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28 Dec

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Things to Consider when Buying LED Headlights

December 28, 2018 | By |

Light-emitting diodes, or more commonly referred to as “LED’s”, have recently taken the automotive world by storm. DIYers and professionals alike are installing aftermarket LED’s on every make and model of car and truck.  Using LED headlights has many advantages over xenon and halogen bulbs, such as but not limited to: brighter lights for improved visibility, longer life spans, and lower energy consumption. For those of you that are beginners to the LED scene, we’ve come up with a checklist of things to consider when purchasing LED headlight bulbs.

Brightness Levels

The number one reason people decide to replace their stock headlights with LED headlights? To have a brighter and more focused beam of light. LEDs are typically much brighter than both xenon and halogen-based headlights which means they (LEDs) will outperform both when driving in the dark. This can be especially helpful for those of us who already have problems seeing clearly at night. The standard unit of measurement for the brightness of light is known as a “lumen”, so, the higher a lumen rating the brighter the bulb will be. Most LED’s tend to fall between the 8,000 and 12,000 lumen range whereas typical manufacturer headlights fall below 2,000 or 3,000 lumens combined. Another important thing to note is that bulb manufacturers will advertise a lumen rating, such as 12,000, but this is a combined rating for both bulbs —meaning they are each rated at 6,000 lumens. Many places have laws restricting the use of bulbs over a certain lumen rating, so before purchasing a LED headlight kit it is imperative that you check your local laws.

Chip Type

Another important article to take note of when purchasing new LED headlights is the type of chip that is utilized. The chip is the most crucial part to an LED headlight build. Therefore, picking the right type of chip is of paramount importance. Having a well-built chip will allow you to maximize the life span of the LED and use the least amount of energy, which saves you money at the end of the day. SMD, COB, and ETI FC are the most common chips available today, each with their own quirks:

  1. SMD (surface mounted diode) is a standalone chip that is placed on a ceramic base. The unique part about SMD chips are their ability to hold 3 diodes (semiconductors that allow the flow of current in one direction) on the same chip. This allows for nearly any color combination by adjusting the output levels of each diode. The drawback here, however, is SMD chips require an individual circuit for each of those diodes which can increase the likeliness of failures occurring.
  2. COB (chip-on-board) chips are similar to SMD chips in regard to having multiple diodes on the same chip, but that’s the extent of their similarities. Where SMD chips require a circuit for each diode, COB chips utilize a single circuit design leading to a much more simplified chip and less chance of failure. The downside here, however, is that since multiple connections are required to adjust individual levels of light, COB chips cannot be used to create different color combinations like their SMD counterparts.
  3. The final chip we will discuss is known as the ETI FC (flip-chip) which is a newly patented technology. This type of chip mounts the LED diode upside down which both shortens the production process and results in a higher heat dissipation rate. Typical COB chips require heat to bypass the GaAs (gallium arsenide) and substrate (base material) before producing light, whereas ETI FC chips completely bypass both of these layers. This removes the need for a heat sink which, when paired with a shorter production process, makes the flip-chip an increasingly popular choice of LED headlight bulbs.

Bulb Types

The final piece of information you need to make an informed buying decision on LED headlights is realizing there are different bulb types for different applications. A Ford F-150 clearly doesn’t have the same headlights as say, a 3-series BMW, and because of this they will require different bulb types. Some cars utilize a single beam system which contain two headlight bulbs per headlight — one for high beams and one for low beams. Others have a dual beam system which uses one individual bulb for both functions. It is essential to check your owner’s manual prior to ordering LED headlights to verify which system your car utilizes.

If saving money and improved visibility are appealing to you, then ordering a LED headlight kit is a no brainer. With a dramatically improved life span when compared to traditional halogen or xenon headlights, LEDs have become the go-to for aftermarket headlight replacements.

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