LED Headlight bulbs

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by msantos, Sep 12, 2007.

  1. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    LED Headlight bulbs.

    A few months ago I decided to take my 12V energy savings one step further especially after receiving news of improved high intensity LED die manufacturing. At the time, I looked around and found a few suppliers eager to sell me a couple of units apparently suited for headlight use.

    These new bulbs are manufactured with 1W LED dies and they vary in design as well as quality. The prices have come down but depending on the quality they can still remain north of $30 per bulb.

    Here are the new bulbs I ordered & tested:

    On the left you have the 9005 bulb. For those of you who may find it difficult to determine the actual number of LED dies on the bulb the count is 18.

    On the right you have the 9006 bulb and it has a single 1W LED die. Obviously, this last one is totally inadequate for lighting duties and even thought it is pretty bright when looked at head-on, it provides no discernible illumination whatsoever. This is what I would call strictly a "bling" light.

    The following picture shows my car with the 9005 bulbs on. These are the DRL lights and are ON all day long... and as you can tell they are not too dim at all. If visibility of the vehicle is what DRL's is supposed to address, then this bulb has some potential.
    The outer lights is where the 9006 would have gone, and those lights are driver activated for normal night-time driving (they are off in this picture).


    Side note:
    I had to "machine" the neck of the 9005 bulb to shrink it from 22mm to 20mm so that it could fit in the lens orifice. I found this very annoying since I had never before seen bulb packagings so "out of spec". It was not too hard to do it, but I nevertheless applied some caution by covering the LED array with some masking tape before removing the material from the neck with some sand paper.

    Living with the LED lighting:

    Well, one thing for sure: I could not live with the 9006 (single die LED). Totally useless for me.
    I could however live with the 9005 DRL replacement bulbs! In fact, I did OK for roughly 2+ weeks. The only "problem", if I can call it that, is that these LED bulbs are totally useless for illuminating a target at night (not that the regular halogen bulbs do much better either when in DRL mode).

    They are quite visible all right, especially when looked at head on, but they do absolutely nothing else for the driver other than draining less power and producing almost zero heat. This is the big attraction point in my view.

    As you can tell, they produce a VERY white light and almost resemble an HID setup. The combined DRL operating power for these two bulbs is 18 watts. When operating with the high beams on the the total power is 36W. By comparison, the regular halogen bulbs would be foot printed at 55 watts and 110W respectively.

    So from a power saving perspective they have potential and that is what I wanted to test.

    One other thing I should note: When I had either (and both) the 9005 and 9006 bulbs installed, the DRL warning light (on the instrument cluster) would be on all the time. This is because these LED bulbs failed to cause the expected load and that prompted the system to report a problem with the lighting. Normally, we would see this warning if a bulb had blown or failed.

    I did see a bit of a positive impact in terms of the power drain but I doubt that would be noticeable by most people driving non-hybrid vehicles.

    Final rating criteria:

    Durability: 5
    These LED light bulbs will likely last the life of the vehicle without any measurable degradation in their performance.

    Looks: 5
    Depending on your tastes, these bulbs produce a very bright "white light" that could be perceived as a HID unit. In terms of "bling factor", these bulbs can really sweeten a ride without the electrical and mechanical durability issues of NEON or HID kits.

    Performance: 4
    Neither the 9005 (18 LED die) or the 9006 (1 LED die) can be counted on for night time driving. While the 9006 is strictly a bling part, the 9005 is a perfect fit for DRL duty.
    The amazing benefit however is on the power loads as they consume so little compared to their Halogen counterparts that the vehicle's headlight monitoring system may light up a DRL warning light on the dash.

    Value: 3
    These bulbs are still not very competitive with the mainstream high quality halogen tech. In addition to being more expensive they also seem to lack the manufacturing quality as evident by their slightly out-of spec dimensions.


    Last edited: Jul 11, 2008
  2. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    Very interesting, is there a place to buy these online or were they made specially for you? LED's interest me, right now I am playing with some Luxeon K2's to see what they can do for me. Does your Civic use the 9005's as both high beams and DRL's?
  3. brucepick

    brucepick Well-Known Member

    I can see possibly using something like this for a daytime running light.

    However as the placement of light source is not the same as in the "original" 9005 or 9006 bulb would not want to use it for night illumination. The forward beam pattern resulting from the differenly placed light emitters will be quite different from what it should be.

