The Things We Wish We Knew🤦‍♂️…

Car lighting can come off as a bit of challenge for some especially when you have little to no knowledge on the vehicles electrical system.  Even for those experienced individuals, there are still some things that you will never learn until you get hands-on and do the work yourself.

We have created a list of the top 10 things we wish knew before we got into modding our own vehicles lighting.  These tips can help the experienced professional and just about any person new to the modifying there vehicles or just about any person wanting better lighting for their cars.  These 10 tips have proven to help you save money, a lot of time, hassle, and minimize the labor involved.

#1 Play it safe and wear protection!

Safety is always a priority!  When installing any parts to your car, you should always be play it safe. Safety should never be overlooked! When working with car lighting, use industrial grade nitrile gloves and any other safety tools such as safety glasses.  Nitrile gloves are heat resistant which means you can handle things that are as hot as an LED headlights heat sink or fan.  When replacing your factory bulbs or upgrading your existing LED headlights to JDM Astar LEDs then you should always wear gloves to help protect your hands, and the LED lamps.  It’s rare for the oils on our hands to cause a diode to over but this is not a reason to not

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Safety should always be a priority when performing any type of work on your vehicle.

Using industrial automotive gloves that offer a nitrile linear are perfect for handling extremely hot parts such as resistors and/or a high intensity discharge bulb (HID for short).

Next time you catch yourself playing Hot Potato with you factory bulbs, make sure you have your automotive gloves handy!

#2 Magnet pickup tools are lifesavers!

If you are working on an older car and have damaged or brittle sockets, you may have run into this pickle already.  We see this very often on classic cars or sockets that have excessive wear.  Sockets that do not secure a bulb correctly has known to allow the factory bulb or an LED to just slip off the socket and end up in the housing.

This can be extremely tedious and quite annoying to fish out especially if the bulb is lodged deep inside the lamp housing.

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“This can help save loads of time and minimize the frustration involved from trying to just bounce that bulb around until you can finally grab it and remove it from the housing.”

Try using a magnet pickup tool.  Most good quality aftermarket LED bulbs have metal bodies for heat dissipation.  By simply removing the lamp assembly, you can easily remove the LED bulb out by using the extender on the magnet pick up tool.  Some magnet pickup tools offer a bendable rod for even better reach should the LED be stuck in a corner of the housing where you cannot easily reach it.  This can help save loads of time and minimize the frustration involved from trying to just bounce that bulb around until you can finally grab it and remove it from the housing.

#3 No room to mount resistors?  No problem!

Hyper flash is a very common feature in most automotive vehicles today.  If you plan to upgrade to LED turn signals, you will almost always experience a hyper flash problem with your signals.  As you may know, the purpose of a resistor is to burn more power.  The resistor must then get rid of that power and so it just burns it which translates most of the energy consumption to thermal energy or heat.  Because of this factor, resistors must always be mounted to a metal surface for heat dissipation to help keep temperatures down and secure the resistor to prevent direct contact to non-metal surfaces.  This, however, can pose a problem if your car has nothing but plastic in the area, not enough wire length to reach a metal surface, or no secure metal surface to mount the resistor to.

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“As long as you have 1 resistor unit to compensate for the load of each turn signal LED bulb, on that same side, then it will still remedy the hyper flash problem for that entire side.”

Did you know that you can actually mount all the resistors to either the front or rear turn signal sockets?  Your car controls driver and passenger side turn signals separately.  To the car, it does not matter where you have the resistors wired up just as long as each side has the necessary load simulation that is equivalent to the turn signal bulb you replaced and is usually one per LED turn signal bulb.  The advantage of this is that you can install all 4 of your resistors to the front or rear.

As long as you have 1 resistor unit to compensate for the load of each turn signal LED bulb, on that same side, then it will still remedy the hyper flash problem for that entire side.  This means that if your car only uses 2 turn signal bulbs per side (driver or passenger sides) then you can wire up your 2 resistors to the front or rear while still keeping the factory turn signal flasher relay happy.

