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Thread: Automotive LED "bulbs"

  1. #1

    Default Automotive LED "bulbs"

    I know that this has been asked before, but it's been a few years, and I couldn't find the information that I'm looking for in previous threads, so put down yer pitchforks!

    I'm hoping that there's finally a legal 7443 LED replacement on the market, because I would love to replace my tail lights and forget about them, rather than getting pulled over for having the higher-brightness "brake" function burned out, which is pretty hard to notice unless someone tells you.

    I've done a bunch of reading, and I still don't have a great grasp on the law in this area (although my research has left me mildly-enraged that amber turn signals aren't required, never mind that trailers are permitted to use a single lamp per side as a brake, marker, and turn signal).

    So, can someone please explain to me the requirements that an LED product needs to meet to be legally used in a tail & brake light? It would be even better if someone could also point me to the applicable legal standards.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Automotive LED "bulbs"

    Quote Originally Posted by LEDLynx View Post
    I know that this has been asked before, but it's been a few years
    Less than a month, actually; the thread you're looking for is this one. Also the info here will continue to apply to all LED retrofit bulbs for the foreseeable future.

    I've done a bunch of reading, and I still don't have a great grasp on the law in this area
    Don't rely on the law -- signal bulbs are regulated in a roundabout, indirect kind of way, and in most parts of North America the local laws and regs are inadequate as a do/don't for stuff like this, in the sense that just because there's no rule explicitly saying "Thou Shalt Not" doesn't make it a good idea. In other words: just because you could do something, doesn't mean you should do it.

    mildly-enraged that amber turn signals aren't required
    That's an ongoing failure in the North American regulations, yes.

    never mind that trailers are permitted to use a single lamp per side as a brake, marker, and turn signal
    Not just trailers, any/every kind of vehicle in North America is allowed to have that setup.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Automotive LED "bulbs"

    Hey Virgil, thanks for your reply. I gathered the following from the linked threads and your reply (please correct any misapprehensions):

    - Phillips and Sylvania make some LED units for use in cars that would be street legal in certain cars.
    - LEDs often don't throw light in the right directions for the housing, reflector, and lens design, which is part of why they're problematic.
    - Any LED replacement should be visually evaluated against a standard incandescent from multiple angles, under varied lighting conditions, and from multiple distances.
    - There are no regulations explicitly barring the use of LED lights. Rather, the issue is that most LED "bulbs" do not meet the minimum standards required for use on public roads.

    So, I have a pretty good grasp on how to practically determine if a light performs well and is safe,* but I still have two questions:

    1. Without buying a whole bunch of LED "bulbs," how can I figure out what product is reasonably likely to be a decent, safe replacement for my current lamps? Should I be looking for something that sends light straight out the lens, into the reflector, or both? Are there other things to look for and think about?

    2. Although I understand that the interpretation of regulations and locals laws falls largely to individual officers (and eventually to a judge who's very unlikely to want to read excerpts from NHTSA regs), what information can I look for when purchasing a light to make it as likely as possible that my vehicles's lights will be viewed as "legal?"

    I'm not looking for my car to stand out or be fancy. (There is definitely no under lighting on my mid-2000s Honda.) I just want lights that won't burn out and are reasonably equivalent in safety and legality to my current incandescent bulbs.


    *Funny story, I'm actually actually asking this question because I bought these LED 7443 bulbs at the auto parts store, foolishly assuming that it a parts store wouldn't recommend an unsafe or illegal part and knowing that Sylvania is a decent brand. I subsequently installed one and immediately noticed that (1) it was outputting light in the wrong directions, (2) it was difficult to see from directly behind the vehicle compared to the incandescent lamp on the car's other side, and (3) --upon closer inspection-- it was marked "for off-road use only" on the packaging. To add insult to injury, Advance Auto Parts won't accept a return on it because "electronics can't be returned" and "the package is open." I guess that's on me, though, because I didn't read the whole blister pack before I bought it. Live and learn. But does that mean that the Sylvania Zevo, recommended in another thread, is just as bad? I looked at Phillips, too, but their lines of vehicle LEDs seem to have withered, and don't actually look very well designed. Any advice? Just give up until I buy a new car in a decade?

    Thanks again for the help!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Automotive LED "bulbs"

    Quote Originally Posted by LEDLynx View Post
    - Phillips and Sylvania make some LED units for use in cars that would be street legal in certain cars.
    It would be more accurate to say Philips and Sylvania make some LED retrofit bulbs that perform adequately to reasonably well in some lights on some cars.

    - LEDs often don't throw light in the right directions for the housing, reflector, and lens design, which is part of why they're problematic. Any LED replacement should be visually evaluated against a standard incandescent from multiple angles, under varied lighting conditions, and from multiple distances.
    That's right. You're putting in a fundamentally different kind of light source than the lamp was designed for, so adequate function can't be assumed.

