Front Driving Light/Blinker Switchback LED Bulb Review for 1996-97 Corner Housings - TCCoA Forums
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 01-28-2018, 05:46 PM Thread Starter
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Front driving light/blinker switchback LED bulb review for 1996-97 corner housings


Pictured: Morimoto X-VF white inner driving lights rewired as daytime running lights, iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030 amber/white switchback captured in hazard blinking mode

Months before I had my HID retrofit done last year, I had already switched out my driving lights and blinkers for LEDs. Iíve been through a battle trying to get the right switchback LEDs because there are so many factors in getting them right, especially when you have an HID retrofit done and color temperature differences between the HID and LED bulbs become so much more noticeable and important. Everyone knows about the hyperflash issues that arise from switching to LED bulbs, but this review is about comparing their light output specifically in a 1996-97 MN12 clear corner housing.

Due to various issues with the bulbs I bought over the last half year, I inadvertently ended up testing four different LED switchback bulbs and have finally found one that goes well with my HID setup. I had my thoughts organized well enough that I decided to write a detailed review of all the bulbs.

Before we get into the bulbs, I regret to say that this review is lacking in photos because the differences in both color temperature and brightness were incredibly difficult to capture on camera. I had thought about doing a photo reshoot, but I already returned some of the bulbs I reviewed.

Anyway, here are the contenders. The names of the bulbs are linked to the product for sale at their respective retailers.

Morimoto X-VF

This bulb is currently the best of what Morimoto has to offer. Better known for their HID bulbs and projectors, Morimoto has dived into the plug-and-play LED accessory bulb pool as well. The X-VF is Morimotoís second generation LED bulb featuring advanced optics to better distribute light radially.


JDM Astar 120-EX

The true shotgun bulb of the bunch, this JDM Astar EX-series switchback bulb is an older design that has 120 LED chips onboard pointing radially as well as forward behind a domed lens.


Endpage 62-SMD

Much like the JDM Astar 120-EX, Endpageís bulb also fires light radially as well as forward behind a domed lens. Whereas the JDM Astar 120-EX points LEDs in every direction radially, the Endpage 62-SMD bulb clusters 12 LEDs around the sides of the bulb every 90 degrees. 48 LEDs wrap the sides and 14 fire forward in seven paired clusters behind a domed lens.


iBrightstar ďExtremely Bright 3030 ChipsetĒ (16-SMD 3030)

This bulb is a 16 LED bulb with three clusters of four LEDs around three sides, forming a triangular prism. On top is another cluster of four LEDs behind a domed lens. This LED bulb is sold by several retailers on Amazon (and probably eBay). The Retrofit Source also used to offer these as the ACME switchback, which were the first switchbacks that I bought prior to running the X-VF for several months. Regardless of the retailer, the distinguishing features of this bulb are the anodized black heatsink, the triangular prism shape of the radial-firing LEDs, and the cluster of four LEDs on each side of the bulb with the top LEDs behind a domed lens.


Brightness

For this section, a guide to different surface mount LEDs is helpful and relevant to get started.


Morimoto X-VF: With six high-quality Cree XLamp XT-E LEDs in an conical reflector, these bulbs are the only ones that donít rely on a shotgun approach to illumination. Half of the LEDs are downfiring into a conical reflector, which then aims the light to the sides. The end result is that the lighting is fairly well distributed in open space in all directions. However, with only six LED chips and only half going to either white or amber, regardless of their quality, this bulbís overall brightness falls short of the competition.

JDM Astar 120-EX: With 120 LED chips on the bulb and half of those getting utilized for white light, you would think these bulbs are blinding. However, one thing you learn about LED chips is that the type of LED chip is just as important as the quantity. The chips on this bulb, as best as I could tell, were of type 3014, which have a pretty low lumen output per chip compared to other SMD LED chips. With 60 of them lit up at a time though, the brightness is certainly sufficient and noticeably better than the X-VF.

Endpage 62-SMD: The Endpage bulb features 62 type 4014 LEDs on board, and with double the per-chip lumen output than type 3014 LEDs, the Endpage 62-SMD does very well for itself, outshining the 120-EX slightly and dwarfing the X-VF.

iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030: This bulb has only 16 LED chips, but these are the high-powered type 3030 chips that are 10X brighter per chip than the 3014, and 5X brighter per chip than the 4014. Even with only eight of these devoted to one color, these are the clear winner in terms of overall brightness.

