Headlight upgrade to projector LED


My tow vehicle is a 2014 Ram. I decided last week to upgrade the headlights from halogen to LED. What drove this was envy of the headlights in my wife’s car. Easy project. Replaced both low and high beams at a cost of $70. The aim of the lights was unaffected and they’re bright as heck.

1 The optimum endstate is projector LED lights. The word “projector” is a reference to the design of the reflector, not the bulb. If you don’t already have projector headlights, look into the cost of buying them. Read some reviews because some aftermarket headlight assemblies are crap. My truck already had projector halogens so all I had to do was replace the bulbs. The Mini Cooper, however, had non-projector. A bit of research led to a shortlist of well-thought-of aftermarket projector headlight housings, and I found a set on ebay for 1/2 price, call it $140.

If you have non-projector halogen headlights, you can still put LEDs in them and get more light. Projector housings just do a better job of beaming the light out–they are a better reflector design.

2 Figure out what LED lights to get. The prices on these things are all over the map. For the Ram there were LED sets for <$30 and >$300–crazy. In the various forums folks seemed to be going for the high cost solutions but, of course, I went cheap. I did read lots of reviews on Amazon tho.

Obviously there’s a variety of different bulb socket standards so you have to figure out what fits in your housings. Also, my Ram high beam LEDs didn’t fit perfectly in my housings, so be alert, when reading thru forums, for folks saying that they had no fitment problems with a particular solution.

A light bulb is a fairly omnidirectional light source. In contrast, if you look at LED headlight bulbs you’ll see that most of them look like a flat blade with LEDs on each side. So the light would comes out 2 sides, Some LED lights have 4x LEDs mounted on an rod, square in cross section, instead of 2 on a knife blade. Light coming out all 4 sides is a lot closer to omnidirectional. It’s easy to imagine that these variables could cause problems for some reflector designs in that you’d get a light pattern that was wrong. I got the more simple knife blade design because the forums didn’t mention problems with resulting light patterns.

Some LED designs allow you to rotate the LEDs in order to overcome a problem with reflector design. The ones I bought did not rotate, but the reflectors still seem to put out solid cones of light w/o any obvious dark zones.,

The temperature of a light is a description of it’s tint. 6000k is pretty standard. 6500k has a noticeable blue tint. 5000-6000 would prob be fine, imo.

Brightness seems to vary from 8000 lumen to 15000 lumen. The most common ones are 9600-10000 lumen, which is what I got. It’s important to understand that these #'s are often marketing crap. I did note, however, that most of the most powerful lights also stated higher current draws, which makes sense. I stayed away from the most powerful lights in order to keep current draw and heat down. That said, I’m sure my old halogens pulled lots of current, god knows halogens run hot, so I wonder if these concerns were actually non-issues.

LED lights tend to be a bit taller than halogen and xenon lights. This can get you in a pickle with the back of the light housing. Chances are you can imagineer a solution tho.

LED lights need cooling. Most designs have little cooling fans in the back. This means there needs to be a bit of air flow into your housing, but you wouldn’t want the fans completely exposed to the elements because grit would probably kill the fan prematurely.

Some cars have issues making the LED lights flicker. My perception is that this is the car’s brain trying to confirm that headlights are operational. Anti-flicker modules come with the high end LEDs and are available separately for not much for those LEDs that don’t come with them. After reading posts from guys that indicated they did not have a flicker problem, I did not buy anti-flicker modules. Mine don’t seem to flicker.

3 Figure out how to remove your headlight assemblies. I had to watch a youtube video. There’s a trick to mine that I’d not have figured out on my own in a million years.

4 Put your truck 20’ from your garage door and turn your headlights on. Take a pic of the light patterns, low and high beam, against the garage door.

5 Since the truck already had projector headlights, it was just a matter of removing the headlight assemblies and installing the bulbs. The high beam LEDs gave me some trouble tho because they were too tall, preventing the back of the headlight assembly from going on. I did some imagineering involving a 1.25" hole saw drill bit to cut a hole out the back of the headlight assembly and give the LED lightbulb fans some room, then, to cover the hole, I epoxied on a juice jug 1.5" cap… Some black spray paint helped make the modified headlight assembly back-plate look less absurd.

6 Reinstall the headlight assemblies and check the light pattern on your garage door for problems.