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  1. #1

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    Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    Just thinking out loud here and would like to hear the thoughts of this broad group.

    Just to set expectations...this has nothing to do with illumination.

    Yesterday we had a short, yet strong snow storm hit the area which dropped several inches of heavy, wet, sloppy snow. After driving in this weather, I pulled into my garage and noticed I couldn`t see my headlights projecting on the walls. Since my GTI has projection HIDs, I found this odd since they always project plenty of light. I figured the weather was at fault, but when I inspected the front of the car, I was surprised to see a thick layer of yet snow completely covering the lenses on both sides.

    I`m not new to snow, but am new to driving an HID equipped car in heavy snow (winters here aren`t what they used to be). In the past with halogen equipped cars, even in the worst conditions, the heat from the bulbs always seemed to keep an area clear of snow and ice. This leads me to wonder if newer lighting technology with HID and LED`s is making thing safer due to better illumination, the cooler temperatures on the lenses due to xenon HID projector housings or the simply fact LED`s run much cooler than a halogen bulb might be actually making things LESS safe because of the conditions I experienced. Now I know to not only need to keep the lenses clean from spray as I`ve always done, but an occasional wipe is needed to keep them clear of snow/ice since it won`t melt.

    Don`t get me wrong...now that I`ve driven a factory HID equipped car, I`ll never go back to halogens again. I just found an odd ownership quirk I wasn`t expecting.
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  2. #2
    LEDetailng's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    I prefer halogen, due to this exact issue, and cost to repair and maintain.

    Same issue with LED traffic lights. A wetter, blowing snow will cover LED traffic lights and obstruct the light. I’m not convinced LED street lights are as good as the old style either. LED’s streetlights are great right underneath the light, but they don’t seem to spill the light off at as great of an angle. I think this has more to do with lense and reflector design as opposes to LED’s being a bad streetlight.
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  3. #3

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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    I actually was thinking about this last week, about the issue of LED`s not being able to melt snow. It also will certainly be an issue with electric and plug-in hybrids about potentially not being able to heat the cabin as well and making it more difficult (than it already is in some circumstances) to keep the windows clear.

    Quote Originally Posted by LEDetailng View Post
    I think this has more to do with lense and reflector design as opposes to LED’s being a bad streetlight.
    I think it has more to do with the characteristics of LED`s which result in them being more of a directional light source than traditional bulbs. Many LED`s don`t produce any light on the "back" side so there is nothing for a reflector to reflect. This is good in some applications but not good for others.
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  4. #4
    Oneheadlite's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    I can’t say I’ve noticed that with my xenon headlights. They usually seem to be pretty clear after a drive. Now that you mention it I’ll be sure to keep an eye on them if we get any more snow this year.

    I have noticed this issue in the back though. My car has LED lighting for everything but the rear fog lights. After a drive in snow, (especially powdery snow), the back of the car will be completely covered (including all of the tail lights) except the small area where the rear fogs are. I’ve always been a rear fog light user in inclement weather, this especially reinforces it in this car.

  5. #5
    Oneheadlite's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    Quote Originally Posted by Setec Astronomy View Post
    I actually was thinking about this last week, about the issue of LED`s not being able to melt snow. It also will certainly be an issue with electric and plug-in hybrids about potentially not being able to heat the cabin as well and making it more difficult (than it already is in some circumstances) to keep the windows clear.
    I would guess most electric/hybrids would have electric assist for their HVAC - I know Audi has done this for their diesels to compensate for the slower warm up time.

  6. #6
    dansautodetailing.com Stokdgs's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    All 5 BMW`s I had, used projector halogens; the newest ones - 2003 models - had HID called "Xenon" back then
    But those halogen lights put light way, way, down the road.

    Which is what I have always wanted since I drive those long 4k mile trips at night..
    And I also know that the heat they put out helped keep them more clean in those mountain passes between Oregon and California in winter ..

    Any non HID lights in front of all my vehicles since then and after, get better light bulbs from PIAA out of Oregon..
    In my experiences, these PIAA light bulbs are brighter, and have a better beam pattern for my needs..

    Tried all the others, sylvania, etc., and they were just not as good..

    I even use PIAA bulbs in all fog lights to make them brighter as well..
    I choose to use the brightest - NON Blue - Color on the Road - bulbs..

