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Thread: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

  1. #1

    Default Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    I'm just curious if there's any merit to this article or is the Sierra simply the victim of long-life bulbs and poor aiming from the factory.

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/20...ew-headlights/


    In the lawsuit, the complaint details many other complaints made by truck owners who reported similar low lights.


    “The stock projector headlights on my new $60,000 GMC Denali 2500HD really SUCK! Could not see a damn thing 100 feet in front.”

    “This truck is very dangerous to drive after dark. I wish that I would have read the complaints about the 2014 trucks. My dealer seems to have no fix.”

    “My 1989 Toyota Pickup has better headlights then this $50,000 truck. Just spent over $150 to upgrade to LED lights and still not good enough. GM should take action now before someone gets hurt!!”
    Some more recent information in this article:

    https://www.carcomplaints.com/news/2...-lawsuit.shtml

    Seems as if GM has issued TSBs about upping the voltage to the headlamps. The complaint seems to allege that the shutter mechanism is the issue; the article states that the shutter creates shadows and reduces the bulbs' ability to illuminate.

    It seems that the trucks in question use a single 9012 bulb to provide both low and high beam functions. That strikes me as a bit odd. Aren't dual filament bulbs usually used to provide low and high beam functions (disregard xenons).
    Last edited by Ls400; 10-22-2018 at 04:37 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    This is a type of headlamp known as Bi-halogen. It's just like a projector Bi-Xenon headlamp, but with a halogen light source: a single halogen bulb in a projector with a movable shield that swings into the light's path to create the low beam cutoff, or out of the path to remove the cutoff, resulting in a high beam. It's a fairly common setup. The '04-'08 Nissan Maxima had it, the '13-'18 Ram pickups had it in the higher trim levels (though they also had a reflector lamp that came on in high beam mode), and a variety of other vehicles have had it, too. HIR2 is a common pick as the light source for it, though others have been used as well. The advantages are a space savings and potentially a cost savings. One disadvantage is similar to the disadvantage of a reflector-type headlamp with a 2-filament light source (other than H4/HB2 or H19): because just one optic is used for both low and high beams, it must be a compromise between what's optimal for the low beam and what's optimal for the high beam. But it should be understood that this is not a "dealbreaker". It is possible to have a good bi-halogen headlamp, just like it is possible to have a good reflector headlamp with a dual-filament bulb, and it's possible to have bad headlamps with one single-filament bulb and one optic for each of the two beams.

    Another disadvantage of a bi-halogen design is that the driver only sees an "addition" or "subtraction" of the additional seeing distance provided by the high beam. There is no change in light quality (as when a 65-watt, 2000-lumen, high-luminance H9 lights up for high beam versus the 55-watt, 1250-lumen, low-luminance H11 on low beam), and all the low beam light remains present with high beam, leading to the perception that there's not much difference between the two beams and the high beams are weak. UN (European) regulations allow for dual-voltage operation of certain bulb types so for example an H9 can be operated at 12.2 volts (1650 lumens, long life) when the lamp is providing low beam, and 13.2 volts (2100 lumens, short life) when the lamp is providing high beam. But US regs don't allow for this; 12.8v is specified as the one and only voltage for headlights.

    The '14-'15 GMC truck headlamps aren't the world's best, they're not much more than adequate. But they're also nowhere near the world's worst, and they're not hardly alone in being mediocre. No, the shutter mechanism is not the issue. No, the shutter doesn't "create shadows and reduce the bulbs' ability to illuminate". The TSB you refer to is here, and the better bulbs help (this is why the Vosla HIR2+30 exists at a friendly price via GM Parts). So does the increased feed voltage to the bulbs in early-production trucks, albeit at the cost of shorter bulb life. Vosla will have an HIR2+120 out soon, which I'm looking forward to checking out...no word on life rating, though, and it will probably be short!
    Last edited by -Virgil-; 10-22-2018 at 05:28 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Thanks for the information. I could see how truck owners accustomed to the previous generation's separate highs and lows might be a little disappointed in the bihalogens, since, as you said, raising the shutter doesn't really increase intensity it just broadens the spread of light.