#4 Check your factory bulbs and car before you attempt the labor!

Most aftermarket automotive bulb type products are not vehicle specific but rather SIZE specific.  This means that it may be difficult to locate 1 LED or HID headlight that is specifically designed for your model vehicle.  However, if you can identify the headlight bulb size your vehicle is currently using, you will most certainly find hundreds of options to choose from.

Before you decide to pick up your own set of aftermarket LED headlights, you should ALWAYS check your factory bulb sizes before attempting to access the bulb especially when it is labor intensive.  This can save you time, and the frustration experienced when you find out that you wasted over 2 hours, to access the headlight bulb, only to learn that you do not have the appropriate sized LED headlight bulb.  Knowing what factory bulbs are in there now and how much labor is required will prevent those sudden surprises, not to mention the time lost and hassle of having to ship your parts back, and ensures the installation is seamless.

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The owners manual and factory bulb are the most reliable sources to find the bulb size needed.

Any of the following vehicle makes may experience additional or intensive labor that may require removal of additional parts to access your factory headlights such as front bumper, housing assembly, grille, a large quantity of plastic fasteners or wheel wells:

European vehicles– Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Fiat, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Porsche, Volkswagen.

Domestic vehicles– Some Chrysler models, some Dodge trucks (2000+) and sedans, some Buick models, newer model Fords, GMC, Jeep, Land Rover, Lincoln, and Ram trucks (2000+).

Asian vehicles– Some newer Acura sedans, some Kia sedans, Mazda sedans, Subaru SUV’s, Scion,

If your vehicle maker is listed here, check your owner’s manual to understand the steps required to gain access to the bulb you are planning on replacing.  There are good sources on the internet that will provide useful information as well.

If you own a very popular model vehicle, you will almost always find a source on sites like Youtube that provide the ‘How-To’ steps in replacing a bulb for your car.  Sources like Carcarekiosk.com are also very good for tutorial videos on accessing various light bulbs in your vehicle.  Research your car with these sources and make your new LED upgrades a breeze to install.

#5 Stay on top of your states periodic vehicle inspection laws!

The use of automotive aftermarket LED headlights is legal in most states and no state defines an aftermarket LED headlight replacement bulb illegal for road use.  States, however, do have periodic vehicle inspections such as emissions inspection, and automotive safety inspection.  For states that have safety inspections, make preparations before attempting to get your vehicle inspected while your LED bulbs are installed.  You should always check inspection requirements before attempting to install any aftermarket LED type bulb to your vehicle as to ensure you are complying with your states vehicle safety inspection laws.

Always check your states inspections laws instead of just reinstalling your stock bulbs and putting back your LEDs once you pass state inspection as we have heard and seen in many cases. Below, we referenced a chart that shows states that require yearly inspections.  If you reside in a state that require safety inspections, check your local laws and regulations from sources such as the Department of Transportation or the DMV websites.

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States that have yearly safety inspections will usually require DOT complaint lamps.  (Image credit Wikipedia.org)

DARK BLUE- Periodic safety inspection

LIGHT BLUE- Safety inspection upon sale or transfer

LIGHT GREEN- Safety inspection required to register

YELLOW- Emissions testing required in some areas

BROWN- Emissions testing required in all areas

GREY- No inspection required

#6 Replace your headlight bulbs ONLY with LEDs that use a fan or heat sink.

If you are planning to replace a headlight low beam or high beam bulb, you will require a HEADLIGHT type LED replacement bulb. There are many options online that go as low as $15 a pair and fit your low beams since they use the same size and physically appear like the factory bulb.  Those particular bulbs, however, lack a fan or heat sink and are usually a sign that the LED replacement bulb will not support a headlight type application such as a low or high beam.  Installing this type of bulb into a headlight assembly is not recommended as it is not safe to utilize as a headlight replacement and will almost always have poor results.  There is reasoning behind this though.

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“…a headlight type LED replacement bulb WILL ALWAYS use a high velocity fan, a passive thermal heat sink, or a combination of both.”

