If you’re an avid follower of current automotive trends, you would’ve noticed that LED headlights have become a big talking point in recent years. LEDs are not only burn brighter—they are also far more energy-efficient than conventional bulbs. This upward trend has, however, raised many questions about the limitations of these headlights; let’s start with the various caveats surrounding LED application in vehicles to get a clearer picture.
Are LEDs illegal?
First of all, let’s delve into a common misconception about LED lights: are they legal? The short answer is yes. However, it depends on how you use them and set them up. It is far more common to ride with illegal LED bulbs than other lamps, as setting them up in line with regulations is a tricky process for many.
There are car manufacturers currently that are implementing their own factory LED bulbs to match the wave of drivers retrofitting their own headlights. Perhaps the main reason that the legality of LEDs is a topic of discussion is that they are on a different level to conventional halogen or HID lighting. Because they are more energy-efficient, it is often difficult to match the intensity and lighting angle. This leads to more drivers breaching regulations because they didn’t adjust to match their factory lights.
Headlight regulations are practically equal across the board, and that includes LEDs. Most states in the US will have very similar (if not identical) laws for all types of vehicle lighting. As stated before, it is simply easier to break them if you mount LED bulbs without doing the research.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) headlight regulations are fairly reasonable, and can be briefly summarized in three parts.
The first is the intensity of the beam; it cannot be too bright or glaring. Essentially, you’re looking for a middle ground where you have adequate lighting and don’t blind pedestrians and drivers alike.
Your LEDs can’t be too dim, however. Most states have a regulation for a specific distance your lights should be able to illuminate, commonly set at 1000 feet. To put it simply, you have to be able to see a decent stretch of the road for your own (and others’) safety.
Many people are also enticed into LEDs for the possibility of getting colored headlights. Unfortunately for them, it is illegal almost everywhere to have a color other than white or yellow. Some LED bulbs emit a slightly blue, and are technically legal, so there’s a bit of freedom. Generally, if your lights impact the color or visibility of any objects on the road, they aren’t road-safe.
There are also regulatory bodies like the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) which guide the development of automotive technologies.
In the sphere of LEDs, both FMVSS and SAE work to outline standards for Adaptive Driving Beams (ADB), which are lights that adapt to surroundings based on any changes. For example, when an oncoming driver approaches your vehicle, the lights automatically dim. With the extensive testing done with ADB, it’s a reasonable possibility that they will be a common theme in the near future.
To summarize, various aspects such as beam intensity, glare minimization, and other quantifiable factors regarding LED lights are being both monitored and developed. As it is still a sensitive and fairly recent technology (in terms of widespread automotive use), manufacturers and organizations alike are slowly setting it up for the market. In a sense, these bodies help the technology become more “legal” and consumer-friendly through testing and observation.
Things to Watch Out For
Before we look at the specific headlights on the market, it’s vital to know what to look out for. Various factors can impact your lights’ functionality and legality, so to minimize confusion and potential trouble, here are some things to consider before you buy.
People often don’t adjust for how bright LED bulbs can actually burn in comparison to their factory headlights. The output and proper fitting are two key factors to consider before replacing your existing lights with LEDs. Because of their efficiency, LEDs can do a lot more with the same input—if not taken into account, this factor can lead to not only trouble with regulations, but also danger on the road.
Research is paramount, and without the knowledge behind how to retrofit LEDs, you could end up with lights that are too intense for the road. Noting the lumens output (lm) of your factory headlights will go a long way into getting suitable replacement bulbs (more on that later).
Importance of Compatible Fit
It’s possible to get into hot water despite getting the output right. While your LED bulbs might be perfectly suited to your factory lights, they might not be compatible with the reflectors. Headlight beams can be greatly impacted by unsuitable reflectors in different ways.
One such way is what we call glare; the reflectors could cause your beam to scatter, and the worst-case scenario is temporarily blinding drivers on the road. Not to mention—the beam might not provide adequate lighting if the reflectors don’t agree with the bulb.
If the reflectors narrow your light, it’s simply a matter of inadequacy. Your headlights have to legally illuminate a decent portion of the road, so your beam could become too narrow to be considered safe. In summary, it’s very important to find reflectors that are either designed for LEDs or are known to be compatible.