    Somewhat unrelated but why does it seem as if the high beams provide almost no benefit on certain trims of this Chevy truck?

    https://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/ve...ab-pickup/2017

  4. #4

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ls400 View Post
    why does it seem as if the high beams provide almost no benefit on certain trims of this Chevy truck?
    Low beams with better-than-minimum performance, high beams without.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Quote Originally Posted by -Virgil- View Post
    Low beams with better-than-minimum performance
    That, and LED low beams with better-than-minimum levels of glare!

    Quote Originally Posted by -Virgil- View Post
    Vosla will have an HIR2+120 out soon, which I'm looking forward to checking out...no word on life rating, though, and it will probably be short!
    I thought the "+X" ratings were achieved through higher filament precision. Why would a more precisely located filament have a shorter life?
    Last edited by Ls400; 10-24-2018 at 01:59 PM.

  6. #6
    Moderator Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ls400 View Post
    I thought the "+X" ratings were achieved through higher filament precision. Why would a more precisely located filament have a shorter life?
    Higher filament precision, more tightly-wound filaments; smaller and hotter filament hotspots, so they have higher luminance in Mcd/m2.

    "My filaments burn at tiny spots,
    They will not last for hours;
    But ah, you elders, and oh, you tots -
    They give such lighting power."

    (With apologies to Edna St. Vincent Millay)

  7. #7

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Quote Originally Posted by -Virgil- View Post
    and the better bulbs help (this is why the Vosla HIR2+30 exists at a friendly price via GM Parts). So does the increased feed voltage to the bulbs in early-production trucks, albeit at the cost of shorter bulb life. Vosla will have an HIR2+120 out soon, which I'm looking forward to checking out...no word on life rating, though, and it will probably be short!
    Is the Volsa HIR2+30 standard equipment in GM vehicles, or is it a dealer-installed option if the customer complains about "weak" lights?

    Is the HIR2+120 going to be standard equipment? I'm just going to take a wild guess here and say "no," because OEMs tend to prioritize bulb life. So what's the deal with the HIR2+120? What's its purpose? Is it something dealers keep in stock to placate people complaining about their lights?

  8. #8

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ls400 View Post
    Is the Volsa HIR2+30 standard equipment in GM vehicles
    On the '14-'15 Sierra headlamps after a certain production date, yes.

    or is it a dealer-installed option if the customer complains about "weak" lights?
    Not an option, it's part of the TSB fix for complaints of weak headlamps.

    So what's the deal with the HIR2+120? What's its purpose? Is it something dealers keep in stock to placate people complaining about their lights?
    It's a higher-performance bulb consumers can choose to buy to improve the performance of their headlamps.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Thanks for the information. So, essentially, GM commissioned Volsa to create +30 and +120 versions of a 9012/HIR2 to compensate for weak headlamps? If so, I have to wonder if it would have been cheaper to just drop in better lights or perhaps improve headlamp aim at the factory.

    I'm not complaining though--having +30 and +120 versions of 9012 when all the other manufacturers seem to be content with standard 9011s/9012s is great for me.

    If only there were even more innovation in the 9011/9012 field akin to what we've seen in the 9006 field: several manufacturers competing to create the most powerful bulb through a combination of blue coatings, increased filament precision, etc.

    Would a 9011/9012 with a thin band of blue interest you?
    Last edited by Ls400; 10-26-2018 at 12:42 AM.

  10. #10
    Moderator Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ls400 View Post
    Thanks for the information. So, essentially, GM commissioned Volsa to create +30 and +120 versions of a 9012/HIR2 to compensate for weak headlamps?
    I'm pretty sure Vosla were making them all along.

    If so, I have to wonder if it would have been cheaper to just drop in better lights or perhaps improve headlamp aim at the factory.
    TSB included programming the body computer to increase headlamp voltage, depending on the build date and build location, as well as specifying the improved bulbs. The voltages may have been originally lower to help extend bulb life.

    Obviously, ensuring the lamps are aimed properly is something that should be done whenever someone complains of poor headlamp performance.

    If only there were even more innovation in the 9011/9012 field akin to what we've seen in the 9006 field: several manufacturers competing to create the most powerful bulb through a combination of blue coatings, increased filament precision, etc.
    The 901x bulbs already have very high filament precision and other advancements. They are also being developed further, what with the +30 we've seen.