LEDs need a lot more power to support a headlight application.  Not nearly as much as factory halogen bulb but much more compared to a 2W-5W LED such as what is featured on the image above.  Higher power consumption translates to even more thermal engery that is generated by the diodes.  Since LEDs have a heat threshold, a headlight type LED replacement bulb WILL ALWAYS use a high velocity fan, a passive thermal heat sink, or a combination of both.  These parts usually protrude about 1in-2in after installing the LED headlight and are obvious visible parts.

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Thermal heat sinks do have any heat from friction caused by a fan, do not cease when worn out or exposed to driving conditions, and come equipped with premium type diodes such as (Phillips) Luxeon ZES chips.

The purpose of these components are to provide a faster method of cooling for the diodes and results in a balance between light intensity,  and efficiency to ensure a long life expectancy.  This is what helps prevent a burn out of ANY light emitting diode (LED).  A faster cooling mechanism allows the LEDs internal driver to maintain efficiency at its highest and therefore provide an even longer operating and lifespan.  If the bulb does not have this type of cooling mechanism then it is more than likely designed for other applications and lamp housings except a headlight type.

The last thing you want to do is buy one a wrong LED bulb and get stuck with results that are way too dim!  Way dimmer than your original bulb too!  This can be discouraging to some since you now have to go through the labor a second time to remove the bulbs.  And since the results you initially found were not the greatest, it can be discouraging to you from wanting to try that same brand again or not use LEDs on your car all together.

Save yourself the time and trouble and ALWAYS check if the type of LED replacement is appropriate to replace the existing factory bulb.  If you are ever not sure, or just need some assurance, give the guys at JDM a call and we will gladly guide you to find you the bulb you need to determine the best LED lighting solution for you and your car.

#7 Aftermarket headlight housings can create a nightmare!

Not entirely true as there are several aftermarket brands that have brought the industry some of the best headlamp assemblies that we have seen and even vehicle manufacturers are unable to replicate yet alone offer something that is just as innovative.

What we mean by this is that your aftermarket housings can change your factory bulbs to something different.  We came across this on our first cars we attempted to modify and most aftermarket headlight housings are known for using an H1 halogen bulb.  This is because an H1 halogen bulb is more cost effective since this particular bulb lacks any seals/orings, needs a dust cover to seal against moisture, and exposes electrical connections.  Some aftermarket brands do not use a headlamp assembly with a dedicated bulb( such as an H11 or 9006) or retain the factory bulb as it tends to cost the manufacturer or supplier even more to make and feature into the housing assembly.  This means that the consumer must also fork out a larger cost for the added convenience of retaining your original factory bulbs.

In the car lighting industry, we have seen many cases where a consumer or installer has taken every correct step to ensure the appropriate LED replacement bulb was ordered only to find that the size changed due to the aftermarket housing assembly.  Upon learning about this, it can also pose other problems such as limiting you to what LED replacement options you can use on your aftermarket housings, since H1 sizes are not very common, and the physical limitations your LED headlight now has because of the type of housing and bulb that is being used.  An H1 halogen bulb tends to require a dust cap or cover that seals the housing posing yet another fit problem since most LED headlights use a fan or heat sink.  The cover must now be modified or replaced.  There is also very limited clearance in the area which means you cannot use anything that is physically too large.

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“…your aftermarket housings can change your factory bulbs to something different.”

If you are thinking about putting both aftermarket housing assemblies and aftermarket LED headlights to your car, make sure you know what bulbs are being used with your new housing assemblies!  If you plan on building up your project car then you should always consider using a higher end housing assembly to help you retain your factory bulbs but if you opt to take a short cut and save some cash, make sure you know what you are putting into your car to avoid these types of problems.

Always check the housing the vehicle is using and you will save yourself money, time, labor, and the world’s most painful headache!

#8 Do not overpay for labor if your vehicle only takes a few minutes and no tools to replace your bulb!

