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Thread: LED bulb headlights, proof & clarification?

  1. #1

    Question LED bulb headlights, proof & clarification?

    Ok.... first off I'm a new member please go easy on me.

    Second, before everyone starts roasting me about the legality (or lack of) I just want to understand this better for safety reasons not saying I'm doing it.

    I have a Hummer H3T pickup, and I love everything about the truck except the headlights, which in my opinion are borderline unsafe for light output.

    I DO NOT want to be "that guy with the hummer" blinding people on the road making an unsafe situation, however I also want to be able to safely drive on/offroad without putting myself in danger because I didn't see a road hazard or animal before it was too late. For context I drive a ton at night in deer/moose country, both on hwy and backroads.

    I have replaced my halogen bulbs with Philips Xtremevision, while it is better than factory, it is still very sub-par so I suppose it's the reflector as the bulbs have great reviews.

    I plan on adding a 30" light bar for offroad use, but I still have no solution for the headlight on-road problem.

    I initially started looking into HID or LED dropins and have done some homework, however there is a lot of conflicting information out there.

    I looked at a DIY HID retro projector, but after reading I worry that it is a bad idea and still most likely unsafe and not to mention technically illegal.

    LED if they could project properly seems like the perfect inexpensive solution, but all I read is mixed info, some say drop in all good others say very bad idea blinding illegal etc which immediately causes me to shy away....... until I watched the video below, which now has me rethinking that option again. This is where I want true and valid help to understand more.

    15 brand LED reflector shoot-out (long video)

    Aside from being certified/DOT etc (which I'm sure will never happen as the reflectors are not made for these bulbs), if the output is close to halogen from a pattern/cutoff/hotspot perspective, what is truly the downside to consider one of these? It seems to me like if the pattern is nearly the same from the reflector, that it should work the same as halogen?

    Thanks in advance!
    Matt

  2. #2

    Default Re: LED bulb headlights, proof & clarification?

    Welcome to the board. You're right to be doubtful about these products you have your eyes on, because none of them are effective, safe, or legal. And good for you for being considerate and realizing that headlight output affects not only you, but also everyone else on your same stretch of road.

    It seems to me like if the pattern is nearly the same from the reflector, that it should work the same as halogen?
    The answer to this very reasonable question would be yes, but the devil is in the details: this question assumes something that isn't the case. It assumes the light pattern is nearly the same, and in fact it's not even close. Oh, it looks very similar in the video, sure, but that doesn't mean anything except that you should distrust whoever is trying to sell you something or convince you of something by using a video or pictures as "proof", because they are lying to you.

    The video you saw was made with an ordinary video camera of one kind or another. Pictures and videos like this can't approach the level of dynamic range necessary to evaluate headlight beams accurately, usefully, or meaningfully. There is very specialized (and expensive) camera-based equipment available that can assess headlight beams, but the output isn't a picture or video like the one you saw, it's an isoplot as described here. The dynamic range of an imaging system is the size of the range between the greatest and least intensity (or brightness) that can simultaneously be accurately represented. The human eye's dynamic range, without adaptation, is around 100,000:1. The figure with adaptation (which matters because night driving is done in a partially adapted state called "mesopic vision") is 1,000,000,000:1. Even the smaller of these figures is much, much greater than the maximum practical dynamic range of a still or video camera, whether we're looking at a printed photograph, a movie on film, a digital photo, or a digital video. So it's very, very easy to create pictures and videos that appear to show headlight beam patterns that look just fine, but it's just an appearance, not reality.

    That's a major, basic problem. But ignore it, and there's still a big problem: the amount of additional light required to make a meaningful difference in the driver's ability to see is much greater than the amount of additional light that moves glare levels from acceptable to dangerous. So even if we had a super high-end video imaging system with ultra high dynamic range, what looks like just a minor, trivial increase in glare-zone light is actually not.

    The basic idea of an LED retrofit bulb for halogen headlamps isn't a nonstarter in the way "HID kits" are, but there are significant technical challenges that stand in the way of such retrofits being manufacturable and available (which hasn't stopped the toy factories from cranking out "LED retrofits" and disreputable vendors from hawking them). There is an SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) lighting systems task force working on those challenges, and eventually there will be acceptable-to-good LED retrofit products, from legitimate makers, for some kinds of halogen bulbs. But it's not going to happen in the immediate future. For now the answer really has to be a firm DON'T.

