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LED replacement bulbs for automotive applications

Superbrightleds.com—which says it is the leading online retailer of LED lights and accessories—is offering a range of 12V automotive LED bulbs designed to replace conventional incandescent bulbs in applications such as tail, brake and turn lights, as well as interior lights (no head lamps at this point).

LED-turn-tail
A sample of LED brake and turn bulbs. Source: Superbrightleds.com. Click to enlarge.

LEDs (light-emitting diodes) offer a number of advantages over incandescent lights, including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved robustness and smaller size and are being increasingly used in OEM automotive applications.

There are some issues of which to be aware when switching from a conventional bulb to an LED replacement bulb, Superbrightleds notes.

  • The LED color should be the same as the lens color or if bulb is behind a clear lens, use the appropriate color for turn and brake light functions. As an example: a red lens will filter out all but the red portion of the light so if the light is all red, none or very little light will be blocked by the lens. The light from a White LED contains very little light in the red portion of the visible spectrum so most of the light would be filtered out by a red lens.

  • LED brake/tail lamps will not flash with thermal flasher units due to their extremely low current draw. Also, with stock flasher units, the turn signals may flash faster than normal (Hyper-Flash). These installations will require an electronic flasher unit.

  • LED bulbs may cause some newer vehicles to indicate a bulb is burnt out (because of their low power consumption). Some cars indicate this by increasing the flash rate of the turn signals, some turn on a bad bulb indicator. The only fix for this is to install Load Resistors across the bulbs that are being indicated as bad. Some vehicles will also disable the cruise control system if a brake light bulb is being indicated as bad, the installation of Load Resistors will also solve this problem.

  • While standard LED bulbs have many advantages over filament bulbs (longer life, faster on/off times, lower power consumption, more vivid colors), brightness is not one of them. This can be overcome either by using large numbers of LEDs, or by using High Power LED car bulbs are as bright or brighter than most standard filament car bulbs. The light is distributed differently so they can appear brighter in some applications and not as bright in others, depending on the size and shape of the bulb housing and reflector, the company says.

Superbrightleds warrants all of its bulbs for two full years when used in normal vehicle applications. It does not warrant the car bulbs when used in applications other than normal vehicle bulb installations or if used in headlamp housings (due to heat issues) or to replace GM Daytime Running Lights. Some GM vehicles apply a pulsed voltage to the Daytime Running Lights (DRL); this pulsed voltage causes LED bulbs to fail quickly.

The company has an on-line bulb finder application in beta to provide support for finding the correct replacement LED bulb for older model cars.

Comments

ToppaTom

A very up-front, honest discussion of the guidelines for using LEDs.

Also LEDs do not enjoy an efficiency advantage over fluorescents and High-intensity discharge lamps.

But incandescent lamps outout is mostly heat and infrared radiation.

Unless “headlight levels” of intensity/brightness are required, the LED's simplicity and low current/cool operation usually make them ideal.

Eletruk

I have been using their (Superbrightleds.com) LEDs in my 1999 Frd Ranger EV for a couple years now. And yes I had to replace the flasher unit with one made specifically for LED lamps, and it wasn't cheap - $85 from NAPA. So you need to consider that additional cost when thinking about replacing lamps with LEDs.

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