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Thread: LED Headlight Conversion

  1. #1
    Formally hmm252000
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    LED Headlight Conversion

    For years I wanted to convert my headlights from Halogen to LED. But for the longest time, there were only two real options. JW Speaker headlights which were very expensive, not much brighter then standard bulbs and not much power savings either. They've since come out with a second generation that's brighter but still expensive. There's also those units that have an array of LEDs, but they look funny. It wasn't until last year when I found out about LED bulb replacements designed to directly replace halogen bulbs that I decided to finally go forward with a conversion. So here's what I did and my though process. I also addressed a few other issues I had with my headlights at the time.

    I first ordered a set of LED bulbs for my MINI Cooper to just see if they actually worked well. I didn't want to buy both a set of LED bulbs and H4 conversion housings if they weren't any good. After installing them, I was very surprised. Light was much whiter and the brightness was great. I did read about how when converting, you are only supposed to do that with projector housings as the light direction is different. But on my MINI, it was just fine. So I ordered up the following LED bulbs (different style, but same manufacture) and headlight housings (with integrated DRLs):
    http://www.amazon.com/New-5th-Genera.../dp/B0107MX0BG (looks like H4 may be tricky to find now with this brand)
    http://www.amazon.com/Oracle-Lightin.../dp/B010U5OWSA

    I decided to keep the halogen high beams stock. This cut my conversion cost in half. I don't drive a lot with high beams on, so I didn't want to spend the money. Maybe in the future, I'll convert them as well. For the housings, I made sure to find a set were the DRL wiring/bulb would not interfere with the buckets. Some have a big socket sticking out the side and I didn't want to cut up the buckets anymore then I had to.

    So now it was time to remove the original bulbs. I put blue painters tape around the edges to protect the paint job. Using a large Philips screwdriver worked best to get a good grip on the shallow screw heads. Once out, I then unscrewed the headlight adjusters all the way out so I could remove the buckets. If the adjuster was too stripped, I had to pop it out of the bucket and use pliers to turn them. To my surprise, the rust wasn't that bad. I then outlined the back of the buckets and used a dremel to enlarge them so the new housings would fit. Some paint to cover the exposed metal and they were good to go. However, after an attempt at reinstalling later, I discovered there was a support beam back there that the headlights interfered with. So I had to grind that away as well (put the vacuum hose to collect the dust as I grinded with the dremel). Below is before and after. Not pictured is the paint I added to prevent it from rusting.

    20160212_162016.jpg20160212_164105.jpg

    Since most of my adjustment screws were toast, I ordered replacements from DMCH. After a few days they called me and said they were out and it would be weeks until they could ship. So I cancelled my order and did what I should have done at first which was to call Toby at DMC-NW. He cross-referenced a set that were the same length and thread pitch. However, they used T15 torx instead of Phillips. This was great in that they are easy to get a T15 torx bit in there to adjust and shouldn't strip as easily. When reassembling, I put anti-seize on the threads too so they wouldn't get as stuck as before. My only concern now is how well will the adjustments hold over time. I'll have to report back in a few years if adding that was a mistake or not. But at least I can easily readjust if necessary.

    Now for the good stuff, the LED headlights! I picked the ones linked to above specifically because they had those large heat sinks on them. Most out there have a fan on the back. I didn't like that as I was worried about it failing overtime. Plus I wasn't sure if there was enough space for them to fit. They come with a little bracket that locks into place on the enclosure. You then add a rubber boot which seals around it and finally the bulb itself (insert and twist to lock). Here are some pics of the process.

    20160130_175147.jpg20160130_175256.jpg20160130_175554.jpg

    Here is a pic of the bulb being tested. While it was cold outside, the heat sink never got much above 108F at the base. I also confirmed the brightness was great, but I didn't look closely at the beam pattern. Big mistake as I'll mention further down.

    20160130_173942.jpg

    There was a tab and some ridges on the boot which made the fit into the headlight bucket tight, so I cut those off. I then cleaned the headlight sockets and moved the pins to the appropriate H4 locations. I plugged in the LED controller and tucked it back behind the bracket. I also pulled the DRL wiring through and to the side for connection later. Finally I made the connection to the controller and bulb and put the headlight into place. Tight fit but it went in there.

