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LED Indicator Bulbs Have Arrived

29.08.13

It took us some time to analyze and test LED indicator (turn signal) light bulbs on the market before we added the first ones to LEDchoice.eu stock. What we wanted to do was to offer well-performing LED indicator bulbs - as we do with other LED bulb categories. Our key criterion: any LED bulb to be included in our catalog has to have the main performance parameters - brightness and light angle - at least not worse than incandescent bulb of the same type. We have seen too many under-performing LED car bulbs on the market, and we are not going to add more. This also is a safety issue - indicator light that is difficult to notice is a danger!

Must Be Amber...

We know customers have been looking for good indicator LED bulbs. In addition to having right light output and beam angle (360 degrees to properly illuminate the housing reflector), indicator bulbs must have yellow/amber light colour. It is true, some incandescent indicator bulbs are white/clear when used behind amber lens. But this does not work for LED. Because of the specifics of LED technology, white LED does not look good when used behind amber (or red) lens. See more about that in our earlier article about choosing LED light colour. But good quality yellow/amber LED indicator bulb can be used behind any lens and will produce nice saturated amber light. Even in red indicator assembly - this feature is sought after by our customers involved in adapting US cars for driving in Europe.

...But Not Bright Enough?

This combination - 360° beam angle, sufficient brightness, and yellow/amber colour - has proven to be difficult to achieve in LED indicator bulbs. Most common types of LED chips, like SMD 5050, are not bright enough in yellow version. Standard brightness of yellow/amber indicator bulbs is about half of the brightness of the white ones. For example, white P21W break light/indicator filament bulb delivers 460 lm, while similar yellow PY21W indicator filament bulb delivers 280 lm. Compare with red PR21W break light filament bulb that delivers only 110 lm. At the same time typical yellow/amber (also red) SMD 5050 chip will deliver about one quarter of the lumens provided by white SMD 5050. This is the reason why it has proven to be much easier to produce well performing and affordable red LED car bulbs than yellow/amber ones.

LED Turn Indicator Bulbs in Stock

LED Car Indicator Bulb COB 7.5W Yellow/AmberLED Car Indicator Bulb High-power 60W with LensFinally we sourced the first 2 types of yellow/amber LED indicator bulbs that can effectively replace typical 21W filament indicator bulbs (P21W, PY21W, W21W, WY21W). They are of COB 7.5W (5 x 1.5W LED) and high-power 60W (12 x 5W LED) spotlight LED chip designs. COB 7.5W bulbs deliver about 250 lm in yellow version, and high-power 60W bulbs as much as 400 lm. COB 7.5W yellow bulbs can be used in typical one-to-one replacement, when the goal is to replace filament bulb with LED of similar brightness and at good price level. If the aim is to increase indicator brightness, or in cases when yellow LED car bulb has to perform well behind a red lens, high-power 60W LED indicator bulb is the way to go. In addition to high brightness of LED chips it has a convex lens at the end with 4 LED chips packed behind it. It provides powerful 90° spotlight effect at the end of the bulb (typically straight in front or behind the vehicle) for improved indicator conspicuity.

Solving LED Upgrade Issues

There are further two issues that complicate LED indicator bulb upgrade. One is bulb error warning in some cars - this is a common issue for any car LED upgrade. Read more in our article about CAN-bus bulbs and eliminating bulb error warnings. Another issue specific to indicator bulbs is hyperflashing. It is caused be the same reason as bulb errors - low power consumption of LED bulbs. Depending on which of these phenomena is observed, we suggest the following strategy to fight them:

  • If only hyperflashing is observed the best solution is to upgrade the flasher unit with LED flasher. Electronic LED flasher will work well with both LED and filament indicator bulbs and will allow energy conservation provided by LED technology.
  • If bulb error warning is observed, with or without hyperflashing, flasher upgrade might not help. To eliminate the side effects error-canceling load resistors are recommended. Load resistors will solve both hyperflashing and error warning problems at the expense of LED power savings.
 