If you’re not familiar with the technical side of lighting equipment, here’s a short summary of some of the terms that will be thrown around in the text. Lumens (lm) is just a measure of brightness that is emitted by a light source. So, the higher the lm on a product, the brighter it appears. Watt, similarly, is a measure of power; the higher the wattage of a bulb, the more its power output (and thus required power input).
You might also see a “K” thrown around, such as “6000K Cool White”. The 6000K is a way to denote the color of a light, with the K standing for Kelvin. You can simply remember that white falls into the range between 5000K and 6000K, and anything higher than that is considered a bluish tone. You might notice that a few of these products are at 6500K, so they emit a blue-white light.
As for the heat sink, it describes the mechanism that “deals with” the heat that an LED bulb produces. Unfortunately, one downside of LEDs is the sheer amount of heat they emit, so it’s important that products have an efficient heat sink to limit the impact of heat on the lights.
The different categories of bulbs (e.g. H9, H11) denote the type of fit; you can typically find your headlight type in your driver’s manual. Basically, if your existing lights are an H9 but an H11 product catches your eye, you’ll have to do a lot of work to fit it in your lighting system.
Finally, CANbus is a system that allows different microdevices to “talk” to each other without a central computer. To put it simply, any LEDs that have ready CANbus integration will have an advantage in cars, as they will limit interference with radio and electrical systems. For example, it is fairly common for LED lights to interfere with radio signals; bulbs with CANbus technology almost never do.
Related post: Fixing Led Bulbs and CANbus error codes
Best LED Headlights 2020
Now let’s take a look at some of the best headlight bulbs on the market today. The lights below range in their intensity and overall design, but the regulations above generally keep each item’s differences subtle.
|Akarui Cool White 9,600lm||9,600||$$||6,000|
|Sealight S1 Series||6,000||$||6,000|
|Akarui Cool White 7,000lm||7,000||$||6,000|
|BEAMTECH H13||10,000||$||6,500 K|
|Sealight Upgraded S3 Series||12,000||$$$||6,000|
|JDM Astar||10,000||$$||6,500 K|
|TECHMAX Mini||10,000||$||6,500 K|
The LED headlight bulbs provided by Akarui are 260 percent brighter than the typical headlight, and are at a reasonable enough price. The heat sink is an intelligent cold-pressed aluminum body and is accompanied by a dual turbo cooling fan which can spin at 15,000 rpms. The overall heat sink system is twice as effective as a typical LED heat sink, and prevents long-term damage to any of the headlights components. The LED headlights offered by Akarui require 12 volts compared to the 13-14 volts typically supplied to headlights by a vehicle engine. They have an operating power of 60 watts with each individual bulb providing a brightness of 9,600 lumens.
Akarui’s headlights are both shockproof and waterproof, meaning that vibrations related to rough roads and moisture from the elements will not cause damage to the internal components of the headlights. The cooling system is noiseless, ensuring that the headlights are as efficient as possible. They work with any vehicle CPU system that supports a Controller Area Network vehicle bus (CANbus), which is present in most modern vehicles. This is a huge advantage functionally, as it is often a requirement for modern vehicles. Akarui insists that their step-by-step manual is easy to follow, and that their LED headlights will work with any CANbus system once they are connected. Since those headlights are CANbus-ready, there is no need to purchase additional components for successful installation. Additionally, Akarui offers a two year warranty on their lights should any malfunction occur, however, they insist that their headlights are designed to “last pretty much forever.”
Those customers who have purchased Akarui’s LED headlights proclaim that the system is very easy to install so long as you already have general knowledge revolving around replacing headlights on your vehicle. They also verify the fact that the headlights are much quieter than the typical LED headlight setup, and that they provide clear well-adjusted lighting that has no gaps and also does not blind oncoming traffic despite being very bright. The majority of customers who have bought Akarui brand headlights previously had standard halogen headlights, and noted a very positive change in terms of light quality and coverage.