    20160216_161918.jpg

    After that, it was just a matter of reinstalling the trim to hold the headlight in place and repeat on the other side. The high beams were next but since I used the standard halogen bulb, they went right in real easy. I recommend a magnetic screwdriver too when putting those trim screws in place. All said and done, they look like this:

    20160219_163103.jpg

    When the next clear night came, I pulled the car out and tried them out. The whole street lit up. So I put my jacket over one side and used my T15 torx driver to adjust the other light. However, something didn't seem right. After a bit of driving around, it became obvious. All the warnings I heard about using LED/HID conversions came true. The beam was way too dispersed. Driving in a back road with lots of tries, it was obvious I was illuminating way to much above me and almost nothing directly head of me. It was very dangerous to drive like that as I needed my high beams to see directly in front. Not good.

    So I pulled one out and hooked it up to my power supply while pointing it to the garage door. First pic is the old factory original halogen. Second is the LED.

    20160312_104233.jpg20160312_103120.jpg

    This is bad, I actually have a dark spot in the dead center! After thinking about it, I started to wonder if it was maybe because the LED bulb was a little bit on the long side compared to a halogen bulb. So I removed the boot and while the LED was powered, slowly pulled the bulb back out of the housing. Sure enough, about a quarter of an inch did the trick. The pattern narrowed and looked much better. So I decided to make a spacer out of the blank plate that came with the housings. Using a soldering iron, I melted the middle part out. Original next to the modified one:

    20160312_115008.jpg

    I put that into the housing followed by the adapter. Only problem is now the hold down clip doesn't work. But the screws to hold the clip are about the right hight. So I removed the clip and adjusted the mounts and sure enough, it holds everything nicely in place.

    20160312_144558.jpg

    I reinstall the boot and LED bulb. Connect back up and this is the result:

    20160312_115510.jpg

    I quickly perform the same mod to the other light and reinstall. After taking the bulbs in/out so many times, I'm getting rather good at it now. So I performed the same adjustment by doing them one at a time. I also have them point a little bit to the right to help insure I don't blind oncoming traffic. Here's what it looks like while driving (the surrounding area is illuminated, it just doesn't show up on camera).

    20160316_203656.jpg

    It doesn't have the sharp cutoff like modern lights do, but that's OK. It helps shine some light on signs which reflect the 6K light very well. When I walk towards the car on the driver side, it's not blinding me at all. So while technically not a legal setup, it's still in the spirit of the law and not blinding oncoming traffic.

    Overall, so much better then halogen and use a lot less power too. As for the DRLs, I'll probably do another thread on those later. But for now I'm very happy and will consider doing the high beams at some point in the future. The only part I'm disappointed about is the LED bulb I use has two sets of LEDs on them. One for low and another for high. Even if you power both pins, it still shuts off the low beam LED. So instead of getting a full 3,000 lumens, I only get 1,500. With the high beam bulbs, I still get overall more light on the road. So not the end of the world and like I said, I don't use my high beams a lot as I typically drive on lit roads at night.

    So if you want to do a conversion, be prepared to do some modifications. If you want to make it an easy conversion, then the JW Speakers are the way to go and should be much more plug-n-play.

  2. #2
    Senior Member john 05141's Avatar
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    Very cool.
    I'd like that, but it is not allowed here in Belgium.
    LED is of course allowed but as a rebuilt for a classic car. I can't figure out why.

    I have seen a Delorean with Xenon in Holland.

    Jan


    Steering with power

  3. #3
    Senior Member DMCVegas's Avatar
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    This is awesome!

    I've been eyeing LED replacements for a while. Truck-Lite makes complete drop-in, DOT-approved, replacement LED bulbs here in the U.S. where the housing is the heat sink itself and it contains all of the electronics internally with no modifications needed to the vehicle at all. The problem is the price. It's about $200-$300 per pair. But they do make both low and high beam replacements for our cars.

