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Stealthy LED Headlights

By: Wes T 11/30/2020

While building my Elcamino, I knew I wanted to get away from the sealed beam headlights. My old Elcamino from high school would collect water in one of the previously sealed beam bulbs and you could see the reflection of the water sloshing around whenever you hit a bump.


I didn't want to be "that guy" that just threw on some off-road lights with no regard to oncoming traffic. I've seen several different styles of DOT bulb/housings where the lens & reflector use a replaceable halogen bulb, but didn't care for the look of the smooth clear lens with faceted reflector. I found Hella makes a 6054 style rectangular glass lens housing (HELLA 003427291) that looks like a standard sealed beam but uses a HB2 replaceable bulb. I like that they look stock and have the availability of replaceable bulbs. They seem to be well made and fit in the stock housings with no required modifications. Since my bulbs are accessible from the back, I decided to cut the rear hole of the headlight bucket a little larger to be able to access the clip used on the Hella housing, but this wasn't required--just a convenience to be able to change bulbs without taking the headlight housing out.

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I think that the Hella's have a tighter spread between low and high beam at least for a car application seems to work better. The low beams can be aimed higher without blinding oncoming traffic but keeps the high beams from being pointed too high to be useful for driving. Even when new bulbs, The old sealed beams never seemed to be a good split between low and high. Just upgrading to the Hella's with the included halogen bulbs is an big improvement over the sealed beams, but the next step was to go LED. Compared to most modern headlights, the halogens just don't shine as bright especially without projectors and advanced reflector design on modern cars.


With a little shopping around, I decided to give the Marsauto 9003/H4/HB2 LED Headlight a try. At around $60 for a pair [on Amazon] they aren't the most expensive but they also aren't the cheapest out there either. Upon inspection, they have a metal adapter to fit the HB2/H4 socket (some of these LED conversion bulbs have plastic adapters which may be a problem.) They also have a positive twist lock into the adapter, so they only fit the correct way and align properly. They also have a fan for cooling, so they are fairly compact. The only modification necessary was to cut a hole in the Hella's dust boot for the new LED bulb. They plug directly into the factory headlight plug.


After making the switch, it's hard to go back to dimly lit halogen headlights. The only disadvantages I have noticed so far is that the reflection back from some signs is pretty harsh, and they don't repel bugs. I've also read they don't heat up the headlight like a halogen, so snow / ice may be an issue if you drive in that kind of weather. The low beam pattern is very nice and has a decent cutoff line (see below--my passenger headlight isn't adjusted right, but you can still see the cutoff line.) The high beams are great when driving down country roads.


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Another trick upgrade was finding a pair of "switchback" LED's that fit the 1157 parking lights. Since the lenses are clear, I wanted to take advantage of the extra possible driving light, and maintain the amber turn signal. I think it gives the car a little more modern look as far as lighting is concerned. I did give up the cool amber parking light though. I ended up having to also change the front marker 194 light bulbs to LED for the switchback function to work properly. Those markers are behind an amber lens, so they didn't change noticeably.


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