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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been through all kinds of headlight bulbs over the years. The blue and green tinted bulbs from Japan were the first thing I used back in the day. Then came the HID stuff. Hard to find quality HID kits these days, most are cheap and don’t last like they did when I first bought them. Some of my ballasts I have laying around are close to 15 years old.

Anyways I’ve moved into LED stuff for the headlights in the past 3-4 years. From when they first came out to what’s available now, it has gotten so much better. Now the light pattern is great without having a ton of upward glare. Mainly to do with the design of the led chips and their placement. I had bought some entry level leds for $40 from Hikari, found on Amazon. I’d say if I’d bought $40 bright halogen bulbs they’d only last 6 months to a year when I’ve bought them in the past. These cheap leds lasted a little over a year. I bought the more expensive ones with a warranty this time around, $103 with extended warranty, for 3 years. If I get the 3 years out of them I’ll be happy enough.

I get to see different leds in customers vehicles all the time. So I get to see what works well and what doesn’t. The ones with 3 or 4 sides leds suck. The ones with two sided large Cree style leds work ok, but usually don’t produce a wide beam. Usually it’s a narrow long beam. Not bad, but the newer ones are better.

What is current is the use of Phillips Lumiled leds placed in a row to be in the same position as a regular halogen bulb with tungsten filament. They have more spread and shine in the right spots on the reflector.

The led headlight bulbs get a bad wrap from incorrect installation or from improper adjustment. Also the cheap ones don’t have the led in the right spot so they make lots of glare and don’t shine on the road where they should.

If they are aimed correctly they are not any worse than a bright halogen bulb. At least when I have the ones in my car turned on I can go down the street to look at them and they don’t really look like some of them I see. Probably because they aren’t aimed high up. They do make driving on back roads nice when there are no street lights.

Here’s what these things look like. They work like a regular 9007. Has a decent cut off and the high beam actually works on these. Some other bulbs don’t have the leds placed in the correct spot so low and high beam performance isn’t great. These shine pretty far on high beam. Again it has to be aimed correctly.

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I've looked into them for the Cobalt, albeit briefly. Diode Dynamic's SL1 bulb is absolutely excellent, but they don't sell any of them in the "dual-filament" style like a 9007. Now they barely sell them at all, thanks to all the terrible ones you mentioned above causing LED drop-in headlight bulbs to actually be made illegal now. That all happened between the time my brother bought a pair of SL1s for his '01 Buick Century's low beams, and the time I went to install them (due to how the lights were designed, the bulbs absolutely did not fit - one side did, once I did some clearancing to the housing...but the other side never would have. Wish I'd have looked at both before I started...). Once I was back to looking at the site, they suddenly didn't exist for the car anymore - that's when I found out about all that shit. The good bulbs got screwed because of all the cheap garbage.

That said - yep, two-sided "bulbs" are going to be the best bet - but they really should be clockable, as well, so you can make sure those things are at 3 and 9 o'clock. Ideally, you'd want to ensure the vehicle has a good light output pattern with the stock bulbs to begin with, otherwise you're just going to make a bad situation much, much worse for oncoming (due to no fault of the new bulb). I had my brother check this before he ordered the SL1s - the Buick had a surprisingly decent pattern. I think I might have him look into the Morimoto 2-Stroke or the GTR Lighting Ultra 2.0, as they have what I consider to be a "barrel" design - the fan is inline, whereas the DD SL1s would not fit because the fan is off to the side, and thus would crash into the housing.

My Cobalt, meanwhile, is still running an ancient DDM Tuning Bi-Xenon kit. Oddly enough, the Cobalt seems to have a headlight design that doesn't result in simply blinding the rest of existence, so that works well enough for me still. If they do end up eventually failing, it looks like they make an Ultra 2.0 for the 9007 bulbs. I'm just not sure if they work for high/low functions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I looked at the older Morimoto leds and found their high beam is in the wrong position, at least for the 9004/9007 bulbs. Their hid stuff is pretty good, although quite over priced for the technology. I’m not really sure how the beam pattern and output is with the new ZES chips. I’m sure is pretty good. But at double the cost of the Hikari ones. Wonder how Morimoto handles their warranty, as I haven’t used their products.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The brand I have liked is called Hikari, sold on Amazon.

