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 TechnoWeenie Educational Series - Vehicle lighting 
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lamrith wrote:
Nice write-ups.

Can you maybe touch on turn signal lighting? You talk about brake and parking, but how about LED's for turns? The how/why people get hyper speed flashers and how to make that not happen with LED..?


Turn signal flashers come in 2 flavors. Mechanical(thermal) and electronic.

A thermal flasher uses the current going through the flasher to heat up a thin metal strip. As the strip heats up, it curls, causing the circuit to break, and allowing the strip to cool, where it straightens out and connects again, and this process repeats. LEDs draw so little current that the metal strip doesn't heat up, and thus, doesn't disconnect and reconnect, what we see as flashing.

An electronic flasher can either be dumb or smart.

A dumb flasher will flash at a set interval regardless of current draw.

A smart flasher, usually integrated into the vehicle's electronics via a lighting control module or similarly named controller.

The smart flasher usually uses resistance to determine if a bulb is out and will increase the flash rate as an indication a bulb is out. Newer 'smart' cars will even tell you which bulb is out..

You can either replace the flasher, get LEDs that have a high enough internal resistance, or use a resistor to increase current draw. I dislike the resistor method as you're shorting the circuit to ground through the resistor.

If your vehicle was made before 2000 you probably have a can flasher. After, probably electronic.

I personally prefer fastflash, but it may exceed the 120 flashes per minute allowed by state law. But, technically speaking, all LED retrofits are in violation of FMVSS, an antiquated set of rules from the 50's...Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. A standard which says you cannot modify a lamp assembly by changing the type of bulb it was designed for. Yeah. Like I said, antiquated.

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Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:36 am
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Massivedesign wrote:
I have a 2017 Tahoe Z71 that has the HID/Projector style lens, but has an H4 in it. These are the exact same lens assemblies (with halo) that the next level up LTZ has, just with a downgraded bulb. I hate my yellow lights, dim and basically worthless.

Thoughts, suggestions for a compatible setup?


If it's a true projector, nothing can beat HID in the aftermarket so far. HID are not as reliable, and have a warm up time (usually ~20 seconds to get to full brightness), but you can get a 4300K system for less than $50...possibly even a 55W kit (I haven't checked prices in awhile). A 55W kit will use the same power as your halogen bulb, but will put out a metric shit ton more light. That is, if it's a true projector housing and not a faux one.

If you have DRLs on your high beam, you're sol... But IIRC those chevies use a parking light bulb for their DRL... Which always burn out, leading to the 'chevy look'... One bulb is always out on the front....

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Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:36 am
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Very informative TW. Thank you.

I like the halogen bulbs in my 2002 Silverado.
$10-15 a pair and available at any auto parts store, pull two pins, pull out the lens, and replace the bulb in a couple minutes.

Was looking at buying a used 2006 Cadillac DTS, had a leak in one of the headlight assembly's and a burned out projector bulb.
Dealer wanted over $1,800 to replace the assembly, and the cost for a Chinese knock off part on Ebay was almost $800.
Didn't buy the car. Like cheap headlights.

Do you do vehicle weapon mounts?

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Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:46 am
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First of all thank you for the info. I went on superbrightleds.com, and for example it shows two different side marker bulbs:
194 LED Landscape Light Bulb - 5 SMD LED Tower - Miniature Wedge Retrofit - 95 Lumens, and

"Newer vehicle electrical systems may require a CAN Bus bulb for operation.
Please consult your car's owner's manual."

194 CAN Bus LED Bulb - 5 SMD LED Tower - Miniature Wedge Base which BTW is $2 cheaper per bulb. It does not make it clear if I need the regular, or the "can bus" version.

More confusion mixed into the LED stew.

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Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:57 am
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CANbus is used on some newer systems, but is not on a lot of vehicles in the U.S.


Superbrigght LEDs is overpriced.

I'll put up some Amazon links...

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Wed Sep 12, 2018 12:27 pm
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Great info. Thanks for doing this.

