Thinking of upgrading your vehicle with a set of LED lights? Here’s all you need to know!
LED lights are becoming an increasingly popular sight on vehicles including cars, motorcycles and trucks.
The advantages of LED lights and LED bulbs compared to more traditional halogen lights are many: they’re brighter, offer a better quality of light, are less prone to breakage and consume much less energy than standard lights.
If you’re thinking of upgrading your vehicle with a set of LED lights or LED bulbs and want to know more, here’s a quick guide to everything you need to know about LEDs, how they work and whether they’re road legal or not.
HOW DO LED BULBS WORK?
The vast majority of vehicles are still sold with halogen lights, which use electricity to heat up a thin strip of Tungsten wire. As the wire heats up it starts to glow, which produces light.
The problem is that halogen lights are fairly inefficient, as the vast majority of energy is lost as heat instead of light. They also tend to have fairly short lifespans, are fragile and aren’t terribly bright compared to other lighting options.
Enter LED bulbs, which are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to standard halogen lights. Unlike the old-school halogen lights, LEDs feature a semiconductor structure which produces light by releasing photons – tiny particles of light – many thousands of times a second.
Compared against standard bulbs, LED lights are much brighter, produce a much purer and sharper light and are much more efficient.
LED BULBS EXPLAINED
Two of the most important things you’ll want to keep an eye out for when buying LED lights for your vehicle is their lumens output and their Kelvin scale. Below, we explain in simple terms what these are and what they mean for you when buying LEDs for your car.
LED bulbs are famous for their super-white light, and the whiteness – or colour temperature – of the bulb is measured in Kelvin.
Essentially, the higher the colour temperature of the bulb, the whiter the light. A standard halogen bulb will have a colour temperature of around 2,700 Kelvin which is a warm and yellow-toned light.
LED bulbs will have colour temperatures of around 6,000 Kelvin, which is a much crisper, pure white light. Not only will this give your vehicle a higher-spec look, this white light can also make it much easier to pick out details in the dark.
While Kelvin is a measurement of colour temperature or whiteness, the actual brightness of the light is measured in lumens. The higher the lumen rating, the brighter the light source.
A halogen headlight will put out between 700 and 1,200 lumens depending on whether it’s on dipped or full beam. In comparison, an LED headlight bulb can put out anywhere between 6,000 and 8,000 lumens.
The much more powerful output of an LED bulb means that it will more effectively light up what’s ahead of you, meaning you can see further and in more detail than you would be able to with a standard halogen bulb.
ADVANTAGES OF LED CAR BULBS
They Offer Better Quality Of Light
Compared against standard halogen bulbs, LED lightbulbs offer a much better quality of light. Put a car with LEDs and a car with standard lights side by side and you’ll see that the LED light is much brighter and a lot whiter than the dimmer, yellow-toned halogen light.
As a result, LEDs are better able to illuminate the road ahead, meaning better visibility at night and ultimately increased safety as you’ll be able to spot potential hazards much earlier and much more effectively.
The Usually Have A Longer Life
LED bulbs use less energy than conventional halogen or Xenon bulbs, which mean that they’re usually longer lived. In the past, some drivers found that their LED bulbs could tend to overheat but advanced in LED technology now mean that most LED lightbulbs are highly resistant to overheating and burning out.
In addition, LEDs are also resistant to harsh vibrations, rattles and bumps which may damage the filament of conventional bulbs and cause them to break. This makes LEDs a particularly great option for off-road vehicles like the Ford Ranger.
They’re Cheaper In The Long Run
Although they might be slightly more expensive than conventional bulbs to buy outright, the longevity of LED bulbs mean that they’ll need replacing far less frequently. This will not only save you money in the long run, it’ll save valuable time and effort too.
They’re Easy To Fit
LED bulbs require no wiring changes to your vehicle, and many come supplied with handy CANBUS connectors meaning true plug-and-play installation. All you have to do is pop out your old bulbs, pop the new LEDs in and you’re good to go!
They’re More Energy Efficient
Some LED bulbs can be as much as 85% or more efficient than standard halogen bulbs, meaning that they draw much less energy from your vehicle.
This will put less stress on your alternator, which will mean marginal improvements in fuel economy but – perhaps more importantly – if you accidentally leave a light on, they’re much less likely to drain your battery.
ARE LED LIGHTS ILLEGAL?
The answer, a little confusingly, is both yes and no. The law, here in the UK at least, is a bit complex when it comes to LED lighting for your vehicle, but it all boils down to Whole Vehicle Type Approval – a set of European regulations intended to set safety standards for vehicles and vehicle parts.
New cars which feature LED lights as standard are fully road legal and will pass the MOT test, as they’ve been tested to these Vehicle Type Approval standards. However, replacement LED bulbs for use in your vehicle’s exterior lights are not approved and are therefore not road legal.
Oddly, this means that if an LED fails in your car’s headlights or taillights you can’t simply replace the bulbs; instead, you’ll have to replace the entire headlight or taillight unit.
Nor can you swap the standard halogen bulbs with LED bulbs and expect your car to be road legal, as the projector housings will be designed with the halogen bulbs in mind and may result in the brighter and more intense LED light scattering and blinding other road users.
For this reason, LED bulb replacements are recommended only for off-road use, which is why we offer them as popular upgrade for off-road vehicles like the Ford Ranger pickup truck.
The exception to this is by buying replacement headlight and taillight units that feature LED bulbs, which have been designed specifically to work with LEDs and which have passed the Whole Vehicle Type Approval test.
You can replace your standard halogen headlight or taillight units with these LED kits, and so long as they’re properly approved, they’ll be road legal and able to pass the MOT.
WHERE CAN I BUY LED CAR LIGHTS?
Performance Alloys stocks a range of LED bulbs in addition to LED headlight and taillight kits, available to buy online now with worldwide shipping to virtually every country on the planet.
Currently, we only offer LED upgrades for off-road 4x4 vehicles like the Ford Ranger, however if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for why not shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via the Contact Us page to see how we can help!