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Current State of LED Headlight Bulbs

I keep seeing people hailing the success of LED bulbs in taking over HID, and on paper they can be made to look quite impressive, but in practice is this really true?

The short answer is no, they are not a viable replacement for HID or even halogen lighting yet.

I installed a set of Morimoto XB LED bulbs on my 2013 Mazda 5. I sell these for $99/pair, and on paper the 3000 Lumen output looks like they should blow my stock 1200 lumen bulbs out of the water. After I got over the initial “WOW” factor, and spent a couple weeks driving with them, I grew to hate them.

First problem was that the light doesn’t carry far enough. Sure, they are really bright up close, and definitely can put out the rated Lumens, but only up close. The Morimoto XB35 H11 5500K HID kit I was using before and even the stock halogens see further down the road.

LED’s require special optics just like halogen and HID does. Toyota is fitting their cars with LED projectors now. Those are the proper way to do a LED conversion. Using a projector specially suited to LED lighting’s focal point. LEDs don’t light up the way halogen or HID does, so how can anybody think just stuffing a LED bulb in a halogen or HID reflector or projector is going to light the road better?

Second problem is that in rain, they are useless. Can’t tell they are on at all. Not a good bulb trait in the Pacific Northwest.

Third problem, city driving. It feels like driving through the city with your lights off. Sure they light up the signs, but it’s very difficult to see the sides of the roads and thus, pedestrians that could be waiting at a crosswalk and assuming you see them and will stop.

I think I’ve said enough about the bad. Now the good. Bright, close up light means these are great fog light bulbs if you have an HID kit and want something that has a similar color.

There are some good LED systems out there, but they are the OEM ones. I would steer clear of LED lighting for low beam headlights until they get the light output on par with HID systems, or even halogen.

You can run them as high beams and fog lights, but I do not recommend LED bulbs for low beam headlights yet.

So the final verdict is that, until the OEM makers start making LED systems standard, the aftermarket will continue selling sub-par LEDs using hype as their selling point. Similar to how the cheaper HID sellers did and gave HID’s a bad rap. I will be happy to do retrofits with LED projectors from OEMs. And as soon as I get my hands on a set, I’ll probably run them myself.