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Kelvin, What Does it Mean?

Since the widespread adoption of HID systems you will often see bulb color specifications with 3000K, 6000K, all the way through 12000K sometimes.

Kelvin, for those who aren’t big on Physics and thermodynamics, is a unit of temperature measurement. 

It’s usually used for really high temperatures, for example things like the sun. The sun is actually about 6000K. We use kelvin units to measure the color of light. Different colors are created at different temperatures.

The lower the kelvin, the more yellow the color, the higher the kelvin, the bluer the color. 3000K is a very deep yellow, 5000K is white, 6000K on things get bluer and bluer.

Note that higher kelvin does not mean higher output. In actuality the higher the kelvin, the lower the Lumen output. When you get up into the 8000k on range you start getting about the same or less output as stock halogen bulbs.

If you want the most output, you want to look in the 4500K-5500K range. This is why all the HID kits I sell are 3000K-6500K and either OEM or Morimoto. I am not in it to sell gimmicky parts that don’t perform; I’m here to get the most performance out of headlight systems as possible.

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Correctional Splitters

A lot of newer cars have 4 beam systems that already keep the low beams powered on when you engage the high beams. But there are many older cars or cars that originally came with 2 beam headlights that actually shut down the low beams when the high beams are enabled. This isn’t a big deal in halogen headlights because halogens are instant-on. HID’s require a warm-up period though, so if you turn off your high beams while driving at night, you will be driving blind while waiting for the low beams to get back to full intensity. Some ballasts like Matsushita or Mitsubishi Electric only take a couple seconds, but most aftermarket ballasts take between 7-15 seconds to warm up.

A correctional splitter is an amazing little wire harness that allows the low beams of a car to stay on with the high beams in a 4 beam system when the car doesn’t allow that functionality.

When we talk about 4 beam systems vs. 2 beam systems we mean a headlight with separate low and high beam bulbs vs. a headlight with a single bulb that has a low filament or high filament that lights up.

For example U.S. VW Jettas came with 9007 2 beam headlights. Just one bulb in each housing for the low and high beams. In Europe there was the option of a HID housing that had a dedicated low-beam projector and a high beam halogen reflector. When you install the European lights on a U.S. car, it doesn’t know that the headlight has a dedicated low and high beam, so it will shut down the low beams when you turn on the high beams.

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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.

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Fluted Lenses and Retrofits

I get a lot of requests for projector retrofits into housings with fluted lenses where the owners swear up and down that the fluted lenses won’t affect beam output. There are even people who believe that because their housings are Ecode housings, the beam is somehow immune to the effect of the flutes.

I’m in this business to improve lighting, not for gimmicks or to take somebody’s money without giving them an actual measurable improvement over their previous lighting system. It’s all about performance for me.

Putting a projector behind fluted lenses negates the entire point of having the projector in the first place. It’s an additional refracting lens that takes the focused, crisp beam pattern from your projector and just throws it all over the place just like a halogen reflector would because that is what a fluted lens is. It is part of the halogen reflector system in lights which utilize fluted lenses.

Not everybody understands, or is interested in, the physics so let’s show them with a real world example.

Here is the beam pattern of a Morimoto Mini H1 6.0 projector behind Hella fluted Ecode glass from a mk3 Jetta or Vento (depending on where you are from).

flutedretro

Here is what it is supposed to look like.

Morimoto Mini H1 6.0 Bi-xenon Projectors 5_1.0 Bi-xenon Projectors 5
See how the step is blurred, and doesn’t match the markings made when the lenses were not in place? Also notice how the hot spot is just kind of a blob? That means a lot of your light you just paid to focus is being thrown all over including into oncoming drivers’ windshields. It’s no longer focused and the retrofit has been a waste of money. The hot spot is also not distributed evenly throughout your horizontal field of view.

The second photo is how a proper HID setup should look. Crisp, clean, and evenly distributed.

This is why I don’t perform retrofits on fluted lenses. I’m not trying to waste anybody’s time or money and I am not trying to put products out there that other drivers at risk. Show cars are a different story and the only times I will do a retrofit where a clear lens isn’t available.