9 Things You Should Avoid When Upgrading to LEDs!

Ever had that situation where you buy an LED headlight online and go to install it only to damage the bulb either because there was not enough room or the connectors did not match?

Have you run into other problems where you wish you knew so that you can avoid this and save the trouble?  It can be related to getting pulled over, bulb size of your LEDs was off, or possibly a bulb that did not do any justice on lighting performance based off information you found online.

We have experienced our own situations when we first started using LEDs and so we want to pass some knowledge to you that we wish we knew before attempting our first LED install.

Here are 9 Things You Should Not Do With Your LEDS.

Do not attempt to install the wrong bulb size.

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On the left is a bayonet 27W incandescent bulb. On the right is our T25 Wedge type 3020 13-SMD White LED bulbs.

We have all been there before!  This can be very tedious experience especially on vehicles that have intensive labor involved just to gain access to the lamps.  Before attempting any installation, always check the connectors of your LEDs and compare to the connectors of the factory bulbs.  You can save yourself a lot of time and labor through this simple practice.

Most cars do not require intensive labor to simply check the headlight socket or bulb connectors.

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Correct bayonet sized LED bulb to replace the 27W incandescent bulb.

Also, check reliable sources that come directly from your vehicles manufacturer.  The owner’s manual and the factory bulbs are two of the most reliable sources that will help identify the size you need for your vehicle.  If you are not sure, the guys at JDM Astar can guide you.

 

Do not use the illegal colored lights on the road.

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Backup lamps are required to be white or warm white in most states.

Ever drive around a law enforcement vehicle with blue fog lights?  Have you come across other cars that have similar colored blue lamps?  Please do not do this!  In some states, certain colors and color temperatures are illegal for automotive road use.  A good example is using some blue lamps that impersonate a law enforcement vehicle, or any lamps that you see often on emergency type vehicles such as flashing/strobe white/red lights.

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Blue lamps are recommended best for show cars or off road vehicles.

Always consult your states local laws and regulations about legal color temperatures to be using for specific lighting applications like turn signals, backup lights, headlights, and fog lights.  If you are not sure what to use, just stick to the original color that the vehicle used from the manufacturer and you will be fine.

 

Do not leave any connections exposed when wiring an LED lamp or other LED components to your vehicle.

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A wire tap that is made to supply power to an auxiliary lamp must be sealed to protect against moisture contact.

Oxidation is a pain.  It can lead to shortages and in some cases lead to damages to the vehicle.  If you are working with light bars, any rock lights, or some unique LED auxiliary lamps, always seal up your connections that are not in a sealed housing.  This can also apply to other aspects such as wiring in a load resistor to bypass hyper flash.

Resistors are typically left outside of the lamp housings to prevent the heat from affecting the LEDs.  This applies to both universal resistors and pre-wired resistor harnesses.  This, unfortunately, exposes the connection to environment and so you want to seal up the connections or taps made.  Leaving them exposed is asking for trouble and may lead to rusted metal parts or possibly cause a short in the vehicles lamp circuit.

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Connections that are left outside of the lamp housing are exposed to moisture and are prone to oxidation if not sealed properly.

If you are converting from a factory HID to an aftermarket LED lamp then you should also seal up any taps made that are left outside of a housing.

 

Do not let your resistors or decoders just hang out!

In the automotive industry, the purpose of a load resistor is to trick a car circuit into detecting the power draw of a normal filament bulb.  In reality, you are actually using a 5W LED bulb combined with a 20W resistor is similar, if not the same, to the original bulb which typically have a wattage range of 20W-25W on turn signal applications.

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Resistors installed to a vehicle must be mounted to prevent direct contact to the resistor unit.

Like your factory bulb, these resistors draw a lot of power but rather then using it for a specific function, they simply burn it.  This translates to a lot of heat and by leaving the resistors dangling, it will melt any plastic components in the area that it has prolonged contact with.  If the resistor units have prolonged contact to a painted metal surface, of the car, the paint will eventually bubble up and damage and even affect the primer.  If the resistors touch non-metal material, you can expect smoke or burning smells in the area or whatever it contacts as resistors can run average temperatures as high as 235° F.

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“The weight may pull down on the LED headlight its connected to which will cause wear on any solder connections”

For decoders (some refer to them as CAN bus decoders, anti-flicker harnesses, Error Cancellers, etc), they do not run as hot, however, they are a lot heavier.  The weight, combined with road vibrations, may pull down on the LED headlight its connected to which causes unnecessary wear on any solder connections by the butt of the bulb.  Through time, and heat outputted by the fan/heat sink, this will eventually lead to a problem within the bulbs circuit.  Always mount them down to keep them from dangling all over the place or from potentially damaging your LED headlight bulbs as well as other parts in the area.

 

Do not use the incorrect type of LED bulb for the vehicles application.

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H11 80W High Power LED bulb designed to replace a 20W-35W fog light. On the right is an H11 55W Halogen bulb which are commonly found on low beam lamps.

