Everything you Need to Know About T10 Bulbs
Do you know what a T10 bulb is? It’s actually the most common bulb on any car or truck on the road today. The problem with upgrading to LED is most people don’t know what to use. You’ve got a 194, a 168, T10, T15, 912, 921 - all these different bulb models that come in your glove box, your dome light, your map light, your door lights, your cargo lights, your reverse lights, your license plate lights. But LED bulbs can replace them all.
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We're going to explain what a T10 is, what different sizes they come in, why you can use the same LED to replace them all, and what we recommend for your next project. If you don't want to wait until the end, I'm telling you right now - you’d be happy with the XENONDEPOT T10 and the GTR 6 LED T10. If you want to find out why, keep reading.
Different Types of these Mini Wedge Bulbs
When you’re tearing apart your vehicle and you find one of these three different types of mini wedge bulbs, you're going to need to know what you're looking at.
There are three basic styles: T5, T10, and T15. The T5 is the smallest variety, and that has a whole bunch of different names. But in reality, any T5 LED bulb is going to work because they're small, they don't draw much power, and there aren't many options out there anyway. Do not concern yourself with the T5 LED bulb selection; whatever you can get from GTR lighting is going to be a good fit, and they only make two different styles.
You really want to look out for are the T10: the slightly bigger version of the T5 bulbs. If you are tearing things apart and you think you got T10s, but you actually find these little tiny bulbs, that's a T5. Look for a different type.
It all Comes Down to Wattage
The T10 comes in 194, 168, W5W, 147, 152, 158, 159, 161, 168, 194, 192, 193 - and they all basically look the same. In fact, they all have the same base, they're all made the same with the same incandescent filament - the only difference is the wattage. Depending on the number of the bulb; 194 versus 168, all it does is dictate the amount of wattage the bulb draws. The more wattage the bulb draws, the brighter it is.
So, a manufacturer might use a really dim lightbulb in a glove box compartment. They don't want a lot of heat next to whatever you're stuffing in the glove box. Now with an LED bulb, you don't have to worry about that because they don't get as hot as incandescent bulbs.
So, when we think about an LED bulb - you can see that the bases are basically identical. They're made of different materials, plastic and metal instead of glass and wire, but they fit in the same spot. I can take an LED bulb, pull out any one of those many different part numbers of T10 - 194,168, and so on - and it's going to work just fine. My T10 LED bulb doesn't come in varying wattages like the incandescent bulb, so it only has one part number.
T10 vs T15
Basically, anything LED is going to be at least five to ten times brighter than your original T10 bulb. Of these three types of mini wedge bulbs, you've also got something called the T15. That indicates the larger style bulb, like this one.
As you can see, the T10 versus the T15 have the exact same wedge base on it. They fit the same connector. The T15 is designed for areas like a T10 that has more space. You're going to find a T15 in a cargo light on a truck, you'll find a T15 on reverse lights, but that's really about it.
So if you have a T15 bulb that has the same base as the T10, you really could use a T10 like one of these smaller bulbs, or a T15 like one of these larger bulbs. You’re going to see that the T10 and the T15 have the exact same base. These can literally fit in the same application, but why would you put a small T10 in a spot where you could fit a T15?
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The T15 LED bulbs make way more light than a T10. And the T15 LED bulbs make way more light than the original T15 incandescent bulbs. If you pull out a T10, the smaller style, do you have space for a T15 LED? Then go for it.
If you don't have space for a T15 in a T10 spot on your car or truck, then you're going to have to stick to one of the many T10 bulb options. Inversely, if you pulled out a T15 incandescent bulb, you could throw a T10 replacement in. Chances are the T10 is still going to be brighter than your old T15 bulb. But, you could go even bigger than that. Now if you just want to skip to the front of the line and get the biggest, brightest, best bulb on the market, go for the GTR Lighting High Output LED Reverse Light.
What to look for in a T10 or T15 Bulb
Next, let's talk about what to look for in a T10 or T15 bulb. When looking at T10 LED bulbs, you basically have three different styles:
#1 is going to be your forward-facing, where all the LEDs are facing one direction.
#2 is going to be side facing, where all the LEDs are facing either left or right horizontally, and nothing straight ahead.
#3 are going to be your 360-degree bulbs.