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Wed Sep 12, 2018 12:30 pm
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I'll be doing lightbars next but it's gonna be pretty detailed due to all the shit on the market. So it'll be a hot min.

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Wed Sep 12, 2018 12:43 pm
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Here is my “package”. HID fornthe regular and what for the high? I didn’t think hibeams and HID went well together because of the warm up?


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Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:58 pm
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Massivedesign wrote:
Here is my “package”. HID fornthe regular and what for the high? I didn’t think hibeams and HID went well together because of the warm up?


There are different types of HID bulb.

Low only

HID low with integrated halogen high beam

HID bulb that moves back and forth (aftermarket hack)

HID bulb that uses a movable lens cover on the housing itself

I don't know how your specific setup works, I'd have to research it...

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Wed Sep 12, 2018 5:17 pm
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Series 4 - LED lightbars, pods, and all that Chinese shit.


So, we learned a little bit about LEDs earlier, but here's where things get really fun...

A lightbar is made up of multiple LEDs, called emitters. Some have optics to help aim the light, some don't...

First. Ignore ANY lumen, wattage, or distance claims, or ANY advertising, really, on anything made outside the U.S.

Cree, Philips, Osram, all brand names that are tossed around, and misused, because odds are the bars don't contain those emitters.

Now, an individual Cree LED may have a theoretical max lumens of, let's say, 800...(For comparison, the average headlight is usually 850-1000 Lumens) That's NOT actual lumens, or OTF (out the front) lumens, that's theoretical maximum.. Just like the blister pack 2 way radios that claim '22 mile range' but have a hard time making it half a mile.. Same deal. The 22 mile claim is in perfect conditions coupled with theoretical maximums. So, you have a 12" lightbar with 24 emitters, that's 800*24 = 19,200 Lumens, right?! No. That same 12" lightbar that has 24 emitters, they CLAIM are 3W LED emitters, so 3w*24 = 72 right?! Nope. Don't believe the hype.

These are all theoretical maximums.

On top of that, most cheap lightbars are actually using cheap 1W LEDs that they overdrive (operate at higher voltage and amperage than rated to increase light output), and drastically reduce the longevity.

Most will claim a 3W cree, or a 5W Osram, or even a 7W phillips emitter, most are BS...What you WILL find is an overdriven Samsung 3030 LED that's 1W, not 3W..

This is a 3W knockoff LED...

Image

This is a legit Cree 3W LED

Image


and this is a 3030 SMD emitter...

Image

So, you have an LED light, and it's claiming that it has 6 - 3W LEDs, and it looks like this....

Image

Can you tell me what's wrong with that picture?


Pay close attention to the emitters.

Which does it look like?

Yup, those are 3030 SMD emitters, NOT Cree XPE, XPG or similar... IOTW, it's a 6W light, at best, not an 18W one, and it's not going to be as bright or last as long as a real light.. Now, these are 12$/pair.. So, you get what you pay for, and to be honest, at that price, they're not a bad deal, but you need to know what you're getting.


LEDs are generally rated by lux, and lumens. Lux is measured at the brightest part of the beam, and lumens is designed to be total output.

A properly aimed 50 Lumen light could have more lux than an improperly aimed 500 Lumen emmitter.

So, Lumen and lux go hand in hand, but that's not all.

Quote:
Lumens measure total amount of light output
Lux measure light intensity
Lumens does not equal perceived light quality


Now, we have a choice between 'real Cree' LEDs or knockoff 1W 3030 SMDs, it's a no brainer, right? Not exactly.

Remember the whole lux vs lumens thing?

Well, there's a surefire way to increase lux, and that's optics. You can take a relatively low power emitter, and put an optic in front of it, making the beam go where you want it to go...

The earliest models had no optics to speak of, just a cone to direct the light outwards....

From there, they starting calling their different generation of optics 'D'... Because someone called it a 3D optic, and what's better than a 3D optic? a 4D optic! Of course! But not to be outdone, they came out with a 5D optic! Hahaha silly Chinese..Different manufacturers call them different names, and they're up to like 10D now.....

