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Thread: State of aftermarket LEDs for tailights?

  1. #1

    Default State of aftermarket LEDs for tailights?

    From what I've gathered, there are only 2 reputable manufacturers: Philips and Sylvania.

    I see that Philips has two lines of LED products: one named VisionLED and the other named Ultinon LED. Sylvania has their Zevo line, which is the only line from Sylvania worth considering according to this board.

    I'm curious as to what the relative rankings of these LED products are currently. I understand that these products will not work well in all vehicles, and it is important to perform at least a qualitative check. I'm also curious as to how these LED products are currently viewed in 2018. Have they improved from previous years? Are they still a bad idea in many cases?

    Edit: Some older posts reference a list of Philips LED compatible vehicles. I can't find this list to save my life on the Philips' website. Does someone have it?
    Last edited by Ls400; 09-27-2018 at 08:34 PM.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* Hilldweller's Avatar
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    Default Re: State of aftermarket LEDs for tailights?

    They have an LED bulb look-up tool: Philips LED
    Last edited by Hilldweller; 09-28-2018 at 11:07 AM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: State of aftermarket LEDs for tailights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilldweller View Post
    Philips has an LED/halogen bulb look-up tool
    That is true, but that tool will only say what bulbs Philips wants to sell you. It is silent on the matter of whether they'll work acceptably in whatever lamp you happen to want to put it in; for that you need to ask people who can guide you towards or away from specific Philips or Sylvania bulbs, then do like this.

  4. #4

    Default Re: State of aftermarket LEDs for tailights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ls400 View Post
    From what I've gathered, there are only 2 reputable manufacturers: Philips and Sylvania.
    For now, that is correct.

    I see that Philips has two lines of LED products: one named VisionLED and the other named Ultinon LED.
    Three: Xtreme Vision LED.

    Sylvania has their Zevo line, which is the only line from Sylvania worth considering
    Correct.

    I'm curious as to what the relative rankings of these LED products are currently.
    Philips Xtreme Vision (these and these) and Sylvania Zevo (like this, this, this, etc) are the top two. They are not rankable first/second; they tend to work best in different kinds of lamps. The Philips Xtreme Vision is the only LED bulb that throws light forward and not just rearward, so it's the only one that works in lamps that have fresnel type optics. That is the kind with a round or square "bull's eye" in front of the bulb, with round or square rings or ridges radiating out from there. The Zevo bulbs throw light only rearward, which is fine (and in some cases optimal) for lamps that use a reflector cup behind the bulb and either a completely clear lens or a series of flutes and/or pill-shaped textures on the lens to distribute the light.

    I really wish Philips had expanded that Xtreme Vision line, but they kind of let it die on the vine. Their new "Ultinon" line is kind of a joke.

    Edit: Some older posts reference a list of Philips LED compatible vehicles. I can't find this list to save my life on the Philips' website. Does someone have it?
    It's not very useful, they didn't bother updating or keeping it up.

  5. #5

    Default Re: State of aftermarket LEDs for tailights?

    If Sylvania could add front-firing LEDs to the bulbs in their Zevo line, I think they would nail it. The rear-firing LEDs work admirably, but leave a shadow at the front of the bulb. In cars with sockets centered in the reflector area, that shadow is visible.
    I have to say, the brake circuit is excellently-bright.

  6. #6
    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: State of aftermarket LEDs for tailights?

    Something is bugging me about the Philips LED replacement fog lights from that chart. They're 6000k. WTH? The bluer the light is, the more fog I see. From my experience, fog lights do better with lower color temperatures where there is less atmospheric scattering.

  7. #7

    Default Re: State of aftermarket LEDs for tailights?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotonWrangler View Post
    Something is bugging me about the Philips LED replacement fog lights from that chart. They're 6000k.
    That's a few items down on the list of why "LED bulbs" are a flat no at this point in time for any kind of road illumination device (headlamp, fog lamp, etc). Optical incompatibility is a bigger reason.

    WTH? The bluer the light is, the more fog I see.
    Fog lamps are more or less useless as such. They're treated as fashion accessories, and all the cool kids (of all ages) want bluer-bluer-bluer.

  8. #8

    Default Re: State of aftermarket LEDs for tailights?

    Quote Originally Posted by DenCon View Post
    If Sylvania could add front-firing LEDs to the bulbs in their Zevo line, I think they would nail it.
    Totally. But that's where their heat sink is!

  9. #9

    Default Urgent LED Selection Question

    I thought they figured out a pattern of LED placement that mimics a filament enough to work good in any lamp. Philips sure sounds confident of such in their description of the Ultinon bulbs, noting they are road legal.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Urgent LED Selection Question

    Quote Originally Posted by jzchen View Post
    I thought they figured out a pattern of LED placement that mimics a filament enough to work good in any lamp.
    What made you think that? The steady, consistent advice on this site, and not just from me, is exactly opposite.

