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1 Aug, 2021

LED Conversion Kits: How to choose and install the best headlights for your car

Reliable off-road vision is a cornerstone of vehicular safety – it goes without saying that being able to see where you’re going makes a world of difference. Modern LED technologies have made this safety accessible to everyone.

LED conversion kits have plug-and-play installation and produce between 4000 – 8000 lumens while using less wattage than stock halogen bulbs. They also last up to 10x longer than incandescent bulbs, with a massive difference in brightness.

Replacing your headlights with LEDs will make your off-road driving safer and easier.

Article Summary

  1. How to check which headlights are currently in your car
  2. Do you need a conversion kit for LED lights?
  3. Types of LED headlights:
  4. Benefits of LED headlights
  5. LED conversion kit considerations
  6. Are LED headlights illegal?
  7. Can you put LED bulbs in halogen fittings?
  8. How to install LED headlights
  9. CANBus LED adapters (‘Controller Area Network bus’)

1. How to check which headlights are currently in your car

Don’t know whether you’re shining halogens, HIDs, or LEDs? You can find out pretty quickly.

Just take your car into the garage or against a wall and shine your lights. If it’s a yellow light with a normal powerup time, you probably have a halogen bulb.

If your headlights are white and flash for a second and then improve performance over 7-10 seconds, you’re likely using HIDs.

If your headlights turn on instantaneously and are coloured white, then you’re already using LEDs!

2. Do you need a conversion kit for LED lights?

Headlights will usually come with heat sinks and ballasts, so they’re already conversion kits.  The main challenge or consideration when buying a headlight conversion kit is ensuring that the LED bulb will fit inside the housing.

Your next consideration should be whether you’ll need a CANbus control unit to act as a bridge between your vehicle’s wiring and the bulb. We’ll dig into CANbus adapters after the installation section of this article.

3. Types of LED headlights

Dual beam bulbs

The majority of vehicles all have low and high beams. Dual-beam bulbs combine both beams into a single bulb. Dual beam bulbs simply have one bulb per headlight housing.

Single beam bulbs

Single-beam headlights, like the name suggests, create either a low or high beam. You’ll need 2 bulbs to use both low and high beam lights. Remember that single and duel-beam headlights can’t be interchanged due to wiring differences!

4. Benefits of LED headlights

Easy to install

Once you know what you’re going to be doing, it only takes around 20 – 30 minutes to install LED headlights. Older models may take a bit longer.

Brighter than halogen headlights

LED conversion kit bulbs have light beam patterns that are considerably better than standard halogen bulbs, which often contain dark spots or project a foggy light. The benefits of improved light output cannot be understated.

Up to 80% more efficient

That’s quite the number, but it’s true. LEDs preserve your vehicle’s battery by reducing strain and generating the same or more light.

Lifespan is up to 5x longer than halogens

LED headlights can provide over 30 000 hours of light, whereas if you were using halogen bulbs, they would have been replaced 5 times in the same period of time.

Cheaper in the long term

While LED headlight bulbs are a higher initial investment, you save money in the long run by not replacing your bulbs so often. The value of the extra safety supplied by LED lighting should also be considered.

5. LED Conversion Kit Considerations

Wiring

Part of the wiring includes a driver, which is a device that sits between the wiring and the bulb. The driver supplies the LED bulb with the correct amount of power. Many modern bulbs will have the driver built into the bulb to save space, but this comes with downsides due to heat distribution and a more compact unit.

Philips headlights feature matchbox sized drivers to make installation simple and ease space requirements.

Compatibility

Step one is to find headlight bulb types that are compatible with your car’s make and model. Most manufacturers provide guidelines for choosing conversion kits, but if you can’t find your vehicle, just message a relevant retailer and they’ll let you know what your best options are.

Power output

How bright and consistent is the headlight’s beam? This is measured in lumens.

Lights with 6000 – 6400 lumens and illuminate around 500m in a straight line, while lights with 8000 lumens illuminate around 650m. At 10 000 lumens, you’re shining a wall of light straight onto the road.

Most headlights use bright colours. As a power usage reference: a regular 100-watt bulb produces 1600 lumens, while the same size LED bulb outputs 8000.

Colour temperature

Colour temperature is measure in kelvin (K).

The lower the number, the warmer the light. The higher the number, the cooler.

