The $20 LED Bulb Dilemma: Quality or Quantity?

It's time to swap out the headlights on your car or truck. Your budget is tight, but that's alright! Auto parts often come with a hefty price tag when needed most. So, you venture onto eBay or Amazon and find a plethora of LED bulbs under $50, each promising dazzling brightness for just a few dollars. It sounds too good to be true, and indeed, it usually is!

These bulbs come cheap because they are often poorly constructed using substandard materials. A myriad of them are flooding the market, creating unrealistic performance expectations. We aim to guide you towards savvy shopping decisions, helping you find the most suitable LED bulb for your vehicle and needs.

What Makes a Bad Led Bulb?

Many budget LED bulbs on the market cut corners on quality to slash costs. As a result, you may end up with a faulty product that either needs frequent replacement or, worse, poses a risk to your vehicle. We've outlined a few common pitfalls, but bear in mind there are many others.

We encourage you to share your experiences with affordable LED bulbs in the comments section below.

Positioning and Performance

LED bulbs aim to mimic the performance of OEM halogen bulbs, albeit with a brighter output. The highest performing LED bulbs position their chips to align with the filament placements on halogen lights.

An inconsistent performance from the LED bulb will yield undesired light patterns without uniform projection. These bulbs don't perform at their peak when used in a reflector housing, necessitating their emulation of the light emission pattern of the OEM bulb.

Various problems can surface when using poorly made LED bulbs, notably inefficient beams. Although the light they emit may be intense, it fails to illuminate the surroundings adequately when projected by headlights. This could be due to either an overly focused or excessively dispersed beam pattern, resulting in a lack of a distinct hotspot.

Unfocused beam patterns can impair the visibility of oncoming traffic. Contrary to popular belief, it's not the brightness of the bulbs causing blinding glare for drivers but the poorly directed beam pattern. These bulbs are often designed without taking this factor into account.


Building a Better Bulb

Inexpensive bulbs often suffer from subpar construction. Even top-tier LED bulbs generate heat, making a built-in cooling system vital. LED bulbs rely on a heat sink to prevent overheating.

Some bulbs, like the Morimoto 2Stroke, incorporate an in-built system that draws in cool air and expels the bulb's heat. This creates a continuous cycle, maintaining a steady bulb temperature. In some cases, fans are external to the bulb, similar to those in computers, like the GTR Lighting Ultra 2, which eliminates the bulb's heat entirely.

However, marketplace light bulbs often face issues: the included heat sinks may be too small to cool effectively, or they may not exist, leaving the bulb unable to dissipate heat. Even when present, the heat sink materials might not withstand the bulb's high temperatures. These factors could cause the bulb to burn out or melt, damaging your wiring or headlights and leading to constant bulb replacement - a costly affair in the long run.


Wiring Woes

Proper wiring is vital for effective lighting systems. Some LED bulbs include a driver that draws the necessary power from the vehicle to the bulb. Simpler setups might just have the bulb and wire, connecting to the factory connector, with the driver integrated within the bulb's body.

This is often why bulbs overheat or have their power curtailed to avoid overheating. Even though drivers can be bulky, they regulate LED bulb power more efficiently than poorly designed built-in drivers.

There are also concerns about defective connections and 'waterproof' wiring that lacks the necessary junctions to prevent water penetration. The most reliable waterproof connections feature an 'O-Ring' seal that attaches securely onto the wire connection, forming a barrier against water ingress.

Waterproofing issues aren't exclusive to low-quality LED bulbs but are more common with bulbs available on various online marketplaces.

In conclusion, choosing a bulb with exposed wiring or multiple cables increases the chance of future electrical issues. It's wise to inquire about the installation process before purchase to prevent potential short circuits or vehicle damage.

Bad Amazon Bulb

Lumen Output Claims

This situation always amuses us. Many of these bulbs use large numbers to mislead less-informed customers into thinking higher numbers mean brighter light and better value. However, these claimed lumen counts are simply unattainable in reality.

Our experiments have shown that high-lumen bulbs often underperform compared to their low-lumen output counterparts. Although they may initially emit strong, intense light, they eventually succumb to the issues we've mentioned, leading to bulb failure. The primary problem often lies with the heat sink, unable to handle the bulb's power, leading to burnout or even melting.

These low-cost bulbs are ubiquitous and can cause problems for both users and other drivers due to their intense brightness. It's better to opt for original equipment manufacturer replacements rather than choosing these types of bulbs.

For those looking for quality LED bulbs, we can help you find the right bulb for your vehicle. Our collection includes a variety of LED bulbs in different sizes and designs suitable for various vehicles. If you're unsure about the specific bulb size you need, our knowledgeable team can help you identify the perfect fit. Please provide the year, make, and model of your vehicle. We'll supply all the accessories and items you need for your journey.

If you have any questions about the products mentioned or just want to chat, don't hesitate to contact our knowledgeable customer service agents. You can also share your LED bulb experiences in the comments section below.