LED H4 bulbs are close to reaching focus-parity with halogen in reflector headlights.

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First of all, this is purely a thread about the advancement of LED tech as a legitimate replacement for halogen bulbs in reflector housings. I know this is a knee-jerk topic where once someone reads LED and reflector headlight they automatically go into attack mode about blinding other drivers. As tech advances, it's prudent to observe the changes to that tech and not fall into a constant loop of luddism. :)

This is not a post about breaking the law or about the ethics of modifying headlights. It is only about the tech and how close it is getting to halogen parity. Just nerdy car people being geeky about cars. :)

In the last several years, LED bulbs have come to the point where there is no practical desertion between halogen and LED in terms of light focus and spread. The main variables now are brightness and color temperature.

The main contention with LED bulbs is that the LED emitters themselves on many models, for many years, were too far spaced apart, enough that the optical design of the reflectors would be out of alignment with the point sources of light from both low and high beam emitters. The newer designs are getting very close to the same specs required of halogen bulbs, and seem to be falling well within the margin of error for proper optical alignment.

There is a very interesting website, called bulbfacts.com where LED lights are put through controlled tests to determine all pertinent factors in what makes a bulb a good choice. One of the main pieces of data are the pattern tests done in reflector housings.

There is a great comparison table at https://www.bulbfacts.com/led-kits/chart/

One of the top performers in their tests for light scattering is this model https://www.bulbfacts.com/led-kits/reviews/lumibright-xt1-led-kit-review.html
If you check out the visual test, it's quite impressive how well it maintains the cutoff in low-beam mode. While it could be argued that they are ridiculously too bright regardless of light focus, the fact that the light is so well controlled in a halogen housing is very impressive.

An interesting thread was started by a fellow (user: spiderman302) who claims to have helped advance the newest generation of LED bulbs designed with both the proper emitter locations and proper low-beam cutoff.


One important aspect of his post is a cutaway view of a halogen bulb and a new model of LED. As you can see, the LED emitters are getting incredibly close to the same width and point source as the halogen, even including the same cutoff dome and offset emitter for high beams.

Image credit to spiderman302 from https://advrider.com/f/threads/h4-l...me-focus-as-h4-halogen-bulb-new-2018.1286743/
eW007W2.jpg


The mounting plate for the emitters on the new design is 0.037 inches thick, where as older LED designs might be in the 0.235 inch range. A standard H4 halogen element is 0.068 inches wide.

Below is one of the newest designs for LED compared to halogen. Notice how the cutoff dome and offset of the low and high beam emitters are very similar.

Screenshot_2021-01-03 Amazon com HELLA H4P50TB +50 Performance Bulb, 12V, 60 55W, 2 Pack Autom...png
Screenshot_2021-01-03 Amazon com KATANA H4 9003 LED Headlight Bulbs - CREE Chips w Adjustable ...png


When looking at the patterns produced by LED H4 bulbs in reflector housings, the best performing models are clearly within the range needed to perform in parity with halogen bulbs. While there still might be some light loss in certain areas of the beam pattern, there is no added percentage of light in areas where there should not be any added glare for oncoming drivers.

Going forward, I think the problem of poor focusing from LED lights is going to be a non-issue for upgrading existing halogens. What might be a new issue and something worthy of debate, is over the brightness and color temp of the bulbs. Thankfully, there is a HUGE spread of LED lights that vary in brightness and color temp. Some are even capable of close proximity of the color temp and lumen output of halogen bulbs.

I highly recommend checking out the bulbfacts.com website.

EDIT: Another aspect not often covered in LED conversions, is the fact that they emit very little heat through the light pattern of emitters themselves, at least enough to heat up the lens of the housing. LED lights will get covered very quickly in snow storms and be a very dangerous situation. This has to be taken into major account when swapping from halogen to LED. If anything, when using LED in an area prone to snow, carry a set of halogen bulbs you can swap in for added snow and ice melting ability. The halogen bulbs can increase the temps inside a housing by 50-60 degrees over outside ambient temp. (numbers are just a rough guess on my part, but much hotter than LED, no question.)
 
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15,814
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I would probably try that led bulb in my 2015 subaru that had awsome halogen reflectors.

I feel like your title could be worded better


the 999 others on ebay and amazon still suck.. and thats what Git-r-done buys to put in his vehicle.
 
