These and beam angles are very important if your state requires vehicle safety inspections and during nighttime driving for anybody.
Read More: The Difference Between Low and High Beams
Plug-and-play means that there are no modifications, and often, no tools needed for installation from one product to another. Many LED conversion kits are plug-and-play, meaning that you just have to unplug your old bulbs and replace them directly with the new ones.
LED Bulb Parts
LED Headlights are made of several different parts that separate them from halogen headlights.
A plastic lens is used to reproduce the look and feel of a traditional light bulb, to protect the LED chip inside, and to evenly scatter the light produced by the chip.
The LED chip is what actually produces the light in an LED bulb. They can come in single chip forms or multiple chip setups working as one unit to produce light.
The heatsinks are ridge-like components that take heat away from the metal board on which the LED chip sits. These are usually what causes LED bulbs to be larger than halogen bulbs, necessitating conversion kits to be carefully chosen for fitment.
The cooling fan is located near the base of the light, and it serves to dissipate heat produced by the light and carried through the heatsink.
It's important to note that LED technologies change the thermodynamic conditions inside the lamps. However, LED lamps emit less heat than conventional lamps like halogen leading to far less issues with condensation build-up.
The driver, or circuit board, is what tells the LED how to act. It is what tells the LED to brighten, dim, turn on, turn off, or change color, but it also protects the LED from high voltage situations.
How Does an LED Bulb Work?
LED lights work by passing an electrical current through a semiconductor or diode; LED stands for “light-emitting diode.” They differ from both halogen and xenon headlights in that both of those types of lights use gases inside of the bulb to assist with brightness and lighting efficacy. Both halogen and xenon bulbs also use a filament that glows when heated.
LEDs are more expensive alternatives to both halogens and xenon bulbs, but they do nearly everything better. They burn longer, they use less energy, and they produce a whiter light. More vehicle manufacturers are equipping them as standard equipment across their lineups, even though halogen headlights are still widely used for their low cost.
Some Additional LEDetails
While it is true that LED headlights provide many advantages over stock halogen bulbs or even xenon headlights, it is important to check area laws to understand what can and cannot be done with aftermarket headlights.
It is illegal in many places to replace standard halogen headlights with aftermarket LEDs. Most places allow fog lights to be replaced without any issue. Lighting alignment and proper height are also important if aftermarket LEDs can be installed. It is important to perform a headlight check after installation to make sure everything lines up according to the regulations in place in your area.
It is also important to read the instructions before installing any aftermarket headlight bulbs. Not only is it important for fitment purposes, but it is also important in case there are any special electrical needs or requirements for the headlights you purchase.
LED headlights are becoming more popular and more readily available on the market year after year. They provide a huge amount of benefits over stock halogen or even xenon headlight setups. There are also a huge number of easy-to-install plug-and-play options that require no experience, no tools, and little time to install.
Always remember to read the product specification of any LED conversion kit before you buy it to make sure it fits your vehicle, to make sure it can meet your needs, and to make sure that no additional electrical requirements are needed for installation before you purchase.