    I initially started looking into HID or LED dropins and have done some homework, however there is a lot of conflicting information out there.
    That's not quite the case. What there actually is, is some information and a much larger volume of misinformation/disinformation/ignorant drivel being presented as information. You are wise to hold up and go "Wait a minute...".

    I looked at a DIY HID retro projector, but after reading I worry that it is a bad idea and still most likely unsafe and not to mention technically illegal.
    Also wise. This is both illegal (not just "technically illegal") and unsafe. We've got a detailed post on that topic here.

    The headlamps on your H3 are technologically pretty minimal, though there have been much worse headlamps on the road. There is often a large gap between how safe a headlight "feels", versus its actual, objective safety performance. This gap can run in either direction, and it's usually driven by foreground light, which is a very minor contributor to the actual safety performance of a headlamp, but is the main thing that determines how the headlamp "feels". Lots of foreground light = high subjective ratings; the headlamp "feels" strong and safe -- but what actually makes the headlamp safe is the light it puts far ahead, well down the road, far past the foreground zone. So you can probably see the problem here: most of the so-called headlight "upgrades" put out a ton of foreground light so their buyers, already primed by their purchase to think they've done well, think "Wow, this is way better!" when in fact it's not. Or, the case you have now, headlights focused for down-the-road light but with relatively little foreground light make the driver think "These headlights are no good!".

    You didn't mention how old your headlamps are, or more importantly what condition they're in. If the lenses are perfectly clear and the lamps are genuine GM parts, and they're properly aimed (see here), then with your Philips Xtreme bulbs that's as good as those lamps get. If any of those conditions aren't met (lenses degraded, non-GM parts, improperly aimed) then fix those things first.

    Unfortunately, upgrade options for an H3 Hummer are very limited. The lying vendor whose video almost sucked you in will sell you these for $600, and for extra money they'll make them illegal and dangerous by upping the wattage from 35w to 55w...funny, they don't mention the illegal and dangerous part. Also, there is no such thing as a "DOT approved" or "SAE approved" headlamp; those are two more red "this vendor is lying to you, or doesn't know what they're talking about, or both" flags to watch out for. Regardless of the vendor, those lamp units were made by this Chinese company. They are no longer manufactured. If you happen to get a good pair, they will work well until they fail. The problem is, they're not very ruggedly built. Easy enough to replace a failed bulb or ballast, but you're likely to experience problems with the high/low beam shutter mechanism, and the front lens is not made of a very durable polycarbonate material. The material and build quality is very far below the original-equipment lamps.

    It's a shame nobody (as far as I know) has ever adapted 7" round headlamps to the H3. There are numerous excellent 7" round headlamps in any technology you can name (projector, reflector, halogen, HID, LED). Looks like somebody else wishes the same thing.

    You may want to consider an auxiliary headlamp setup, maybe even instead of the LED bar. Get some ideas by reading through this whole thread.

  3. #3

    Default Re: LED bulb headlights, proof & clarification?

    Wow thanks Virgil, you are an absolute wealth of knowledge!!

    Thanks for all the details and information, I think you answered almost every question and thought I had, in one reply! Have to also say thank you for saving me $600+ on those drop-in HID Staar kits. I have read a number of good things about them on Hummer forums, but I want reliable and quality for the prices they are asking for something not even made anymore and from China!

    So from what you've provided, it looks like I have three options.
    - First is wait for better technology for LED drop-in bulbs to be created and sold by reputable companies.
    - Second, look into auxiliary headlamps
    - Third figure out how to adapt a 7" LED for my headlight!?

    Ok the one thing that got me intrigued that you said was about adapting 7" LED's. I remembered a thread where a guy did exactly that, when I saw it at first thought it was a bit mickey mouse..... but really looking at his shot of the beam pattern it does look decent. So are you inferring that this may be an option worth pursuing could it be that "easy"?

    What if I got a couple nice JW's and made a solid mount, how legal/reliable would that be? Obviously I would ensure it's done as good as possible to be safe.