To decide which type of T10 you need, you just have to think about the application. If it's a cargo light on the top of your roof shining backward on your truck bed, you don't really need anything that goes left and right. You need as much light going backward or in one direction as possible. So something like the GTR Lighting Carbide Series bulb, here, would be a good option for anything that's shining directionally.
Low Profile T10 For Tight Spaces
Now, the Carbide Series from GTR Lighting is probably too bright for a lot of applications, so you have to be thinking about, where is this going to be? If you have a directional light inside your vehicle, the Carbide T10 from GTR Lighting might not be a good bet because it's literally too bright. It will be uncomfortable in your car. If that’s possible to have an LED that's too bright. So then I’d recommend something like the Low Pro T10 from GTR Lighting. Again, all the LEDs are shining out one way, but it's not nearly as bright. Also, if you have really low clearance that most LED bulbs don't fit, the GTR Lighting Low Pro T10 will fit perfectly.
This is a really common problem where people just think, “Oh, whatever bulbs I buy are going to work”. Well, sometimes they find out they have something like this, and there's just no way on earth it's going to fit. So you need something low profile.
The GTR Low Pro T10 as license plate lights are the best option, as most LED license plate bulbs are too large. If you have any questions about it at all, you're concerned about fitment at all, this is a great application. Using these in a reverse light application is not advised, as there are far brighter and more capable bulbs for that application.
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Left or Right Facing
Now let's talk about facing left and right: horizontal distribution. Something like this bulb from Morimoto is a really interesting option. As you can see, there's nothing shining out of the front - all of the LEDs are surface mounted on this side of the PCB, and this side of the PCB.
This white cover over it is simply for diffusion preventing you from seeing the individual LEDs and you get a nice glow instead of the light source from all of those individual LED chips. If you have an application where the light is shining straight down or you actually need to use the reflectors in the assembly that is left and right, something like this T10 from Morimoto is a good option.
Here's another example of a bulb that's left to right specific. This is just a generic one that we got on Amazon, and it looks like it should be bright enough, but there are two problems with it. #1, a lot of these circuit boards aren’t made very well, so if you see something with the bare circuit boards, pray that it doesn't fall apart on you when you insert it.
Sometimes the printed circuit can just get scraped off by the terminals inside the connector, sometimes there are issues with the clearance of each of these components, and you can run into it when you insert them.
If you're going to get something with a bare printed circuit board, make sure it comes from a reputable brand, because I've seen a lot of issues with these either not fitting at all, because they're too wide or the people who made them never even measured or even installed them in the first place, they just downloaded a blueprint off of the internet and said, “Let's make a T10 bulb that looks like this.”
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The other thing is: when you have the left to right specific facing LEDs, and you have all these different LEDs, depending on the reflector you put them in - let's say a dome light or a map light or something like that - each one of these LEDs is going to be creating its own source of light output.
So you'll end up with like a spider web effect, where you’ve got a bunch of different shadows, and this is probably going to create a circular light pattern that's going to look like a disco light inside your vehicle. It might be kind of cool, but you probably won't actually like it. That's why the Morimoto bulb makes more sense for left and right applications.
360 Degree-type Bulbs
#1 is the GTR Lighting 6 LED CANBUS T10. This is a really high quality bulb that has soft circuit boards and singular larger chips, instead of a bunch of small ones. And it actually has this metal ring around it that acts as a heat sink, so they can push this bulb a little bit harder, a little bit brighter, and it can actually handle the heat because of how it's built.
The other style that you're going to see might look like this: where they pack a whole bunch of different LEDs onto one surface. This might look cool, and it might give you a lot of coverage, but two things are going to happen. #1 is, the bulb’s either going to be way underpowered, because they don't want it starting a fire with this many high power LEDs in such a small package or #2, it's not underpowered and it's going to burn out.
These types of bulbs get super super hot, and just don't give you the reliability that you want. The last thing I want to do when I’m replacing my dome lights or my map lights or my glove box lights is to have to keep dealing with burnt out T10 bulbs. They can kind of be a pain to replace if you have to do it frequently.
Quality Connections Count!
The other thing that you’re going to want to look out for on all of these bulbs are the type of connections. On the back side, you have to pay close attention. I like the style that comes on the GTR Lighting bulbs because they are wide and they make really good contact with the socket that you're plugging it into.