As bright as the iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030s are, there are LED bulbs out there that have even more 3030 LED chips, with one particular model on Amazon having as many as 42 3030s. While I would have loved to see how insanely bright those would have been, I worry those would be overkill for a switchback/driving light combo and could cause excessive glare.

Winner: iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030


White Color Temperature

Morimoto X-VF: Because this bulb is Morimotoís original design and because they have a good track record of documentation with their products, it was nice to easily look up the white color temperature of this bulb, which is 5500K. Itís a very close match to the 5500K Morimoto XB HID bulbs that I have for my HID retrofit. To be really nitpicky, it is ever so slightly cooler (bluer) than my HIDs, but not by a distracting amount. Overall, itís about as white as pure white can be.

JDM Astar 120-EX: This is the only bulb that brought immediate disgust when matched up next to my HIDs. The color temperature is easily 6500K if not higher because it has a very distinct pale blue tint compared to my HIDs.

Endpage 62-SMD: The Endpage bulb is certainly no JDM Astar 120-EX in being a far cry from pure white. Itís slightly cooler in color than the X-VF, but not by a significant amount. If the X-VF is 5500K, these might be a hair under 6000K, which is noticeable side-by-side, but probably not on their own. Next to my HIDs, theyíre definitely a cooler temperature, but still acceptable.

iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030: I originally installed these as the ACME switchback before I got the X-VF, but I returned them due to build quality issues. This go around as the iBrightstar yielded the same results in terms of color temperature as the ACME bulbs. Like the X-VF, these are also 5500K bulbs that match my HIDs nicely and itís good to see that their color output is consistent from one pair of bulbs purchased in mid-2017 to ones purchased in 2018.

Winner: Morimoto X-VF/iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030


Switchback Function and Color

Morimoto X-VF: Thereís a reason why I had these switchbacks in my car for the longest prior to this review. When these bulbs first illuminate white, they slowly fade on from dark. This will occur when you first turn the bulb on as well as when the amber blinker is cancelled and the bulb switches back to white. Itís a cool effect and a nice luxury touch. However, as far as the amber blinker goes, itís a mixed bag. The color is a deep, rich amber that comes close to replicating the stock incandescent bulbs. However, the brightness of the amber leaves a lot to be desired. It is significantly dimmer than the stock incandescents, which is a problem. You must have clear corner housings with these bulbs if you want onlookers to have any chance of seeing them blink under bright daylight. Otherwise, the sun will absolutely wash them out.

JDM Astar 120-EX: Even though itís an undocumented feature, these bulbs also have the fade-on white function like the X-VF. Itís a nice bonus because unless other bulbs also have the fade-on white as an undocumented feature, the JDM Astar 120-EX is in rare company with the X-VF here. The quality of the amber light however is a complete 180į compared to the X-VF. While they are sufficiently bright unlike the X-VF, the color is so washed out that itís closer to a fly yellow than amber. Combined with the cool white color temperature, these bulbs might work best behind slightly tinted lenses.

Endpage 62-SMD: The amber light for the Endpage is slightly richer than the JDM Astar 120-EX, but still falls way short of the X-VF. The amber brightness is good, but the color still doesnít quite look like a traditional turn signal amber.

iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030: When I first installed these as the ACME switchbacks, I had yet to switch to clear corner housings, so I didnít have a good grasp as to what they would look like without the ďegg yolkĒ sides of the OEM corner housings. Now I can say that while these 3030s may not produce quite as rich of an amber as the X-VF, it's close. These bulbs are still noticeably more saturated than the Endpage bulbs. The color is deep enough to not be considered yellow, but the brightness is significantly better than the X-VF. The only downside to the iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030 is not having the fade-on white function, but most bulbs donít.

Winner: iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030


Build Quality and Design

Morimoto X-VF: Being a custom design from Morimoto, itís no surprise that it appears to be well thought out in terms of optics. The housing feels premium compared to most LED bulbs. However, one of the bulbs I had developed an issue due to poor sealing and adhesion. The head of the bulb which includes the domed lens and heatsink separated from the middle clear plastic element. That clear plastic turned cloudy, which reduced light output and slightly altered the color temperature.

I had to exchange multiple X-VF switchback bulbs for one reason or another relating to dimness. Two bulbs turned dim because of a burnt-out diode, and then there is the aforementioned unit that physically fell apart.

