Driving at Night

Toulouse42

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Up until now I've not paid much attention to the issue of colour temperature. It doesn't bother me much so generally go for cool(ish) white rather than warm light for flashlights. I changed my car three years ago and although the headlights seem plenty powerful, I find that I just don't like driving at night much. Where I live there are plenty of narrow unlit roads so vision is important when you're on a busy stretch with rain etc. I just assumed that my ageing eyesight was to blame but I just realised that when I drive my wife's car, I don't have that problem. Both cars are different models from the same manufacturer (both reasonably new). It must be the colour temperature on my car that causes the colours of hedges, walls etc to lack detail? No problem when I'm standing still but at 30-40 mph, its another thing altogether, particularly when there are sometimes pedestrians dressed completely in dark colours without any lights or HiViz clothing. Only yesterday two people dressed completely in black ran across the road in front of me at a busy section. Any ideas for how I might go about assessing the issue to see if I can replace the existing headlights with something better?

By way of background, my previous car had halogens and I had no trouble seeing what I was doing.

Thanks.
 

RHS-113

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What vehicle do you drive? And what light source do the headlamps use, LED or HID?
 
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idleprocess

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If your vehicle uses HID there are a variety of HID capsule color temperatures available (do note that not all of these options are from reputable manufacturers and/or compliant with the law). If it uses LED you're effectively stuck with what the OEM has baked into the sealed assembly.
 

Toulouse42

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Sorry - I left that bit out. The car is a Cupra (Seat) Ateca with full LED lights. I don't know if its sold in North America but its a smaller Sports SUV in the VW stable of brands. I can't find any published information about colour temperature. I fear that idleprocess is right about having to accept the manufacturers choice.
 

Remembertheslap

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Slight derail - you know how we sometimes joke about replacing our car headlights with flashlights? I tried this a few nights ago.

Was completely dark, rural mountain road, no traffic.

Just suddenly thought - hey, let's see if it works - put the driver window down, got my new Armytek Prime C1 Pro out on turbo (900lm approx) and put my arm out the window. Switched off the headlights and kept driving.

I could see the road perfectly.

Only drove like this for five seconds or so, and switched back to headlights... Not something I'd do again, but nice to know it's feasible in an emergency.

My car kit always has spare bulbs (these days) but if it was someone else's ride, never know, might have to do it someday.

Once years ago I went to start my Peugeot 205 after coming back from a hike and both headlights instantly failed. I forget what the problem was, it was a long time ago, but the upshot was spending the night on my hiking buddy's floor, while his Labrador licked my face all night and he danced and jumped around upstairs to Killing Joke.
 

Remembertheslap

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I've tried driving by the light of a torch too. Zero visibility issues on a quiet road. The only problem is losing one hand to holding out the light.

Yeah. Magnetic base right angle light: problem solved 🙂... Until the car hits a pothole and the light falls off...

Maybe some duct tape as a backup.
 

kaichu dento

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I've tried driving by the light of a torch too. Zero visibility issues on a quiet road. The only problem is losing one hand to holding out the light.
I was doing a lot of that a few years ago. One hand out the window on highways with no traffic and it gave me a lot of personal research into beam pattern, throw and preferred tint.

Never did try it in town or on the freeway though...
 

bykfixer

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I have a neighbor with a Chevy truck that has new fangled LED's in a row, not those TIR optic looking kind but sort of an array. They're plenty bright but he says "I can't see squat with those sum******s, I hate 'em".
They're bright white with a bit of blue in the tint from the factory.

My wife's Ford uses the optic kind and they work pretty well, but they don't have that blue-ish bright white look. Not yellow by any means like a halogen though. When I drive her car it's all about how clean the windshield is where with my halogens I see ok even with a somewhat dirty winshield.
 

jzchen

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I believe color (colour) temperature is different from CRI? I noticed several years back BMW LED headlights were on the purple side making even white road signs purplish! I wouldn't know the CRI rating of the headlights you have and @-Virgil-, probably one of the few people in the world that are privy to that info, "has left the building". (Although I'll admit that sometimes even he didn't know).

You want something with a higher CRI (if I have the correct term) to see the colors correctly to my understanding. Maybe we can search for such to add supplemental lighting to the front.

I was in Spain until the 10th and walked past a Cupra dealership. Since I'm a car aficionado I took a picture of one as I walked by…
 

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LEDphile

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Indeed, CCT (color temperature) is different from CRI, but in the case of the LEDs that are targeted for automotive use, the choices are pretty much all "high CCT, low CRI". My understanding is that the reason for this is trying to cram as many lumens into as small a source as possible, and the high CCT/low CRI phosphor mixes are both more efficient at turning blue light into white light, and are more robust.