Some Mixed Opinions
However, not everyone has found Akarui’s headlights to be optimal. Many customers have complained about their headlights flickering immediately or soon after installation. Another issue with these LED headlights is that one or both of the bulbs are defective upon delivery. Other customers have reported that the fan component of the heat sink was not as long-lasting as the bulbs themselves, frequently changing speed and eventually becoming noisey. However, this is a common theme in LED headlights in general, so it’s not unique to the Akari.
Though these potential problems may sound particularly bad, it is not too surprising that many customers ran into these issues; Akarui’s LED headlights are considerably brighter and lighter compared to most LED systems. In addition, those who had issues with their leadlights reported fast and friendly customer service, and were given replacements or refunds for their defective lights when requested. For those considering buying this product, excellent customer service might be the crutch in the rare occasion these lights don’t satisfy you.
| • Smart heat sink|
• Quieter set up
• Mostly easy to install
• Good customer support
• CANBus integration
| • Pricey|
• Complaints of flickering after long use
Sealight’s LED headlight conversion kit is a bestseller on Amazon. The models offered are H11, H8, and H9, though the H11 headlights are the most commonly purchased model. These LED headlights use 12 volts for an operating power of 40 watts. Sealight’s LED headlights can be installed for high beams, low beams, and fog lights. The brightness of the lights are measured at 6000 lumens. They are designed to provide both a wider area of visibility and brighter lighting than standard headlights both at night and during the day. According to Sealight, their LED headlights should be relatively easy to install, plugging in directly to factory headlight setups and requiring no modifications to fit correctly into the sockets. The lights are waterproof, and are street legal in all states. Sealight offers a 12 month warranty on their LED headlights, and promises excellent customer service if any problems should arise.
Unique in Its Own Right
The LED headlights sold by Sealight do not use a fan for cooling and instead has a high quality aluminum heat sink. They are not as bright as other LED and HID headlights, so they do not create as much heat in the first place. The lack of a fan for cooling can actually be a positive aspect of these headlights though; many fans can develop issues over time becoming noisey or ceasing to work entirely, so the lack of a fan can be thought of as one less component of the headlights that could potentially break. Additionally, fans can accumulate dust and debris in many headlights, so a fanless setup that has an efficient heat sink can be a very advantageous setup in the long run.
The fact that these headlights also produce less lumens than other HID and LED lights also may sound like a negative at first, but for most drivers 6,000 lumens is significantly brighter than standard headlights, and it ensures that oncoming traffic is not blinded by your headlights at night despite their brightness. The fact that they are a mid-power LED which ensures that light is distributed evenly and smoothly and avoids issues such as flickering or blind spots.
Affordable—the Good and the Bad
Sealight’s LED headlights are very popular due to their very affordable price. Most users are very pleased with their easy installation, and claim that the lights are of surprisingly good quality despite the low price. The lights also have a very pleasing white-blueish color, which many customers said was pleasant and makes the lights seem even brighter than they are. Regardless, the majority of customers feel as though the brightness is at an acceptable level for their needs even if they aren’t the brightest LEDs on the market. Car-savvy installers rave that the lights are much simpler to install than other LED and HID headlights, making them suitable for everyone including those who are not as well versed in customizing their vehicles. Many go as far to say that installing Sealight’s headlights takes no more than five minutes, so they truly live up to the term “plug-and-play”. The fact that the headlights do not heat up at all is surprising to many considering that the system is fanless and the heatsink is very light in weight compared to other similar LED headlights.
However, since this product is cheaper, there could be some issues can be expected. Firstly, Sealight’s LED headlights are not equally easy to install; many owners of european cars may be greeted with flickering lights or an error message on their dashboard if they do not install a decoder first. Drivers who are accustomed to bright LED headlights may find Sealight’s headlights to be lackluster and inadequate for their needs. Specifically, many report that the headlights do not have a long range, only illuminating an area of about 15 feet ahead of the vehicle, and that the lights are not sufficient in bad weather such as fog and rain. Therefore, if you live in a rural area and rely on your LED headlights to cover a large area to drive safely, you may require a system that produces more lumens than Sealight headlights do. Others also report that their headlights began to dim after about six months; considering the warranty of only 12 months, you may find yourself with poor lighting once it is too late to get your money back. Other more general issues of being sent defective lights are also reported with Sealight’s LED headlights, though, most of those who were given defective headlights were sent replacements immediately, and had no problems thereafter.
