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High Output LED Headlight Test

Posted in How To: Electrical on December 1, 2012
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Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting has been gaining popularity in the wheeling world. Although still fairly expensive when compared to other technologies, LEDs offer a host of benefits that make them a perfect choice for any 4x4. Advantages to LED lighting include incredible light output, low draw, solid-state electronics, and no bulbs to burn out.

Two of the biggest names right now in LED headlight replacement are Truck-Lite and J.W. Speaker. Recently revamped are both companies’ American-made, 7-inch-round, direct-replacement LED offerings. While these lights will work with any vehicle that uses a 7-inch sealed-beam light (PAR56, 6014, 6015, 6016, and H6024), they are a direct replacement for the popular ’07-’13 Wrangler JK (as well as other models), which is known for its mediocre factory headlight performance.

Truck-Lite’s new Phase 7, 7-inch-round LED light is a completely new design and exceeds DOT requirements for low- and high-beam performance. Using a military-grade, die-cast aluminum housing with a non-yellowing polycarbonate lens, each light houses a dual LED array that is compatible with both 12-volt and 24-volt systems. Solid-state, bulb-free electronics are coated in epoxy, making the lamps impervious to damage from shock and vibration, as well as corrosion or moisture. They use a standard H4, three-blade connector. These lights are made in the USA and come with a three-year limited warranty.

To test these products, we loaded up a ’12 Wrangler Unlimited and headed out to an open location where we were able to directly compare the lights against each other. In addition to the stock and LED headlights, we also brought along a pair of Philips’ X-tremeVision direct replacement bulbs to see how they would stack up as a low-cost option. These halogen bulb replacements use a unique filament design and are said to increase output by up to 100-percent over stock bulbs. The X-tremeVision bulbs are a more affordable upgrade for those looking to increase light output without the expense of LED lights.

To help visualize the beam patterns and give a sense of scale, we used six cones, placing four of them 25 feet apart, all the way out to 100 feet at the centerline of the vehicle. We then placed the remaining two cones 25 feet away on each side of the 50-foot cones. Without moving the vehicle, we swapped the various lights in and took photos of the high-beam patterns. After the test, the product was divvied up to our testers to be run on two different ’12 Wranglers to gauge what these lights were like in everyday situations. After several hundred miles of testing, we had a good idea of each product’s strength and weakness.

J.W. Speaker’s 8700 Evolution 7-inch-round lights are also made in the U.S.A and are DOT-compliant. The Evolution lights, which replace the previous 8700-series, are now fitted with UV-resistant polycarbonate lenses and a shallower design, making it an easier fit in applications where mounting depth is an issue. Like the Truck-Lite Phase 7s, the Evolutions also use a die-cast aluminum body, rugged solid-state electronics, and are compatible with both 12-volt and 24-volt systems. Our test lights came in a Bold Black finish, but the Evolutions are also available in Muscle Chrome. J.W. Speaker backs these lights with a four-year limited warranty.

Philips X-tremeVision
Hot: Affordable, whiter light
Not: Still uses factory optics
Our Take: A nice improvement for the price
MSRP: $67

Truck-Lite 7-inch Phase 7
Hot: Intense light output, biggest change in the test
Not: Pattern not quite as clean as the J.W. Speaker lights, has a noticeable “X” artifact in the middle of pattern
Our Take: Our favorite lights for plying deserted two-tracks
MSRP: $599.98

J.W. Speaker 8700 Evolution
Hot: Futuristic looks, refined light pattern
Not: Price, low beam doesn’t stay on with high beam
Our Take: Our favorite lights for a daily driver
MSRP: $995.95

PhotosView Slideshow


Falconer, NY 14733
J.W. Speaker Corporation

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