We see this on a daily basis!  It is mainly from those that lack experience or do not have knowledge about their cars and almost always have to outsource a 3rd party to make an install for them.

If you are not sure, lack experience, or do not have the confidence to install to your car then you should always seek a professional for both safety and assurance that the installation is done correctly.

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Sources like Youtube & Car Care Kiosk both offer tutorial videos on replacing specific lamps on your vehicle.

For those that are okay with getting their hands a little dirty, or have some experience, check to see if your car is easy to work on first.  We’ve seen many cases where a shop charges a client an excessive amount of money and the labor involved only takes about 10mins.  A better example is a tire patch!  Many tire shops give free tire patches for the most minor holes.  Other places can charge as low as $10 which covers the labor involved.  There are some places, however, that will charge you $20 or more. For a tire patch?!  Same concept when replacing a light on your car.

Always familiarize yourself with the steps involved in replacing a bulb on your vehicle.  A good source is your owner’s manual! You can save yourself money, hassle of scheduling a shop visit and taking time off of work, and the satisfying and rewarding feeling of knowing you did the work yourself, and did not cost you a dime!

# 9 Have your resistors or decoders ready before you attempt to install.

This a very common thing that we come across often.  There are several vehicle makers that use a unique circuit or system on various lighting applications such as vehicle headlamp lighting.  These systems are infamous for creating various problems for an aftermarket LED replacement headlight or smaller sized LED replacement bulbs.

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Two of the more common issues are turn signals that hyper flash or flickering and/or auto shut off from a vehicles low beam headlamp circuit.  Research your vehicles make and model to see if there are any common issues that may arise when replacing any of your factory bulbs to an aftermarket replacement bulb.  When you plan ahead, it can help save time of going through the labor of installing your LEDs only to learn that a problem came up and now you have to go out of your way to buy resistors, and install them.

Automotive forums are one of the best sources for details like this or just call the guys at JDM Astar for any guidance.  We keep track of the various systems that are present in many cars today such as Pulse Width Modulation signals, Totally Integrated Power Modules, CAN bus, Pulse Voltage signals, or a voltage change (Ex. Daytime Running Lights).  These types of systems/circuits can be finicky with ANY aftermarket LED bulb and tends to make them behave abnormally.  Our research and testing has allowed us to determine what cars will require such parts so we can help you avoid getting surprised by a problem and ensure your LEDs operate as they are intended to.

#10 Always seek some guidance!

This applies to any person looking to replace a bulb in their vehicles.  Whether you are professional that works on cars daily or are new to working on your own vehicle, never hesitate to seek guidance.  If you are not sure of something, trying to figure things out on your own can create more issues than it does resolve not to mention the amount of time that can be lost.  Seek guidance from JDM ASTAR, contact a local dealer, get hands on and check your car but most important, never hesitate to ask for help!

JDM Astar is available Monday-Friday 9:30AM-5:30PM PST.  If your matter is not urgent, you can also reach out to us via email.  We guarantee responses within 24 hours or by the next business day.  We can also set up a time and date to reach out to you to help guide with upgrading your vehicles lighting or technical guidance to resolve any issues the vehicle has in adapting to an LED replacement headlight.

We are here to help and will remedy most car lighting issue, or get you that slick lighting mod to finally complete your car build!

Whatever the case may be….JDM Astar has YOU and YOUR RIDE covered!

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Get ready to be part of the world’s premier choice in automotive LED lighting!

“Lighting up your world…one car at a time!”

Using LED headlights with complex headlamp systems

Automotive vehicles have come a long way from how they were first manufactured. Safety belts were not a requirement.  Fuel injection systems did not exist, and many cars had a lot of weight to run all the electrical systems on the cars such as the car lighting.

 

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With how much technology has evolved, it has most certainly improved cars and how they are manufactured today.

In this article, we are covering some of the most common systems that did not exist in earlier model vehicles, but are present in almost every car today.  These systems tend to be finicky with any change or problem the vehicle does not understand and so we devised this guide to help you remedy any problems you run into with vehicles that are sourcing from the systems mentioned here.