    Philips sure sounds confident of such in their description of the Ultinon bulbs, noting they are road legal.
    I haven't seen them making that claim (or "note"), and I'll be surprised if they are actually making it, because it's not actually true unless you bend, twist, tear, fold, spindle, and mutilate the meanings of words until they're almost unrecognizable.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Urgent LED Selection Question

    Quote Originally Posted by -Virgil- View Post
    What made you think that? The steady, consistent advice on this site, and not just from me, is exactly opposite. I haven't seen them making that claim (or "note"), and I'll be surprised if they are actually making it, because it's not actually true unless you bend, twist, tear, fold, spindle, and mutilate the meanings of words until they're almost unrecognizable.
    https://www.usa.philips.com/c-m-au/car-lights/turnon

    If you scroll down about half way, towards the center (Left - Right) is "FAQ". If you click on FAQ

    There is a long list. From the bottom count up 5, also 4 from the bottom, regarding road legality.....

  12. #12

    Default Re: Urgent LED Selection Question

    Wow, that's really interesting that they're making this demonstrably false, dangerous claim. Perhaps truth-in-advertising laws are among the regulations that are regarded as burdensome by the current US Government administration.

    Let's look at their claim word by word:

    Quote Originally Posted by Philips
    Is it legal to use Philips Ultinon LED in the United States?
    Yes, the Philips Ultinon LED range is first to market exterior LEDs as a direct replacement for exterior incandescent bulbs. The light output of Philips Ultinon LED lights is not only bright, but also creates a well-focused light beam on the road. Thanks to their beam pattern, Philips Ultinon LED lights are legal to use on the roads in the United States.
    the Philips Ultinon LED range is first to market exterior LEDs as a direct replacement for exterior incandescent bulbs
    That's a lie. Sylvania's two Zevo lines (the first one with the translucent plastic dome, completely hopeless in any/every lamp, then their current one with the Y-shaped frame and the rear-firing emitters that works well in some lamps and poorly or not at all in others), Sylvania's non-Zevo line, Philips' own Vision line that's structurally similar to the present Zevo with a row of rear-firing emitters, and Philips' own Xtreme Vision line with the A-frame design, all were put on the market as direct replacements for exterior incandescent bulbs long before this Ultinon line.

    The light output of Philips Ultinon LED lights is not only bright, but also creates a well-focused light beam on the road.
    That's also a lie. For one thing, the lamps in question are not road-illumination devices. They do not create a "light beam on the road" (well-focused or not). That's just not in their job description. But OK, let's assume this language was written by marketers whose job is to sell bulbs, not to describe the world accurately. They are claiming these bulbs are a one-for-one, direct-swap replacement in any/every lamp, and we don't even have to buy one to know that's flatly not true. The Ultinon bulbs don't have any forward emitters, only side-shooters. The side-shooters will work OK in some lamps with reflector optics, maybe acceptably in some, poorly in others, and not at all in still others. They will not work at all in lamps that have fresnel optics in the lens. Those require light coming out the front of the bulb. Fresnel optics were more common in the past than they are now, but they're hardly unknown on late-model vehicles that have sold in high volume. The Jeep Wrangler type JK (2007-2018) is a great example. It's only one example, but there are plenty of others, and one is all that's required to falsify a blanket claim such as Philips is making here. Another great example of an incompatibility, this one without fresnel optics, would be the '08-'14 Chrysler Voyager/'11-'18 Dodge Caravan front turn signal, which needs rearward and frontward light (not much use for side-shooters).

    Thanks to their beam pattern, Philips Ultinon LED lights are legal to use on the roads in the United States.
    It's really fascinating that they give this assurance. It opens them up to massive legal liability. False and misleading advertising, product liability, fraud, and probably other kinds, too. Moreover, they also give advice on how to choose their so-called "CAN-bus Enabling Adaptor", which is a device specifically designed and intended to defeat a mandatory safety feature on vehicles certified by their manufacturer as compliant with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. That would seem to expose them to additional layers of potential legal jeopardy.

    OK, so moving on from that, because the country has bigger problems right now than companies selling illegal vehicle equipment and lying about it, let's ask a "real world" question as favorable as possible to these bulbs: ignore the lights with fresnel optics, and ignore the ones with intricate reflector optics that require a filament-shaped line of light in the right place to work. Only look at lamps these bulbs could conceivably work reasonably well in. That would be a simple parabolic reflector bowl with the bulb entering straight in at the center of the reflector, and a lens with conventional spreader optics. That kind of lamp is well represented in what buyers are saying (we know because some of them were kind enough to provide photos or state what kind of car they have) at places like here and here and here. These are all comments from people who probably don't know or care a whit about regulations or how car lights work, they just wanted to upgrade to LEDs, and they spent money on them, so they were really primed to like these bulbs. And yet:

    "Very dim, half as bright as an incandescent."

    "These lights are not bright at all !!! Cant even see the turn signal when the headlights are on.Will not buy these again my stock incandescent are way brighter"

    "Provides good coverage of light within the lamp housing (no unsightly dark spots), but it's significantly dimmer on HIGH (21w-equiv) than the standard 1157 incandescent bulb. On LOW (5w-equiv) it's about the same. The difference is large enough in daytime that I didn't feel safe using these Philips LEDs, so I returned them."

