LED headlights are bright – significantly brighter than halogen bulbs used to be. Generally, this is really useful, as it improves visibility, particularly in poor driving conditions.
Plus, with the lifespan and speed advantages of LED bulbs, there are many reasons to switch to them.
But many drivers struggle with being dazzled by headlights. A study by the RAC showed that drivers complain of up to five-second delays in recovering – a time in which you could’ve traveled well over 100 meters if driving at 60mph.
So, do LED headlights, blind other drivers?
Good quality LED headlights, installed correctly, are bright but not blinding. If LED headlights are too bright, check they’re installed the correct way round, and consider replacing them if they aren’t from a reputable brand.
In this article I’ll explain:
- Why LED bulbs can be too bright
- Other reasons your LEDS could blind other drivers
Can LED Headlights Blind Approaching Drivers?
It’s essential to be clear here. Yes, LED headlights can blind approaching drivers, but that’s not to say that all-LED headlights WILL blind drivers.
There are a few different reasons why LED headlights might blind drivers, some of which are down to the bulb, while others are related to the driver’s mistakes.
It’s always important to buy good quality LED bulb from a well-respected brand and check you’re using it correctly.
Keep reading to find out why.
Why Are LED Headlights Too Bright?
Let’s be clear again – not all-LED headlights are too bright. Some definitely are because they’ve either been made poorly or aren’t designed to be used as headlights.
In both cases, you’ll generally find that the bulbs are labeled on the packing as “for off-road use only.”
That’s because they haven’t passed the required safety standards to make them road-legal, or they’re intended to only be used for the show.
Of course, if you shop online, you can’t always trust the retailer to disclose this information to you. You need to shop carefully when it comes to LED headlights, and buy trusted brands from reliable stores.
Unoptimized Light Direction
If you choose an off-brand bulb, you might soon find out that the light direction hasn’t been optimized properly. Suppose it’s not directed in the right way, towards the road. In that case, it could be shining directly into the eyes of an oncoming driver.
There is a test you can do to check your headlight alignment. You simply need a wall and some tape or a marker. Drive up to the wall, and mark the points that are level with your headlights.
Reverse 25 feet and switch on your low beams. If your headlights are pretty much shining on the marks you made, then your bulbs are appropriately optimized and installed correctly.
But if the headlights are shining higher, and you’re sure they’re installed correctly (which I’ll cover further below). They might not be optimized correctly and will need to be replaced.
You should also check whether the bulbs are compatible with your vehicle. LED bulbs aren’t generic. If you install the wrong one, it won’t be consistent with the OEM reflector, which could be another reason the beam isn’t directed correctly.
Poor Quality Bulbs
The other problem with badly-made bulbs, or LEDs that aren’t safe to be used as headlights at all, could be if they’re too bright. Cheaper brands might even advertise their LEDs as being ultra-bright or the brightest headlights you can buy.
You should avoid buying these. Good quality LED headlights are definitely bright enough. This isn’t a competition to see who can make the brightest bulb because you need to consider reflections and the impact on other drivers.
In terms of lumens, you should be aiming for an output of around 2,000-4,000 for LED headlights. This is still up to 300% brighter than old halogen bulbs and can be brighter than HID.
It’s also important that you don’t confuse lumens and Kelvins. Kelvins are the measure of the bulb’s color, with around 6000K for an LED at a cool white color.
The scales are a little similar, but you definitely should avoid any LED that advertises lumens of 6,000 or more.
What Else Contributes To Blinding Besides LED?
There are other potential causes of LED headlights being too bright. Neither is the fault of the bulb, and they’re actually a human error.
Installing the Bulb Upside Down
The first is in the installation of your LED bulb. It’s actually pretty easy to accidentally install an LED headlight upside down if you aren’t paying attention.
However, it can completely mess with the direction of your beam, causing it to reflect incorrectly and potentially blind drivers.
It can also mean that your low beam is as bright as a high beam. Laws state you cannot have your high beam headlights on within 500 feet of another vehicle, which you may inadvertently do if your bulb is upside down.
If you’re unsure whether your bulb is installed the correct way, then I have a guide for you on how to get things right. You can read the full guide here.
In short, the diodes should be on the sides of the bulb at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions, and if the bulb has a shield this should be at the bottom.
Uneven Weight Distribution
The other human error that can cause you to blind drivers isn’t as common, but it’s the sort of thing that you’ll kick yourself over if you realize you’ve made this mistake. It’s to do with weight distribution.
Many people assume that a car is already pretty evenly spread in terms of weight. Because the driver is always in the front of the vehicle, the vehicle will always be flat. However, people then forget about this if they’re carrying a heavy load, particularly in trucks.
Too much weight in the back of the vehicle will cause it to sit lower, which will angle the front of your car or truck upwards.
The difference may only be a few millimeters. Still, the angle change is amplified over distance, which means that oncoming drivers will see a brighter light.
Many trucks and larger vehicles take this into account with a control for the direction of your headlights. It’ll be a small dial with numbers and a headlight icon that you can use to adjust your headlights.
The scale will vary depending on your vehicle, usually ending either on three or four. But as a guide:
- Use the lowest setting when only the front seats are occupied, no luggage
- Use the next setting when all seats are occupied, no luggage
- Use the next setting when all seats are occupied with a full luggage load
- Use the highest setting when only the front seats are occupied, and there’s a full luggage load
The higher the number/setting, the lower the headlights are aimed to compensate. Make sure you don’t forget, and you check the alignment if you’re carrying a heavyweight in the back of the vehicle.
LED headlights have many advantages over older bulbs. Still, quality really matters – as does making sure that you install them correctly.
Don’t be tempted by adverts for the best, brightest bulbs without doing your research. Brighter isn’t always better, and too bright can be dangerous.
Do you already use LED headlights?
If so, which brand have you gone for?
Let me know in the comments.