 

Pulse Width Modulation Signals

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Example of Pulse Width Modulation with high and low average voltage.

 

Pulse Width Modulation or PWM for short is a system intended to help extend of the operating life expectancy of traditional filament bulb.    PWM pulses the electrical signal to the circuit on and off at certain voltage ranges and time.  This system is used with automotive vehicles as it helps reduce heat generated by the filament bulb.  PWM can also be utilized to provide a form of dimming for an LED lighting application.  Unfortunately, due to the voltage ranges supplied by an automotive PWM signal, it creates other problems other issues that may have some scratching there heads.  As it is, an LED replacement lamp reduces heat outputted by up to 40% so using a PWM signal with an LED headlight will not have any effect on operating temperatures aside from making the lamp behave abnormally.

 

How PWM affects an aftermarket LED headlight

A PWM signal rapidly turns low or high voltage signals on and off. In the auto industry, it’s very common to see low voltage PWM.  With a filament bulb, this system can also be used to reduce voltage to the circuit and provide a method of dimming down a filament bulb and turn it into what we all call a “Daytime Running Light’.

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Flickering followed by automatic shut-off are signs of a PWM signal on the low beam circuit. (Photo Cred: Youtube Creator “Justin Buice” / Follow IG @justinbuice)

For an aftermarket LED headlight, it typically leads to one more of the following:

1) Flickering behavior that seems to go from a dim to high at a fast rate.

2) OBC (On Board Computer) faults or codes indicating a lamp is out.

3) Automatic shut off of the LED headlight as voltage exhausts from the circuit.

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Lamp out faults can be triggered with an aftermarket LED headlight installed to a vehicle that uses PWM.

To help bypass this signal, there are various modules, or harnesses (that most refer to as “Anti Flicker” or even “Error Cancellers”) on the market today that can be used to bypass. The module must offer internal capacitance in order to ensure the signal is not directly affecting the LED headlight circuit.

 

How to bypass a PWM signal:

 

  • Utilize our decoder module which introduces an inline capacitor. Voltage signals are sent to the capacitor, allowing it to charge, which then supplies a steady and supported voltage of 9V+ DC to the LED lamp circuit resulting in normal and full lighting capacity.
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Decoders do not require any wire-tapping and will easily adapt to any automotive LED headlight and vehicles factory headlamp harness.

 

Totally Integrated Power Modules

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“Some of the most common vehicle makes that use a TIPM are Dodge, Ram, Jeep, and Chrysler.”

These acronyms just seem to be getting longer as automotive technology improves.  A Totally Integrated Power Module (or TIPM for short) is a module that uses various fuses and relay modules that control power going to various applications on the vehicle such as the engine control unit, transmission, drivetrain, electrical systems, audio, fuel delivery system, ignition and just about any main application present on the vehicle that is powered by the vehicles alternator.

 

 

A TIPM is a power distribution control box that takes and sends commands from almost every electrical system on the vehicle in the form of voltage or ground.

 

 

 

For those experienced or ASE certified mechanics, this is probably nothing new, but for those new to automotive LED looking for some knowledge, a TIPM system is similar to a circuit breaker but with a bit more control.  If this trips, whatever circuit is open will cease any function and no power will be sent.  Similar concept with TIPM.  If a relay module fails or does not receive a proper signal, it may affect other circuits tied to the relay module and so this leads us to how LEDs tend to affect these types of systems and what these systems may do to your aftermarket LED headlights.

A TIPM system will indirectly share the same ground to various circuits.  By introducing an LED headlight replacement to the main lighting application, such as the low beams, the resistance value, amperage, and load simulation will also change on the circuit.  This is where you tend to see problems occur as the TIPM is not receiving a proper signal and with the change to the load, and resistance, whatever other circuits that are indirectly connected to your low beams, through the same ground, may also be affected.  This is where the vehicle responds negatively to the LED headlights in order to protect the circuit as well as allow the other functions tied to the low beams to work like normal such as a parking light, or tail light that turn on together along with your main low beam lamps.