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Daytona Beach
Those would be a good option for my 1982 Kawasaki. I have to wonder how they deal with the heat however. Last time I checked replacement LED's for that application (H4), they had fans and heat sinks that I don't have room for.
 

MrPlow

Thread starter
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456
Those would be a good option for my 1982 Kawasaki. I have to wonder how they deal with the heat however. Last time I checked replacement LED's for that application (H4), they had fans and heat sinks that I don't have room for.
You might be SOL. There is some without the fans, but they still have heat sinks sticking out. I would also be skeptical of the longevity of such designs.
 
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New York
Those would be a good option for my 1982 Kawasaki. I have to wonder how they deal with the heat however. Last time I checked replacement LED's for that application (H4), they had fans and heat sinks that I don't have room for.

They all have to have heat sinks at a minimum - LED's used for headlamps generate a lot of heat that needs to be dissipated or they won't work for very long.
 

MrPlow

Thread starter
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456
They all have to have heat sinks at a minimum - LED's used for headlamps generate a lot of heat that needs to be dissipated or they won't work for very long.
I would be interested to know is there are any designs with a wide and flat heat sink or fan that does not protrude as far out the back.

The LED units which are basically a whole sealed-beam lamp, have the entire back of the lamp used as a heat sink without fans, so it is possible if the heat sink is large enough. Truck-lite h6054 style LED lamps last for years in terms of LED burnout.
 

MrPlow

Thread starter
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456
Oh well, I guess that tech has a ways to go then.
Well, not so fast! You might still be in luck. Why? The LED lamps have an external module between the bulb and the connector to the car wiring harness. The wire going from the LED bulb comes out the side. So, you can deduct the space needed with a standard bulb where it needs room for the harness connector and use that room for the fans and heat sink. Most often, the only issue of fitment is that the dust cover usually doesn't fit over LED bulbs without modification.

Screenshot_2021-01-03 Amazon com SEALIGHT 9006 HB4 9005 HB3 LED Headlight Bulbs High Low Beam,...png


This model has a very thin back to it. Compared to a standard halogen that needs the connector placed directly in the rear, it may be close enough to fit! The only issue remaining other than fit, would be if the model itself has a good performance in the light scattering test. For that, just look up the bulbs on bulbfacts.com

Screenshot_2021-01-03 Amazon com SEALIGHT 9006 HB4 LED Headlight Bulbs 10000LM 12 CSP Chips 60...png
Screenshot_2021-01-03 Amazon com Sylvania 9003XV BP2 (also fits H4) XtraVision Halogen Headlig...png
 
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99
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NW, GB
From:

BRI Source - Your Geniune automotive Lighting resource - LED Xenon HID

"Why?
HID Canbus version kits and LED decoder add-ons are designed to prevent warning signals/errors from appearing on the vehicle's dashboard after replacing the incandescent/halogen bulbs.
They can also prevent flickering due to the CANBUS or Decoder module, which is essentially a capacitor (type of power supply) which takes the uneven power from the vehicle and helps to create a more linear signal going into the new components. This also helps to prolong the life of the product, much like a surge protector or battery backup does for a home computer."

This is from a link on:
There is a great comparison table at https://www.bulbfacts.com/led-kits/chart/

Still a lot of money being lost out there.
 

JHZR2

Staff member
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Ive said for a while now, if they can be very exact in terms of where the hotspot is, then retrofits should start to be more viable. In some applications (reflectors), the level of output might need to be lower all the same, but a lower output LED would be a much lower net energy consumer, which in and of itself might be somewhat beneficial if splitting hairs on MPGs and Wh/mi.
 

MrPlow

Thread starter
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456
Ive said for a while now, if they can be very exact in terms of where the hotspot is, then retrofits should start to be more viable. In some applications (reflectors), the level of output might need to be lower all the same, but a lower output LED would be a much lower net energy consumer, which in and of itself might be somewhat beneficial if splitting hairs on MPGs and Wh/mi.
Ditto. Although the heating of the lens might be an issue for a long time until solved. I wonder if they can create a design that pump the heat into the housing instead of out the back. That would decrease the life of the LED possibly, but make it more viable for cold weather use.