    Would a 9011/9012 with a thin band of blue interest you?
    Maybe a thin deep yellow band, but really, I don't think the 9012 is deficient in light output in the first place.

    I'd LOVE to see automakers build better headlamp assemblies in the first place. There are bad and good headlamps of all light sources, so we can't put everything on the performance of the bulb straight off. GM could have avoided all these complaints and body computer reprogramming if they'd built a better lamp assembly in the first place.
    Last edited by Alaric Darconville; 10-26-2018 at 09:36 AM.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ls400 View Post
    Thanks for the information. So, essentially, GM commissioned Volsa to create +30 and +120 versions of a 9012/HIR2 to compensate for weak headlamps?
    I don't know if GM commissioned the +30 version. They might have, or Vosla might have already offered it and GM wound up buying. The +120 has nothing to do with GM in any sense; that's purely a Vosla offering for the consumer aftermarket.

    If only there were even more innovation in the 9011/9012 field akin to what we've seen in the 9006 field
    It's interesting to think about what might be possible, though the present offerings are pretty good.

    Would a 9011/9012 with a thin band of blue interest you?
    Not per se, no.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Quote Originally Posted by -Virgil- View Post
    One disadvantage is similar to the disadvantage of a reflector-type headlamp with a 2-filament light source (other than H4/HB2 or H19): because just one optic is used for both low and high beams, it must be a compromise between what's optimal for the low beam and what's optimal for the high beam.

    Another disadvantage of a bi-halogen design is that the driver only sees an "addition" or "subtraction" of the additional seeing distance provided by the high beam. There is no change in light quality (as when a 65-watt, 2000-lumen, high-luminance H9 lights up for high beam versus the 55-watt, 1250-lumen, low-luminance H11 on low beam), and all the low beam light remains present with high beam, leading to the perception that there's not much difference between the two beams and the high beams are weak.
    That reminds me of your comments regarding the 2014+ Corolla on this website. From what I understand, the 2014+ generation of Corollas all feature LED low-beams, but the earlier ones still use a halogen high-beam, while the newer ones offer Bi-LED configuration (along with a multi-LED configuration).

    Given your comments regarding the compromise necessary in a 2-filament headlamp, and your previous comments complimenting the performance of the Corolla's headlamps--I wonder, is there an appreciable performance difference between the Corollas with separate LED/halogen low/high-beams, and the Corollas with the bi-LED configuration?

    I'd imagine that the Corollas with the bi-LED configuration would have made some optical compromises versus the Corollas with separate, and presumably, individually optimized low/high-beams. However, is there an appreciable difference between the two Corollas?

  13. #13

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    I don't have detailed photometric data on those two headlamps in front of me right now, but they're both very good. On low beam, subjectively, I prefer the gen-1 design (LED low beam) that came out in '14. The later design, which uses Koito's Bi-Beam LED projector, has a lower cutoff on the left side of the beam, more in tune with the classical European low beam cutoff shape, which means shorter seeing distance down the left side of the road. For high beam performance I'd probably prefer the Bi-LED.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    In terms of fuel economy, would a bi-LED setup be more wasteful than a multi-LED setup in America, where you aren't allowed to vary headlight voltage?

    Seems to me that in a multi-LED setup, you can get away with running lower power LED chips for just the low beams, and leave the high-beam chips off except when the driver wants to use the high-beams.

    But in the bi-LED setup, you're running everything at full bore all the time in case the driver decides to flick on his high-beams.
    Last edited by Ls400; 11-04-2018 at 12:29 AM.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ls400 View Post
    In terms of fuel economy, would a bi-LED setup be more wasteful
    Not necessarily.

    Seems to me that in a multi-LED setup, you can get away with running lower power LED chips for just the low beams, and leave the high-beam chips off except when the driver wants to use the high-beams.
    You can do that with some Bi-LED setups, too.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Are 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra headlights terrible?

    On the flip side, do you think that some bi-halogen setups are implemented because of the energy savings? Powering just one 9012 vs powering up to two 90xx bulbs on each side?

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