    I have not driven any vehicles with all LED lights and am also wondering how well they even project light down the road.. I can agree that it should be a brighter, more close to sun light, but how FAR does it go out and to the sides is the big deal breaker for me... I guess if I never drove a few thousand miles a year on just the interstates, etc., it might not be a big deal, but since I do, I want the best light performance all the time..
    Dan F
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  7. #7
    Nizmo's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    I have the standard halogen lights in my GTI, but I honestly have never driven it in the snow to know if the OP`s issue happens on the standard GTI lights. Now, I have a 20" led light bar on the S10 and the snow does not accumulate on it, but it gets quite warm.
    2017 VW Golf GTI 6 Speed Manual - 2015 Toyota Camry SE - 1999 S10 5-Speed Manual
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  8. #8
    Coleroad's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    Time to bring back the old headlight wipers
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  9. #9

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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    Yeah, I`ve made it a habit of checking ice build up on headlights in poor weather. ISP and a few MF`s stay in the car during winter for that purpose.
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  10. #10
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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    Somebody on yahoo was griping about everyone driving with their high beams on these days. Except it’s not high beams, it’s LED’s and HID’s being more common just making it seem that way.

    Im looking at an Acura TLX. Regular halogen projectors will not be in my next car. HID or LED all the way for me. Once I put HID’s in my Honda, I’ll never be able to go back.
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  11. #11
    dansautodetailing.com Stokdgs's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    Quote Originally Posted by jrock645 View Post
    Somebody on yahoo was griping about everyone driving with their high beams on these days. Except it’s not high beams, it’s LED’s and HID’s being more common just making it seem that way.

    Im looking at an Acura TLX. Regular halogen projectors will not be in my next car. HID or LED all the way for me. Once I put HID’s in my Honda, I’ll never be able to go back.
    Mi Amigo -
    Yes ! ^^^^^^^^^^^^ I bet that new TLX will be awesome ! Makes me want to trade my `07 Type-S in--------- well, maybe not..

    I think it`s a little strange that people complain about that because even on my old 2009 Grand Cherokee, that has the last of the huge HID lights, they are all self-leveling, so they never really blind people to begin with..

    BMW had self-leveling lights way before everyone else started doing that..

    l think people should not be staring at them if they seem to be brighter than normal (because they are), and they will be ok..

    Wish someone would organize a way to test all the new LED headlights to see how effective they are in total darkness, how far they go out and how wide, before they cut off , etc...
    Never see anything like that in the one car magazine I get every month...
    Dan F

  12. #12
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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    Quote Originally Posted by Stokdgs View Post
    Mi Amigo -
    Yes ! ^^^^^^^^^^^^ I bet that new TLX will be awesome ! Makes me want to trade my `07 Type-S in--------- well, maybe not..

    I think it`s a little strange that people complain about that because even on my old 2009 Grand Cherokee, that has the last of the huge HID lights, they are all self-leveling, so they never really blind people to begin with..

    BMW had self-leveling lights way before everyone else started doing that..

    l think people should not be staring at them if they seem to be brighter than normal (because they are), and they will be ok..

    Wish someone would organize a way to test all the new LED headlights to see how effective they are in total darkness, how far they go out and how wide, before they cut off , etc...
    Never see anything like that in the one car magazine I get every month...
    Dan F
    I think the IIHS site does something similar to what you`re talking about. They show the light output as an image with field of vision, and how far and wide the light beam goes.
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  13. #13

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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    Thanks for this information and observation about HID and LED lighting on vehicles in winter snow. It may be time for vehicle manufacturers to have headlight heaters as standard equipment for safety reasons, along with the plethora of driver-ASSiststance safety features offered on vehicles. That said, it is hard enough to get "uneducated" drivers to turn on their full head lights (NOT running lights) in bad weather conditions or even in early pre-dawn or pre-sunset hours (those twilight hours) to increase the chances of seeing them. As we said in machine design and engineering, "the more idiot-proof you try to make a machine, they just invent better idiots." (Or as the bumper sticker says, "JESUS is my co-pilot". Well then LET HIM DRIVE, not you! I trust Him.)

