Current word on LED "bulbs"?

N8N

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Good evening all,

It's been a good long while since I checked in here, due to life, the universe, and everything and also the fact that I haven't needed to compulsively researched flashlights as I have managed to acquire a couple that seem to fill all my needs nicely.

Anyway, I needed to replace both a (broken) taillight and a (failed) turn signal flasher on my old XJ Cherokee today; got me thinking. Last time I was really paying attention Philips was marketing some LED bulbs to replace standard automotive bulbs, and they actually on paper looked like they were making an effort to do a good job. They had a table on their web site that showed which taillamp or other assemblies they had tested the bulbs with for compliance and everything. Going back to their web site today I see that they are now all lumped under "Ultinon LED" and are apparently acceptable for everything, but with the wording on their web site "It is your own responsibility to ensure that the use of the LED retrofit lights complies with applicable local legal requirements."

So what's the deal? Are these actually good products or are they just catering to the ricer crowd with may or may not work for all applications products? I have to admit, the concept of LEDs at least for brake lights is appealing for the quicker rise time, and since my XJ apparently eats turn signal flashers like candy, maybe there as well?
 

-Virgil-

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"Apparently acceptable for everything" is exactly what they would like consumers to think. In fact, no.

Depending on how old your XJ is, it either takes 1156/7 or 3156/7 bulbs in the rear lamps. You can try the Philips Ultinons if you feel compelled, but the Sylvania Zevos in red (1157, 3157) for the brake lights, amber (1156, 3156) for the turn signals, and white (1156, 3156) for the reversing lights are more likely to work acceptably. You cannot safely assume, you will have to carefully compare and assess.

If you change the turn signal bulbs to LED, you will need an LED-compatible flasher to restore/maintain correct flash rate. If your XJ is really old, it uses an ordinary 2-terminal flasher and the reliable LED-compatible version is this one, with a ground wire you will need to connect to ground (obviously). If your XJ is new enough to use a non-standard flasher for which no LED-compatible version is available, or the flasher function built into one of the computers, then you would have to monkey around with "load resistors", which I personally regard as a shady enough kluge to just abandon the whole idea and use regular bulbs.
 

N8N

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Hi Virgil, and thanks for the reply.

XJ is a 2000 model so uses 3157s for everything except for the sidemarkers which are 194/W5W. I just put in a Novita flasher last night which says it is "LED compatible" so I should be good there. That wasn't my goal, but the parts store flasher that I put in a couple years ago was failing (would stop flashing while sitting at a light, same failure mode as the one before that) and this one was made in the USA by Osram/Sylvania so I figured it might last longer than a couple years, so I should be good there. So the Zevos are the most likely to be decent today I'm getting from your post?

This thing is a rancid beater so I'm not going to invest a lot of money in it, but where I live it seems that vehicles are invisible, and the fact that it's weathered black doesn't help any. I did buy a pair of used Truck-Lite LED headlights when I first got it but I have to admit I like the beam pattern of the E-codes I had on my last XJ better.
 

N8N

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Also, the CHMSL uses a 921 bulb, it looks like there is no quality replacement for that on the market now other than another incandescent?
 

lightfooted

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I use Sylvanias in my brake/tail lights on my 2001 Passat. Not the Zevos but their standard LED units. They are roughly 20-30% brighter than the old incans and a nice shade of red that doesn't disappear at night.
 

-Virgil-

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Also, the CHMSL uses a 921 bulb, it looks like there is no quality replacement for that on the market now other than another incandescent?

That's correct, there's no legitimate red 921 LED bulb, and the white Philips 921s that were worth buying got discontinued and replaced by a cheaper/poorer version.

As long as your Novita flasher works properly it should be fine. And yes, when I said the Sylvania Zevos are the ones worth trying, that's what I meant :)

Oh, if you change the front turn signals and/or side markers to LED, and your Cherokee has the side markers wired up to flash with the turn signals (I don't remember when/if they started/stopped that on the XJs) then you will have to either disable the turn signal flashing function of the side markers, which is a legal but knotheaded thing to do, or change the wiring and add a control module to keep it. Most of the particulars are described on this page by Dan Stern.

I did buy a pair of used Truck-Lite LED headlights when I first got it but I have to admit I like the beam pattern of the E-codes I had on my last XJ better.

A well-focused UN (so-called "E-code") beam looks prettier on the garage wall, but the Truck-Lites do a whole lot better job for you in terms of safety performance than whatever H4s you had on your previous XJ. The obvious solution here would be a set of JW Speaker Model 8900s or the export version of the Truck-Lite LED, both of which would give you the cutoff/upkick beam pattern you prefer...but it sounds like this vehicle might not be worth that amount of money on headlamps, and again, even though the Truck-Lites' beams don't look pretty on the wall, they are effective. But only if they're aimed correctly, not by guess.
 