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Making LED Car Bulbs 'CAN-Bus Friendly'

24.04.13

Our vehicles have become highly computerized. Electronics and on-board computers (OBC) control an entire car, starting with the engine. Electronics also control car safety systems - you must have heard ABS, ESC, ESP, and other abbreviations used to name systems aiding in driving a vehicle. Cars have numerous alarm indicators on the MFD (multi-functional display) to provide warnings to the driver when a car subsystem fails or has an abnormal condition: starting with being low on petrol or oil, and ending with failures in one of the sophisticated electronic systems of the car. The number of various car electronic components (controllers) especially increased with the introduction of CAN (Controller Area Network) bus - a sort of in-car network for the vehicle electronic components use to communicate to each other. This is where 'CAN bus' (sometimes misspelled 'canbus') term comes from.

CAR BULB FAILURE DETECTION SYSTEMS

As electronic components became cheaper and easier to connect, some manufacturers got an idea to install bulb failure detection system in a car. It is integrated into OBC of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche, Volvo, and other modern and luxury automobiles. The car bulb failure detection system's main purpose is safety. You can imagine what might happen, if you drive without working brake lights any time, or without some signaling lights in the dark. And failure like break light bulb out is difficult to notice, unless you check on purpose and have somebody to assist you. So the bulb failure alarm system is one of the useful car safety systems. Until you try to upgrade you car bulbs to LED... Here we are coming to the technical part in order to explain why.

Car manufacturers use different electronic components to implement bulb failure detection systems. But basically all of them use the same principle. When a bulb is switched on (electric voltage is applied to it) a current will flow through the bulb. We talk about stock (incandescent) bulbs now, where light is produced by heating a tungsten filament in a glass bulb. Higher the wattage of the bulb, stronger the current, more intensive the light. If a filament is broken, no electric current flow - no light. The bulb failure detection controller measures the current flow through the bulb wires. As the bulbs differ a little, and also the current changes when the bulb ages, it is not practical to to tune the system to any specific electric current value. Nor it is reasonable to test for 'zero current', because in some cases bulbs can fail in the way that some current still flows, but the bulb does not produce light. Therefore the bulb failure systems are typically tuned to a threshold - a 'minimum required current'. If the electrical current in the bulb wires is below the threshold value, the bulb failure alarm is triggered in MFD. It is convenient to think about the threshold as a "minimum wattage" threshold, as electric power of the bulb is directly proportional to the current at any given voltage.

LED BULBS IN CARS WITH BULB ERROR DETECTION

LED and incandescent car bulbs comparedTo some extent LED bulbs work in the same way: electrical current flows through the bulb and produces light. Higher the current, more intensive the light. The difference is in the way light is produced: by LED (Light-Emitting Diode) chips. We will skip the LED physics here, as it is not essential for the topic. What is essential, it's that LED bulbs are much more efficient - they consume less electric current (or wattage) to produce the same amount of light than filament bulbs. 'Luminous efficacy' is the proper term, it is measured in lm/W - lumens (light output) per watt (electric power). To give some figures, incandescent bulb luminous efficacy is 10 - 20 lm/W, while LED bulbs can be 100 lm/W or more. This is of course one of the main reasons why LED bulbs are used - they consume 5 to 10 times less electric power to produce the same amount of light when compared to filament bulbs. But this is also the reason why we get the car bulb failure warning problem when replacing stock filament bulbs with LED car bulbs. If the perfectly working LED bulb's wattage is bellow the minimum bulb failure wattage threshold set by the car manufacturer, the bulb failure alarm will be triggered and 'bulb error' message will be displayed on MFD and/or alarm beep will be sounded.

WAYS TO SOLVE BULB ERROR WARNING PROBLEM

There are two different ways to solve the problem in principle: (1) somehow lowering threshold value in the car bulb failure detection system, or (2) artificially increasing wattage of the LED car bulb. The first option would be the best, but unfortunately, it is not practical. The threshold is set deep in the car electronics, and to our knowledge no car manufacturer provides a way to adjust it. So we have to opt for the second method. Which means sacrifice of one of the advantages of LED bulbs - some of the power savings have to be relinquished just to avoid triggering bulb failure alarm. This is done by installing additional load resistors that increase LED car bulb current flow (and thus wattage). The resistors convert extra electric current to heat - there is no impact to the light output of the bulb. In effect, overall luminous efficacy of the bulb is decreased to a level closer to incandescent bulb's, so that bulb failure detection system can be 'cheated' to detect 'working incandescent bulb'. Again, there are two ways to install additional load resistors to make LED bulb error-free. They might be installed inside the LED car bulb (such bulbs are usually called 'error-free' or 'CAN-bus' bulbs), or externally by splicing to bulb wires.