First gen.... No real direction of light. Claims flood or spot or both, but has almost no effect on where the light goes... Not really useful for much other than cheap flood lights...

Image

The next generation is 4D (3D isn't available)... The 4D optics have amazing spot beams, and very little spill. They will definitely put some light downrange and are my preferred distance optic.


Image


Next, came 5D, but we run into a problem here. The optics changed, but with 5D came the explosion of cheap 3030 knockoff chips instead of 3W chips, because the optics made the 1W emitter look like a 3W emitter. Almost EVERYTHING 5D and after will have 1W chips, and relies on the optics to increase lux... The spot is decent, but the flood leaves a lot to be desired. Still the best bang for the buck, but not the best light emission.

Image


6D-10D - This is where things get shitty. Different companies call their designs the same thing. One company's 6D bar is another company's 8D bar.. So, instead of going off of their name, I'll post some images and their beam pattern.


Tri-row, quad row, or ANYTHING with visibly open emitters (no optics lens). Absolutely USELESS for anything but a flood light, regardless of what they're advertised as...
Image
Image

Oblong or oval optics.... Very good at keeping light in a very tight pattern, great for long distance or driving lights. These will give you the best overall light output, and some even mimic a projector beam very well.
Image
Image

Reflective optics. Relatively new. VERY sharp cutoff similar to the oblong or oval optics, but too new to see how they last long term. They'd be on my list of things to try out...Some even have a high/low function to operate as driving lights.
Image


There are a couple different versions that I didn't mention because they're oddball...Like the single row lights, for example...No optic = flood and most likely trash.

Basically, make sure you get the light that matches your needs, and make sure you're getting the emitter you're paying for..

Most lightbars have a built in voltage regulator, meaning they can run from ~9VDC to 30VDC, making it no problem to install on a vehicle with a 24VDC electrical system.

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Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:50 pm
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Last edited by CQBgopher on Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:03 pm
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Basically.

Any 'combo flood/spot beam' is bullshit marketing and will give you more flood than anything, which ruins distance vision.

Flood is likewise very limited in application.

Spot or flat beams are going to be your best option, for most applications.

I'll probably do a walk around on my truck explaining how each light works.

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Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:31 am
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Guntrader wrote:
Very informative TW. Thank you.

I like the halogen bulbs in my 2002 Silverado.
$10-15 a pair and available at any auto parts store, pull two pins, pull out the lens, and replace the bulb in a couple minutes.

Was looking at buying a used 2006 Cadillac DTS, had a leak in one of the headlight assembly's and a burned out projector bulb.
Dealer wanted over $1,800 to replace the assembly, and the cost for a Chinese knock off part on Ebay was almost $800.
Didn't buy the car. Like cheap headlights.


I feel ya. But with LED bulbs hitting the $20/pair mark, you're not out a lot to try them. No different than replacing a bulb.

If you wanna stick with Halogen... Sylvania Xtra Vision is your best option. Couple that with a relay upgrade and you'd be surprised about the difference.

HID is another story though.

Quote:
Do you do vehicle weapon mounts?


Make? No. Install? Yes.

To be honest though, most COTS products are vehicle specific, for the major LE vehicles, and are easy to install yourself.

If you have a custom weapon mount, that involves welding to make sure it's solid, and that's something I don't do.

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Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:35 am
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For those wanting to replace bulbs
..

Go here..

https://www.sylvania-automotive.com/apps/vlrg-us/Vlrg/

There you can put in your year/make/model and it will tell you which bulbs you have.

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Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:46 am
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Very interesting read, glad to hear an unbiased opinion on LED lighting for vehicles. I just did a full LED conversion on my F-250 and I found that I enjoy not having to worry about replacing bulbs. The majority of my driving is done at night, and I was blowing bulbs rather quickly.

It's worth it to at least change out the smaller marker lights (the ones that tend to go unnoticed) and the license plate lights to LED. It saves you for having to remember to glance at them once and a while, and saves you from BS pull overs by bored cops late at night.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 6:43 pm
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