There are several different lines, cheap to premium types.

The cheap ones are currently about $30. They were originally about $40. They only lasted me about a year with daily night time driving. And I drive a lot at night. They were bright and had a good cut off line. Still have some in our ‘02 Honda Accord.

I currently have the Hikari Ultra bulbs in the Cobalt. Very bright. I’ve had no issues with them. I was also able to purchase a aftermarket warranty for 3 years from Asurion. I figured if I was spending $100, might as well protect the investment. Kind of like you can with electronics at places like Walmart.

They now have a new version call the Hikari Acme-X bulb. This is a premium bulb set with a premium price. I would assume you can get an extended warranty. And also get a basic warranty with the purchase price alone.

There is a version called Hikari TOP XHP-50.2 which is similar to what I had in my Kia Spectra. While it was bright, the light wasn’t as focused as the newer bulb design. They are ok. But I’d stick with the Acme-X or Ultra bulbs. The price difference is about $25-$30, and if you watch your cart on Amazon, they’ll likely become available with a coupon. They have been lately.

With purchasing the Acme-X bulbs, they have an upgrade program. I haven’t looked into it much. But it might be worth while if you’re the type of person that wants the newest product.

I personally just want them to last at least 4 years. If you have ever purchased the bright versions of halogen bulbs, you know they are expensive and don’t last as long as the dimmer versions. I personally like to be able to see while driving out in the country where there’s no lights. So that’s my whole thing.

These Hikari bulbs aren’t like the cheap crap you see blinding oncoming traffic. They have good cut off lines. The only time I’ve not had a good cutoff is in my cheap aftermarket replacement headlamp assemblies. Usually if you have an OEM headlamp or a CAPA replacement, the beam pattern is fine. Cheap things usually don’t function quite as well as more expensive things as far as replacement car parts which I’ve learned over the years of playing with the lights on my cars.

Probably started messing with brighter headlights in 2003. And around that time I started messing around with LED replacement bulbs. They have come a long way. I used to use HID headlights and they were good, if they housing was a good one. And also if you aimed the lights correctly. Also had a lot to do with the bulb placement inside the headlamp. This is why most people dislike the LED stuff. It’s usually the cheap junk that doesn’t not have the LEDs in the correct placement to shine on the reflector. That’s where excessive glare comes from. A good set of lights can be aimed and not blind oncoming traffic. While still having the ability to shine far enough ahead of the car to see properly.

My friend bypassed my recommendation with his Jeep. The bulbs suck. They work. But they shine in all the wrong places. Not only that but the person that installed them cracked the tail lights. Oh well, I can always say “I told you so”.

As far as my other exterior lights, I have Sylvania Zevo bulbs. They’re expensive. They last a long time though as long as they aren’t getting wet, like from an incorrect installation. I installed resistors on the wiring so the lights will blink at the correct rate also. That’s something I wish they’d integrate into the bulb design. It is possible they have improved. Phillips also makes good exterior replacement bulbs, like for the tail lights. So I could only recommend either Sylvania or Phillips for longevity, as far as I’ve experienced with my many vehicles. These bulbs also shine in the right places, unlike the cheap versions sold online.
 

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The big thing is having a two-sided bulb in a reflector, and it needs to be one you can clock to make sure the sides sit at 3 and 9 o'clock. Otherwise you'll just blind everyone. All the trash multi-sided ones out there, or 2-sideds you can't adjust, are what caused the DOT crackdown because they're absolutely awful.

I actually just changed from a 2-sided to an 8-sided in our Cruze and it made a pretty noticeable difference in terms of foreground lighting and the intensity of the high beams - but that car also runs Mini H1 retrofits, so the 2-sided was not the right fit for those there, because of the massive blind spot they have that a projector isn't designed for.

But for reflectors, good, clockable 2-sided LEDs or absolutely not LED at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
I have been thinking about doing an LED projector retrofit. I really wanted the Depo Gen 4 headlights but as of the last year or so, they’re no longer able to be found. I wanted the chrome ones since they looked like something OEM.