ERROR-FREE CAN-BUS LED BULBS WITH INTERNAL LOAD RESISTORS

We will come to the external ones in a moment, let's look at the issues with CAN-bus bulbs with internal load resistors first. The main advantage of CAN-bus bulbs is that they are easier to install. You just need to replace a bulb, no DIY modification is required. The problem is that internal resistors do not always solve the bulb error warning issue - in reality CAN-bus bulbs are not 100% error-free. Trouble happens in the case when a car has threshold set higher than the CAN-bus bulb's normal operational wattage. Usually CAN-bus bulb's wattage is way below filament bulb's wattage. CAN-bus LED bulbs are designed to have wattage higher than the threshold, but not too high, because too much heat produced by internal load resistors can damage LED chips. Let's take 12 V voltage W5W (501) bulb for example - it is common in car side lights. Incandescent W5W wattage is 5 W - as the name implies. Regular LED W5W (non-CAN-bus) bulb wattage is 0.7 W. It will trigger car bulb failure alarm on most cars with bulb failure detection system. Typical CAN-bus LED W5W bulb wattage is 2 W. It will not trigger car bulb failure alarm on most cars with failure detection system. Thus most cars must have their side light bulb failure detection threshold set somewhere in between 0.7 - 2 W. But not all of them - apparently some have it set in the range 2 - 5 W. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell what exact threshold is set on a car. Car companies of course have that information in their engineering departments, however they do not publish it. We might eventually collect some data from testing and via feedback of our customers, but it will never be full, as thresholds might change from model to model, by car year, by variant, or by bulb application.

EXTERNAL LOAD RESISTORS – ERROR CANCELERS

External load resistor connection to LED bulb electrical circuit diagramExternal load resistors (error warning cancelers) are the solution when CAN-bus bulbs do not help. They are more tricky to install (they have to be connected in parallel to the LED car bulb in between two wires, see the electrical circuit diagram on the right), they waste more power by converting it to heat (though not more than incandescent bulb!), but they can solve the LED bulb error warning problem in 100% of cases. To achieve that, a resistor has to be selected in the way that total electric power dissipation by LED bulb and the resistor is close to the replaced incandescent bulb wattage. Let us use the same example. Let's say we have installed CAN-bus LED W5W bulb with 2 W wattage (in a car with standard 12 V battery), but the car MFD still indicates bulb error. In such case external 39 ohm load resistor can be installed in parallel to the bulb. The external resistor will provide additional 3.7 W wattage (P = U2 / R = 12 V 2 / 39 Ω = 3.7 W) to the bulb circuit, so the total wattage detected by the car electronics will be 2 + 3.7 = 5.7 W. This will for sure solve any bulb error problem. By the way, installing such resistor with regular LED W5W (non-CAN-bus) bulb will most likely solve the problem as well, as the total wattage will be 0.7 + 3.7 = 4.4 W - not much lower than incandescent bulb at 5 W.

WARNING! External load resistors convert electric power into heat. They will get very hot. Install them away from any plastic or other inflammable material to avoid fire or damage. Use screws to fix the resistors to metal body of the car for better heat dissipation.

 

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ECE Category – BS Ref Cross-Reference

04.04.13

Back in 1958 several European countries, members of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), agreed to create international automotive standards and established World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, as a working party under UNECE. Since then the Forum has been developing and maintaining international-consensus 'UN Regulations' (also called 'UNECE Regulations' or 'ECE Regulations'). Today about 60 countries are parties to the agreement, including all the European Union nations, and many other European and non-European countries.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) LogoRegulation No 37 covers motor vehicle filament lamps. It defines 'categories' "to describe different basic design of standardised filament lamps. Each category has a specific designation, as for example: 'H4', 'P21W', 'T4W'". The standard ECE Category designation is used as the main bulb identifier on our website.

So there is an international standard of automotive light bulbs. But not every country is signed to the 1958 agreement. The US is the most notable - United States maintain their own automotive bulb standards. While the UK signed the agreement in 1963, separate vehicle light bulb type identification system is still in use in the United Kingdom. The bulb types have been coded in numbers (with an occasional letter attached) and referred to as BS Ref No (British Standards reference number).