Ever install a standard 5W LED fog light LED replacement bulb to replace a 55W halogen fog light and the results are no where near as bright as what you had?  What about installing this style LED bulb into a headlight type application to replace a 55W halogen bulb only to be disappointed by the results?

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Using this type of LED bulb as a headlight will actually reduce lighting results since the bulb is designed for driving or fog lamps which typically use a 20W-35W halogen bulb.

There is reasoning behind this and it’s mainly due to the wattage or type of bulb the vehicle is using and the type of LED bulb you are trying to use in order to replace it.

Here is a cheat sheet that will provide a reference on the suggested type of LED replacement to be using based off the wattage of the factory incandescent/halogen bulb(s).

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Let’s take a Honda Accord as an example.  Accords typically use an H8 12V 55W Halogen bulb.  A halogen bulb with a wattage range of 55W is commonly found on headlight applications for most vehicles on the market and essentially labels this type of bulb as a headlight replacement.  If you install an LED replacement bulb that has a wattage range of 5W (intended for running/fog lamps) to replace the 55W factory bulb( that happens to be a headlight) then results you want may not be what you expect. The factory lamps can be expected to be brighter simply because it uses more power.  Now, if you try a 25W ‘LED HEADLIGHT’ (uses a fan or passive heat sinks) to replace a 55W halogen bulb then the results can be expected to be brighter with your LEDs.

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“A good tip is that any halogen bulb that’s above 50W should be using an LED replacement that runs a fan or passive thermal heat sink.”

Always understand what the wattage range of your factory bulbs are to know what type of LED bulb you should be using on that particular lamp.  This mainly applies to front head lighting such as fogs, lows, highs, or dual beam headlights.  If you are not sure what LED to go for, just look at the wattage of the original bulb and reference the guide above.  A good tip is that any halogen bulb that’s above 50W should be using an LED replacement that runs a cooling fan or a passive thermal heat sink.

And of course, you can always reach out to the guys at JDM for any guidance on the LED replacement that you should be using for that application.

Never run an LED replacement right next to a filament bulb that is not isolated in the lamp housing.

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“When you have two filament bulbs that are setup in the housing this way, you should almost always have to replace both bulbs if you upgrade any to LED.”

A lot of vehicle housings, whether they’re front headlamp lighting or rear tail lighting tend to use 3-5 bulbs per housing and are typically isolated from the others such as turn signals, and headlights.    For those vehicles that run more than 1 bulb in the same housing and area, where the two bulbs are not isolated like a turn and low beam headlight, you never want to replace only 1 of those bulbs to an LED but rather both.

When you have two filament bulbs that are setup in the same housing this way, you should almost always have to replace both bulbs if you upgrade any to LED.  You must understand that LED technology has ALWAYS had a heat threshold as they are computer components/electronics, and like any electronic device, they do not like heat!  When you run an LED bulb right next to a filament bulb, there will be two heat sources in the housing one of the being substantially higher than what the other can handle.  The LED is capable of resisting temperatures generated by the LED bulb itself which means the increased heat of the filament bulb its sitting next to will have a major impact on the LED circuit and driver performance.  The heat outputted by an incandescent or halogen bulb is typically 2-3 times higher compared to its LED counterpart.  This is due to the amount of power driven to the bulb.  The heat outputted by the filament bulb will stress the diodes and IC driver.  Once temperatures begin to climb above the threshold, it may cause the LED bulb to fail prematurely.  The IC driver will first pulse the signal to the LED circuit in order to save the diodes but if temperatures continue to climb or stay excessively high then the driver will eventually cease or the increased temperatures may burn the diodes on the chips which my begin to brown up.

Always replace both bulbs to LED so that the amount of heat outputted by the two bulbs is maintained to a minimal in order to allow the LED to operate at its optimal temperatures.

 

Never leave your headlight housings exposed to the elements such as moisture.

Luckily, this does not affect all halogen bulbs/housings.  Only specific sized halogen bulbs will use an o-ring or some type of gasket to provide a water proof seal for the headlamp housing.  When going over to an LED replacement headlight, the LED replacement typically uses the same seals or gaskets that the original bulbs use thus providing the same peace of mind in protection of the housing against any moisture breach.

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H7 headlight housing using a fan style LED headlight that is physically too large to allow the factory cover to be replaced.

What about for those unique sizes that do not have gaskets such as H1, H3 or H7?  Well, you do not want to leave these exposed!  These housings tend to utilize a poly carbonate dust cap, or rubber boot cover.  The purpose of the cover is to protect and seal the housing against moisture and unknown contaminants such a dust or debris.  When upgrading to an aftermarket LED headlight bulb, the factory covers usually do not have enough clearance to allow the LED headlight bulb to fit under it.  Most will usually leave this off.  Since the original bulb lacks an o-ring gasket, the LED will have the exact same setup so by leaving the cap off, you will be exposing the housings to the elements.

