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LED Headlight Bulbs or HIDs?

EXCellR8

Diamond Member
Sep 1, 2010
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I have a lighting problem... seems like my '06 Subaru Impreza is a black hole for standard H7 halogen bulbs and I just keep having to replace them every 3-4 months or so. The PIAA bulbs I typically buy in pairs aren't cheap either so I'm looking for something else now. I wanted to ask if anyone's tried LED bulbs or just buy a retro solutions HID kit? I've used their kits before and they're fantastic but that's like $50 vs $150...

Should I just buy a pair of cheap H7 bulbs or LED's to see how they hold up, or am I just wasting my time and risking poor quality lighting? I have a light bar on the car too that I'm repainting so I do have plenty of auxiliary lumens but headlights are still most important. I feel like LED would last the longest but HID's are much better for night driving as far as my experience goes.
 

pauldun170

Diamond Member
Sep 26, 2011
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I have a lighting problem... seems like my '06 Subaru Impreza is a black hole for standard H7 halogen bulbs and I just keep having to replace them every 3-4 months or so. The PIAA bulbs I typically buy in pairs aren't cheap either so I'm looking for something else now. I wanted to ask if anyone's tried LED bulbs or just buy a retro solutions HID kit? I've used their kits before and they're fantastic but that's like $50 vs $150...

Should I just buy a pair of cheap H7 bulbs or LED's to see how they hold up, or am I just wasting my time and risking poor quality lighting? I have a light bar on the car too that I'm repainting so I do have plenty of auxiliary lumens but headlights are still most important. I feel like LED would last the longest but HID's are much better for night driving as far as my experience goes.
First mistake is buying the PIAA bulbs.
If you are buying any of the "extremebright" or extremewhite or sliverstar etc etc or anything colored\blue tinted stuff...stop. Lot of those pricey bulbs are nothing but tradeoffs and have short lifespans to begin with.

Don't convert anything or spend any money on conversion kits or other aftermarket crap. At least not yet

Buy a set of "Sylvania Basic" H7 bulbs.
See how long they last.
If they last less 5 years, I'd be surprised.
 
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EXCellR8

Diamond Member
Sep 1, 2010
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Eh I've had decent luck with PIAA bulbs up unitl now; their H3 bulbs have been great.

I've used those cheap $12 Sylvania bulbs and they just dont emit enough light, especially during those rainy or damp nights. They're good bulbs, just not bright enough; that's sort of the reason for wanting to upgrade the system... the low beam is a projector lens and I've heard that LED don't work that well with them. The high beams are standard reflector lenses and nearly any bulb works fine for those, but the projectors aren't quite as forgiving. I don't want aftermarket lamps either but maybe i'll try polishing the OE lenses (everything is lousy plastic nowadays) and try the Sylvania bulbs again.

Thanks for the suggestion.
 

pauldun170

Diamond Member
Sep 26, 2011
8,365
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Eh I've had decent luck with PIAA bulbs up unitl now; their H3 bulbs have been great.

I've used those cheap $12 Sylvania bulbs and they just dont emit enough light, especially during those rainy or damp nights. They're good bulbs, just not bright enough; that's sort of the reason for wanting to upgrade the system... the low beam is a projector lens and I've heard that LED don't work that well with them. The high beams are standard reflector lenses and nearly any bulb works fine for those, but the projectors aren't quite as forgiving. I don't want aftermarket lamps either but maybe i'll try polishing the OE lenses (everything is lousy plastic nowadays) and try the Sylvania bulbs again.

Thanks for the suggestion.
Another thing to consider is vibration. Check the headlamp assembly and font clip to see if anything is loose. Even a little bit could impact the bulbs and shorten the bulb life.
 

BoomerD

No Lifer
Feb 26, 2006
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Odds are, the reflectors in your headlight buckets aren't designed to take advantage of the LEDs or HID's, and it's not uncommon for HID's to warp/melt the reflectors...or burn up the headlight wiring. (they can draw more power than the wiring was designed to handle)
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
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Stop buying crap. Buy standard long life bulbs. If you can't see to drive with standards bulbs you should not be driving at night.

Standard long life bulbs do not last only a few months.

Your light bar is illegal if used on public roads.
 
Feb 25, 2011
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...maybe i'll try polishing the OE lenses (everything is lousy plastic nowadays) and try the Sylvania bulbs again.
That's probably your best bet. A decade of road grit will turn those lenses pretty opaque.

FWIW, there are LED bulbs that are designed to replace bulbs in old fashioned halogen reflector housings. (The led placement is the same as the filament.) But the ones I've seen reviewed actually put out less light than the halogens.
 