    - There are no regulations explicitly barring the use of LED lights. Rather, the issue is that most LED "bulbs" do not meet the minimum standards required for use on public roads.
    It's actually that most of them cause the lamp they're installed in to no longer perform in a manner that is safe and complies with the regulations for whatever kind of lamp it is (a brake light, a turn signal, etc).

    Without buying a whole bunch of LED "bulbs," how can I figure out what product is reasonably likely to be a decent, safe replacement for my current lamps?
    Well, step one is to stick to Osram/Sylvania or Philips product, which cuts way down on the number of candidates. Pare it down even further by ignoring those brands' product lines that don't work well in pretty much any lamps (the non-Zevo Sylvanias and the Philips Ultinons), and now the list of ones to try is pretty small -- might even be zero items long, if there doesn't happen to be a potentially good one in the size and/or color you need for a particular application.

    Should I be looking for something that sends light straight out the lens, into the reflector, or both?
    That depends on what lamp on what car you're working with. Some kinds of lamps require light straight out the front of the bulb, and others don't. Some kinds of lamps require a lot of rearward light, and others need more sideways light. With a standard filament bulb emitting about the same amount of light in all directions, it doesn't matter; whichever direction of light a given lamp uses, there's light there -- there's also light in other directions not used by the lamp, but used in other lamps that take the same bulb. Because LED bulbs don't (yet) have that kind of uniform spherical (all-directions) output, that's why you have to pick carefully and test it out.

    So, start by saying what lamps on what car you're trying to change to LED.

    Although I understand that the interpretation of regulations and locals laws falls largely to individual officers (and eventually to a judge who's very unlikely to want to read excerpts from NHTSA regs), what information can I look for when purchasing a light to make it as likely as possible that my vehicles's lights will be viewed as "legal?"
    That's pretty easy. You want to avoid getting in a situation where you have to try to convince an officer, a judge or a magistrate of anything. So practically speaking, that means don't go with anything that draws attention to itself by looking nonstandard at a generic level. Something that looks like a brake light, for example -- a big enough area of even-enough, bright-enough light, clearly brighter than the tail light, and of an appropriate color of red -- passes this practical test, and it's unlikely you would get stopped and told that your particular model of car never came with LEDs. Something that looks like it's not a brake light -- too small, too dim, too uneven, too orange, too pink, not different enough in brightness to the tail light -- is like having a megaphone and hollering "ATTENTION LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS: I HAVE MODIFIED MY CAR'S SAFETY EQUIPMENT, SO STOP AND EYEBALL IT!".

    I'm not looking for my car to stand out or be fancy
    You're most of the way along the right road, then. :-)

    There is definitely no under lighting on my mid-2000s Honda
    We're getting oh-so-close...what year, model, and body style of Honda?

    I just want lights that won't burn out and are reasonably equivalent in safety and legality to my current incandescent bulbs.
    Reasonable. You might or might not be able to have what you want; if not, take it in good stride. Shrug, put in the best available conventional bulbs, and keep watching and waiting.

    I bought these LED 7443 bulbs, foolishly assuming that it a parts store wouldn't recommend an unsafe or illegal part and knowing that Sylvania is a decent brand. I subsequently installed one and immediately noticed that (1) it was outputting light in the wrong directions, (2) it was difficult to see from directly behind the vehicle compared to the incandescent lamp on the car's other side, and (3) --upon closer inspection-- it was marked "for off-road use only" on the packaging. To add insult to injury, Advance Auto Parts won't accept a return on it because "electronics can't be returned" and "the package is open." I guess that's on me, though, because I didn't read the whole blister pack before I bought it.
    Amazon's a good place to buy stuff like this, because of their very generous return policy. That "Off-road use only" thing is a crock. It doesn't actually mean anything. It offers exactly zero legal shield to the maker of a regulated item that doesn't comply with the regs, and it offers no exemption from any legal requirements. It will be very interesting to see what happens if and when Sylvania or Philips gets sued because bulbs they very clearly and obviously designed, intended, and marketed for installation in vehicle safety lights (despite the cutesy and meaningless "off road use only" labelling) caused a crash with property damage, death, and/or severe injury. I'm not a lawyer, but the situation just seems tailored perfectly for a class-action lawsuit that could dwarf this one.

    But does that mean that the Sylvania Zevo, recommended in another thread, is just as bad?
    The plain Sylvania ones are their lower-priced line of Cracker Jack prize toys. The Zevo bulbs actually work creditably in some lamps. But you have to make sure you're getting the up-to-date ones. The first Zevo bulbs in the 7440/7443 size looked like the ones you linked, with a "crown" of emitters under a clear plastic dome. They're junk. The late-production ones look the same as the Zevo bulbs in the 1156/7 and 3156/7 sizes: an all-metal frame shaped like a Y in side profile view, with a pair of rear-firing emitters on the undersides of the Y-arms, like this. There's still a lot of the earlier/junk design on the market, and I don't even see the current-design red ones available on Amazon.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Automotive LED "bulbs"

    I's amazing, given the proliferation of LED products in every segment of the lighting market, that almost no one is selling drop-in LED replacement bulbs for cars that will work well in most models.

