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Hidden truths – What you need to know before buying LED headlights. Updates for 2019
Do you ever wonder exactly why the all new LED HL kits sold on Amazon and other major marketplaces are so inexpensive and why others are so much more? Let’s dive a little deeper before you take the LED Headlight Bulb Plunge.
There are plenty of cheap LED headlight kits on the market these days – but you get what you pay for. Before you go shopping on amazon, ebay or the web, know the tricks of the trade.
LED headlights are all the rage these days. Automakers are including them on most production vehicles, and there are plenty of aftermarket conversion kits available as well. If you’re a car enthusiast, you’ve undoubtedly thought about upgrading your outdated halogen bulbs.
The question is, where do you start? There are a countless number of LED kits available online, many of which have a questionably low-price tag – and inexpensive is alluring.
But you might want to think twice before whipping out your credit car for a set of cheapo bulbs. Most cut-rate LEDs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Why LED headlight bulbs?
Before getting into which LED headlight kit to purchase, let's discuss why you should upgrade to begin with.
To start, halogen bulbs are passé – they went out of style with cable TV and Myspace. Automakers are making the switch to LEDs on production cars, but there are still plenty of traditional headlights on the road.
Halogen headlights work much like the old incandescent bulbs found in your home – current flows through a filament, which heats up to create light. The lamp itself is filled with halogen gas to increase the brightness of the glow.
Compared to halogen bulbs, LED headlights are brighter, last longer and use less energy. But, for most consumers, the biggest draw is that they look much better than traditional bulbs.
What to look for when buying LED headlight bulbs
A quick Amazon, Google or eBay search reveals a countless selection of cheap led headlight kits. But you get what you pay for. Inexpensive bulbs tout high lumens, which they have initially. The problem is that’s all they offer – and the brightness doesn’t last. These are a few key concepts to keep in mind when shopping for an LED conversion kit
Everyone has heard the phrase quality over quantity. And nowhere is that more applicable than headlight illumination. Many inexpensive LED conversion kits have a high lumen count but nothing else.
It has nothing to do with the quality of the headlamp’s output. While lumens help determine how an LED will perform, you’ll also want to consider the following:
- Lux: This is the measurement of lumens per square meter. It defines the bulb’s intensity and how far it will shine. High-quality LED kits have a focused beam pattern for a greater lux count. On the other hand, cheap units produce light that’s dispersed everywhere and wasted. As a result, the light doesn’t reach the right distance.
- CRI: The CRI is the color rendering index. It’s a measurement of the ability of a light source to accurately reveal the colors of an object, graded on a scale from 1 to 100. A high CRI rating allows for brighter output with the same lumens.
If a led headlight fails to even mention these other key metrics, it’s probably a sign that they don’t really care about them.
Say no to overclocking
You may have heard of people overclocking their personal computers. Basically, it’s the act of forcing a component to run faster than it was designed to.
There’s a reason product isn’t overclocked from the factory – the process creates extreme heat and decreases lifespan. Many cheap LED kits feature overclocked chipsets that allow them to produce a high lumen count for a very short time. It doesn’t take long for the units to overheat and fail. The description may claim the light will last for 50,000 hours when in reality, it will only last for 1,000 hours or less.
Look for automotive-specific chipsets
Nearly all LED kits on the market use off-the-shelf chipsets. That means the internal components aren't built specifically for automotive applications. Instead, they may be used in a car, household lamp – you name it.
Vehicles provide a harsh and demanding operating environment. Only Chipsets designed for automotive use are up to the challenge.
If these inexpensive LED kits are so crummy, why do so many consumers buy them and why are their star rating so great on amz? It’s simple – sellers use less-than-ethical tactics to confuse and manipulate buyers. They accomplish this a few different ways
Crooked sellers hire (for a nominal wage) people to review their products. As a result, they get a five-star rating for pennies on the dollar. Buyers see this excellent score, assume the product is good, and purchase it. Here is a classic article describing as such. NPR AMZ Fake Reviews.
You never know what you’re getting when you purchase a cheap LED kit. Manufacturers change the build quality from one batch to the next to cut costs and deceive customers. Expand on batch to batch unreliability- those they used to create great reviews can be VERY different than the ones you are now purchasing
One would assume that these sellers would receive an equally high amount of negative reviews for the horrible products they sell. And they DO. However, they often prevent this from happening by building instant refunds and “free replacements” in their business model. If it’s cheaper to refund or replace than hiring paid/informed/technical support, why bother?
Fortunately, there are still reliable brands out there that deliver what they promise. You simply need to do the extra homework and use common sense judgement to decipher if a product is brining you value. For example, if an LED Headlight kit is selling for $35 and has 4.5 stars, (the same price a generic replacement halogen bulb- a technology that’s 40 years older), something doesn’t add up.
The key things to spot for are whether they are using automotive-specific chipset customized to engineering specs as opposed to off the shelf “cree” chips made for other industries. Are they manufacturing processes consistent with that of a large reliable fortune 5000 company or are they doing this in a make shift shed/home made factory?
- 1.If it’s too good of a deal it’s probably not . – If a kit costs as cheap as older technology, a piece of the puzzle is missing.
- 2.Lumens aren’t Everything - If a brand doesn’t mention the 2 other critical components of lighting output (Lux and CRI), they probably shouldn’t be considered.
- 3.Be Careful of Tricky Sellers & Fake Reviews – Many cheaper sellers use fake review tactics, overclocking their led chips, and free returns to absorb negative reviews and falsely highlight positive ones. Be on the lookout.