    The result would be glare in the eyes of oncoming drivers and/or poor illumination on the road.
    Probably both.
  4. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    evil idea: put some in the rear for tailgaters :bat:
  5. psyshack

    psyshack He who posts articles

    Ive played with LED flashlights and have found them cool but not usable.

    Did the LED lights help with the hood cut light pattern? Onething that always bothered me about my 8th gen Civic was how the low hood line seemed to in peed on the lighting. I always saw the hood cut line in the lighting.

    Two things Ive noticed in owning Hondas. Is the sorry charging system. Very small 12v battery and the resulting sorry head lights. Ive seen this in not only my X-Civic and current Accord. But also in Hondas owned by friends and family.

    The charging system and battery in the Mazda3 and resulting head lights are like night and day better.
  6. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Yes, these were bought online. eBay also carries quite a few of these.

    I believe you are referring to the focal point and how the bulb is positioned inside the lens. Yes, you are right. Even though the bulbs are of similar proportions & dimensions, the path of the radiated light is not as optimal for the LED unit since the enclosure expects the focal point to be the filament in an halogen bulb.

    I hear you. I've had quite a few LED flashlights and particularly the earlier ones were more novelty than tool. However, I noticed that the most recent flashlights I've bought come with higher LED counts (9+) and that changed the game entirely. Now I have nothing but LED flashlights and my place and in my vehicle emergency kits.

    The hood line cut? I believe you may be referring to something that has been designed on purpose to prevent the light from "blinding" the oncoming motorists. If the headlights are properly adjusted, the low beams should never raise above a certain height over a "pre-established" distance - the service literature has that explicitly laid out. All my past Honda's and Acuras have had this "familiar" feature.
    In this case the "hood line cut" is definitely not evident when the LED bulbs are on.

    Yes, Honda engineering has always been an exercise of "optimal minimums".
    Like in so many other areas, they view the 12V battery as being good enough for most people... until the odd owner of the vehicle either wishes or needs to tap the 12V subsystem for additional equipment.

    In the case of the HCH-II, it does not take much to upset the balance between the 12V charge and the fuel economy.


  7. psyshack

    psyshack He who posts articles

    I dont know.... My Mazda's 12v system is like the Civic was a 6v and the Mazda is a 12v. Its like night and day. Its better than the Accord's. Hondas minimalist approach in this area is as bad if not worse than the brakes. My head lights dont dim if I FAS at night in the Mazda. But FAS at night in the Accord or in the Civic. Its very noticeable.

    I was hoping your trip into LED world prove fruitful. Seeing how bad there 12v system is to start with. A DIY grounding kit helps. But its not a cure for what Im seeing. While Im all for saving fuel. Honda's approach to its electrics and brakes really suck IMHO.

    The head lights on our Accord are only so so at best. The ones on the Civic were imo near worthless. I hated driving the car at night in areas with deer. One night the wife and I were out in the Accord and almost didn't see a herd of doe 5' to our right. In the Mazda its like the right headlight shines a tad to the right to help with this. Not to mention they are brighter and dont dim.

    Im sure if you find something that will work for the Civic it will cross to our Accord. And look forward to your work in this area of Honda's lack of responsibility.
  8. servant74

    servant74 Member

    I could see using these as the daytime running lights like on our Saturn's. The cost versus saving is currently prohibitive, with no reasonable ROI (other than never having to replace the bulbs again).

    Thanks, great report.
  9. Hook401

    Hook401 Member

    I remember you mentioning that you were looking into an HID replacement Kit for your HCH II ... Did you ever go through with that ...?? I'm seeing an awful lot of those kits running around Winnipeg these days ... Some good and some "not so much" as my daughter says. I'm hoping to find a local shop that's selling these kits.

  10. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Kevin;

    Actually, I've re-installed the LED DRL bulbs back on my HCH-2 in April this year and I've been running them ever since. An HID still draws too much power and the LED bulbs are simply un-matched in that department so I decided that the benefits outweigh the negatives and I simply decided to stick with the LED bulbs.

    As a result of using the LED's my mileage is even higher this summer than what I managed to achieve last year and my SoC is also easier to maintain as well. As far as I can tell all hybrids should have LED DRL's. ;)


  11. Shiba3420

    Shiba3420 Well-Known Member

    I'm glad someone brought this thread back up. Anyone heard about newer LED bulbs with more actual driving light?
  12. Jutty

    Jutty Active Member

    those look good too!