    I think it`s ironic that the city of Green Bay, WI installed LED bulbs in traffic lights to save on electricity cost, which it did UNTIL the first wet November snow. Then they had to send out street crew to clear the un-melted snow from those lights to prevent traffic accidents, as LEDetailing (Wisconsin resident) pointed out. This was especially true on lights facing into the winds of the snow, which were REALLY coated/covered and would take DAYS to melt from the sun`s radiant heat. I would like to know how much that costs to have city street crews remove snow from LED traffic signal lights versus the actual money saved in electrical cost for a light. Penny wise and pound foolish would be my guess, knowing what public workers make.
    GB detailer
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  14. #14

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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    Great discussion guys. Glad to know I wasn`t losing my mind and my hypothesis probably isn`t too far fetched.

    Quote Originally Posted by Coleroad View Post
    Time to bring back the old headlight wipers
    Yes! I always thought the small wipers on the Volvos and Mercs from the 80`s and 90`s were a fantastic idea. Never owned one though to see if they worked very well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Setec Astronomy View Post
    I think it has more to do with the characteristics of LED`s which result in them being more of a directional light source than traditional bulbs. Many LED`s don`t produce any light on the "back" side so there is nothing for a reflector to reflect. This is good in some applications but not good for others.
    Very true. This alone is one reason we all so some HID/LED headlight "upgrades" go wrong. The housings for headlights are designed for a specific type of bulb. Very few perform well when you put in a different type of light source.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stokdgs View Post

    I have not driven any vehicles with all LED lights and am also wondering how well they even project light down the road.. I can agree that it should be a brighter, more close to sun light, but how FAR does it go out and to the sides is the big deal breaker for me... I guess if I never drove a few thousand miles a year on just the interstates, etc., it might not be a big deal, but since I do, I want the best light performance all the time..
    Dan F
    I`ve driven a couple rental cars with LED headlights and my verdict is, "it depends". The Toyota Corolla I drove seemed to put out a really wide/short pattern of light. It seemed brighter than my VW HID`s but didn`t seem to project down the road very far. Part of the problem could be a factory adjustment issue, but the Corolla also doesn`t have any projector housing for the LED light source. It`s simply an LED array jammed in a purpose built reflector housing. I wasn`t too impressed because the bright near-field lighting actually harmed my long range vision in the dark. The Mazda CX5 I drove was a totally different animal. Those LED arrays are mounted in a projector housing. The pattern was much better and projected farther down the road. Distance-wise I`d put the range a little better than the HID`s on my GTI, which is actually quite good. The tempreature of the light is different too. The Toyota actually was actually better due to the light being whiter while the Mazda was tuned more towards the blue end of the spectrum. Put the Toyota array in the Mazda`s housings and it would be perfect. I`d really like to try the lights on a Acura or Honda Accord. Those things look amazing and I`d love to see how they work from the driver`s seat.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nizmo View Post
    I have the standard halogen lights in my GTI, but I honestly have never driven it in the snow to know if the OP`s issue happens on the standard GTI lights. Now, I have a 20" led light bar on the S10 and the snow does not accumulate on it, but it gets quite warm.
    Your halogen lights probably will be warm enough. VW has never put their halogen bulbs in a projector housing like other car makers, so there is nothing between the bulb and the lense. It probably heats up quite nicely when you run your lights.
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  15. #15

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    Re: Strange Observation of Modern Headlights

    Quote Originally Posted by Desertnate View Post
    Yes! I always thought the small wipers on the Volvos and Mercs from the 80`s and 90`s were a fantastic idea. Never owned one though to see if they worked very well...
    The `93 Audi has those, as did our earlier Benzes and a few others. IME they were somewhat useful under certain (very unusual, at least for me) conditions. Heh heh, note all those qualifiers I absolutely never missed them on other vehicles and was tempted to see them as a "we have all the features you could imagine!"-type gimmick.

    What *did*/does work pretty well is the "High Intensity Headlight Washer" systems on some cars, e.g. that `93 Audi and the 928s. But the potent solution for those systems (separate tank for it) wasn`t something I wanted spraying all over the front of my vehicle.

    Undoubtedly useful for some people under some conditions, but generally....nah, no thanks. The wipers were just one more thing to detail and some of `em were kinda fragile (not the Benzes, those were pretty robust).

    Oh, sheesh, this has me missing W126 Benzes again

 

 
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