 

How TIPM affects an aftermarket LED headlight

For TIPM system, you almost never see any problem when you install your new LEDs to your vehicle.  It is not until the ignition switch is in the ON position, engine is turned over (usually when OBC kicks in) that the TIPM system will engage and the problem will present itself.

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“Decoders provide a 10W load increase….help remedy lamp out faults or codes stating the lamp is out.”

Some signs of a vehicle with TIPM can be:

  • Lamp out indication light stating a lamp is out.
  • Sudden flicker that occurs at random between each LED lamp and typically have a pattern on the behavior.
  • LED headlights do not power on when the low beam switch is engaged to the ‘ON’ position.
  • Cuts power to the headlamp circuit and results in a flicker behavior for about 2 seconds and shuts off automatically.

 

To remedy any of the above issues, you may utilize the same Decoders used to bypass signal changes with circuits that have PWM signals.  The same internal capacitor will increase amperage on start up due to the charge of the internal capacitor and provide a supported DC current to the LED headlights as well as read back to the TIPM that a lamp is working here as it normally should.  The decoders provide a 10W load increase due to the resistors that are built into the module.  This alone will help remedy lamp out faults or codes stating the headlight is out.  Some of the most common vehicle makes that are notorious for using a TIPM system are Dodge, Ram, Jeep, and Chrysler.  It’s rare to see this type of system on foreign vehicles but with how beneficial a TIPM system is on these type of cars, it is no question as to when other vehicle makers will begin utilizing the same or a similar system.

 

Voltage Changes with Daytime Running Light (DRL) Circuits

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Most Japanese model vehicle utilize the same high beam circuit to operate the Daytime Running Light.

 

A daytime running light is an automotive lamp that provides front head lighting for an automotive vehicle and is primarily used to increase a vehicles noticeability making it easier for other drivers to see your vehicle at a distance.  These lamps tend to emit a white, warm white, or amber light.  DRLs can be tied to turn signal or headlamp circuits.

 

For turn signal circuits, the DRL function tends to be the same as the turn signal circuit allowing you to obtain the same light intensity as your turn signals during the day while your main low beam lamps are off.

Various Japanese vehicles have the DRL function tied to the high beams, and others are separate.  For vehicles that have dedicated DRL’s, the current supplied from the vehicle is usually around 12V DC and therefore supported by the LED lamp.

 

How Daytime Running Lights affect your LED bulbs

When you have those vehicles that run a high beam along with a DRL, on the same circuit, there tends to be a negative reaction from the LED headlights you install.  This is mainly due to the amount of voltage supplied while the DRL is engaged.

Some of the most common negative behaviors are mentioned below as well as why it occurs:

  • LED Headlights do not power on. The voltage the DRL circuit supplies is not enough to power on the LED headlight.  Most aftermarket LED headlights require 6.7V+ to show any sign of light and 9V+ to light on at full capacity.
  • Flickering that will not stop while the DRL is on. The voltage tends to be unsupported or too low.  Flickering occurs when voltage is still not high enough and usually between the ranges of 4.5V-6V DC.
  • Odd flicker behavior that appears to go from a low to high intensity light very fast. Light never fully shuts off with this behavior so no flickering, however, it does create a strobe effect.  This is due to a ‘pulse voltage’ signal where the voltage dips slightly but still not high enough to keep the lamp on steady.  The voltage supplied tends to pulse on/off very fast and usually has a range of 10V-12V which is why the LEDs show no signs of loss in light intensity.
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Daytime Running Lights are an added safety measure for driver noticeability during day time driving.