| • Affordable|
• Less heat produced
• Street legal
• 1-year warranty
| • Not as bright as competitors|
• Shorter illumination range
• Possible dimming after months of use
The next pair of LED headlights are also produced by Akarui. These headlights have an operating power of 35 watts, and have a brightness of 7000 lumens, or 3500 lumens per individual light. Like many others on our list, they are described as “plug and play,” meaning they should be easy to install and do not require additional components not included in the conversion kit. With an official warranty policy and “lifetime support” from Akarui, these LED headlights are also very affordable. The cooling unit includes a powerful turbofan which can spin at a rate of 15,000 RPM. This headlight bulb conversion kit can be bought to fit several models, ranging from the standard H8-H11 or even less common models such as 9007 and 9012.
The Device that Does His Thing
Akarui’s CSP LED headlight conversion kit is definitely an upgrade from stock halogen headlights. They produce a cool, white light that is twice as bright as the standard halogen lights. In addition to the powerful cooling fan, the heatsink of these headlights is made of cold-pressed aluminum which is 50% more effective than standard aluminum casting. Their aluminum substrate technology used for the PCB of these headlights is patented and improves heat conductivity by a factor of 10. Just like the former headlights produced by Akarui, this LED headlight conversion kit is CANbus ready, making it compatible with most vehicle CPUs, and they are also waterproof and vibration resistant to prevent damage to the headlight’s components over time.
The majority of customers who have purchased this LED headlight conversion kit found it to meet or exceed their expectations, finding that it produces a bright light with decent coverage without blinding other oncoming vehicles. Most people who have installed this particular kit use them for daylight headlights as well as fog lights, though they are suitable for low beam lighting as well. When installed as high beams, the results are a bit more mixed. Though many appreciate the color of the headlights, they find that the 7000 lumens Akarui’s CSP LED headlights produce are not quite bright enough for their needs. On the flip side, many found the high beams too bright, and had to turn them down to avoid blinding others on the road. Whether or not these headlights are truly suitable as high beams is therefore not certain.
Inadequacies Despite Great Customer Service
Just like Akarui’s other headlights, customers who bought this conversion kit experienced excellent customer service when they ran into problems using their headlights. The most common problem is flickering; however most found that installing a decoder fixed this issue, and if you were to contact Akarui about a flickering issue they are willing to send a decoder to you free of cost. Most complaints come from those who have less common headlight models such as 9003, and they revolve around the high beam headlights being ineffective and not having a wide enough spread. That being said, nearly everyone who has purchased and installed Akarui’s CSP LED headlights conclude that they are indeed superior to stock halogen headlights, and are surprisingly high quality considering the price tag.
Taking all of these reports into account, we can conclude that if your vehicle does not have the more common headlight models such as H11, or if you live in a rural area that requires very bright high beams to drive safely at night, Akarui’s CSP LED headlight conversion kit may not be for you. However if you live in a better lit area such as the suburbs or a city and are looking for pleasant, cool-colored headlights that have a great warranty policy, then this headlight conversion kit may be a purchase worth considering.
| • Two cooling mechanisms|
• Easy to install
• Adequate brightness and illumination
• Great customer service
| • High beam lights often too narrow|
• Possibly inadequate in rural areas or harsh weather
Beamtech’s LED headlights have an operating power of 60 Watts, and require 32 volts. The headlights are waterproof and have a smooth, protective exterior to prevent damage. They are currently in the top 20 list for Amazon’s LED headlight selling category.
Universal and User-Friendly
The headlights offered by Beamtech are an all-in-one conversion kit, meaning they do not require additional parts for installation. The heatsink of these headlights is only 30mm wide, making them easy to install and compatible to many headlight models. Additionally, the heatsink is made from aircraft grade aluminum nanolayered with a double-sided laminated copper substrate, which drastically increases thermal conductivity. In addition to the heatsink, Beamtech’s CSP LED headlights also include a fan; the intelligent temperature control system manages to cool these headlights 5 times faster than standard heatsinks, and is built to work in extreme conditions. All-in-all, the heatsink combined with this intelligent cooling system creates a thermal conductivity of up to 400 Watts per milliKelvin (400w/mK).