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For H1, H3, and H7 headlight housings, you CANNOT leave them exposes as this will introduce moisture to the housing.

There are a lot of aftermarket covers available online that allows the LED bulb to have more clearance to fit inside, however, the better options are those that allow the LEDs to breathe.  You can certainly use dust covers and seal up any of our LEDs, however, this may affect the operating temperatures.  Being exposed to air flow allows optimal cooling of the bulb and will ensure a long life so always keep that in mind.  The covers we recommend should allow the LED headlight bulbs fan or heat sink to be exposed.  The areas around the LED bulb or dust cover can easily be sealed up by using automotive silicone or some type of silicone adhesive that is weather proof and seals against moisture.  With this setup, you can expect the LEDs to operate at its optimal temperatures while still provide peace of mind of protecting the headlamp housing.  Lastly, an alternative is to modify the existing cover and seal up any exposed openings.  Of course, we always suggest leaving the original parts unmodified but for some, this may be the best and most cost effective solution.

 

If your vehicle is a daily driver or driven frequently, DO NOT SMOKE or TINT THE LENSES!

This is a no brainer and only benefit is that it looks cool.  This, unfortunately, only works for automotive trade shows or show cars.

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Smoked headlight lenses can reduce light penetration by up to 40% depending on the tint.

By jeopardizing the clarity of your headlights or tail lights lenses, it will compromise the intensity of the lamp, and in some cases, render any type of bulb useless and unsafe to use on the vehicle simply because it’s not bright enough to penetrate the tint.  Most will usually use a 60W HID system on a smoked headlight for that overkill output, but at that level of power, the innards of the headlight housings will be affected by the heat and eventually lead to warped housings or damages to the lens or reflective properties of the fixture in the long run.

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Dark tints are recommended for show only as they compromise headlamp brilliance, driver visibility and drive safety.

This is a big safety concern and definitely something we never suggest to do on a vehicle that’s frequently used on the road.  Most states do not have laws and regulations in place for smoking or tinting your lenses but if the lamps are not bright enough, or pose a safety concern to you or other motor vehicles then this is probable cause for law enforcement to pull you over and may write you a citation.

 

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Smoked tail lights make it virtually impossible to see a brake light during daylight resulting in risks of rear end collisions.

If you smoke up your tail lights, it’s the same safety risks but instead of compromising your visibility you are at risk of being rear ended by others behind you.  This one is worse as you have no control over the situation.  If somebody is speeding behind you, a smoked lenses will make it difficult for that driver to see you stopping at a distance.  With a dim tail and brake light, it’s hard for the driver to see you slowing down and well….you know what may happens next.

If law enforcement gets involved then the smoked lenses may also be clear evidence against you so keep those housings red and do not tint the headlights either.

 

Do not compromise your LED headlights cooling mechanism!

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LED headlights will reach a high temperature fairly quick if the LED lamp is used without any cooling such as a passive heat sink.

This applies to aftermarket LED headlights that have mechanical fans or feature a thermal passive heat sink for cooling.  These type of lamp require those cooling mechanisms as a form of removing heat directly from the diodes.  Heat will dissipate directly from the light source, through the metal body of the bulb, and exhaust at the heat sink or fan.  Some LED headlights on the market allow the heat sink to be removed such as our 8th Generation Headlights.  These features tend to provide versatility when trying to install to the vehicles headlamp housing.  For some housings, leaving the heat sink off allows the bulb to fit in the confined area, however, this is how the bulb cools down.  Without a way to dissipate, the diodes will eventually reach temperature that will compromise performance, efficiency, and shortens the life of the bulb.  Heat and LEDs do not mix which is why most will utilize some type of cooling mechanism, whether it’d be a mechanical fan, thermal heat sinks, or something new we have not yet heard of.  NEVER run an LED without any way of cooling it down.

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“Without a way to dissipate (heat), the diodes will eventually reach temperatures that will compromise performance, efficiency, and shortens the life of the diodes.”

Most importantly, do not block the bulbs ability to cool down.  Some housings use dust covers/caps which you can use with LED, however, operating temperatures tend to climb higher so it’s usually suggested to allow the LEDs to vent out all heat.  Avoid trying to cram the LEDs drivers into a confined space where air flow will be extremely limited as heat will affect the performance of the drivers once it reaches a high temperature.  There are many options for a replacement dust cover which will easily fit and work with most aftermarket LED headlights. For those finicky sizes like H1, and H3’s, you can always apply automotive silicon paste to help provide a seal in any areas that are exposed or may potentially leak moisture into the lamp housing area.

For questions or concerns on upgrading to LED lighting, JDM ASTAR is available Monday-Friday 9:30AM-5:30PM PST for all your car lighting needs.

Give the guys at JDM at call and they will gladly assist you to help ensure a seamless installation with any LED you install or any lighting upgrades made to the vehicle, and remember…

“LED JDM Astar light your way down the road!”

-JDM ASTAR Team