If you’re ready to upgrade your stock headlights to something more powerful and crisp like light emitting diode (LED) headlights, it’s helpful to get some information on how they work. Let’s learn what makes LED headlights different and the pros and cons of installing LED headlights.

How LED Headlights Work

The Difference in Light

Headlights have remained virtually unchanged since the 1970s with halogen bulbs doing most of the work lighting our roads. Over the past few years LEDs have become a more popular lighting source for several reasons including longer life, greater clarity, and less power usage. The same qualities that make LEDs popular for overhead lighting or flashlights are the same reason more people are switching to LED headlights.

The Science Behind LEDs

In a traditional halogen bulb, power runs through trapped gases and heats a filament that gives off light. LEDs eschew the hot filament lighting source for a semiconductor, or diode, that becomes ‘excited’ and gives off energy in the form of light when power is passed through it. There’s no filament to heat up in LEDs, just an excitable semiconductor. It’s in the name, light emitting diode.

Pros of LEDs

Longer Life

LED headlights have a superior lifespan over their halogen counterparts. There’s no filament that can bust so you can expect LED headlights to last thousands of hours compared to the dozens of hours from a traditional halogen bulb.

Greater Clarity

Since LED light is produced by a diode and not hot filament the light that comes from LEDs is brighter and clearer. Very helpful if you frequently find yourself on dark roads.

Less Power Usage

LEDS last longer and have greater clarity then most headlights but surprisingly only use a fraction of the power. This isn’t a huge deal for your car’s battery, but any decreased power needs are always good for your vehicle.

Disadvantages of LEDs


All those advantages come at a cost. LED headlights are an upgrade and will cost you a few hundred dollars in parts and labor to install. Though they’re more expensive out of the gate, they last much longer than traditional lights. You simply must determine if they’re worth the cost.

Installation Can be Tricky

Every engine and lighting system is different, which means installing LEDs can be tricky. Most LED lighting systems come with a retro adapter to properly power the headlights, but you may also have to install additional components like anti-flicker adapters to be certain your headlights are functioning properly. Obviously, any additional component your headlights need to work properly comes at an added cost.

How do LED headlights work? With a diode, not a filament. Because LED headlights used an excited semiconductor and not an excited filament their light is brighter, clearer, and lasts much longer. You’ll have to pay more at the beginning but for most the greater life and clarity is well worth it.