Bright Lights, Possible Issues
Beamtech’s LED headlights are a top seller on Amazon, and are also Amazon’s choice for the category of H13 LED headlights. At 10000 lumens, they are one of the brightest headlights on this list, and like our previous mention, they are also CSP LEDs. They are four times brighter than stock halogen headlights. Beamtech describes the light produced by their headlights as a “cool white” which lacks any gaps, blind spots, or foggy, dim lighting. Despite being extremely bright, they are still street legal in all states. The expected operating life of Beamtech’s CSP LED headlights is over 30000 hours, and Beamtech also offers a 3 year warranty should they diminish in quality or break before then.
Those who have installed Beamtech’s LED headlights report that they are indeed very bright. They are significantly brighter than stock halogen headlights, but some also compare them to other LED headlight kits they have installed and insist that Beamtech’s lights have a better color and longer range. The lights are very focused; instead of scattering light over a wide area, diminishing its brightness, they have concentrated beams for better vision. Even despite the high luminosity and focus of Beamtech’s headlights, customers state that the low beams do not blind oncoming traffic. Many customers also confirm the durability of these headlights, stating that even after a year or more the lights have not dimmed or broken. Customers also report very friendly, fast, and helpful customer service.
Some car owners who have purchased Beamtech’s LED headlights claim that the lights are not as easy to install as Beamtech describes. Particular car models may require additional components in order to make the lights CANbus ready, or else an error message will appear. Though this is somewhat typical of most headlights, Beamtech does not mention this potential issue in any of their product descriptions. There are also more than a few complaints about the LED headlights interfering with the vehicle’s radio once installed and turned on. Numerous customers also claim that despite installing Beamtech’s LED headlights according to instruction, either the high beams do not work or the low beams do not work, leaving the driver with only half the typical functioning of their headlights. This could simply be users not installing the lights as correctly as they thought; however this would also lead to the conclusion that the lights are not as simple to install as Beamtech describes.
To conclude, Beamtech’s LED headlights offer a brightness that is exceptional considering their price. They have excellent customer service and a good warranty policy. These headlights are constructed from quality materials and are built to last. This one is a potentially wise purchase for those who need very bright, focused lighting such as individuals living in rural areas. However, they may not be suitable for those who are not accustomed to customizing their vehicle, as the installation process may not be as simple as other headlight conversion kits.
| • Affordable|
• Good warranty
• Quality, durable construction
• Great customer service
| • Difficult installation|
• CANbus set-up not intuitive
• Beam issues
• Occasional radio interference
Sealight’s other product in the LED headlight sphere is the upgraded S3 series 12000lm model. As the number might suggest, these lights are far more intense than any others on our list so far, and is a fairly young product. It comes with a 3 year warranty, so on the surface it seems like a risk-free purchase. The previous Sealight product we looked at turned out to be a pretty solid choice, so it would be a disappointment if this model doesn’t live up to that tag.
The upgraded S3 line of products has several perks that separate it from the other Sealight units. The product description is prefaced with an outline of three breakthroughs in the S3 line: high brightness, perfect beam pattern, and a longer lifespan. The increased intensity of the headlight (measuring at 12,000 lumens) is designed to make it a high-focus and max-output beam with a professional pattern.
The beam pattern is meant to be accurate and powerful while still abiding with road-safety regulations meant for halogen lights. Essentially, the light is meant to mimic the lights you would typically see on the road, despite its vastly greater output. The end result is (or, at least, should be) a powerful beam that illuminates clearly and effectively without dazzling oncoming vehicles or passersby. As for the longer lifespan, Sealight ensures that every LED bulb is built to last up to 50,000 hours; for perspective, if you drive 2 hours a day, it would theoretically last you 3 years—hence the warranty. If that wasn’t enough, the product is equipped with a 30-day money back policy.
Experience and Installation
Generally, Sealight products are fairly well-received. The one we looked at previously was an affordable option that worked quite well. The S3 Series 12,000lm model, on the other hand, is much more expensive and newer. On the one hand, there are few long-term reviews for this product, as it hasn’t been on the market long enough for a proper assessment. However, the 3-year warranty should more than cover any doubts regarding where your money is going.