While the high CCT shouldn't make things difficult to discern as long as the intensity is there, the low CRI will absolutely make it harder to see things that are towards the red end of the spectrum (due to the simple fact that red light is missing from the output of the LED, so can't be reflected back by the object).
 

RHS-113

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@Toulouse42 Sadly, there's not much you can do with sealed LED headlamps without ruining them. But something you should pay attention to is your headlamp aim. I don't know if Jersey has MOT inspections for private cars like the UK does, but if they do it shouldn't be too hard to find a garage with a headlamp aiming machine. The correct aim setting would be 0.7% down, as that is the aim declination for ECE style VOL headlamps in the US, and that is the aim recommended by Daniel Stern for ECE headlamps that are up to 88 cm above the ground. Correct headlamp aim set to 0.7% down obviously will not solve your issues with color temperature/color rendering, but it will improve your ability to see at night if your headlamps are currently pointed too low.

I don't know how high the headlamps of a Cupra Ateca are, but assuming that they're 850 mm or less you can aim them to 0.7% down and still be in legal limits.

From the Jersey goods vehicle inspection manual:
Headlamp centres up to and including 850mm high
Upper limit: All vehicles. 0.5% Lower limit: All vehicles 4.0%

Headlamp centres over 850mm high
Upper limit: All vehicles. 1.25% Lower limit: All vehicles 4.0%

The car is a Cupra (Seat) Ateca with full LED lights. I don't know if its sold in North America but its a smaller Sports SUV in the VW stable of brands.
The Seat/Cupra brand is not sold in the US or Canada, but you can buy them in Mexico, so I guess that counts as being sold in North America.
 

Toulouse42

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Hi. Thank you all for your input. Yes bykfixer my lights are very bright but I struggle to see properly too. Like LEDphile says, high lumens but low CRI seems to be the norm. RHS-113. Thank you. Quite by chance my car is in for its annual service on Friday and I will ask about alignment. I feel that my lights are a little off on full beam. For some reason the front fog lights on the Ateca have been deleted in the Cupra model so I can't repurpose those. BUT, I have found a company in Sweden/Finland (i think but no english translation yet) that makes light bars specifically for that model. If they can quote me figures for temperature / CRI then I might be able to improve things. I'll update you all when I know more. The light bar fits behind the grill below the front numberplate so should be quite subtle and not interfere with the "driver assist" camera and other mandated goodies. If I sound a little "off" its because I learned to drive before all this nanny nonsense. I have an actual driving license and almost 50 years of experience. I don't need a machine to hold my hand.
 

Toulouse42

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So Mr Google did some translations on the Swedish website DSM Design and under technical specs they state that the colour temperature of the unit is 5700 or 6000K (both are quoted). They also state that the measured light output is 19896 lumens (25000 theoretical) and "Range" is 1 lux at 431 metres or 604 metres with boost mode. I know nothing about Lux. Does this claim make any sense? Certainly the marketing photos look very impressive. They're road legal in Sweden but I don't yet know about UK/Jersey.
 

idleprocess

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So Mr Google did some translations on the Swedish website DSM Design and under technical specs they state that the colour temperature of the unit is 5700 or 6000K (both are quoted). They also state that the measured light output is 19896 lumens (25000 theoretical) and "Range" is 1 lux at 431 metres or 604 metres with boost mode. I know nothing about Lux. Does this claim make any sense? Certainly the marketing photos look very impressive. They're road legal in Sweden but I don't yet know about UK/Jersey.
5700-6000K is common for automotive LED - most spec sheet lumens per watt and unit of currency, readily available from LED suppliers. CRI/color rendering accuracy will likely be unimpressive.

~20K lumens yield from 25k raw output would be suspect for projector (where ~⅓ yield is normal) but is plausible for a quality reflector unit.

Lux is defined as 1 lumen of light distributed over 1 square meter. 1 lux at 431 meters is ... plausible ... albeit likely only under ahem lab conditions. The boost figure is likely with high beams.

If the UK ascribes to ECE regulations they should be legal in the UK provided the RHD version is fitted.
 

Toulouse42

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Thank you. I'm an accountant, not an engineer (Star Trek reference there) but I get the gist. I don't know if the UK subscribes to those Regs but given that Brexit hasn't yet happened in any meaningful way, the chances are that its road legal here too. The bottom line is that if I cant get better CRI then maybe I can overwhelm the problem with raw power. My old car (2008 model) was great with factory halogens but my needs changed because I needed a taller car. Otherwise I would have kept my old car til the end of time.
 

Toulouse42

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Well the car was serviced today and the headlight aim was indeed adjusted. Time will tell if it helps. I've just been told that I can't retrofit the fog lights or repurpose them. Why? Don't know! "Computer says no" Plus it looks like the Swedish light bar just won't fit - there's too much going on at the front of the car. Something I learned as a youngster is that just because one person says no, the other person might not. So the search goes on.
 
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