    As to class actions, I don't actually think you would need a physical injury to bring a suit. By my (limited) understanding, a class of consumers who can show that they purchased a product based on a company's representation and received something less than they reasonably expected has a viable case. It's enough to make one want to be a class-action attorney...

    Anyhow, lawsuits aside, I drive a 2009 Honda CR-V, and I'm trying to replace the 7443 bulb that functions as the rear tail light and brake light (the second light from the top of the tail light assembly). The stack of lights in a CR-V's tail light assembly, from top-to-bottom, is a red tail light, the tail/brake light, the (large, clear-lensed) turn signal, and the backing light.

    If there were good LED bulbs available to replace the whole stack, I'd actually consider replacing all of them except the backing light (because I feel like the color temperature and color-rendering of a white incandescent bulb is unlikely to be well-matched by any LED module). At the very least, I might want to replace both red lights in each tail light assembly so that they don't appear as different shades of red. Sylvania claims that the upper tail lights can be replaced with the 168R from the Zevo line (looks like this).

    I wouldn't mind replacing the turn signals all around, either, if there were a decent LED for the job. Sylvania tells me the the Zevo 7440A (looks almost identical to the 7443, except without the double set of contacts) will do for both the front and rear turn signals (although I know that I would probably need to install resistors, because it doesn't look like the Zevo lights make up for the lessened load internally). Are they any good?

    As to the tail lights, Sylvania's website claims that the Y-shaped Zevo is appropriate for the CR-V's tail lights, but I'm a little skeptical given that the regular incandescent bulb is directly visible from behind, meaning that the Zevo would at least look a little different, even if it were adequately bright.

    What do you think?

    Also, do you have any experience with ѕupеrbrіghtlеdѕ.com? Various people have told me good things about them, but it looks like the units that they advertise for vehicular use are largely corn-cob setups, maybe with a few LEDs on the top of the unit, as well.

    Thanks again for your help!
    Last edited by -Virgil-; 11-04-2018 at 11:43 PM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Automotive LED "bulbs"

    Quote Originally Posted by LEDLynx View Post
    I's amazing, given the proliferation of LED products in every segment of the lighting market, that almost no one is selling drop-in LED replacement bulbs for cars that will work well in most models.
    Not really amazing...the problem is there's no such thing as an LED emitter that is the same shape and size as a filament, and Osram's promising experiment with using a light guide to take the place of a filament (with an LED at the other end of the light guide, inside the bulb) didn't wind up going anywhere. For that reason, there is no universal drop-in LED.

    As to class actions, I don't actually think you would need a physical injury to bring a suit.
    You're right. The guy who lit the fuse on the previous class action against Sylvania (about their Silverstar bulbs) didn't suffer any physical injury or property damage or anything, he just felt ripped off.

    I drive a 2009 Honda CR-V
    Oh, geez, that one. I have long considered that model's stop (brake) light to be a poor design. Fine at night, but it is not very clearly visible in daylight. There's a small area of relatively high intensity along the bottom edge of the stop light compartment, but most of it appears only minimally brighter than the tail light. I think Honda went too far with the decorative reflector optics, and have wondered from time to time if it might be possible to improve the daytime visual signature of the stop lights by using a frosted bulb rather than a clear one. Nobody sells frosted 7443s, so you'd have to frost your own with several applications of etch gel. Maybe something to try if your LED experiments don't work out.

    On the other hand, if they do work out, there's some chance you might wind up with a better result with the Y-frame red Zevo 7443 (or possibly with the Philips rear-shooter than with the original incandescent bulb. Give it a try and see what you see. You're likely to get a fine result with the red 168 Zevo for the tail lamp, and you might get good results with the amber Y-Zevos for the turn signals, too. Yes, you would need resistors, one per turn signal bulb. Don't install them with the sorry-sack Scotchlock type wire taps they throw in the box; that's begging for corrosion and trouble. Use these instead.

    Sylvania's website recommends LEDs based purely on physical fit, without any optical/photometric aspect to the recommendation. You really do need to try and test on a case-by-case/bulb-by-bulb/lamp-by-lamp basis.

    Also, do you have any experience with ѕuperbrightledѕ.com?
    Toys and trinkets without any engineering in them. Fine for non-safety-critical applications (dome light, map light, cargo compartment light, dashboard lights, glovebox lights, shift selector light, etc) but keep their junk out of your car's safety lights. This is what is meant by "stick with Sylvania or Philips; some of their bulbs work well in some lamps on some cars".
    Last edited by -Virgil-; 11-04-2018 at 11:45 PM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Automotive LED "bulbs"

    Thanks for all your help! Thanksgiving planning delayed working on the car for a few weeks, but I'll be ordering some bulbs in the next few days. I'll let you know how things work out.

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