    Given both the age of our cars, and especially the tricky front fascias that we want to avoid damage to when replacing bulbs, I think that converting over to LEDs is something that we should all be considering. A conversion would reduce the power draw from 4.4 & 4.8 Amps down to only 0.7 & 1.2 Amps per individual bulb. So just at night we'd go from 8.8 Amps down to only 1.4. And if you do run the high beams for any extended periods like I do, it drops down from 19.2 Amps to only 4.8. That's a pretty significant drop in power consumption.

    I don't know what the power specs on these bulbs are, but I'm sure there in the same range. This right here is a nice, affordable conversion. Good job!
    Robert

    Wake me when hockey season returns...

  4. #4
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    FWIW: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/news/deskto...ed-improvement

    LED's produce a very narrow spectrum of light. What you see is light reflected back from various objects (a red stop sign is actually every color but red). If narrow spectrum headlights don't produce colors necessary to be reflected back, objects will be harder to see than with broader spectrum headlights.

    You can experience this yourself distinguishing black objects from blue objects using an LED flashlight.

    Martin Gutkowski summarizes the problem as "LED's are good to be seen, not so good to see".

    Some police departments prefer halogen alley and takedown lights on their rooftop bars for that very reason, even when the blue lights are LED.

    Bill Robertson
    #5939
    Last edited by content22207_2; 04-20-2016 at 09:20 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bitsyncmaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by content22207_2 View Post
    Martin Gutkowski summarizes the problem as "LED's are good to be seen, not so good to see".
    I like that quote.

    Normally incandescent takes about 7 times the power of LEDs to produce the same intensity of light. If LED headlights did draw 1/7 the power I would have bought them already. But what I have seen is the specifications show they draw the same current as incandescent bulbs.
    Last edited by Bitsyncmaster; 04-21-2016 at 06:53 AM.
    Dave M vin 03572
    http://dm-eng.weebly.com/

  6. #6
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    Neat project.

    For my own self...I just have a couple of problems with LED headlights..

    Price..Current prices on bulbs and housings, etc are rather high.
    and Blinding....Most non-factory led conversions i've seen end up being blinding to oncoming traffic. This is because they havent installed them right or adjusted them correctly (if you can at all).

    If prices get reasonable and good kits become available, I'll look.
    Rob Depew
    Tacoma, Wa
    '81 DeLorean 4877 Grey, Auto, 4 wheels
    The Ressurection of 4877......
    Now Accepting Donations to get her back on the road

  7. #7
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    The technical term is "color rendering index" -- the ability of a light source to produce a spectrum that reflects back colors compared to natural sunlight. Sunlight is 100. Incandescent bulbs are 98-100. Mixed element LED bulbs (like household bulbs) are 80-90. Single element LED bulbs (like LED flashlights) are 60-80.

    Bill Robertson
    #5939

  8. #8
    Formally hmm252000
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bitsyncmaster View Post
    I like that quote.

    Normally incandescent takes about 7 times the power of LEDs to produce the same intensity of light. If LED headlights did draw 1/7 the power I would have bought them already. But what I have seen is the specifications show they draw the same current as incandescent bulbs.
    I think the ones you are thinking of are the first gen JW Speaker bulbs which did require many amps and only had about the same lumen output as a halogen. The ones I used draw just 1.6 amps and provide 1,500LM per bulb (stock halogen is around 800LM). LEDs are a quickly evolving technology.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lwanmtr View Post
    and Blinding....Most non-factory led conversions i've seen end up being blinding to oncoming traffic. This is because they havent installed them right or adjusted them correctly (if you can at all).
    This was a big concern for me too. I made sure to do lots of checking on this. As noted in my original post, if I had just put the bulb in and nothing else, I would have caused poor forward vision and lots of glare of oncoming traffic. Once I fixed the beam pattern, I aimed them. During this process, I actually parked my car on the street and walked down it and approached it as if I was oncoming traffic. I wanted to make double sure I wasn't blinding oncoming traffic. The big drawback to converting to non-halogen for us is the 3x5 sealed beam housings. LED conversion bulbs are designed for projector housings (which is why glare is so common on non-projector conversions). You just can't by a proper projector that fits inside a 3x5 enclosure. You can find 3x5 projector replacements, but they just have a small lens and nothing like true projector housings. The only other option is to purchase true LED 3x5 bulbs but they look so out of place on a D.