Midwayman

Diamond Member
Jan 28, 2000
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I've heard that the LED kits rarely live up to their lumen ratings. Maybe OEM kits are better, but HID is still more effective as a retrofit. Nice thing is you can get the 55w version if you're not worried about being extra-legal. (No retrofit is going to be strictly legal AFAIK) You'll need a new set of projector housing either way to do it right. They make bulbs to 'fit' standard housing. Please don't do this and blind people. For HID you'll be wiring directly to your battery with a relay on the existing harness to turn them on and off.

I have a kit from https://www.theretrofitsource.com/ which also runs a major HID forum on the net https://www.hidplanet.com/forums/. I suggest you dig in there and you'll find what you need, but maybe not what you want to hear.
 

deadlyapp

Diamond Member
Apr 25, 2004
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If you have standard reflectors, don't get LEDs or HIDs or anything like that. You'll get shit lighting and you'll also blind everyone. Please for the love of god don't do it. Now, if you have projectors, and they're half decent projectors, you might be able to get away with a plug and play LED set which is what I did on my Explorer. However, note that a lot of those plug and play kits have drivers that will be right in the engine compartment and may not have a long lifespan (I already had one of mine die after a year of use). Do not use a plug and play HID kit though, as those are entirely different animals.

If you want to go HID, then do it the right way and get a full retrofit kit with tuned projector housings and everything. Yes, it will probably cost you around $500+ but they're pretty well worth it.
 

EXCellR8

Diamond Member
Sep 1, 2010
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The low beams are projectors and the highs are reflector with regular halogen; I'm not concerned about those at all. Both bulbs are under the same plastic lamp cover... per Subaru OE design. The low beam is behind another projector lens etc, so it really shouldn't matter which type of bulb is there so long it's bright.

The headlamps on my BRZ are similar in design, where the high beam is reflector and the low is behind a projector. The car has factory HID but I'm not sure if it's for the low, high or both... obviously they work wonderfully so it'd be nice to have a similar setup on the Impreza, if possible.
 

deadlyapp

Diamond Member
Apr 25, 2004
6,078
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The low beams are projectors and the highs are reflector with regular halogen; I'm not concerned about those at all. Both bulbs are under the same plastic lamp cover... per Subaru OE design. The low beam is behind another projector lens etc, so it really shouldn't matter which type of bulb is there so long it's bright.

The headlamps on my BRZ are similar in design, where the high beam is reflector and the low is behind a projector. The car has factory HID but I'm not sure if it's for the low, high or both... obviously they work wonderfully so it'd be nice to have a similar setup on the Impreza, if possible.
Might want to do some research as I'm sure there is an HID setup available for the Impreza as an OE option (WRX / STI models?) and you might be able to find out if they use a different part number for the headlights / projectors / housings or if they use the same parts and just a different bulb + driver. Dropping right into the existing projector is not ideal for HID (explained decently here: https://www.hidplanet.com/forums/forum/general-discussion/general-discussion-aa/17345-hid-projector-vs-halogen-projector-differences). LED is less sensitive, however still has different optical properties than halogen in how and where it emits light.
 

EXCellR8

Diamond Member
Sep 1, 2010
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Good resource.

I believe the only US model Impreza in '06 w/ available factory HID was the WRX STI; the kit isn't PnP with the base Impreza lamps. The cost to source and replace those is a bit steep and I hate replacing OE lamps... not to mention that there's probably a bunch of smaller factory components that I'd have to track down.

I guess I'll just clean them up a bit and see if the Sylvania bulbs work a bit better...
 

deadlyapp

Diamond Member
Apr 25, 2004
6,078
419
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Good resource.

I believe the only US model Impreza in '06 w/ available factory HID was the WRX STI; the kit isn't PnP with the base Impreza lamps. The cost to source and replace those is a bit steep and I hate replacing OE lamps... not to mention that there's probably a bunch of smaller factory components that I'd have to track down.

I guess I'll just clean them up a bit and see if the Sylvania bulbs work a bit better...
Are the lamps dimensionally interchangeable? I took a look at a comparison between the base impreza and the STI and they look the same. If you could source the projector by itself, you could perhaps replace the existing ones, although if the headlight is sealed then it might be more of a bitch than its worth. Then you could get any aftermarket HID bulb + ballast and run normally. You could always just get the HIDs first and see if you like it, replace the lamp or projector later if necessary.