    "Do NOT buy if you care about safety at all. bought these hoping for a decent road legal replacement to my incandescent bulbs on my motorcycle. They are awful. I would say the light output is maybe 1/3rd of incandescent. These act as marker lights and turn signals on the front of my bike and I absolutely do not think I would be safe riding at night with these. I am returning them ASAP. The 1156a version of these were just as bad."

    "Less brightness than the original incandescent bulbs. I'm sure the reliability behind the Phillips name is genuine (unlike cheaper no-name Chinese alternatives that last 6 months), but I won't accept reduced visibility as a trade off. Sorry Phillips, but I had to put the original bulbs back in and send these back."

    "The fit and finish is very good, the color is spot on white and looks good in my opinion. They appear no brighter, perhaps less bright, than the standard incandescent bulbs that these replaced. The lack of output was disappointing."

    "Very disappointed in the brightness on these bulbs. Far dimmer than the traditional incandescent bulbs I was attempting to replace. Turn signal function only illuminates more LEDís, but of the same brightness as the running light LEDís. This makes the turn signal hardly noticeable."

    "Nowhere near the brightness of the regular incandescent bulb that I was trying to "upgrade". Nice build quality, what you would expect fro Philips but very disappointed in the light output. The light output was uneven and since the are no top facing LED's they are very dim in the brake reflector housing. These are getting returned as they are unsafe to run as brake lights."

    "Nowhere near as bright as they are made out to be. Significantly less light output than the factory incandescents."

    "Not very bright! These are maybe a 1/3 as bright as the original rear turn signal lights on my 2017 Chevy Volt Gen 2. The LED layout is great meaning they cast light in a pleasant looking way when installed in the housing but they are just not bright enough."

    "These are not bright enough. They can only barely be seen in daylight. See photo, passenger side (left in photo) is regular bulb, other side is this LED bulb."
    Last edited by -Virgil-; 10-01-2018 at 04:18 PM.

  13. #13

    Default Re: State of aftermarket LEDs for tailights?

    Quote Originally Posted by -Virgil- View Post
    Totally. But that's where their heat sink is!
    They are smart boys and girls - surely they can come up with something workable :-/

    Until LED bulbs accurately mimic incandescent filament output (with the advantages of LED tech) in a 3-dimensional space, we will experience wide-ranging variable results - none of which will be 100% satisfactory.
    *sigh*
    Last edited by Alaric Darconville; 10-02-2018 at 03:36 PM. Reason: Consolidating posts

  14. #14
    Moderator Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent LED Selection Question

    It may be some time before we get an LED bulb with a near point source emission area that emits light in the very nearly 4π steradians that a filament does. There are some "filament LED" bulbs but the pseudofilament not only is extremely large compared to a real one, the luminance (cd/m2) is not yet there either.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Urgent LED Selection Question

    What's really frustrating is that Osram showed good, working prototypes of exactly the product we're talking about (LED bulbs with the light emitting surface in the same size, shape, position and orientation as the filament it was designed to replace, and putting out the correct amounts of light) back in 2012/13, but then apparently decided not to develop them commercially. How did they do it? An LED in the base of a bulb and a clear plastic or glass light guide with its outcoupling surface shaped, sized, and placed just right.

  16. #16
    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent LED Selection Question

    Quote Originally Posted by -Virgil- View Post
    What's really frustrating is that Osram showed good, working prototypes of exactly the product we're talking about (LED bulbs with the light emitting surface in the same size, shape, position and orientation as the filament it was designed to replace, and putting out the correct amounts of light) back in 2012/13, but then apparently decided not to develop them commercially. How did they do it? An LED in the base of a bulb and a clear plastic or glass light guide with its outcoupling surface shaped, sized, and placed just right.
    I've seen this light guide approach used in a number of decorative household LED candelabra bulbs. I have one in a hallway lamp, and it looks exactly like an incandescent filament when it's lit. Maybe the plastic light guide has some thermal limitations that prevents it from being used in automotive fixtures?

  17. #17

    Default Re: Urgent LED Selection Question

    Quote Originally Posted by -Virgil- View Post
    An LED in the base of a bulb and a clear plastic or glass light guide with its outcoupling surface shaped, sized, and placed just right.
    Isn't that the approach Mercedes is taking with their E-Class? I remember reading something about the E-class having 84 or so emitters, each with a plastic tube of sorts to guide the light.

    Edit, no, seems like I'm mistaken.
    Last edited by Ls400; 10-02-2018 at 09:08 PM.

  18. #18
    Moderator Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent LED Selection Question

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotonWrangler View Post
    I've seen this light guide approach used in a number of decorative household LED candelabra bulbs. I have one in a hallway lamp, and it looks exactly like an incandescent filament when it's lit. Maybe the plastic light guide has some thermal limitations that prevents it from being used in automotive fixtures?
    Many of those just use rows of tiny LEDs, rather than a single hidden LED in the base and using fiber optics (if you have one that's dimmable, dim it way down and observe it). Perhaps the Osram product had some thermal management issues.

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