Pros and cons of bright LED headlights

By David Sholicar

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) were first used in practical applications in the early 1960s. They weren’t particularly bright and were only available in red, so their uses tended to be limited to things like status indicators on control panels and switches.


More recently, LEDs have become brighter and more sophisticated, offering low energy lighting in a variety of colours. This has led to them finding more and more uses in the home and in vehicles. LEDs use far less energy than conventional bulbs and because they don’t use a filament, they have a longer lifespan.

LEDs in cars

On modern cars, LEDs are most frequently see as daytime running lights. This makes sense as they are bright and their long life is an advantage for lamps that are on all the time. They are also used to create those ‘travelling’ indicator lights that you now see on many VW and Audi cars.
Increasingly, they are being used in headlights too, so what are their pros and cons in this situation?


In the past, car headlamps have employed either halogen or high-intensity discharge (xenon) lamp types. These have a number of disadvantages. They get hot, they use relatively high amounts of energy and the filaments eventually burn out. LED headlights last longer and use less power, putting less stress on the car’s electrical systems. Although not as bright as HID lights, they are brighter than halogen bulbs and they produce a more natural light colour.
Because LEDs can be made in a variety of different shapes, LED headlights have also allowed car designers to make better use of lighting as a design feature.


LED bulbs are more expensive, although this is balanced out by their longer lifespan. When you need to change bulbs on an existing vehicle it may be tempting to go for LEDs but there are some things to be aware of.
Because vehicles are designed to use a particular type of bulb, switching to LEDs may cause problems. If, for example, a car is type-approved on halogen bulbs switching to LED headlights may cause it to fail its MOT.
There are other potential issues too. Many modern cars use what’s called a CANBUS wiring system. This reduces the number of wires needed in the car by sending coded signals to different components. Aftermarket LEDs can interfere with this in our experience and may lead to you suffering electrical problems.
If your car left the factory with LED lights there’s no problem, but you should think carefully before fitting them to older vehicles that were designed for different bulbs. Whether you want advice on lights or some other aspect of your vehicle, please contact Protyre where our qualified fitters will be happy to advise you. If you need new tyres we stock well-known brands including; Pirelli, Bridgestone, Falken and Sumitomo in a variety of sizes. We also offer a range of free inspections, together with MOTs and servicing.
With garages across the UK there’s almost certain to be a Protyre near you and you can book an appointment here on our website.

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About the author

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By David Sholicar
David is the National Retail Operations Manager for Protyre. One of David’s areas of responsibility and expertise is dealing with the DVSA and MOT’s for Protyre. As the Authorised Examiner Designate Manager ( AEDM ) David deals with applications for changes to the many Vehicle Testing Stations ( VTS’s) including managing the growth of the Number of MOT testing stations that Protyre operate, allocating MOT tester roles, and monitoring the MOT Test logs to ensure that Protyre MOT standards are maintained as the best in the industry.
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