I have been watching some new projector headlights. Not finding any really good information yet since they’re fairly new on the market. So hopefully they’ll be a worthy product. Many of the projector headlights that have more recently hit the market for the Cobalt and G5 were and are pure crap. I was able to compare my headlights to some another Cobalt had that I happened to be in the same drive through with and also was able to pass up later on. There was hardly any light from their projectors compared to my LEDs in stock reflectors.

Reflectors really just have to use a two sided bulb. My friends Jeep has the 4 sided bulbs. There’s no comparison to quality from mine to his. Light output is drastically different. As far as where it actually spreads to and proper amount of hot spot and beam cut off. I have read reviews on multi sided or radial mounted LED bulbs for projectors. I have tried the two sided bulbs in projectors, they suck. For projectors, I’d only use HID bulbs. Morimoto makes a nice system. They sell retrofit projector lamps that are LED already. And those are what I’m currently looking into. I will probably work on the fog lights instead. I still need the bumper for them for the LT sport trim with removable trim panels. Someone took the one I have the parts off of unfortunately or I’d have grabbed that last weekend.

These are the newest projectors I could find, that I actually liked. I prefer a more stock look, and these definitely have GM vibes. Just not sure if they’re crap yet. I’m sure the lenses probably would have to be swapped for some GM ones eventually. On most, they yellow and crack badly. Honestly even the stock ones do that. I have had to polish the headlight lenses regularly on this car to keep them clear. Anyways here’s the lights. Brand is called AKKON.

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The 8-sided bulbs are relatively new and do seem to work a lot better in projectors since they, more or less, are 360-degrees, like a halogen or HID bulb. They work a lot better in the projector applications, I'd say. Our original LEDs (the 2-sideds) were starting to take a shit after a year, so it just happened to be a convenient time to also upgrade. My brother runs Mini H1s in his '01 Mustang GT, albeit with HIDs, and I'd say we have pretty similar light output. His are probably a little bit better, since the HID is still more ideal...but I also didn't have to deal with mounting ballasts anywhere in the Cruze like I did in his car (in my Cobalt, they were stupidly easy to mount), so...

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Here you can see the difference in the actual light pattern being projected by the reflector. A close inspection shows that GM headlights used a row of what I’ll call “ribs” that make up the reflector. They were not all the same size. The aftermarket TYC headlamps assembly’s reflector is made up of similar sized ribs, making the light pattern strange. This goes for with halogen, HID, and LED lights installed. It made the same cut off. Also poor light distribution compared to an OEM unit. So there’s that. This also can be noted in a headlamp that is a cheap TYC installed on my Accord, compared to the OEM Stanley unit. The light pattern is not the same.

I have found this true with cheap projectors as well. I have worked on many wrecked vehicles over the years. And being a lighting nut, I will notice things like that when they are off. I started my working life in a lighting store, which may be where I came to find the obsession with lighting on my vehicles. I started with lighting the house with first miniature fluorescent bulbs. And over more recent years, have moved entirely over to LEDs. If you’d like any recommendations on lighting for the house, I can probably lead you in the right direction there as well.

Here’s what I started with. The first set of Hikari LED 9007 bulbs were a major upgrade on the Cobalt. The driver side has a TYC lamp, I find it to be not as good as the OEM lamp. The passenger side has a genuine GM lamp that has a nice cut off line and light spread that’s much better.

You can clearly see what I mean when the light is shining on a flat surface. And shows up on the road on camera. It’s less obvious in person, the camera always over exaggerates when taking pics of lights. I have however gotten better pics with use of a camera with adjustable exposure time. Anyways, the more expensive lights I have now from Hikari are slightly brighter. The main thing is they seem to be made to last quite a while longer.

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Those and the probably-even-more-expensive GTR Ultra lights are some of the best out there, as far is properly-designed drop-in LED bulbs go. Diode Dynamics SL1s were the same way as well, until the DOT cracked down from all the blindingly bad garbage out there and they stopped selling them, since they're US-based and actually have to follow the laws.
 
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