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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

LED Headlight Upgrade - Easy AND Beneficial!

    A few years ago, I had begun an article that would talk about upgrading old style headlight bulbs with "new fangled" HID (High Intensity Discharge) bulbs and ballasts. Wrote a good portion of it, then never got around to installing them to test! Since then, the cost of LED bulbs has dropped, and dropped AND dropped! So a set to replace your aging headlights (and other fixtures) has become inexpensive enough to give it a whirl. I did, and am MUCH impressed. It was pretty easy and went well...sort of. There were some teething pains. I'm going to save you the trouble I experienced. Read on!


First, of course, is the cost. The high power ones (around 8000 Lumens) can be had for around 27.00 a set! That is crazy inexpensive. I looked on Amazon for my bulb type and ordered them. Almost every conceivable type is represented, so you shouldn't have any problems finding your specific one. READ THE SPECS! Not all of the LED bubs are created equal. Lumens, Color Temperature and cooling fans will vary, as will the way it mounts in your headlight housing. For me, I like the warmer color of incandescent bulbs, so I looked for ones with a lower number (<4000K) If you want bluer light, go higher. Daylight is 5600K. I wrote up a whole explanation of this when I replaced my inside lights with LEDs.

Comes Complete.
Once you've received the correct ones for your RV, installation is next. Take out your old bulbs. Typically there is a cover over the back of the bulb housing then a plug must be removed before you can unclip or unscrew the bulb retaining mechanism. On mine, there was a rubber cover over the plug, which I removed, then pulled out the plug. Next was a spring wire clip holding the bulb in the housing. I simply pressed it down and left to remove the spring tension and gently removed the bulb. Try not to touch the glass as the oils in your fingers will cause uneven heating/cooling of the bulb and it will crack and end up useless. That is, IF you will ever use them again. I carry my old ones as spares. Just put them in the box the LED's came in. Nicely padded and secure.

Another Set. Hey, I Bought Two!
Installation was easy. The LEDs have male wire pigtails on them which plug into the female headlight wiring harness connectors the old bulbs used. Insert the bulbs back into the existing holes, reattach the mechanism and you are done. Well..almost. Here's where I ran into some trouble. Once I had them both installed, I made the mistake of remarking to my friend how easy it was to do! I flipped on the lights and realized the pattern was perfect on one side, but backwards on the other. What I mean, is that the pattern of light projected toward the road was upside down, the "sweet spot" was great in the left side, but the right side had the spot off the road. There is a tiny Allen head set screw holding the bulb assembly into the specific mount, so all you have to do is loosen the screw, rotate the light and put it back in. Of course, it would have been nice for the instructions to TELL you that before everything is buttoned up...but hey...it was cheap enough.

The difference is nothing short of amazing. More light without gaps in coverage, better aim and it does not blind oncoming driver...or folks in front of you. The high beams have an extended range for those really dark and lonely highways. Bottom line? They work. 'Nuff Said.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

www.thewanderman.com

9 comments:

  1. Hey Rich,
    I have a later-model coach, where the high beams are lit at low-intensity for daytime-running-light (DRL) operation. This is done with a pulse-width-modulation (PWM) drive. Do you happen to know whether the new LED's tolerate such treatment?
    thx
    Greg Illes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unknown,
      As long as the voltage is above 10.5, you should not have any issues. You MAY experience some additional flicker, but it may be too fast for the eye to see.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  2. A few years ago, I installed a set of HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlights on my Dodge pick up. They required a transformer about the size of a pack of cigarettes. Am I correct in assuming that LED and HID are the same; and the transformer is now at the base of bulb and not a separate component?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alex,
      LED bulbs require NO external transformer. There are no extra pieces. The bulb is a bit longer due to the cooling fan at the back.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
    2. Alex: absolutely NOT the same thing. HID lights use a high voltage transformer to create a plasma arc through (usually) xenon gas - its like a 70s disco strobe firing really fast continuously. An LED is a semi conductor junction that sheds visible light. Of course, traditional bulbs used a resistive filament. All different ways to make light.

      Delete
  3. Just wonder if you let the mh set and you walked/drive toward the receiving end of those lights. Was it acceptable to you as an oncoming driver? Are they aimed well? So many I see that were changed by :kids: are hard to see oncoming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thomas,
      The bulb pattern has a much sharper cut off between high and low beams. The pattern really relieves the oncoming traffic glare problem significantly.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  4. On my 2011 Ford F350, to get to the headlight bulb I need to open the hood, remove 5 or so bolts holding the top of the grille in place, lean the grille forward and take a LONG screwdriver or dowel and release 5 clips holding the bottom of the grille in place. Oops, gotta remove my driving lights to remove the grille - what a pain. Now I can get to the bolts that hold the headlight in place. Thank you Ford for making bulb replacement so easy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. George,
      I so understand that! We use a lot of Chevy Impalas at work and to replace a headlight bulb you have to have two metric wrench sizes and small fingers to release plastic clips, then wiggle it out. And THAT isn't as difficult as your ordeal. What are the engineers thinking???!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete

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