What's funny, is that in doing my research of this topic, I found MANY people go into rage mode when someone mentions swapping halogen for LED in reflectors, and often with the tone that they will NEVER be a viable alternative due to pattern problems with glare.
 

JHZR2

Staff member
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Ditto. Although the heating of the lens might be an issue for a long time until solved. I wonder if they can create a design that pump the heat into the housing instead of out the back. That would decrease the life of the LED possibly, but make it more viable for cold weather use.

What's funny, is that in doing my research of this topic, I found MANY people go into rage mode when someone mentions swapping halogen for LED in reflectors, and often with the tone that they will NEVER be a viable alternative due to pattern problems with glare.
I wasnt aware that lens heating made a significant change in the optics for headlights.
 
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313
Location
New York
What's funny, is that in doing my research of this topic, I found MANY people go into rage mode when someone mentions swapping halogen for LED in reflectors, and often with the tone that they will NEVER be a viable alternative due to pattern problems with glare.

Thing is, compliance with lighting regulations isn't just about having a clean cutoff line, or the beam pattern 'looking' right projected on a wall. It's about actually meeting the appropriate photometric regulations (in the U.S., it's FMVSS 108).
For example, if an LED replacement puts out 5x the light of a halogen everywhere in the beam pattern, it will fail, because there are certain points in the beam where there is an upper limit on intensity - exceed that, and you're no longer compliant. Not to mention that there are legal limits on the overall lumens output of bulbs.
So from a legal standpoint, that LED would not be viable.

I'd imagine that the ideal LED replacement for halogens would utilize a light pipe or light guide the exact size and position of the halogen filament.
 

MrPlow

Thread starter
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456
Thing is, compliance with lighting regulations isn't just about having a clean cutoff line, or the beam pattern 'looking' right projected on a wall. It's about actually meeting the appropriate photometric regulations (in the U.S., it's FMVSS 108).
For example, if an LED replacement puts out 5x the light of a halogen everywhere in the beam pattern, it will fail, because there are certain points in the beam where there is an upper limit on intensity - exceed that, and you're no longer compliant. Not to mention that there are legal limits on the overall lumens output of bulbs.
So from a legal standpoint, that LED would not be viable.
True, but because something is LED does not in itself mean it is brighter than halogen. It can be brighter, with "can" being the operative word. :) Check out the table on bulbfacts.com. The percentage increase in light output to the outside, after reflection, is often well below 200% compared to halogen. Not anywhere close to 500%.

Legality aside, the brighter LED bulbs can be pointed downward more than stock halogens in the same housing, putting the cutoff line lower, while still providing more visual feedback for the lines and objects on the side of the road.

A lot of older cars struggle to compete on the road with modern cars and trucks for light output. Some of that is old design with sealed-beam units, and some due to poor wiring engineering without relays, through high resistance, thin wires running all over the place. My old truck is absolutely terrifying driving at night in the rain these days with narrow shoulder margins on the roads. I literally can't see my own lines in the lane with new trucks and SUVs shining brighter lights. An ambulance, with no lights on other than the headlights, passed me and I went off the road due to being completely blinded from seeing my own beams. Luckily I had enough shoulder to ride and not wreck.
 
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True, but because something is LED does not in itself mean it is brighter than halogen. It can be brighter, with "can" being the operative word. :)
Yes, but let's be real - nobody's buying LED retrofit bulbs from Ebay or Amazon that are advertised as being 'only slightly brighter' than stock, are they? Because none of the LED's are advertised that way, they're being advertised as 'new version 2.0 12000 LUMENSESES!!!' :D

Legality aside, the brighter LED bulbs can be pointed downward more than stock halogens in the same housing, putting the cutoff line lower, while still providing more visual feedback for the lines and objects on the side of the road.
When you point the headlights down though, you lose seeing distance. The hotspot (assuming the LED didn't wreck it completely) is now lower when projected on your garage door, and closer to you when on the road. Which means there is less light on the road in the distance, and more light in the immediate foreground which further impairs your distance vision. Maybe not so bad if you're crawling around at 20mph, but not so much at higher speeds.

