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Should You Replace Your Stock Xenon HID Lights With LED?

LED Lighting is extremely popular right now at Dynamic Appearance. LED offers tons of benefits over HID including a longer lifespan, instant light output, crisp clean white color temp, and a much simpler installation. However, you may be shocked to learn that LED lights are not always the best option. Let's take a look at replacing original HID setups with LED bulbs thanks to a video from Headlight Revolution which we are proud to be part of their dealer network.

There's a whole bunch of vehicles on the road today that came off the dealership lot with HID projector headlights like this one. Now, this is a Nissan, 350Z headlight, but the same information can be applied to a Chevy Silverado with HID headlights, a GMC Sierra, a Ford F-150, a new Chevy Camaro. Anything that came off the lot with factory Xenon or HID headlights, uses something called a D series bulb. A D1, a D2, a D3, a D4. Originally we just had the D1 and the D2, but nowadays we use D3 and D4. The new bulbs kind of look the same, but today they're produced without any mercury, making them more environmentally friendly. You can tell the difference because they've got a green plastic insert instead of black. Functionally, that's the biggest difference. In terms of installing LED bulbs, you could find a D1 LED to work with D1S or D3S or a D2 LED to work with D2S or D4S.

If you have a D1 or D3 bulb, you can get an LED bulb to match. If you have a D2 or D4 bulb, you can get an LED bulb to match for the purpose of this video, we're just going to call them all D series bulbs. Because if you look at them up close, the collars where they mount on the headlight are basically the same. One of them has a big silver box on the bottom, one doesn't, but as far as testing you to show output, they'll all fit in the same projector. The new LED bulbs have the same type of plastic collar to fit either application. Let's say you decided to buy the D series LED bulb replacements. You're going to get to the back of your headlight, and you're going to find a big box like this, and hiding in there is a D series bulb. Once you take that D series bulb out, you're going to find that it's actually pretty easy to put the new LED bulb in its place.

The problem becomes, how do you install it? You see the original HID cable runs through the headlight and down to a built-in ballast on the backside of the headlight. This is the power that runs your headlight bulb. So you've got the bulb on the inside, the power on the outside, a cable that runs through, and a ballast mounted to the headlight. There's nothing plug and play about this type of project. If you have the D1 or D3 type bulbs, you're going to have something that looks like this. The bulkhead coming from the vehicle gives power to your ballast, and the ballast has a cable that connects to your light bulb. So you end up with something like this. Do you have to replace all of this with this? If you have a D2 or a D4 HID bulb, you get a ballast like this, where the bulb connects inside like so, and the ballast has a wire harness coming off of it to power everything.

If you have a D2 or D4 you need a product like this to replace this. I went out and bought seven different D1 and D2 style LED headlight bulbs off the internet. None of them are truly plug and play. You're going to have to figure out what to do with that incoming power wire, you're going to have to figure out what to do with your old balance, you're going to have to figure out what to do with the old igniter cable. Nothing is a true kit. You're going to have to figure something out. You're going to have to cut stuff up. If you're thinking about LED bulbs on your HID system because something burnt out, got a bad ball, or you got a bad ballast, you can buy new bulbs. You can buy new ballasts.

But these LED headlight bulbs aren't a great option. Enough of my soapbox, let me prove to you the real reason why: the light output sucks. Before you accuse me of just testing one bulb and saying they all suck. Look, we've got a whole bunch of different types. Some are two-sided with this kind of LED, some are an angled type. We've got a Phillips bulb here. We've got one-sided. We've got a Morimoto 2Stroke. We've got this big fat chip on board type LED, and we got another one with two sides. So we really have pretty much one of everything that's available. So these results in terms of the bulb type are pretty conclusive. So for this test, here's the benchmark, an aftermarket Morimoto D2S Projector, a Phillips HID bulb, and a regular old 35 watt ballast. As you can see, we've got that crisp cutoff line with a ton of width that spreads from left to right, a very defined hot spot, and great color.

For reference sake, this thing creates 2,240 maximum lux in terms of the total brightness, which we'll use as the benchmark for this test. Let's see what the different LED bulbs look like in comparison to this. The first bulb in our test barely even registers on the brightness meter. Obviously, this is not a usable pattern and it's not enough light to use for driving. The big problem with this one is that the chips are completely out of alignment, and there's no way to align them. As you can see, playing around with the orientation of the bulb, trying to get it to line up in a way that makes a meaningful beam pattern on this one is pretty much impossible. Another fail in the LED D series bulb category. Well, color me surprised. I didn't think any of them would look even remotely this good. So far, this is the best one we've tested, at 1010 maximum lux when properly seated, which is half as bright as the HID. Here, we have the Morimoto 2Stroke 2.0 D2S LED bulb.

It fits on the projector. It lines up properly. And this is the beam pattern. Coming in at 850 maximum lux, it's less than half as bright as the original HID and the beam pattern leaves something to be desired. Here's another one that doesn't quite create the right kind of beam pattern. It barely registers on the brightness scale, and it's just not a good fit. Although this model is actually pretty bright coming in again at 1050 lux, which is a little bit under half the brightness of the original HID. Obviously, this beam pattern isn't usable. Going to show that there's really no reason to choose an LED bulb in your OEM HID headlight.

Just like I thought if you've got an HID headlight stick with HIDs. You got a burnt-out bulb, replace the bulb. You've got a dead ballast, let's replace the ballast. If you need any help figuring out what components you need to make your factory HID headlight work its best, hit us up. We'd love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments if you were surprised by any of these results and if there's anything else you want to see us test, we'd love to hear.

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