To be bright or not to be bright?

Ok so that is a silly title for an article, but it hang with me for a few moments and you will understand. To be bright or not to be bright that is the question. What am I talking about? I’m talking a about the use of incandescent bulbs or LED’s. Now your plane-jane old everyday 1157 bulb has been around since 1955 when GM cars went to 12 volts, and they continue to work today. If you are building and original car or truck then that is what you need to continue to use. But for use guys that want a brighter light, whether it be for safety or just to show off, then LED’s are the way to go.

LED stands for "light emitting diode." A diode is an electrical component with two terminals which conduct the electricity only in one direction. With an electrical current, the diode emits a bright light around the small bulb. Typically, diodes have been used in many technologies such as radios, televisions and computers as an electrical component for conduction.

How Do They Work?

Connecting a diode to an electrical current excites the electrons within the diode, making them release photons, which we see as light. The color of the light is a direct result of the energy gap in the semiconductor of the diode. This means that LED’s produce a spectrum of colors easily and brightly while using very little electricity to do so.

Now there are really three different ways that you can go with LED’s. The first is the LED bulb that just pops into the current socket and is a little brighter. Next there is the harder to use LED board that requires you to cut your harness and hard wire it in. And finally, the option that I really like to use is the all in one LED lens. Each has its advantages, but each also has its disadvantages. So let’s see if we can shed a little light on these and try to help you to decide on what will work best for you.

LED Bulbs, these can be bought at just about parts store or hotrod shop. They work easy enough because the just snap into the same socket as your old 1157 did. The problem with these is they still us the same amount of amps that the standard 1157 bulb did and really don’t make it any brighter than the standard incandescent bulb. They just give you an LED look with about the same candle or brightness factor.

LED boards that require you to hard wire into the harness, are a great way to go. They work extremely effectively and don’t require that much energy. The problem with these is, just what I described in the first sentence: they require you to hard wire into your harness and are somewhat expensive. A set of these boards will usually set you back about $99 for every 2 lenses you have. So if you have an Impala and it has 6 Lenses on it, well you can do the math and see what I’m talking about. The other problem with these is the fact you have to cut into your harness and hardwire them in. Once you’ve done that you are committed to using them forever or you will have to again rewire a part of your car if you change your mind.

My personal favorite is the Composite lens with and LED board. You get the best of both worlds, you get a full LED board that is extremely bright and does not use that much energy, and you get an easy connection. Most full lenses have a standard 1157 connection that just pop in like your standard bulb. They also come in a large variety of applications and in either factory red or custom clear. Now like everything in life there is a hitch. With these the hitch again is cost, most LED lenses will set you back about $35 to $60 each and again having a car with lots of taillights it can get expensive.

One final warning about using LED’s, if you are using LED’s on the front and rear of your ride, then you are going to have to install a solid state flasher with a ground wire. If you don’t then you will have serious issues with brightness and draws on your electrical system. Also we have run into a few problems with cruise control systems when using LED’s, we have not been able to figure this one out, but if you are using an aftermarket cruise system I would advise you to stay away from LED’s. For some reason it will not allow the cruise system to function properly and you will pull your hair out trying to figure this one out. I know I have.

Well that it for this month’s Tech Tip, so go out there and enjoy the last few months we have before winter arrives and drive those cars and trucks. Nothing is harder on them then letting them just sit around.