    These are just plug n' play too then?

    Is there a huge difference in the power HIDs pull v. LEDs? I have HIDs on my truck, but still running halogens on my civic.
  13. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist


    I believe it will be a long while until we get an LED bulb capable of fully replacing the OEM halogens for night time driving. In order for LED technology to be a suitable replacement the lens and light package must be specifically designed to extract the most benefit from the LED lighting attributes.

    You could say they are plug and play. In my cars, these particular bulbs required a bit of sand-paper magic to fit... but fit they did. The other thing is that the instrumentation may not be able detect the LED bulbs properly since their power load is so low. Despite this, the bulbs work just as designed but they do not compete with HID's in night driving roles - their "illuminating" effectiveness is very poor at night. The most I would use the LED bulbs for is DRL applications, and in this role they are simply unbeatable.


  14. Takashi

    Takashi FUD

    HID only draw more power when you first turn them on. This is because the more energy is needed to ignite the HID bulbs. Once they are on, they require significantly less power to run. Nevertheless, if you are not familar with the electrical system in your car or how light/optics work, I suggest you stick with Halogen bulb since they are OEM and legal. It's illegal in many places to drop a HID kit into a headlight housing that is designed for halogen, and likewise with LED bulb into a HID housing.

    The headlight is deisnged such that the bulb is placed in the center of the headlight housing to give maximum luminence (similar to a satelite reciever found on the satelite dish) . The housing is designed specifically for the specific halogen bulb. If you put a LED bulb or HID bulb in, the optical characteristics of the LED and HID bulb are not equivalent to the halogen bulb and it will affect its light output. When you get a chance, park your car in front of a white wall (25m)with your DRL running and you should see 2 rectangular block of light on the wall --> [__] [__]. When you turn on your low beam, it should be something like this (LHD) ___/--- ___/---. Anything above that line is cut off. This is called the 'beam pattern'. When you turn on your high beam, the high beam and the low beam should form one big [___]. If you drop an HID or LED bulb into the headlight housing, you will not be able to get a clear cut beam pattern. Instead, you will get a blob of light on the wall and a lot of light scattered above and below the normal expected beam pattern ___/--- ___/---. If you have light spots above the beam pattern, the on-coming drivers will get blinded by your headlights and that's illega.

    People in Alberta drive with the high beams on all the time and that's different than dropping an HID or LED bulb into the headlight housing.

    For those who want to read more about HIDs you can go here: http://www.intellexual.net/hid.html
  15. Jutty

    Jutty Active Member

    So what would I have to wire in to get the LEDs to become detectable by my instrumentation??
  16. Shiba3420

    Shiba3420 Well-Known Member

    The LEDs used in that bulb weren't the latest when it was reviewed and high power LEDs have improved a lot in just the last year. I was hoping someone knew of a newer, better bulb or if this one had been updated with newer tech. 2 to 4 times the amount of light would get much closer to a useable product, and I believe that would be doable now. The biggest problem seems to be the heat sinks that higher wattage LEDs sometimes need.
  17. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    As far as I can tell, it is not an easy thing to do at least on my HCH's. This is because the MICU appears "hardwired" for the halogen DRL configuration. I suspect the regular 8th gen Civics are too.

    The bulbs will obviously work without a problem at both power levels (DRL and high beams) but the instrument cluster will still light up the DRL warning light. Defeating rh warning system completely is also not desirable as well as using a load resistor.

  18. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    I did not hear of such improvements yet as I would expect improvements in die efficiency to be more desirable than boosting the power levels alone. Boosting the power levels alone would have interesting packaging consequences as well as erode the low power advantage afforded by the LED technology... and we're not even mentioning die longevity.

    The ones that I have now on already eat a total of 18Watts of combined power when operating in DRL mode. The power demand doubles as soon as they go into high beam mode (which I rarely use). Sure, it is still roughly a quarter of the power consumed by the OEM halogens but something that will require passive cooling (heat-sinks) will surely erode that advantage further for sure because now we're talking about a rather significant power density.

    hummm... let me look into it, just for giggles.


  19. jonnycat

    jonnycat New Member

    I have a 2006 Cobalt, I installed leds but they won't switch from low to high beam, what is the problem??? thanks

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