You may well have noticed some makes of new car and motorcycle, such as BMW and Audi, using LED lights for the tail, brake and indicators. With the requirement for all European to have daylight running lights, LED bulbs are also being commonly used at the front as well.
The advantages of LED bulbs are clear. They produce a very ‘clean’ white light, are more energy efficient, are resistant to vibrations and have an expected life that can often exceed that of the vehicle.
For older cars or motorcycles, it is now possible to replace the standards filament bulbs with LED to not only give a distinctive look, but to get all the advantages of LED lights. Replacement bulbs are available for most applications.
LED bulbs are not yet available for replacing standard headlights – they are not quite bright enough. However, vehicles with factory fitted daylight running lights can often upgrade these bulbs to LED separately from the main or dipped beam. The long life of LED bulbs is great for running lights, as they tend to be on all the time.
LED bulbs are available for front Fog Lamp use, but should be considered as ‘show use’ only. They are not yet bright enough to give decent light output, but front fog lamps are not required for an MOT.
Tail and Brake
Upgraded LED light bulbs are available for tail and brake applications, in both red and white light. Given the safety implication of a failed brake light, these are a useful upgrade.
Indicator and Side Repeaters
Indicators and side repeaters can also be enhanced with LED lighting. The bulbs are available in both white and amber, depending on the indicator lens colour. Directional and 360 degree LEDs give flexibility for different types of fittings and reflectors
Problems with LED bulbs
There are three main problems associated with fitting upgraded LED bulbs to cars and motorcycles
- CanBus or Bulb Out Warnings
- Indicators flashing too fast
- Bulbs not fitting
For the first two the problem is caused by one of the benefits: the low power drain of the bulbs.
In both older Bulb Out systems (common for Volvo brake lights), and modern CanBus systems (used in older BMW’s and almost many new vehicles), the lower power drain sometimes fools the system into thinking the upgraded bulb is not working. Adding a resistor in lie with the bulb wiring increases the bulb resistance, allowing the system to work properly. Just coming on to the market now are bulbs with built in resistors, avoiding the need to add any in line with the wiring
Indicators in cars of almost all ages will flash faster when a bulb has failed. For the same reason, and aftermarket LED upgrade can sometimes cause a false warning. In this case you have the option of adding an in-line resistor, or replacing the indicator relay/flasher unit with one designed for the lower power drain.
LED replacements are designed with the same base fitting as regular filament bulbs, but due to the nature of the technology, the actual body will often be smaller or larger. Before you purchase, check that the height and width will fit inside the lens body. While tail and brake is normally not a problem, some vehicles have very limited space in sidelights and indicator housings.
If you are considering upgrading your car or motorcycle with LED bulbs, AutobulbsDirect.co.uk has a full range available in most common fitting types, as well as resistor kits, replacement flasher units and accessories.