It would be fair to say the reception is mixed. While most customers were pleased with their purchase and the quality of the lights, there are some installation issues that a few drivers brought to light. Of the positive experiences, drivers laud the brightness and focus of the beam, even on the darkest roads. The claims regarding the brightness and pattern of the beams seems to generally hold up. Obviously, there is no real way to assess the claimed 50,000 hour lifespan of the product.
Regarding the negatives, a few buyers noted the difficulty in fitting these lights into the H13 sockets. One driver struggled to fit the H13 version of the light into the sockets, and when all was said and done, they weren’t perfectly balanced. They also lamented the lack of holding springs in the design. To make matters worse, the fan blades on one side weren’t balanced either, causing vibration and noise. They weren’t too optimistic about these lights lasting much longer. Overall, performance-wise, there seemed to be no major complaints.
| • 3-year warranty|
• Optimized design
• Extremely bright
| • Difficult installation of H13|
Another 12,000lm product on our list, the Hikari Ultra model is fairly similar to the Sealight reviewed previously. A powerful beam and easy installation are the key characteristics of this model, and customers are generally pleased with both the illumination provided by the powerful beam, and the pattern of the beam itself.
For such a high output, it’s no wonder the Hikari is supported with a heatsink that improves light utilization and also limits astigmatism—in simpler terms, it helps limit blur and glare. The heatsink is ultra-thin so it doesn’t get in the way of any of the lighting mechanisms. As for the fitment itself, it is generally regarded as an easy installation; the package comes with all the tools required to make the fitting process quick and simple.
However, there are some issues regarding the design. First of all, there are several complaints regarding the fit for various bulb types. Namely, several buyers had some trouble getting a simple “plug-and-play” fit out of their 9005 bulb. Ranging from improper angle to a non-standard fitting mechanism, the 9005 model seemed to be the most problematic for users. In some cases, the 9005 bulb angle was terribly off and needed readjusting (not the easiest process since the bulbs run at about 200 degrees Celsius).
Let’s Talk About Brightness
While a hefty portion of customers described these lights as the brightest affordable LEDs on the market, a few weren’t so magnanimous. For example, several buyers were convinced the bulbs were not 6,000 lm each, but rather slightly lower. Some others had defective products altogether, and had to return their lights when they didn’t even compare with their stock halogen bulbs. Some others ran into unfortunate trouble due to the inadequacy of their bulbs in the form of inspections.
Other issues with these bulbs are scattered but fairly pivotal in customer experiences. One issue (already mentioned earlier) is just how often buyers are unsatisfied with the fitting of the bulbs, whether it’s at a wrong angle or impossible to install. In some other cases, the bulbs didn’t last more than a year (in some cases, just half a year). Some others were unhappy with the beam pattern, and many buyers even got a defective product in the box. Some of these issues could be due to incompatibility with factory reflectors, but the majority of them are legitimate concerns. As the icing on the cake, many buyers did not get their warranty honored or outright got poor customer service.
| • Very bright|
• Easy fit if compatible
• Heatsink doesn’t interfere
| • Warranty issues|
• Beam issues
• Installation often hard or not possible
• Some noise complaints
Middle of the Road
The JDM ASTAR 10,000lm model is meant for the more common H8, H9, and H11 bulbs. They are marketed as “all-in-one” solutions, and are just below premium in most specifications. The intensity, sturdiness, and price reflect a product that is a mid-range choice.
On the positive side, these bulbs are very bright and have a good range, coupled with a satisfying beam. Otherwise, buyers are satisfied with the beam; it has very little shadows and dark spots, and illuminates a vast stretch of road ahead. The limited glare is also a big plus; they don’t bother anyone on the road unduly.
At least, all of the above is true for most of customer experiences. There are several issues that more unsatisfied buyers describe. In some unfortunate cases, there are some problems with the beam itself. Some describe dark spots and shadows in the output. Others note that the lights are at most 7,000 lm, and don’t differ much in intensity to competitors. Others yet describe their headlights being dimmer than even factory lights, unable to illuminate a satisfactory length of the road. All in all, initial reactions are typically very positive. However, many buyers get issues later on, be it dimming of the lights or the development of dark patches in the beam.