Bypassing DRL issues is very simple and depending on what category your vehicles DRL falls under will determine which of the following will be the best solution for your vehicles DRL with LED installed:

  • DRL circuits that are shared to a headlamp can utilize a Decoder harness to help bypass any flickering behavior. The light intensity, however, tends to have a small reduction and usually a small decrease in light intensity compared to the high beam.
  • Dedicated DRLs typically provide a steady current of 12V, however, they also tend to be tied to other circuits such a parking light. Error codes tend to be triggered or a dashboard light indicating the DRL is out.  Utilizing a pre-wired inline resistor harness or wiretapping universal resistors to the existing ground and lead wires of the socket harness will correct the lamp out indicators.
  • DRL circuits that utilize a pulsing voltage can use a decoder as well. The module will prevent the voltage change from directly affecting the LEDs through the internal IC driver and thus remedy any flicker behavior.  Light intensity tends to reduce slightly and this is due to how voltage is being supplied from the vehicle.
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Pulse voltage signals are common on Toyota and Subaru vehicles equipped with daytime running light applications.  (Cred. SlammedEnuff / IG: @frslow_armani)

 

Other Methods to Resolve Daytime Running Light Problems

Decoders are by far the best option to try and should always be the first to utilize on the vehicle as they are easier to install.

For those vehicles that do not accept an inline decoder module and still show the same problems then there is still hope.

Some of those solutions can be:

  • Flashing your vehicles software. This can be costly as some vehicles are only possible to flash through a local vehicle dealer.  If you are not prepared to cover any costs involved then this may not be the best solution for you.

There are also various 3rd party softwares that can be downloaded to a mobile smartphone device that will communicate to a wireless Bluetooth OBD reader.  The OBD reader connects to the OBD connector which then talks to your smartphone through the same software that is downloaded.   An example would be apps such as ‘Bimmercode’ and ‘Carly’ that allow you to code certain functions on the vehicle and it’s typically not just limited to lighting.  This type of solution is geared towards experienced DIY individuals or professionals as there is coding involved and extra tools are necessary in order to allow you to flash your vehicle.  With this option, you are essentially programming your vehicle that way you want it to be such as how you want your signals to flash, or disable the DRL function on your car.

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Unfortunately, we do not have specialize with programming vehicles but can certainly help you find sources that can better assist you.  Again, it’s not recommended to everybody but certainly an option to consider as it’s not as costly as going to a local dealer.

Other workarounds for DRL problems:

  • Taking it old school with a relay wiring harness. Using a wiring harness is very common to see with HID conversion kits.  Since ballasts do not support all headlamp circuits, the relay wiring harness is used to bypass the connection to the factory headlamp harness and allows the lamps to be wired directly to the 12V battery.  There is also a 40A fuse on these harnesses to protect your battery as well as the lamps from any short circuits so there will be peace of mind on using this type of part.
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“Disabling a DRL function can be as easy as cutting or de-pinning a wire that connects directly to the ECU.”

  • “DRL Delete”. Some vehicle makes allow the main console/head unit to edit there daytime running light settings and these are usually common with vehicles manufactured in countries where Daytime Running Lights are required by law such as Canada.  Certain European cars may also have this function but its best to contact a local dealer on how to go about changing how the DRL function works or yet alone how to make the changes and if its possible on your model vehicle and year.

There are also other more technical methods of disabling the DRL system as well.  We cannot go into detail as every vehicle is a bit different but for vehicles such as Tacoma’s, disabling a DRL function is as easy as cutting or de-pinning a wire that connects directly to the ECU(Not all vehicle makes).  Lastly, you can also contact a local dealer so that they may reprogram the vehicle.  Certain manufacturers program there vehicles to have a DRL function to accommodate for local laws and regulations and do require a DRL on the vehicle at all times.  They can also disable the DRL function all together eliminating any possibility for voltage changes from making the LEDs behave abnormally.

Using LED headlights can be something new for most and if you are ever not certain on whether or not such systems are present, give the guys at JDM a call.  Our friendly technical support team have hands-on experiencing on how to remedy these types of systems.  We can help alleviate the frustration behind a flickering headlight or save you some labor with your new LED headlight installation so if you have any concerns or just need some guidance, contact the car lighting pros!  And remember….

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

-JDM ASTAR Team

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