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-Virgil-

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I use Sylvanias in my brake/tail lights on my 2001 Passat. Not the Zevos but their standard LED units.

Not a smart choice/not a good bulb. You can do a lot worse, but that's not saying much.

They are roughly 20-30% brighter than the old incans

Measured how, with a light meter? Did you carefully compare their performance as per the link in post 2 of this thread?

and a nice shade of red that doesn't disappear at night.

What does this mean? Incandescent red tail and brake lights don't disappear at night, they do the opposite. That's what makes them...lights!
 

N8N

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That's correct, there's no legitimate red 921 LED bulb, and the white Philips 921s that were worth buying got discontinued and replaced by a cheaper/poorer version.

As long as your Novita flasher works properly it should be fine. And yes, when I said the Sylvania Zevos are the ones worth trying, that's what I meant :)

Oh, if you change the front turn signals and/or side markers to LED, and your Cherokee has the side markers wired up to flash with the turn signals (I don't remember when/if they started/stopped that on the XJs) then you will have to either disable the turn signal flashing function of the side markers, which is a legal but knotheaded thing to do, or change the wiring and add a control module to keep it. Most of the particulars are described on this page by Dan Stern.

dang, I forgot about that, the sidemarkers would be a problem. Maybe this is just a non starter.

A well-focused UN (so-called "E-code") beam looks prettier on the garage wall, but the Truck-Lites do a whole lot better job for you in terms of safety performance than whatever H4s you had on your previous XJ. The obvious solution here would be a set of JW Speaker Model 8900s or the export version of the Truck-Lite LED, both of which would give you the cutoff/upkick beam pattern you prefer...but it sounds like this vehicle might not be worth that amount of money on headlamps, and again, even though the Truck-Lites' beams don't look pretty on the wall, they are effective. But only if they're aimed correctly, not by guess.

The Truck-Lites seem to have a big hot spot up high, which can't be good for oncoming traffic, and at the same time throw a lot of light on the ground right in front of the vehicle but less down the road where it would be useful on low beam... Especially when driving on asphalt at night in the rain the road can just disappear. High beams are great though.
 

-Virgil-

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dang, I forgot about that, the sidemarkers would be a problem. Maybe this is just a non starter.

Does an extra step or two in the process make it a non starter?

The Truck-Lites seem to have a big hot spot up high, which can't be good for oncoming traffic

When the lamps are correctly aimed, the hot spot is not near oncoming traffic's eyes unless the road curvature happens to put them in it. From that and the rest of your description, I think your lamps are not aimed correctly.
 

N8N

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Does an extra step or two in the process make it a non starter?

It's probably just not worth the investment when one major component failure would make the thing not worth fixing.

When the lamps are correctly aimed, the hot spot is not near oncoming traffic's eyes unless the road curvature happens to put them in it. From that and the rest of your description, I think your lamps are not aimed correctly.

I would agree that I feel like they are aimed too high, but if I lower them the low beams look essentially like fog lamps, no throw at all.
 

-Virgil-

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I feel like they are aimed too high, but if I lower them the low beams look essentially like fog lamps, no throw at all.

Don't guess at it like this, find a shop with either an optical or a mechanical headlamp aimer. That hot spot you describe as too high/in other drivers' eyes is what gives you your throw distance when it's pointing to where it should be. And if the lamps are aimed too high now, putting them where they belong will relieve the "no light on wet roads" effect, too.
 

N8N

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Don't guess at it like this, find a shop with either an optical or a mechanical headlamp aimer. That hot spot you describe as too high/in other drivers' eyes is what gives you your throw distance when it's pointing to where it should be. And if the lamps are aimed too high now, putting them where they belong will relieve the "no light on wet roads" effect, too.


I don't know where I could find a shop with one of those machines, although I know exactly to what you refer...

The thing about these lights is right now the bottom cutoff of the pattern is barely visible now from behind the wheel, and if I dial it down lower, most of the light is going to be going where I can't even see it (that is, below the imaginary line between my eyes and the front of the hood.) My old XJ had Cibie e-codes and I really did feel much more comfortable driving it in bad weather, due to circumstances that would take some explaining and would be ludicrously amusing if you managed to stay awake for the whole long story, I did not remove the relay harness and headlights from it before having to let it go. Yes I aimed those optically as well, although I did so on a flat concrete pad with a nice wall to aim against (loading dock at my last job, really probably a better job than most shops would do)

I also kind of miss those high beams... I was running 55/100W bulbs in those, not the ostensibly legal ones. No, I never used the high beams unless I was well and truly alone other than a quick warning flash. Pretty sure I got everything from DS.
 
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