As with some other items in this list, installation often isn’t as simple as plug and play. For this item, many drivers found it didn’t fit their modules. Some buyers even had odd experiences with the lights; cases of the engine light turning on when the lights are installed and the bulbs instantly lighting up when plugged in are described. Granted, some of the problems in installation are on the user side, but there are several products in this list that are much easier to set up.
To add to this, there are several misleading things in the product description regarding installation. Some cars are simply a nightmare to install these headlights for, due to the thick nature of the connector design. Another complaint in the same vein has to do with drivers (e.g. CANbus); the manufacturer states there are no drivers required. However, many buyers had to end up installing them to combat the flickering that is common with long-term use.
| • Very bright|
• Good beam distance and pattern
| • Beam issues|
• Flickering and/or dark spots over time
• Installation could be a hassle
Despite the mouthful of a description, the TECHMAX Mini H11 LED lights are a very solid choice. The comparatively low price point makes this an option for anyone with the common H8, H9, and H11 lamps. The beam, installation, and everything in between is, for the most part, very satisfying.
No Hassle, All-in-One
Perhaps the most encouraging thing about this product is the fact that it comes CANBus ready. It is largely plug-and-play, but the manufacturer does concede that some vehicles might be more difficult to install these lights in. Despite the low price, it has fairly high functionality. Many buyers note being pleasantly surprised by the brightness and illumination distance of these lights.
Even when issues arose, they could typically be fixed with a little elbow grease. One driver had the issue of a poor fitment, wherein the LED beam was oriented slightly to the left. To combat this, they simply adjusted the screws holding the bulbs and were left to enjoy a high-class headlight. Quite commonly, buyers noted that the output was twice as bright as the stock halogen lights they replaced; to be fair, this isn’t much of a claim, as OEM lights typically go up to 3000lm.
However, there were some few issues which drivers faced. The ones were mostly related to installation; lots users could not easily install the bulb in their headlights, as the connector clip is not a universal fit. In a similar vein, many buyers couldn’t keep the bulb in place, resulting in unwanted angles or frequent disconnection. Overall, this is a problem many LED conversion kits face, but it could make or break user experience.
Similarly, flickering was one of the main issues with this model. Whether it was after initial installation or long-term use, many users began to notice flickering slowly plaguing their lights. In some cases, radio interference would also cause unwanted dimming and flickering. And, as noted before, the beam might be tilted to one side upon first installation, and many users could not rotate the bulbs to fix this.
| • Very bright|
• Good beam distance and pattern
• Easy installation (including CANBus)
| • Flickering a common issue|
• Unwanted beam issues with some cars
• Installation issues with some models
Conclusion — Buyer’s Guide
Depending on the type of bulb you’re looking to replace your OEM lights with, you might’ve found a suitable alternative in this list. Depending on what you’re looking for (be it intensity or easy installation), these automotive LED lights are fairly diverse.
Several car headlight bulbs on our list are very affordable and won’t break the bank for decent lighting. These choices are the Sealight S1 Series, the Akarui 7,000lm model, TECHMAX, and BEAMTECH. Of these choices, there are few things separating them. TECHMAX and BEAMTECH have the highest lumens outputs at 10,000, so if you’re looking for the brightest bulbs and clearest beam, this might be the choice for you. However, both of these models suffer from possible installation caveats and issues with radio interference. However, the TECHMAX model comes pre-installed with CANBus, unlike the BEAMTECH product. Either way, these are both solid choices and won’t cost you too much.
The two others, dimmer lights are the S1 series Sealight model and Akarui’s second product on the list. To be frank, they are both solid choices, but suffer some issues. Thankfully, they have great customer service and a decent warranty, to boot. If you live in a rural area or regularly get poor weather, however, these lights might not be bright enough for your needs. Regardless, all of these affordable alternatives are great choices, with Techmax perhaps edging out the competition ever-so-slightly.
The Brightest and Priciest Options
If you don’t mind breaking the bank for quality lights, there are two choices that are on the upper end of the scale, both in price and output. The Upgraded S3 Series model from Sealight is solid, and is a very modern and intricately-designed to provide the best beam pattern on the market. The brightness of the bulbs speak for themselves; customers got what they expected on that end. They are also easy to install and even come with a 3-year warranty (and a guaranteed 50,000 hour lifetime). However, there are some issues regarding H13 bulb installation.