The British Standards Institution (BSI) LogoWe maintain UK bulb reference numbers of our products together with other common identification numbers (e.g. US trade #) in the 'Cross Reference' parameter. However we realized that sometimes there is a need to look up entire list of ECE and British bulb type IDs with references between them. After fruitless search for a simple cross-reference table on the Internet, we compiled it ourselves from various sources (mostly bulb catalogs). As a lot of our customers are from the UK, we decided to share it here for everybody interested. Below are 2 tables, one is sorted alphabetically by ECE Category designation, the other by BS Ref No (12V) in ascending order. Your remarks are welcome in the Facebook comments box at the bottom of the article.

Please note:

  1. While BS Ref numbers are separate for each bulb type and voltage, ECE Category is the same for all the voltages (6V - motorcycles, 12V - cars, 24V - trucks and buses). When identifying the bulb with ECE Category voltage has to be specified;
  2. Bulb wattage is part of the ECE Category designation;
  3. Letter 'Y' in the ECE Category designation and letter 'A' in the BS Ref No means 'Yellow' / 'Amber' – a coloured bulb for turn indicator signal;
  4. Standard base (cap) designation in accordance with IEC Publication 60061 is provided in the rightmost column. ECE Regulation No 37 allows usage of other caps 'for special purposes' in some categories. BS Ref numbers for the 'special purpose' bulbs are not included in the tables below.
  5. The list includes only commonly used bulbs for signalling lights. Headlight bulbs, fog light bulbs such as H4, H7, HB4 etc. (prefocus bubs) are not included in the tables.

ECE CATEGORY DESIGNATION ──► BS REFERENCE NUMBER

ECE Category Designation

BS Ref No 
12V

BS Ref No 
24V

BS Ref No 
6V

Base (Cap)

C21W

273

275

 

SV8.5

C5W

239

242

1056

SV8.5

H21W

436

435

 

BAY9s

H6W

434

 

 

BAX9s

P21/4W

566

567

 

BAZ15d

P21/5W

380

294

384

BAY15d

P21W

382

241

317

BA15s

P27/7W

180

 

 

W2.5x16q

P27W

182

 

 

W2.5x16d

PY21W

581

588

 

BAU15s

PY27/7W

180A

 

 

W2.5x16q

R10W

245

246

244

BA15s

R5W

207

149

205

BA15s

T4W

233

249

293

BA9s

W16W

955

 

 

W2.1x9.5d

W21/5W

580

 

 

W3x16q

W21W

582

 

 

W3x16d

W3W

504

505

500

W2.1x9.5d

W5W

501

507

 

W2.1x9.5d

WY21W

582A, 585

 

 

W3x16d

WY5W

501A

 

 

W2.1x9.5d

BS REFERENCE NUMBER ──► ECE CATEGORY DESIGNATION

BS Ref No 
12V

BS Ref No 
24V

BS Ref No 
6V

ECE Category Designation

Base (Cap)

180

 

 

P27/7W

W2.5x16q

182

 

 

P27W

W2.5x16d

207

149

205

R5W

BA15s

233

249

293

T4W

BA9s

239

242

1056

C5W

SV8.5

245

246

244

R10W

BA15s

273

275

 

C21W

SV8.5

380

294

384

P21/5W

BAY15d

382

241

317

P21W

BA15s

434

 

 

H6W

BAX9s

436

435

 

H21W

BAY9s

501

507

 

W5W

W2.1x9.5d

504

505

500

W3W

W2.1x9.5d

566

567

 

P21/4W

BAZ15d

580

 

 

W21/5W

W3x16q

581

588

 

PY21W

BAU15s

582

 

 

W21W

W3x16d

955

 

 

W16W

W2.1x9.5d

180A

 

 

PY27/7W

W2.5x16q

501A

 

 

WY5W

W2.1x9.5d

582A, 585

 

 

WY21W

W3x16d

 

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A Cooler Shade of White

10.02.13

How cool is 'cool white'? What LED kelvin value do I need to match my HID xenon headlights? Why should I ever buy 'warm white' LEDs for a car? There is a lot of buzz and confusion about LED colour temperatures (measured in kelvins, or K). It is understandable, as the topic is so elusive – we are talking about shades of white, with tints of red, yellow, blue or purple. It is not only that everybody has personal preferences. Also, every person also has personal perception of colour and personal notion of the terms used to describe it.