    If this is an option, do you know of any good information for adapting like this?

    Thanks again!
    Matt

  4. #4

    Default Re: LED bulb headlights, proof & clarification?

    Forgot to mention, I believe I still have OEM lenses, however it does look like one has been replaced as it looks "newer" less faded plastic surround. Both lenses look very clear and I did follow a detailed document on aiming and did re-aim them which helped a bit for sure.

    Thanks,
    Matt

  5. #5

    Default Re: LED bulb headlights, proof & clarification?

    Quote Originally Posted by 6FiRE9 View Post
    So from what you've provided, it looks like I have three options.
    - First is wait for better technology for LED drop-in bulbs to be created and sold by reputable companies.
    - Second, look into auxiliary headlamps
    - Third figure out how to adapt a 7" LED for my headlight!?
    I don't know if I would put them in that order. Your "second" and "third" options you can do right now, but when your "first" option becomes feasible is out of your control. But yes, those are your reasonable paths forward.

    Ok the one thing that got me intrigued that you said was about adapting 7" LED's. I remembered a thread where a guy did exactly that
    That's the idea. He made a really bad choice of headlamps, actually those aren't even headlamps, they're toys shaped like headlamps -- not safe, effective, or legal. But the physical how-to is fine.


    but really looking at his shot of the beam pattern it does look decent.
    Arrrrg, no. You cannot look at photos and judge a headlamp's beam good/decent/great/awesome/etc. That's what I spent all that time earlier in this thread trying to explain. Also, it's not clear to me that this guy's swap retains the (crucial) ability to adjust the lamps' aim. But with those caveats, yes, this is the idea.

    What if I got a couple nice JW's and made a solid mount, how legal/reliable would that be?
    If your adaptation allows the lamps to be aimed correctly, and allows the lamps to keep their aim alignment (so they don't shake/rattle out of aim with normal vehicle-usage vibrations) there's no reason this would be illegal.

    I did follow a detailed document on aiming and did re-aim them
    What document/how did you aim them? There are a lot of very detailed explanations of how to aim headlamps, but many of them are wrong, and any kind of shine-on-wall method is very significantly inferior to the right way, which is with an optical aiming machine.

  6. #6

    Default Re: LED bulb headlights, proof & clarification?

    Thanks again Virgil, yea my options were in no particular order just a list to make sure I got it correct.

    I agree I shouldn't be going by the beam, but it's hard not to judge a picture a bit. Long story short if I can find a way to reliably mount with ability to aim and are well secured I think this is the direction I would like to go. If I went with a good reputable brand of light designed for headlamp with high/low beam and cutoff I'm thinking I'll be happier than what came with the truck.

    To be honest, I found what looked like an extract from a book that was linked from another forum, can't find it now was quite a few months ago. I had to find flat ground (hardest part) where I could measure 25' back from wall. Had to measure from ground to middle of headlights and middle of truck and mark wall.... sorry can't remember all the details and adjust to lines on the wall. Looking at the link you provided I believe it was the same process.

    I've added a bunch of weight to my truck with new canopy and boat rack etc, so I think in the meantime, while I research how to build this new solution I will re-aim them again to make sure I am getting everything out of the current ones that I can. I heard about the aiming machine, but I'm not sure of any place in my town that has one.

  7. #7
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: LED bulb headlights, proof & clarification?

    Finding truly flat and level ground, a vehicle length plus 25 feet, AND being able to measure accurately up onto your aiming wall to match with headlight height, is indeed a challenge. A flat lawn with a flowerbed between you and the wall does not cut it. Being way up in the hills, not having optical aiming machines around, I have used the wall method for decades. But I am fortunate in being able to back the vehicle onto the perfectly level concrete truck floor of a hydroelectric powerhouse, run the truck door down, then measure precisely up onto the truck door so I can place tape aiming marks that really do match the centerline height of the lights being aimed. The optical aimer would better. And you can drive yourself nuts trying to aim on a stretch of back road.
    Last edited by Hamilton Felix; 06-02-2018 at 12:05 PM.
    There are two kinds of light - the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures. ~James Thurber

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