Lots of aftermarket projectors available for your car too looks like
https://www.carid.com/2006-subaru-impreza-projector-headlights/
 

EXCellR8

Diamond Member
Sep 1, 2010
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I'm almost certain the lamp assemblies themselves are sealed, so that's a bit more effort than it's probably worth. After all, everyone would have done that if it was that easy. I'd prefer to keep the OE lamps so I think I'll clean and buff them and see how standard halogen bulbs look first, before moving to HID. LED sounds nice but I don't think they can compare to Xenon bulbs in brightness, but may have the upper hand in reliability. Haven't used any though, so can't make any claims.

Thanks again for the help, got a few things to consider. I'll take a stab at it this weekend and see what I come up with.
 

Midwayman

Diamond Member
Jan 28, 2000
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Lamp assemblies are sealed.Generally you can stick them in an oven on low (200ish) and soften the glue enough to be able to change the projectors. It is a PITA to do though. I'd spend more money on aftermarket housing with projectors built in to avoid cracking lights open.
 

paperfist

Diamond Member
Nov 30, 2000
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www.the-teh.com
My Prius eats headlights. Or so I thought. I was spending a fortune on those sexy Silverstars and their ilk. Seemed like once a month I’d get pulled over for headlight out.

Last time I said screw it and bought the cheapest standard halogen bulb and it’s been a record setting 8 months without and outage.
 

EXCellR8

Diamond Member
Sep 1, 2010
3,887
788
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Lamp assemblies are sealed.Generally you can stick them in an oven on low (200ish) and soften the glue enough to be able to change the projectors. It is a PITA to do though. I'd spend more money on aftermarket housing with projectors built in to avoid cracking lights open.
Yea I'm not totally opposed to aftermarket lamps, I just hate trying to get them aimed properly afterward and I feel like I can never get them dead on even w/ a thermal gun. Headlights are such a nuisance to me, especially because if they aren't perfect I can just feel the rage start to surface.

My Prius eats headlights. Or so I thought. I was spending a fortune on those sexy Silverstars and their ilk. Seemed like once a month I’d get pulled over for headlight out.

Last time I said screw it and bought the cheapest standard halogen bulb and it’s been a record setting 8 months without and outage.
Threw in a pair of OE spec Osram/Sylvania 55w halogen bulbs on lunch break and I'll see how they do. Still need to clean the lenses a bit but I think they'll do for now. $15 for the pair so that's quite a nice break. The PIAA bulbs are definitely nicer color/brightness but certainly not worth the $150/yr price tag.
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
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Something else worth trying is a combination of extra long life bulbs and direct wiring them to the battery (I still mean through a DIY add-on relay, which activates by the former headlight wire going to the relay coil).

First measure the (engine running) voltage on the connector while the lights are on, high beam preferred since that's when you needed light more or else you wouldn't have turned them on. If it's not up near the voltage at the battery terminals, you have enough loss that direct wiring could be of benefit.

This is especially true with newer (okay it's been around for 2 decades or more) vehicles that have bulb out sensing circuits because these typically pass the circuit through a current sense resistor to sense that voltage drop indicating a bulb is out. That drop, directly reduces the bulb output too.

There may be even newer or luxury vehicles that implement this better but it is a common design for bulb sensing. To be clear, wiring around the circuit loses that functionality. You won't be told when that bulb goes out, and in many cases it will show the bulb is out because not enough current is flowing through the sensing circuit. It's a similar situation for those who switch to LED bulbs and find they need a fix, usually settling for a power wasting ballast resistor which I'd hate to resort to on principle.

There are ways to hack these circuits, disable or re-enable with an alternate sensing strategy, but now I'm drifting off on a tangent.
 
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EXCellR8

Diamond Member
Sep 1, 2010
3,887
788
136
Something else worth trying is a combination of extra long life bulbs and direct wiring them to the battery (I still mean through a DIY add-on relay, which activates by the former headlight wire going to the relay coil).
Yea this is typically what most HID kits do... add a relay and just use the stock harness for the lamps; one will not be used depending on application. That's at least how I've done them in the past but adding a relay and fuse to regular halogen lamps works as well. I could actually bypass the DRL system that way too...
 

EXCellR8

Diamond Member
Sep 1, 2010
3,887
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Yea the current bulbs just aren't bright enough, now that I've had the chance to do some extensive night driving with them. I cleaned the lenses the best I could but I think because the actual plastic is older and breaking down that I just can't get a nice bright light from regular halogen bulbs. The lenses don't yet have that yellow-ish "I've never treated my headlights" look but they are kind of dull. I might try to see if I can buff them a little bit to at least make them look nicer but man do I miss glass lamp lenses. My old civics and corollas never suffered from this issue.
 

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