My old truck is absolutely terrifying driving at night in the rain these days with narrow shoulder margins on the roads. I literally can't see my own lines in the lane with new trucks and SUVs shining brighter lights. An ambulance, with no lights on other than the headlights, passed me and I went off the road due to being completely blinded from seeing my own beams. Luckily I had enough shoulder to ride and not wreck.
Does your truck have sealed beams? If so, and depending on which ones it uses, you might be able to get a properly engineered LED sealed beam replacement headlight from, say, JW Speaker. Alternatively, you can add auxiliary low and/or high beams to your truck.
 
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Does your truck have sealed beams? If so, and depending on which ones it uses, you might be able to get a properly engineered LED sealed beam replacement headlight from, say, JW Speaker. Alternatively, you can add auxiliary low and/or high beams to your truck.
As opposed to junk like this: (which I've seen on a number of bubba-mobiles in the local area. This despite Virginia having an annual safety inspection)
 

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MrPlow

Thread starter
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456
Does your truck have sealed beams? If so, and depending on which ones it uses, you might be able to get a properly engineered LED sealed beam replacement headlight from, say, JW Speaker. Alternatively, you can add auxiliary low and/or high beams to your truck.
Yeah, but those are worth more than my truck! Especially the heated ones.

I plan on first doing a relay harness upgrade, which should net me an extra 2 volts by bypassing the high resistance wiring. From there, I will install halogen reflector units. That should be sufficient for more light output, just to be equal to other vehicles. From there I can play around with LED bulbs, etc.. and also quick swap for driving in the snow.

In actual practice, using brighter lights, if properly aimed, does not result in blinding other drivers, especially on lower vehicles. I think if someone can drive around for several months at night using high-powered LED lights without other drivers flashing them, then it's all good.

Of course, the law might say otherwise, but that is a whole different matter. So is going 1 MPH over the speed limit, but who heeds that law to the letter? :)
 

MrPlow

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As opposed to junk like this: (which I've seen on a number of bubba-mobiles in the local area. This despite Virginia having an annual safety inspection)
Actually some of those are DOT specced for beam pattern and intensity in glare prone regions of the light spread. Some of even the cheap ebay/Amazon ones have far superior cutoff on low beams than a lot of stock halogen reflectors with halogen bulbs.
 
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10,855
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Nokesville, VA
Actually some of those are DOT specced for beam pattern and intensity in glare prone regions of the light spread. Some of even the cheap ebay/Amazon ones have far superior cutoff on low beams than a lot of stock halogen reflectors with halogen bulbs.

The ones I looked at up close have no beam control whatsoever. I suspect the difference between "high" and "low" beam on those is simply how many LEDs are powered.
 
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2,209
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california
My vehicle runs sealed beam, h6054, and years ago their contacts got fed with relays and 12awg and new ceramic plugs with 12awg and quality relays, being fed with 10AWG ffrom the nearby 6awg going from alternator to battery, increasing voltage to low beams by over 2.5 volts. Very substantial improvement in light hitting road.

The GE nighthawks of old were good, for a sealed beam, and the relay upgrade and those older GEnighthawks made for respectable headlights, but the high beams left me wanting for more. When they failed, within minutes of each other, I was in a small town, and bought the Sylvania silverstar h6054s. Depressing beam pattern in comparison. Apparently, the new GE nighthawks are to be avoided. manufacturing moved to China...... horrible optics.

Recently I got the Hella Vision plus 6054 replacements, DOT, not the E-code/ ece's as they apparently have better beam pattern than the e codes, if you believe the experts. I would have bought the Cibie Bobos, but they are not available any longer, well they are, but apparently junk compared to the Cibie 200mm's of old.

The hellas take h4 bulbs, and came with some GE bulbs. I bought some Phillips xtreme +130's, and some Flosser 100/55's as well. I tested actual wattage of the bulbs at different voltages, No low or high beam met their rating until they got over 14 volts and usually closer to 14.5v

The Low beam Hella 6054 replacement, indexes the H4 bulb so that the shield/ reflector, aims/steers/ corrals the low beam filament's 360 degree output , towards the top of the reflector. The high beam has no shield and uses the full360 degrees of the reflector.

LEDs on two sides, firing side to side, not up and down, do not project light equally 180 on each side, but fire more of their light side to side. The LED chips low beam is not using the reflector/shield to corral the light to fire the majority of lumens at the top of the reflector, a majority of the LED light will hit the sides of the reflector, the shield only prevents the LED output from hitting the lower portion of the reflector and it does not appear to shield most of the lower portion of the reflector, as the halogen h4 low beam shield does.

