When driving down the road at night, LED headlights in the car behind you can be blinding. But what if you want that brightness and efficiency inside your vehicle? You may wonder what that looks like or if it is a legal option.
It is not illegal to have LED lights inside your car. Most automobile lighting laws are about headlights, taillights, and underglow lights – the ones you see outside the vehicle. They barely address interior lighting, if at all.
This article will teach you about automobile lighting laws, the pros, and cons of LED lights, and what makes LED lighting so attractive.
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Car Lighting Laws
There are tons of restrictions when it comes to lighting your ride from the outside, but most states do not have many laws addressing the lighting of your car’s interior. There are two significant factors to note when it comes to replacing the interior bulbs:
- Make sure the lights are not glaringly visible from the outside of your car.
- The lights can’t be blue or red.
These two go hand in hand. Suppose your interior lights are some combination of blue, red, and white while visible outside your car. Your vehicle could be mistaken for an emergency service automobile, such as a police car or an ambulance, making using red or blue lights illegal.
What’s the Difference Between LED Lights and Traditional Lights?
LED stands for light-emitting diodes, which accurately describes how they work. Electrical currents enter and exit from the diode, and that process emits light. On the other hand, incandescent and halogen lights use a filament that heats up and produces light.
Thus, LED lights work more like a battery, and traditional halogen lights use heat to illuminate your car. The result is LED lights emitting a cooler, brighter light. Standard bulbs are more popular and widely available but do not last as long.
If you want a warmer light with a yellow tint, stick with your traditional halogen bulbs. But, if you want a bright, white, cool light, try out some LED bulbs.
You may also like: HID vs. LED Headlights
Reasons to Use LED Lights
If you are still on the fence about switching to LED, here are some excellent reasons to make the trade.
- LED lights are more efficient: On average, LED bulbs make better use of lumens per watt (units of lighting measurement). In layman’s terms, you don’t need a high wattage with an LED light to get the same amount of light a regular bulb gives.
- This lighting emits low heat: Because LEDs do not rely on heat to illuminate like regular bulbs, they emit less heat and light up almost instantly.
- They have a long lifetime: LED lights have a maximum expected life of about 50,000 hours compared to regular bulbs’ maximum expected life of 25,000 hours.
- LED bulbs are more durable: From experience, you probably know that the filaments inside halogen lights are fragile. Fragility is not as much of an issue with LED bulbs; they have a higher shock resistance—crucial when using them in the car.
- These lights are brighter than what you are used to: This is especially useful if you often find yourself rifling through your backseat or trunk for missing items.
- They are more cost-effective over time: Though LED lights will cost more than regular bulbs, their lifespan is much longer, saving you more money in the long run.
Drawbacks of LED Lights
LED lights aren’t all rainbows and sunshine. There are also cons to this type of bulb.
- LEDs can overheat depending on the environment: Though LEDs don’t use heat to work, they are still sensitive to temperature. It would be best if you tried to keep them cool for the best performance, which can be difficult in the car.
- The cost is more expensive upfront: Though the efficiency of LEDs will save you money over time, not everyone has more dough to drop initially. Regular light bulbs will work fine if you can’t swing the price right now.
- Low-quality LEDs do not perform as well: You may not get the expected full performance if you’re trying to save money by using a lower-cost LED bulb. They won’t last as long, won’t fit well, and are more fragile than higher-quality bulbs.
How to Replace Your Car Bulbs With LED
All you need to change the existing bulbs in your car to the more energy-efficient alternative is new bulbs, a cloth, and a screwdriver.
- Examine your lights, and decide if the light cover snaps off or screws in.
- If it snaps off, gently use a flathead screwdriver to pry the cover off the light source.
- If it screws in, use a Phillips-head screwdriver to remove the cover.
- This step is optional. While the cover is off, use a cloth to clean it.
- Using that same cloth, remove the existing bulb. You may consider referencing your vehicle handbook to learn how the bulbs come out.
- Clean the bulb socket with your cloth.
- Install your new LED bulbs.
- Replace the cover.
- Turn on the car, and see how your new bulbs work!
- Find the trunk light. Doing so can be tricky as trunk lights aren’t always in the same location like map lights and dome lights are.
- If you are worried about blowing a fuse, use a wrench to disconnect the car battery.
- Use a flathead screwdriver to pull out the light gently.
- Use a cloth to pull out the old bulb and replace it with your new one.
- Gently push the light back in place.
- If you disconnected your battery, reconnect it.
- Turn on your car, and see if your new trunk light works!
Best LED Lights for Your Car
Ready to buy new car bulbs? Here are my recommendations. Please check the suggested wattage for your car bulbs before purchasing new ones to avoid blown fuses or short-circuiting.
Dome and Map Lights
If you’re looking for lights that will brighten your car at night, I recommend the Marsauto 194 LED Light Bulb you can pick up on Amazon. These fit the majority of places you’ll need a car light (such as the dome and map area) and have that shock-resistant quality that makes LED car lights so popular.
SIRIUS LED-FT-194 912 Side Marker LED Light Car Interior High-Power Bulb (available on Amazon.com) is my choice for brightening up the trunk. It comes in a pack of two, and each bulb should have about 50,000 hours of life. My favorite part is that they have guides on Amazon to help you find the right fit and to help you install them.
If you want a low-glowing LED strip to light up your entire interior, check out the LEDCARE Multicolor LED RGB Car Interior Lights from Amazon. These lights can change between five different colors (make sure you avoid blue or red). Plus, you can control them through your smartphone.
There is nothing illegal about switching out the old halogen bulbs inside your car with LED ones. You may even find this light is a brighter alternative that saves you money over the years. Buy some LED lights and grab a screwdriver to trade out your bulbs. You’ll have interior lighting that shines cooler and brighter while using less energy.
If you want interior mood lighting with an LED strip, ensure no one can mistake your vehicle for an emergency service vehicle by using any color other than blue or red.
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