SCORE Journal


SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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A BRIGHTER FUTURE AHEAD Improved Off-Road Lighting With LED Headlight Bulb Replacements By Dan Sanchez Off-road enthusiasts can always use more light when they’re out on the trail and the sun begins to set. The dust and complete darkness doesn’t allow factory headlights to penetrate further ahead for better visibility. In addition, there are fewer places to mount more powerful auxiliary lights on late-model trucks and SUVs, due to front factory collision sensors and body contoured bumpers. This is one of the reasons why LED headlight replacement bulbs have become more popular with enthusiasts. Improvements in LED technology have given risen to replacement bulbs that can provide anywhere from a 25 to 50-percent increase in light that can greatly improve visibility at a low cost. While this sounds like an easy upgrade, we are reminded by LED bulb manufacturers and the automotive aftermarket lighting industry, that upgrading factory headlight bulbs is not compliant with Department of Transportation regulations. But as many off-road enthusiast are already aware of, utilizing aftermarket lights is something that is only used off road purposes and because headlight bulbs take minutes to install, this is something that can be done during your off-road or overlanding excursions, then switch back to factory bulbs as you get back on the highway. To find out more information on the many LED headlight bulbs on the market, we spoke with John Tobias, Promotions Manager of, a company that markets a wide variety of LED lights from various manufacturers through its online retail outlet Headlight According to Tobias, the company has tested numerous bulbs on many vehicles to find out what works best, and offered some vital information before you go out and purchase LED bulb replacements for your particular vehicle. SJ: Compared to a factory OE halogen bulb, do LED replacement bulbs put out more light? How do they compare? Tobias: Yes, LED replacement bulbs put out more light, but it depends on the bulb. There are hundreds of LED bulbs on the market that are either not as bright as a standard halogen bulb, or cast an unusable and unsafe beam pattern. We tested the top 25 brands of LED Bulbs Shootout in this video: SJ: Some LED bulbs seem larger than others, and the costs range widely. What are some of the major differences? Also, do differences in the design affect how they work with factory reflectors? Tobias: Typically larger LED bulbs are created to have a larger heat sink to cool the bulb more efficiently. The cooler the LED bulb, the brighter it can be. There are many differences between a lower costing LED bulb and a higher cost one. The saying “you get what you pay for” truly applies to this. Premium LED bulb manufactures like Morimoto, GTR Lighting, Diode Dynamics, S-V.4, and Xenon Depot use much higher quality parts all throughout the bulb so they have a much longer lifespan. It’s extremely common for lower costing LED bulbs to fail after a few weeks/months of installation. They also put a lot of R&D time into how the LED bulbs will perform so that they cast the most optimum beam pattern. The lower costing LED bulbs are typically pumped out of a factory with little to no time spent in designing how the bulb will perform. SJ: When replacing a factory halogen bulb with a high-output LED bulb are there any headlight adjustments that need to be done? What if a vehicle is lifted? Tobias: Everyone should go check their headlight adjustments to make sure they are properly aligned. Seriously. The amount of improperly aimed headlights out there, stock or not, is extremely high. Most auto manufacturers do not properly align headlights at the factory before the vehicle leaves. But to answer your questions – any time you lift a vehicle, you should make adjustments to the headlights. And any time you install LED bulbs, you should take before and after headlight measurements and make any adjustments as needed. If you went with a good LED bulb, you won’t need to make any adjustments after installation. SJ: How does one go about finding the right upgraded LED bulb for their vehicle, and how to choose the right one among so many manufacturers? Are they DOT compliant? Tobias: There is no such thing as a D.O.T. compliant aftermarket HID or LED bulb for use in headlights in the USA. Some companies claim they are “legal” or “DOT Approved” but the reality is the laws regulating headlight modifications prohibit the use of such products on public streets. Many bulb manufacturers today originally created these high-power LED bulbs for use in fog light applications first, and then the general public discovered they are the same bulbs that work in headlights too. The bulbs are not vehicle-specific, or position-specific… they are BULB TYPE or FITMENT specific. That means that a bulb that fits both your car headlight, fog light, or ATV headlight can be interchangeable. That being said, the best way to find out what product in the market is best suited for your specific application is to research YouTube, Facebook groups, and forums specifically designed for your vehicle. There are a lot of companies and 3rd party individuals testing LED bulbs to see which ones are the best, and which ones to stay away from. Headlight Revolution, The Retrofit Source, LightWerkz Global and Jason’s Garage are a few channels that really do a great job at properly testing LED bulbs, and explaining why one bulb may be better than another. Please see this for further details on regulations: SJ: When replacing bulbs should enthusiasts replace both high and low beams? Tobias: It depends on how frequently the person uses their high beams. If they rarely use them at all, it doesn’t make sense to replace them with LED bulbs. But if they use the high beams often, then they certainly should replace the high beams with LED bulbs. Personally, I’d start with low beams and fog lights, and then go with high beams if needed. MORE LIGHT FOR LESS DOUGH Getting More Off-Road Illumination With An LED Headlight Bulb Upgrade By SCORE Journal Staf Most off-road trucks are dual-purpose vehicles used as a daily drivers, but are also made to be more capable when driving off-road. One of the necessary upgrades to any off-road truck, is improving the lighting to see better on the trail. While adding a 50-inch LED light bar may not be in your budget at the moment, you can get more off-road lighting by replacing the factory headlight bulb with an more powerful LED bulb.  We wanted to see how much of a difference would be possible with such a simple upgrade, so we contacted for more information on LED bulb replacements. While its very simple to remove and replace the factory bulbs, it’s important to know which of the multitude of LED replacements actually fit your vehicle. For our application on our project 2020 Ford Ranger, tested and recommended a set of GTR CSP Mini bulbs, which could replace the low-beam and a set of GTR Ultra 2 bulbs which would replace the high beams on this particular model truck.  Because not all LED bulbs are the same, the light patterns and size of the bulb housings are different, so it’s best to check with a retailer to be sure. In our case, replacing the high-beam bulbs that we could use off-road only, resulted in 191% more light. Make sure to check your local laws about light bulb regulations and if you’re truck is lifted, the headlights should be readjusted to keep from blinding vehicles in front of you. SJ

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