LED lights are rapidly replacing halogen and incandescent light bulbs and for good reasons. Not only are they more energy efficient, but they are also brighter!
A lot brighter!
Whereas halogen bulbs have an output of 1000 lumens, LED lights can emit more than 3000 Lumens.
While it’s possible to upgrade your existing halogen headlights to brighter ones, they come with the risk of heat damage and developing black soot on your headlight housing.
Because of the low power consumption by LED lights, they emit far less heat, and the lights are also much less prone to flicking when other high energy-demanding devices like audio systems are used simultaneously.
But most importantly, they shoot a stream of extremely bright white light, which will illuminate the whole road in front of you, no matter how dark and dim it is. Or if you’d like to know what the best LED headlights to buy right now, just CLICK HERE!
Installing LED headlights isn’t rocket science and all it takes is some basic mechanical aptitude and the right gear. Which brings us to step no 1!
The first step is to learn what kind of headlights your car is equipped with. There are only two possibilities:-
a) Single Beam Headlight
This kind of headlight assembly has two separate bulbs – one for high beam and one for low beam. Each headlight assembly has two bulbs which serve two different functions.
For putting in LED lights in these types of cars, you’ll need two single beam LED conversion kits.
b) Dual Beam Headlight
Here, both functions of the high beam and low beam are packaged into one bulb. For this type of car, you need to choose a dual beam LED conversion kit.
If you don’t know what kind of headlights your car has, check your vehicle’s owner’s manual, or call up the manufacturer. Also, do some research online to ensure that the information you get is correct.
The next thing to match is the size. The replacement LED lights will go into the same socket and the same headlight housing, so they can’t be larger or smaller. The correct bulb size is absolutely vital.
Again if you have doubts, call the manufacturer.
Your LED headlight kit should have two LED bulbs (for either side), two ballasts, wiring, and terminated connectors. You’ll want to secure the ballasts with either double-sided tape or use plastic zip ties.
You need to check the alignment of your headlights, to see precisely where, on what plane, the light falls. Park about 20 feet away from your garage door or a fence and turn your headlights on.
Observe the height on the wall where the light falls and mark it with something, preferably tape. Once you put in the new LED lights, the alignment should be such that the headlights shine on the same height as right now.
Tip: Take some photos as well, so you can compare the differences later.
This is the hardest part of the process, and once you get this done, the rest of it is pretty straightforward. If you haven’t done this before, it could help to have a friend around who’s done it before, who can help you through it.
Start by popping off the hood. Then you have to find the back of the headlight bulb. There should be a wiring connector attached to it.
You need to take this wiring connector out. Get yourself a flathead screwdriver and work the clip a little and ultimately, the connector will shake free.
The headlight bulb itself should be held in by a plastic tab. The bulb is fixed into place by twisting it like a screw. You need to turn the bulb counterclockwise to release it. It should be a one-quarter turn.
However, you need to be exceptionally careful and gentle, cause you don’t want to break the headlight inside the glass housing. If you do, you’ll have to replace the whole thing.
Warning: If there is a metal base inside the headlight device which is secured by a tensioned wire, stop immediately. You can’t twist and unscrew these bulbs as the bulb is held in place by the coil.
You have to press down on one end of the wire first and unhook it. There should be a small loop there for this purpose. Once you’ve unhooked it, the headlight will slide right out.
Tip: Don’t throw away the old halogen bulbs. Keep them somewhere safe, away from heat and moisture. You might need them later on.
Phew! That was tough, but it’s all easy peasy from here on in. Putting in the new headlights works essentially in reverse of what you just did.
Here, it’s important not to touch the LED lights with your bare hands. If you get oil on the bulbs, it might cause them to burn out prematurely.
It’s best to use either clean cotton or rubber gloves, but if you don’t have anything else, use a clean rag. Put the lights in and screw them clockwise, this time around. Go slow and don’t over-twist or over tighten. It’s only about a quarter turn.
Some LED kits have ballasts which are connected to the LED lights, but others will package them separately which you need to connect.
There will be two ends on the ballast. One end is meant for the LED bulb, and the other one connects to the original wire harness of the vehicle. Don’t worry, you can’t mix them up, as the two ends are of different types.
Make sure the connectors are fully seated. If you hear a click, great job. But just give it a slight tug to see if it’s completely seated.
There, everything is in place. Now you just have to make sure they stay that way. The LED is secured in place by the screw or the metal wire, but you need to secure the ballasts yourself.
You can’t have the ballast bouncing around as it might get damaged or the wiring might get frayed. Or worse, the connectors can come out of their places and might mess the whole thing up.
You would ideally want to mount the ballasts on the inner fender. This makes it look most professional. Find yourself a flat location, and then drill a hole into it and then secure with metal screws.
If you don’t want to drill into your car, there’s another way! You can mount the ballasts with two-sided tape as we told you earlier.
If you choose to do this, you don’t need to mount them on the bender, and you can put in the back of the headlight assembly inside the hood instead. Be sure to clean and dry the area with an alcohol swab first. Make sure the tape is thick and sticky enough to hold the ballast in place.
You don’t want it jumping around inside of your hood, hitting the fan or other important car parts.
Tip: If you don’t want to drill, but you still want to install the lights on the fender itself, you can use self-tapping screws.
Now that everything is installed, it’s time to verify and see if you’ve done everything right. Turn the car on and try out the headlights. If everything is good, the lights will flare up in a bright flash immediately.
If they don’t, you probably have a loose connection somewhere. It’s time to retrace your steps and see where the loose connection might be.
Park your car exactly in front of your garage door, exactly where it was earlier when you took those photos. If you had marked the spot with tape, then that’s where your headlights should aim at.
If the alignment is right, your job is done. If it’s off, you need to rectify it. This is pretty easy and can be done with a Phillips screwdriver.
Warning: When you’re dealing with LED lights, it’s important to get the aim absolutely accurate. If the light dispersion is faulty, you can draw flashes from oncoming traffic. You may also have red and blue blinking lights behind you.
That’s it! You’re done. It’s time to take your car out on the road and show off those new headlights.
Just like the headlights, other lights in your car can be replaced with LED variants too. For example, fog lights often use the same package as headlights.
Marker lights, turn signals, brake and reverse bulbs can all be swapped for LED lights. The benefits are aplenty – improved brightness and clarity and immense longevity. You’ll never have to change your lights ever again.
So, now you know how to install LED headlights in a car. Go ahead and try it! And if you’re doubtful whether you should buy these lights online or from a store near you, read this post to find out the answer.
And if by chance you’re curious if HID lights would be a better fit, then check this comprehensive HID vs LED guide.
Roger is a mechanical engineer by day and grease monkey by night, who spends all his free time tweaking things in his car. His love for car audio equipment is only matched by his desire to help others find the best products suited to their needs.