If you look at this style here, the wires are really thin, they're easy to bend, and they're easy to break. Also, when you plug them in, sometimes they can squeeze together so far that they don't even make contact with your socket anymore. It's really important that when you're buying these types of bulbs, that you're getting them from a reputable brand that you know does testing and really thoughtful engineering in the product, that you know is going to actually work.
The XENONDEPOT XTR T10 has that same style of wire connector on it - but it's a lot more similar in layout - but the design specifications better match that of the original bulb. These don't have any issues with contact and they don't have any issues with pulling out or breaking. The XENONDEPOT XTR with the wire contacts are one of the best you can get.
When it comes to the bigger bulbs, like T15 for your cargo lights or your reverse lights, you've got a lot of the same options, they're just bigger.
So here is the GTR Lighting Carbide Series bulb with that 360 degree output, but you can see that each of the chips are properly spaced apart so that the bulb can do its job and dissipate the heat. You’ve got this entire top section designed specifically to dissipate heat so that this bulb can run at full brightness.
The cool thing though about the GTR Lighting Carbide T15 is that it has a temperature circuit built into it. That's one of the reasons why it’s so large. This thing, if it gets too hot, it'll start dimming itself down so it doesn't burn out. I don’t know about you, but I'd much rather have a LED bulb that slowly gets dimmer in use, than something that just burns itself out within 20 minutes of use.
The XENONDEPOT Ceramic Series T15 is in a league of its own. Instead of having a bunch of different LEDs all over the place, or one that shines forward, this is a really interesting product.
It actually has a single 50/50-style LED chip up inside the hat of the LED bulb, and then it shines down onto this reflective cone. And that's what creates the OEM-style reflection type beam pattern that makes this one of the best-performing brands of T15 bulbs on the market. It goes along the lines of saying “work smarter, not harder”.
Instead of powering a whole bunch of different bulbs all over the place, they took a ceramic body - that feels fantastic by the way, this thing is just the coolest bulb that you’ll ever probably see - and they put one LED and multiplied the brightness through a conical reflector. I mean, these guys just do things differently.
One of the most popular types of T15 bulbs that you’re going to find on Amazon is this guy with the little plus on it. This is called a CANBUS bulb and a lot of people use it because it's super bright.
But the problem with this type of bulb are two things:
#1, when you're in an application like a cargo light or a reverse light or something that can be exposed to moisture, you are exposing all of these delicate electronic parts to that potential water ingress or moisture. Other bulbs that use the plastic bases are actually glued together, and you have much less of a risk of that happening.
#2 is either the circuit board itself is too wide to fit in, or it does fit in and your connector bumps into all these little pieces that are on the circuit board. Why not make something that looks and feels like the original one so that it can install as expected?
I’ve been replacing T10 and T15 incandescent bulbs in my cars and trucks for a long time, and I know what works and what doesn't. And trust me, if you don't want headaches and you want something super bright, super high quality, and just works - for a T10, these are my recommendations:
If you’ve got something really low profile, the GTR Low Profile is it. There really isn't anything else like this on the market, so it doesn't matter. If you have problems with other bulbs fitting, the GTR Lighting Low Pro T10 is where it's at.
If you've got something that needs to fire left and right, the Morimoto T10 is a great option. I’m not a big fan of the open printed circuit boards, but from a reputable brand like Morimoto they work, and you don't really have to risk that there's going to be an issue.
For something small that's super bright, I’d go with the GTR Lighting Carbide. These are too bright for most applications, but if you don't want to buy the full-size T15 bulb, the Carbide T10 does a pretty good job.
If you have the room and simply want the craziest, brightest option in the whole world, there is nothing that even comes close to the GTR Lighting High Output LED bulb coming in at 1,000 lumens. That's as bright as your halogen headlights. But, for most applications, if you don't even want to think about it, and you just want to get something that's going to work, I’ve got two recommendations:
#1: The XTR T10 from XENONDEPOT. This thing’s made of ceramic, it’s super high quality; these have the world's lowest failure rate. They're rugged, they’re durable, they’re reliable, they’re plug and play, and they're probably the best T10 in the world.
Or, The GTR Lighting 6 LED CANBUS bulb. The 6 LED CANBUS bulb is good if you have flickering issues from CANBUS integrations; a lot of Euro vehicles have issues like that. Or, if you just want something a little bit brighter that isn't going to break the bank that you know is going to be high quality.