Thus we are in no illusion that by a single blog post we can put everything straight. Our aim here is just to explain some basics and standard terms that we can use as points of reference. We use them in our colour temperature parameters, LED light colour descriptions, and our recommendations for use of LED in cars. Eventually, we would like to make it easier for you to choose white colour variation when selecting LED auto lights.

Colour Temperature Scale in Kelvin. Cool & warm white, daylight, HID xenon, halogen, incandescent, HPS, LED CCTLets start with white light colour temperature scale – the chart on the left. Please note that the actual colour you see depends on your screen quality and settings, ambient light, and many other factors. The colours in the scale might not match the actual colours you perceive, but relative difference of tint between different temperatures should be close enough to reality.

On  the right side of the scale you can see samples of natural and artificial light, with colour temperatures. These temperatures are merely characteristic, considerable variation may be present. The yellowish colours in the lower part of the scale are called 'warm' light colours, the bluish colours in the upper part are called 'cool' colours.

What is perceived neutral, 'pure white', depends on the ambient light. Human vision accommodates to surrounding light. In bright daylight colours in the proximity of 6000K light look 'pure white', while in night time 4000K light looks neutral. And vice versa, 4000K looks little yellowish in bright daylight, and 6000K looks bluish in night time. We, as well as many other light specialists, consider 5000K to be the neutral middle point, in between bluish and yellowish. Thus white light tints above 5000K are 'cool white', and white light with colour temperature below 5000K is 'warm white'.

LED technology allows to design a light source of virtually any colour temperature. But keeping products of all the different colour temperatures in stock is not practical for vendors, and, really, is not required by consumers. Typically, customers look for either warm or cool light when choosing LED car lights. Some look for colours to match their existing OEM or aftermarket HID xenon, or halogen bulbs. Having in mind most common requirements of our customers we have developed our

STANDARD AUTO LED LIGHT COLOUR TEMPERATURE RANGE

Name Mean Colour
Temperature
Temperature Range Description, Usage
Warm White 3000K 2700K–3200K Incandescent, halogen bulb colour. Used to match stock bulb colour, to creat cosy lighting in the car interior.
Natural White 4300K 4000K–4500K OEM HID xenon light colour, almost pure white with slight yellowish-reddish tint. Used to match factory-installed HID xenon headlights.
Pure White 5000K 4500K–5500K Neutral, no yellowish nor bluish tint. Used to match 5000K HID or when most neutral white is desired.
Daylight White 6000K 5500K–6500K Light bluish tint in night time. Used to match aftermarket 6000K HID xenon headlights, or when slightly cool shade of white is desired.
Cool White 8000K 8000K 7000K–9000K Intensive bluish tint. Used to match 8000K HID xenon or when very cool, bluish white light is needed.
Cool White 10000K 10000K 9000K–11000K Extremely intensive bluish tint. Used to match 10000K HID xenon or when extremely cool white light is desired.
 

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Cash Back for Pictures!

26.01.13

Buy LED auto bulbs on our website, install them in your car, take pictures, email them to us, and we will refund the price you paid!

The pictures shall be of one or more of the following setups:

  • your car exterior/interior, with our LED bulbs installed, lights on
  • close-up of the light assembly with the LED bulb installed, lights on
  • compare old and new - e.g. old filament bulb in the left light housing, LED bulb in the right light housing, lights on

TO PARTICIPATE:

  1. select and buy LED auto bulbs at our site LEDchoice.eu
  2. at the last step of the checkout quote "CASH BACK FOR PICTURES" in the notes field provided
  3. when you receive the delivery, install LED bulbs in your car and take pictures
  4. number of the pictures taken should be not less then the number of bulbs bought
  5. email the pictures to us
  6. we will refund the price paid for the bulbs to you!