On the other hand, the Hikari Ultra LED bulbs have the same intensity and a similar price point. However, the brightness and beam pattern is more questionable, with many complaints regarding noise and scattered beams casting doubt. In addition, installation was oftentimes too difficult (sometimes impossible) for buyers, and the warranty seemed to be difficult to claim. However, the negatives aside, these lights are a powerful competitor to the S3 series. If anything, the lack of market lifetime of the S3 Series products might mean it’s only short-term satisfaction that we see.
To conclude, if you want the absolute brightest lights and are willing to work during installation, both the S3 Series product and Hikari lights are solid choices. Both have their share of issues and minor caveats, but nothing that isn’t common with most LED headlight brands.
If none of the above satisfied you, there are two remaining choices on our list; the JDM Astar model is one of the mid-tier choices, coming in at a reasonable price. It boasts a powerful beam and very good illumination pattern and distance, but it has a fair amount of baggage. In rare cases, users would have issues straight from the installation, ranging from dimming to flickering. The longevity of these lights is fairly questionable, and installation might be a problem for certain bulb types. Otherwise, these are one of the most powerful beams on the market, despite coming in at 10,000lm.
Finally, the Akarui 9,600lm lights are perhaps the most promising of them all. It boasts a smart heat sink, easy enough installation, and excellent customer service. The fan is very efficient and is generally quieter than some of the competitors. While many customers complained that the fan’s lifetime is shorter than the bulbs themselves, it’s not an uncommon theme with LEDs as a whole. Complaints of flickering are up in the air, however, which is something that might be expected from a more affordable product. However, for its price and output, it ranks as a very solid overall choice.
To review, LED headlights come in all shapes and sizes—more figuratively than literally. Beam intensity, “heat” of the color, and wattage are some of the technical specifications to consider. Apart from that, there’s installation difficulty, longevity, cooling mechanism, noise levels, possible radio interference, and many other factors to consider.
While it is a good rule of thumb to avoid LED headlights on the cheaper end of the spectrum, some of the models on this list seem to disprove that. The cheaper options are respectable competitors to the more expensive lights on our list, but find common issues in installation and longevity (including flickering and dimming).
So, familiarize yourself with the regulations, find which products might suit your needs and your vehicle, and the rest is up to personal preference. Whichever LED lights you might end up with, they’re sure to be brighter than stock halogen bulbs and, with any luck, will last you several years. If not, there’s always the warranty to turn back to—of course, some are easier to claim than others.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know what model bulbs my car takes?
A: You can find your headlight bulb model in your Vehicle Owner’s Manual. Typically, if your dim and bright lights are in the same globe, it’s probably an H4. However, it’s important to make sure you know exactly what type your car supports.
Q: Do I need professional help in installation?
A: When a product is described as “plug-and-play”, it means you can (usually) install them quickly with no modifications. If not, you might have to do a little work to get them to fit properly. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to get a qualified worker to install them.
Q: What is the lifetime of LED bulbs?
A: LED lights can typically last you anywhere between 20,000 and 50,000 hours. In comparison, xenon bulbs can last up to 10,000 hours and HID and halogen lights up to 2,000. However, the supporting electronics might not last as long as the bulbs themselves.
Q: Is there a limit on headlight illumination range?
A: For the most part, there is only a minimum requirement for the distance your lights need to illuminate. In most states, the cutoff point is 1000ft, which is a sizeable distance on its own. If you’d like to have far-reaching lights, there is legally nothing stopping you (technically). However, since laws vary from country to country, so it’s important to make sure you’re not breaching any regulations. The most important thing to remember is not dazzling oncoming drivers and pedestrians.
Q: Do LED lights work with a dimmer?
A: Newer LED lights often come with an integrated dimmer or compatibility with traditional dimmers. However, this isn’t as common as with halogen bulbs, which can work with pretty much any dimmer available. In addition, LEDs dim differently to traditional lights; while incandescent bulbs emit a “warmer” light to imitate dimness, LEDs lower their lumens output.