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Thread: Retrofitting LED headlights, and best color temperature for street vision at night?

  1. #1
    Enlightened
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    Default Retrofitting LED headlights, and best color temperature for street vision at night?

    I drive a lot at night, for my work. Have a 2002 Civic EX. I'm currently using Sylvania 9003/H4 SilverStar Ultra headlight bulbs, which are high brightness and supposedly provide good down-the-road vision.

    I see one spec page on them that says: Lumens = 1500/900; Color Temp. (Kelvin) = 4100k.

    The problem is that I just replaced some other high intensity bulbs with these, and the other ones only lasted about a year.

    So I'm wondering if LED retrofitting is the way to go now.

    Do they have LED bulbs that are direct replacements for these here, which might provide even MORE lumens per watt, run the same wattage ( is this the best color temp for night driving? ) and would outlast these by MANY YEARS?
    Last edited by Alaric Darconville; 08-01-2017 at 07:18 AM. Reason: Removed size/font tagging

  2. #2

    Default Re: Retrofitting LED headlights, and best color temperature for street vision at nigh

    Make sure anything you put on is street legal. Ever consider additional lights? Here in Alaska many people have "Moose Lights" AKA as "Roo Lights" in Australia I think. I have 2 Vision X Light Cannons 4" on my car, these are LED. (Not as spectacular as the name implies, but I am cheap Charlie, and there are way more high end ones available) Works great with high end bulbs as you already have, factory fogs and these on highways with little on-coming traffic. Lot of people going with LED Light bars too.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Retrofitting LED headlights, and best color temperature for street vision at nigh

    There are no direct replacement LEDs that are any good or legal. The car's reflector assembly is designed around a precisely aligned intense filament, and the LED alternatives don't provide this. It'd be like the horrible glare from HID kits but much worse.

  4. #4
    *Flashaholic* idleprocess's Avatar
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    Default Re: Retrofitting LED headlights, and best color temperature for street vision at nigh

    So-called "PnP" retrofits are a very poor decision: illegal, unsafe, poor-performing. Only the bulb the fixture is designed for - or something that replicates its output characteristics to a far far higher degree of accuracy than the aftermarket manages (and is thus subsequently rated to be compliant) - will work properly. This is because all headlight designs count on light coming from a specific set of 3D coordinates with a specific geometry and a specific output strength over said geometry. It is not sufficient to merely center a light source on these coordinates - any geometry/output mismatch will ruin the pattern, typically resulting in unwanted glare.

    Looks like the 2002 Civic uses reflector headlamps, which take to "PnP" retrofits even worse than projectors. "PnP" retrofits in reflector housings produce glare. Lots of it. Glare blinding ants on the pavement, pedestrians, your fellow drivers, airliners on final approach ... but surprisingly little light down the road where it's needed.

    The best way to safely improve the performance of your headlamps is to consider the following courses of action:
    • Replace the headlamp assemblies. The lenses have doubtlessly hazed with UV exposure, and no miracle polishing compound / headlight restoration kit can fix this. The reflectors are also likely degraded. OEM headlight assemblies are the way to go - don't get aftermarket and most certainly don't get projector aftermarket. New OEM assemblies will likely double your output with no other changes and last longer.
    • Install some of the best bulbs on the market. GE Night Hawk Xenon or Philips Xtreme Vision are both well-rated marquees. Most blue-tinted bulbs that advertise "whiter" light perform markedly worse than non-tinted bulbs.
    • Perform a relay modification. Stock headlight harnesses are almost-universally undersized, starving the lamps of adequate current/voltage. A relay uses shorter runs of heavy-duty wire directly from the battery to the bulb and uses the tiny wires from the headlight controls to actuate the relay.


    All told, the above is more work than an "upgrade kit" nor as exciting as some of the retrofit projects kicking around other corners of the internet, but it's safe, legal, and performs well.

    EDIT: If all of this isn't your jam, then as has been previously suggested look into auxiliary low beams or driving lights. So long as they're FMVSS 108 compliant, driving lights will provide additional light that's compliant with the law. Of course, shoehorning aux lights - typically designed with trucks in mind - onto a Civic may prove to be a challenge.

    I suggest reaching out to Daniel Stern about such an endeavor. I'm slowly working on upgrading the lighting in my 2003 Ranger following the course of action I've outlined above, including installing relays.
    Last edited by idleprocess; 07-31-2017 at 12:49 PM. Reason: info++, reformat
    I apologize that this letter is so long; I did not have time to write a short letter

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Retrofitting LED headlights, and best color temperature for street vision at nigh

    ... moved to Automotive ...
    ... is the archimedes peak

  6. #6

    Default Re: Retrofitting LED headlights, and best color temperature for street vision at nigh

    Quote Originally Posted by Melissa2007 View Post
    I drive a lot at night, for my work. Have a 2002 Civic EX. I'm currently using Sylvania 9003/H4 SilverStar Ultra headlight bulbs, which are high brightness
    ...in the mind of marketers, only. See here for the actual truth about these fake "upgrade" bulbs.

    The problem is that I just replaced some other high intensity bulbs with these, and the other ones only lasted about a year.
    Bulbs that actually give better headlamp performance, and blue-glass bulbs like the Silver Star junk, have shorter lifespans than standard bulbs.

    So I'm wondering if LED retrofitting is the way to go now.
    No, it definitely isn't. Halogen headlamps (also fog lamps, etc) don't/can't work safely, effectively, or legally with anything other than halogen bulbs. The so-called "LED bulbs" available all over the place are not safe, effective, legitimate, or legal. They are incapable of providing even the same amount of light produced by the original halogen bulb, let alone producing more, and they don't put out light in the right distribution for the headlamp to be able to produce a safe, effective, and legal beam pattern. (Note, all of this applies to "HID kits", too). The "LED bulb" that comes closest to having a chance of being not completely awful in your headlamps is made by Philips. It's officially for sale only in countries where there are no headlamp safety standards, but of course the internet means "available one place, available everywhere". This setup gives passable beam performance in some headlamps that use the H4/HB2 bulb, but in many lamps it doesn't even come close to giving minimally safe/adequate performance, and even in the best case the performance doesn't equal that of a standard bulb.

    The best bulbs for your headlamps are these. Being fifteen years old, your car's headlamps are probably nowhere near new condition; by the time you can begin to see degradation of the lens (haze/cloud/fog/yellowing), they are in fact severely down on performance compared to new. All of the aftermarket headlamps are junk, you need new genuine Honda items.

    And lamp aim is utterly crucial; it has to be correct. There is only one correct setting; see here for a pretty good brushup on lamp aim.

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