And here is the fine print:

  • maximum amount refunded per customer: 20 EUR
  • delivery cost will not be refunded
  • the car in the pictures should be clean, picture quality should be reasonable
  • picture size minimum 800x600 pixels
  • by participating in the promotion you allow us to use your pictures (your personal data will not be published, car number plate will be covered if visible)
  • LED auto bulbs are subject to stock availability
  • the promotion ends 1 May 2013
 

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Choosing LED Bulb Colour

21.12.12

There are only a few colors used in automotive lighting. White for headlights, sidelights, front fog lights, reversing lights. Red for tail, brake and rear fog lights. Yellow/amber for turning signals. And the stock filament bulbs come in these colors too. So what is the issue?

Well, car manufacturers have various ideas about the design of the car lamps and the colour of the stock bulb used. You might find amber bulb behind clear white glass in your turn light. It is common to use white stock bulbs behind amber cover in turn/indicator lamps, and behind red plastic in the tail or break lamp assembly. Can we just make it simple – replace the stock bulb with the aftermarket LED bulb of the same light colour? Yes and no. While in some cases it can be done, in some other cases it is not recommended. Below we will try to explain why in a simple way, and to provide a rule of  thumb.

LED LIGHT VS. INCANDESCENT LAMP LIGHT

Incandescent lamp emits light because its filament is very hot, in a similar way the sun or candle emits light. Such light by its nature is a mix of light of all possible colours, and appears more or less white. Color filament bulbs are produced by applying colour coating. The coating filters the light, so that only desired colour 'escapes' the bulb.

LED Car Bulb - Cool WhiteLED Car Bulb - Warm WhiteLED bulbs produce light in entirely different way. Light is generated in light-emitting diodes (LEDs). It is a different physical process than incandescent light (we are not going to explain physics here - if you are interested you can learn more on Wikipedia). LEDs generate monochromatic (red, yellow) light in a very efficient way. Special technology is used to manufacture white LEDs. Even though they appear white, the mix of light of different colours is not as uniform in LEDs as in filament lamps. Therefore white LED may loose a lot of brightness if used with colour filter. Also, LED bulbs are made of materials that are often not as heat resistant as filament bulbs. E.g. using white LED bulb in red lamp housing powerful enough to produce enough red light might cause the LED bulb to fail due to overheating.

Because non-white LED light is monochromatic (single-colour), the colour looks more saturated than filtered filament bulb light. For example, red LED bulb in red lamp housing will often look better, than incandescent bulb or white LED bulb in the same assembly.

RULE OF THUMB

We recommend the following rule when choosing light colour of the aftermarket LED auto bulb:

Always pick the colour of the intended light, irrespective of the lamp housing colour, and irrespective of the stock bulb colour.

LED Car Bulb - RedLED Car Bulb - Amber / YellowThis means, that if you need tail, break light, or rear fog light bulb – choose red replacement LED bulb. If you need turn light, side indicator bulb – use yellow (amber) LED bulb. In all other cases white LED bulbs are appropriate. Warm or cool white is entirely up to your preference.

Visit our Home page and search by colour in the main Search box on the top, or filter results by colour in the filter on the left.

 

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LED Headlights?

09.12.12

Some customers are asking us why don't we offer LED headlight and fog light bulbs. The answer is simple: there are no REAL halogen replacement LED headlight / fog light bulbs in the market now. Technology is not here yet. True, there are custom-made LED headlamps on some luxury cars, like Audi R8.

The problem is that some websites do offer LED bulbs with H1, H3, H4, H7 base, like these:

LED Headlights? - LED car bulbs marketed as LED headlights or LED foglights

Sometimes these LED bulbs are presented as "headlight bulbs", sometimes as "foglight bulbs", or both. Stay away from these products! They are not nearly as bright as the halogen bulbs of the same type. These bulbs deliver 100-300 lumen light output at best, while standard halogen headlights deliver 1000-1500 lumen. Also, because of the LED bulb shape, the light is not correctly focused in the lamp assembly. In some cases these products might be used as DRL (daytime running lights) bulbs, but not as headlight or foglight bulbs.

The LED technology is evolving very fast, and the day when decent LED headlight (and foglight) upgrade bulbs are on the market may be not so far away. We are monitoring the LED car light market, and will offer LED headlight bulbs as soon as we can. But today your best choice for halogen headlight upgrade is HID (xenon) conversion. There are number of specialist sites offering halogen-to-HID conversion kits. And for all the other LED car bulbs (sidelight, tail, number plate etc.) visit LEDchoice.eu!