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My Headlights are Too Dim Update

TL;DR - the headlights are better, but I still have work to do to make them work well in inclement weather.

I tweaked the headlights in several ways after returning from The 3C Trip - I replaced the headlight bulbs with LEDs, upgraded the Hella 700s with HIDs, and fixed the interaction between the Hellas and DRLs when the hi-beams are switched on and off (see HIDs and LEDs - Finally, I Can See Again! and *Fixing* My First Mod - Really Disabling the Daytime Running Lights). I'm very happy with two aspects of this work: first, the HID upgrade for the Hella's. The light output from them now is simply amazing - it's like running in daylight (ok, not really, but it is SO bright). Second, the DRL/Hi/Low/Hella interaction is now perfect - the Hellas come on when the hi-beams are on, and are off at all other times.

What I'm not so happy with are the new LEDs, and that deserves a bit more explanation - because it's not for the reason I thought it would be. My review of the BEAMTECH H4 LED Headlight (9003 Hi/Lo) is actually a mixed bag. In good weather, they actually seemed quite nice - significantly better than I'd expected after I'd seen the bright white light they emitted when I'd first turned them on in the garage. In fact, after about 8 hours of night driving on the first trip down to Death Valley, I was pretty sure I was going to keep the LEDs.

  • While the light is a little white for me, their brightness is so much better than the stock bulbs that I actually REALLY liked them when we were driving for hours and hours at night and the weather was good.
  • The cut-off seems really good. I never got flashed by oncoming traffic when the low-beams were on. Even with the cut-off shield, I was worried about whether it would work, and I'm really glad that it seemed to work well.
  • The hi-beams seemed just OK. This surprised me bit - they were not dramatically brighter than the lows (though perhaps this indicates how good the lows are).

On the way back from Death Valley, we hit bad weather - snow. Heavy snow. Even though they didn't perform as well as they had in good weather, this wasn't enough to change my mind on the LEDs.

  • The low-beams were darn good in snow, even the heavy snow. I didn't get too much glare and yet still got enough light to see well. We ran this way for nearly 12 hours on the way home - essentially from Bishop, CA to Eugene, OR.
  • The hi-beams on the other hand were terrible. The light scatter with them on made the snow blinding - I literally couldn't see more than about 10 feet in front of the truck. Part of this was due to beam pattern, but a big part of it was due to light color. A yellower would be a lot better in this situation.

So, overall I was quite happy with them from a light performance perspective - happier than I thought I'd be, even with the poor weather, hi-beam situation. After all, I knew that I wouldn't be able to use the Hellas in the snow, and hi-beams seem somewhat similar.

But then - something I totally didn't expect. I noticed on the way home that when the headlights - low- or hi-beams - are on, my ham radio "busy" indicator is always on. Like full on. On both channels. So, the ham thinks that it's receiving a transmission all the time. So, the RFI the headlights put out is terrible. I don't think they are shielded at all. And, they are on a completely separate electrical system (air gapped) than my radio, so there's nothing I can do to fix it. ...And for that reason, I'm going to at least try some other non-LED bulbs.

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