Exactly what the glass lens's fresnel like optics are doing....to the light from the reflector, well...... I'm not going there as that would require a lot of trial and error blocking off segments and trying to see how the beam pattern changes, and without a goniophotometer, any impressions would be subjective opinion and mostly worthless

So even if New designs of drop in LEDsthe center of the LED bulb to have the chips no thicker than a coiled filament, the led chips are NOT radiating light equally in 360 degrees as a tungsten filament does. The most intensity of light will be at 90 and 270 degrees +/- what, 60 degrees, using the sides of the reflector, more than the top, for the low beam. I have difficulty imagining the beam pattern can replicate the halogen bulb, or even be a good imitation, but I've been wrong before and will be again.

I don;t think true drop in LEDs firing into existing halogen reflector/projectors, will exist until they can form an LED in the shape of a filament with an equal 360 degree light distribution. Simply replicating the position of the LEDS, I do not believe is enough. certainly better than willy nilly placement, but a LOT, likely depends on teh exact reflector design, which of course varies widely.

Regarding the h6054 halogen reflector sealed beam options out there, well there seem to be hundreds on Amazon and Ebay, and most get stellar reviews, as do their LED size equivalents. I think this merely points how Amazon reviews are not trustworthy as to be genuine, AND, even if genuine, the stellar reviews point to societal ignorance as to what constitutes a good beam pattern, not only for seeing, but to not glare oncoming drivers. Very few reviews are well written by those with obvious experience. The way to get the average joe to think a headlight is great, is excessive foreground light.

I recently drove cross country, 40+ hours and 25+ of those at night, and the amount of glare encountered by not only LED drop ins, but Halogen sealed beam imitators, is simply getting worse and worse every year.

I am impressed with the Hella 003427291 DOT version, in direct comparison to the Sylvania silverstar h6054, which are basically only 35 watt nominal low beams. They have a lot of reach/ throw when properly aimed, and the high beams are downright impressive, and especially with the Phillips extreme+130 H4/9003/HB2 bulbs that I have scraped the blue coating off of with a razor blade. Take precautions if trying to strip the blue, bulbs under enormous pressure, A light touch is needed, and about 10+ minutes per bulb.

Phillips has +150 and +200 versions of the H4 bulb available now, but they have pretty thick blue coating not surrounding low beam, but in front of it and behind, attenuating the high beam by some 20%, if the specs I read are true regarding how much the blue banding reduces output and if I am remebering correctly.

The GE bulbs the hellas came with have better high beams than the Phillips +130s with the blue banding in place, but not with it removed.
The Flosser bulbs I got are likely questionable seconds. with one bulb's low beam filament poorly located/shaped and the glass being slightly brown. Their low beams were OK, on par with teh GE's, and their '100 watt' high beams had extremely intense hot spots, farther down and to the left than the other two halogen bulbs, leaving a darkspot down and to the right. So I am using the Phillips +130s denuded of blue banding, as the 'whiter light' that so many people think is brighter and helps them see better, but is not and can't and doesn't...well fashionable light color means nothing to me.
Actually seeing does. Blue banding be gone.

One thing I have noticed is 'warm white' led drop ins an several different vehicles that i see when walking my dog late at night.. This attempt at halogen light color seems quite poor in comparison, very artificial and only slightly less glaring to my eyes than the standard cool white it seems everyone is so enamored with.

I think the color rendering of a lot of LEDs need a lot more work before parity is reached, in addition to an LED that can fire 360 in the same footprint as a filament.
I accept that drop in LEDs are not going to go away as I'd like, and the amount of vehicles with excessive glare is going to get worse for a while before technology gets good enough to actually replicate the output of a tungsten filament.

A thread on selective yellow nighttime driving glasses, to help ones retinas from frying as badly, from the ever increasing glare by the self important and the ignorant, would be a good discussion.
I have some cheap glasses they are indeed helpful when the opposite lane is filled with big rigs and brotrucks, the two biggest offenders in the glare department, in my recent experience driving I-10 mostly at night, coast to coast. When there is no oncoming glare offenders I find myself lifting up these glasses, till the next one rounds the bend
 
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