JDM Astar 120-EX: This bulb appeared to be pretty solid in terms of physical build. However, one thing of note is that while a lot of newer LED bulbs on the market are not polarity-sensitive (meaning they won't illuminate if installed backwards), these bulbs still are.

Endpage 62-SMD: Without question, the build quality of these bulbs look and feel fantastic. The aluminum finish on the heatsink caps is smooth and the LEDs all appear to be neatly aligned. No issues of any kind to report here.

iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030: When I originally got these as the ACME, build quality was the reason I sent them back. Upon removing one of these bulbs from the vehicle socket, the base separated from the top half of the bulb. Another issue with these bulbs has to do with the aging of the anodized black finish. Many users have reported that the body turns bronze over time, but thatís not really a big issue in the MN12 because there is a reflective chrome cap surrounding the bulb once installed.

Winner: Endpage 62-SMD


Closing Thoughts

I ran the Morimoto X-VF for the longest time, with multiple bulbs replaced under warranty over a span of half a year because I really wanted to keep that fade-on white function. However, I had too many issues with them and upon reading an issue that a reviewer of a SuperBrightLEDs bulb had with voltage tolerance, I came to realize that the X-VF might have issues with that as well. That reviewer said that the SuperBrightLEDs bulb he bought acted erratically above 13.8V, which is not unusual to see from a healthy alternator. If the weather is cold enough outside, Iíve had entire 45 minute commutes where my voltage is above 13.8V, starting at 15.1-15.2V. Interestingly enough, the X-VF lists a slew of specs in its product description, but leaves out operating voltage. Meanwhile, the JDM Astar, Endpage, and iBrightstar bulbs are all capable of handling 24V loads, so a little extra voltage from the alternator in a 12V electrical system isnít going to kill them. I wonder if this was a contributor to the many failures I had with the X-VF. I had a similar issue once with the X-VF white bulbs that Iíve used for daytime running lights, but aside from that first and only time, every other issue Iíve had involved the X-VF switchbacks.

The iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030 bulb is the best all-around option if you donít need the fade-on white feature. As much as I wanted to keep that feature, the issues with the Morimoto X-VF and JDM Astar 120-EX ultimately couldnít be salvaged with a fade-on white. If the fade-on white is a must-have, then the JDM Astar 120-EX has the best balance of features provided that its color temperature works for you or youíre willing to tint your corner housings to reel in the colors a bit.

One thing I cannot emphasize enough is how dim the Morimoto X-VF bulbs are. The amber blinker output is extremely disappointing. On the days when I had to bring my X-VF bulbs in for warranty replacement, I enjoyed the brightness of the stock incandescent amber bulbs more than the X-VF. I frequently couldnít see the X-VFís amber reflected in the paint of the car in front of me, and I definitely couldnít see the amber on the ground outside my driverís window at night. I had no such issues with the other switchback bulbs in this review or even the incandescent amber bulbs.

Also, while I didn't mention price at any point in reviewing these bulbs until now, the Morimoto X-VF switchback is a clear outlier here with a $55 MSRP and selling for $45 at The Retrofit Source. The other bulbs are in the $20-27 range on Amazon. If you can find the other three bulbs on eBay from a Chinese seller, they'll be even cheaper, although I don't bother with Chinese sellers on eBay anymore due to the long shipping times and lack of a practical warranty considering the time and cost of overseas return shipping.

In the end, after months of issues with the X-VF switchback, Iíve essentially gone back to my very first switchback purchase with the iBrightstar 16-SMD 3030 bulb. As mentioned before, several companies sell this bulb so you can look for its signature design characteristics to pick it out from a lineup. iBrightstar happened to have the best price for them on Amazon at the time of this review. Hopefully, I wonít have build quality issues with these bulbs like I did the first go around when the bulbís base separated from the circuit board and LEDs.
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Last edited by Irv; 08-10-2019 at 04:11 PM.
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-05-2018, 03:27 PM
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I haven't have had good luck with LEDs in the past, but the switchbacks seem interesting. I want to upgrade the front lights a bit. Hopefully, some new halogen bulbs and checking the headlight aim might help fill the dark spots near the front corners.

I think it might be cool to wire the inboard running lights to work with the turn signals. With the reduced wattage of LEDs it shouldn't be a problem. The front would be lit with white light all the way across then when signaling the inner and outer light will flash amber.