Basically, the cooler your colours are, the whiter the tone.

You should get cool, white LED headlights.

Price

Like all products, pricing varies from product to product and brand to brand.

We’ve spent a long time curating our catalogue, you can take a look at the products and prices over here.

Materials

LED headlights have a high standard of production. They need to be made with materials that last under diverse conditions.

The heat sink and casing will typically be comprised of aluminium alloys, and the cooling fan will usually be made of stainless steel.

Steer clear of kits with non-metal components – they’re a ticking, overheating timebomb.

Cooling fans

Cooling fans do exactly as the name suggests. They can be noisy, and certain fans can interfere with a vehicles instrument panel. These issues are usually only part and parcel of less expensive conversion kits. Reputable products and brands like Philips feature great, quiet cooling fans.

High-performance heat management lets your bulb constantly shine at full throttle, while subpar management results in a weaker beam when the bulb gets hot.

Heat sinks

LED bulbs can get HOT. Distributing heat properly can make or break a headlight, and unfortunately, the market is filled with heat sinks that just don’t support the bulbs they’re attached to.

Reputable brands will usually use advanced heat sinks that ensure maximum heat dissipation.

6. Are LED headlights illegal?

Yes. LED headlights are illegal and potentially highly dangerous in traffic.

7. Can you put LED bulbs in halogen fittings?

This is a case-by-case situation. LED headlights are NOT always compatible with halogen fittings. Checking your fittings and circuits is necessary to ensure that they’re compatible with low-wattage LEDs.

8. How to install LED headlights

Step 1: Which bulb type do you need?

Do you need a single or dual beam bulb?

To find out, you can check your owner’s manual, contact the manufacturer, or remove the bulb and check directly.

Step 2: Purchase an LED conversion kit

Take a look at your options, figure out your price range, and perhaps receive some consultation. Sticking to reputable brands and models is usually recommended.

Step 3: Check your conversion kit

Awesome, your chosen kit has arrived. Your next step is to check that you received all of the necessary components. There should (at least) be 2 bulbs, wiring, and 2 ballasts.

Step 4: Take photos of your current lighting

Before installing your new headlights, take a few pictures of the current position of your stock lights.

Now, when you upgrade, you can make sure that the light is positioned correctly and won’t interfere with other drivers.

Step 5: Locate your headlight bulbs

After making sure that your engine is off and your handbrake is up, open the hood of your car and locate your bulbs.

Then you can unplug the plastic wiring connector. Keep in mind that the plastic clip might need a gentle nudge with a flat screwdriver.

Step 6: Remove halogen bulbs

Sometimes, you’ll need to remove a metal clip first, then you simply twist counter clockwise and pull the bulb out. Easy peasy.

Step 7: Install the LED Bulbs

Simply screw the bulbs in by twisting clockwise. Remember to avoid touching the LED with your bare hands (maybe just wear gloves).

Step 8: Connect the Ballasts

One end goes into the bulb, the other goes into the wiring harness.

Step 9: Check the headlight beam

Check your headlights against the pictures you previously took. If the beams are the same, you won’t be blinding other drivers.

To adjust the beam, fiddle with the alignment screws. You can take a look at your owner’s manual for guidance.

Step 10: Secure the Ballasts

Ballasts can be secured with double-sided tape or plastic zip ties. Keep them away from heat, vibrations, and moisture.

9. CANbus LED adapters (‘Controller Area Network bus’)

The final, and often neglected aspect of converting your headlights to LED, is the CANbus adapter, also known as a control unit, canceller, or resistor. This adapter ensures a perfect electrical fit with your vehicle and eliminates false dashboard warnings.

It’s a small cable and adapter system that acts as a bridge between the wiring of your car and the LED bulb. Essentially, it’s a connective hub that mediates communication between multiple components or circuits.

CANbus adapters monitor more than just your headlights and can provide tyre pressure warnings as well, for example.

Installing a CANbus adapter is usually as simple as connecting the adapter’s wires to the 2 wires connecting the bulb to the vehicle.

Larger fittings are actually easier for installation – just plug one cable of the adapter into the bulb and the other straight into the bulb socket.

Bulbs match with certain CANBus adapters. For example, if you’re using the Philips H7 LED, then we’d recommend that you use the Philips LED Headlight CANBus Adapter H7.

If you have any questions or need a recommendation, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.



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