    Looks like the original seller I used brought back the H4 bulb. You can find it here:
    http://www.amazon.com/Rolinger-5th-G.../dp/B012KF2DJ8

    Make sure to click on H4 as Amazon defaults to a different bulb type. The specs are a bit confusing as they mix them with the different bulb types. But mine came with specific H4 documentation that states 1500LM with a 1.6 amp draw per bulb.

  9. #9
    Senior Member DMCVegas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by content22207_2 View Post
    FWIW: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/news/deskto...ed-improvement

    LED's produce a very narrow spectrum of light. What you see is light reflected back from various objects (a red stop sign is actually every color but red). If narrow spectrum headlights don't produce colors necessary to be reflected back, objects will be harder to see than with broader spectrum headlights.

    You can experience this yourself distinguishing black objects from blue objects using an LED flashlight.

    Martin Gutkowski summarizes the problem as "LED's are good to be seen, not so good to see".

    Some police departments prefer halogen alley and takedown lights on their rooftop bars for that very reason, even when the blue lights are LED.

    Bill Robertson
    #5939
    Let's clear the air on a few things here.

    The first thing to consider is that there is a MASSIVE variation on electrical lights when it comes to both the light source, and then separately the reflector housing. In particular is the housing/reflector problem. You take a reflector built to house a halogen bulb and then insert an HID bulb or LED and you're going to just spray light everywhere. The reason being of course that the output of the light occurs in different areas with the new bulb versus the old one. As such the reflective surfaces and the lens cannot harness the light to properly direct and focus it. Chris as we see in his write-up demonstrated this perfectly. He had to reposition the bulbs in order to achieve a more focused beam. When you have unfocused light that's when you Dazzle oncoming drivers, and when you have poorer lighting due to a lack of a focused beam to generate more lumens into the forward area ahead since they're all scattering to the sides of the road and up above.

    Speaking exclusively of LEDs, comparing cheap Harbor Freight flashlights that you get for free with a coupon to high-quality and professional LED lighting isn't comparable at all. There has been much documentation about this online. I mean, you compare some cheap Chinese eBay specials to something you can buy from a company such as Rigid Industries, and you're going to see a massive difference in light output and efficiency.

    Or better yet, let's compare them to Ford who actually use factory-installed LED headlights on their high-end F150 trucks which you can buy right now. I highly doubt that Ford is willing to jeopardize not only their sales position for trucks, but their entire business itself if LED Headlights were not safe, viable products to install. Nor would other companies such as Truck-Lite who sell full retrofit kits that exceed DOT standards. Which aside from being built in in the US is also why they cost so much more. They're not merely halogen housings with LEDs inserted. They have specially engineered optics.

    I also am unaware of police actively rejecting LED lighting systems in favor of halogen because of safety reasons either. All of the modern police cars I've seen in the past 4-5 years have switched over to LEDs on their light bars, and now their teardrop spots. It's blinding as all hell at night when they've got someone pulled over. So again there too if the police are using them as well (maybe your area isn't caught up yet in it's equipment cycle, I don't know), it's a pretty safe bet that LEDs are perfectly fine to use.
    Robert

    Wake me when hockey season returns...

  10. #10
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    As the IIHS study demonstrated, just because alternative headlights are offered on 2016 model vehicles does not mean they are effective. Only one vehicle tested had headlights rated "good". Half the vehicles tested were "marginal" or "poor".

    Do not confuse lumens with CRI. Individual LED's produce very narrow spectrums of light. That's their biggest weakness for general illumination. Household bulbs compensate by mixing various color LED's in arrays. Single element LED's, be they headlights or flashlights, don't have that option, so they produce a narrow spectrum that does a poor job of illuminating objects outside of that spectrum.

    LEDColorChart.jpg

    It's the same problem you run into putting white LED's behind colored lenses.

    Incandescents definitely have their faults, but color spectrum isn't one of them -- incandescents produce the closest facsimile of natural sunlight. Multi-element LED bulbs can reach 90% of sunlight's spectrum, but definitely not single elements.

    Bill Robertson
    #5939
    Last edited by content22207_2; 04-21-2016 at 11:21 PM.

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