LED Replacement Headlights – Worth The Cost?

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LED lights and bulbs have begun to creep into almost every area of our lives, and automotive illumination is no exception. Typically, the LED lights found on cars and trucks are used either as brake lights or running lights, as well as interior accents. The aftermarket, however, has been a bit braver in seeking out new applications for exploiting this particular lighting technology, with LED replacement headlights now appearing for several different vehicle brands. Companies like Hamsar are offering plug-and-play replacement LED headlights, including a full housing, for a range of older vehicles that use a sealed beam design.

LED replacement low-beam headlight

Hamsar LED replacement low-beam headlights promise big savings - it's a mystery how they arrive at the $430 savings number

LED Headlights – Is There An Advantage?

What are the purported advantages of LED headlights? The primary benefit of light emitting diodes (LEDs) is that they consume far less power than a typical halogen bulb, and also product less heat. In an automobile, LED lighting enthusiasts claim that over the long run – especially with regards to daytime running light systems that keep headlights illuminated whenever a vehicle is in operation – the use of LED technology will reduce fuel consumption. The logic is that a lower power drain will require less alternator output, which in turn will require a lower amount of power diverted from the vehicle’s engine.

Hamsar LED replacement headlight.

Studies have shown that there is a very small improvement in fuel economy when driving with daytime running lights extinguished, which in theory would support the argument that using LED headlights as daytime running lights would also lower fuel consumption. While this figure is significant when multiplied by the number of cars cruising America’s highways on a daily basis, the improvement would not make a dent in individual fuel bills, and is certainly not enough to justify the cost of buying LED headlights.

LED Headlights – The Downside

LED 9005 and 9006 bulbs.

In some ways, the low power draw of LED headlights, and particularly LED replacement bulbs is also a problem for drivers. Many modern vehicles are designed to detect burned out bulbs and alert owners that there is a problem with the lighting system. In order to do this, an automobile’s ECU performs a simple voltage check at each lighting connection in so it can measure how much current is being drawn. LED headlights and bulbs draw so little power that they are almost always mistaken for a defective light, which can wreak havoc with a car’s ability to properly gauge what is working and what isn’t in the electrical system.

LED Headlights – Not Quite There Yet

If LED headlights were much brighter and clearer than traditional halogen or xenon units, then it would be easy to recommend them. Unfortunately, at the present time there is no real benefit to shelling out extra dollars to purchase LED headlights, other than the gizmo factor. Waiting for the next generation of LED lighting is probably the safest bet, especially given that there are currently no real LED replacement headlight options for Tundra owners.

Filed Under: Toyota Tundra Accessories


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  1. Mickey says:

    I don’t see where Hamsar can state they will save $430 a year. For each light at that. The lights we use now last longer than a year. I like the LED lights because of the color you can get with them. Also for the Fire & Ice brake/reverse lighting. The altenator isn’t the same as the A/C in drawing power.

  2. LJC says:

    As noted in the article: LED lights do not emit heat. This would be a problem in snow belt states because snow and ice would accumulate on the light, obstructing light output. This is a problem with LED street/signal lights.

  3. Jason (Admin) says:

    Mickey – I *think* the $430 comes from something like this: The light uses less electricity, so the alternator runs less, so there’s less parasitic loss on the driveline, so the fuel economy improves…but I’d like to see the math on that. I agree that the alternator is usually running anyways.

    LjC – Great point that I didn’t think of – excellent comment.

  4. TXTee says:

    I’m not impressed with the LED running light kit I threw on that truck so there’s no way I’d ever put them in my headlights. Now the HIDs….I actually love them for night driving although I don’t think they are good for fog. I’ll keep the LEDs as play lights for the interior but there’s so many other devices running on alternator/battery I don’t see a point in going to LED headlights for me.

  5. Jason (Admin) says:

    TXTee – I agree, but I think it’s early. In five or 10 years LED headlights might be an excellent alternative.

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