I ordered a set of the iBrightstar switchbacks and I intend to try them on my Escort first. If I think it's worth it, I'll get more for the TBird. The lights arrived today and they seem well made and they seem to work with jumper wires. I was afraid that all this extremely superbright hype might mean the lights are too bright, but I didn't go blind looking at them in my hands. There's the "projector" lens and it reminds me of those cheap little LED flashlights with the beam it casts. The TBird lights have a shield directly in front of the "projector". It looks like you can unscrew the projector, but I don't want to experiment yet. My Escort (ZX2) has clear turn lenses with 3157 Amber bulbs. You can sort of see the amber bulb behind the lens. The black iBrightstar aren't going to look great there. But the projector might make it look more a circle than 2 dots when viewed head-on.

Now something negative about these and most LEDs in general. Quality can be poor and they die soon and some are DOA. And then you can't find ones that match and you end up going back to normal bulbs. Maybe it's just my bad luck. So I ordered these thinking you can always get more if you need or want more. So they arrived today. And now when I go to the same Amazon webpage referenced by the OP and from where I ordered a few days ago the lights no longer seem to exist in 3157 form. So I don't know if I will be able to get 2 more matching ones or replace the ones that don't make it to 50000 hours.

iBrightstar ďExtremely Bright 3030 ChipsetĒ (16-SMD 3030)

edit; I found the same bulbs being sold by a different seller on Amazon. They are $7 higher. JDM ASTAR Extremely Bright 3030

Last edited by 97 V8 Swap; 03-05-2018 at 09:37 PM.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 01:46 PM
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Today for fun I tried the iBrightstar switchbacks in my Escort ZX2 and couldn't get the white LEDs to light. The white LEDs on both bulbs light when connected to a battery. There is a short pause before the white LEDs come on. I assume that's a built-in feature so the white doesn't turn on until a second after the last turn signal flash.

On the Escort there are 2 front signal lights on each side, so it is not the same as a TBird. There's a 3457 amber in the grill and the 194 corner light also flashes. Except for the small light flashes alternately from the big light on the grill. Now the really funny thing is that it almost works right with just the amber LEDs. The amber LEDs light with the parking lights instead of white like they should. And yes, it seemed super bright in the direct sun. With the turn signals it hyper flashed without a resistor, but seemed to work and was just as bright. I tried reversing the contacts and switching the lights. It's all the same. I was planning on installing the resistors and using these lights if it's worth the trouble. But I don't see how the resistors will make the running lights white.

I'll try these on the TBird when I get the chance. Unless the bulbs are defective, they will not work as expected in on Escort.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 03:38 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 97 V8 Swap View Post
I think it might be cool to wire the inboard running lights to work with the turn signals. With the reduced wattage of LEDs it shouldn't be a problem. The front would be lit with white light all the way across then when signaling the inner and outer light will flash amber.
Someone did that with the stock amber incandescent bulbs and posted the results in the Facebook group. I can't remember who it was though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 97 V8 Swap View Post
Now something negative about these and most LEDs in general. Quality can be poor and they die soon and some are DOA. And then you can't find ones that match and you end up going back to normal bulbs. Maybe it's just my bad luck. So I ordered these thinking you can always get more if you need or want more. So they arrived today. And now when I go to the same Amazon webpage referenced by the OP and from where I ordered a few days ago the lights no longer seem to exist in 3157 form. So I don't know if I will be able to get 2 more matching ones or replace the ones that don't make it to 50000 hours.

iBrightstar “Extremely Bright 3030 Chipset” (16-SMD 3030)

edit; I found the same bulbs being sold by a different seller on Amazon. They are $7 higher. JDM ASTAR Extremely Bright 3030
Based on my experiences with the Morimoto X-VF and several different kinds of 194 and 921 LED bulbs I bought back around 2010, long-term reliability has often been an issue. Apart from the Morimotos, I think all the bulbs that failed on me were eBay specials from sellers in China. So far, I haven't had any issues with the iBrightstar switchbacks.

Also, it looks like the iBrightstar 3157 switchbacks on Amazon were just temporarily out of stock. They're listed with an in-stock ETA of 3/20 now.

I'm not familiar with how the Escort lights are wired and nothing really sticks out to me as to why the running lights are lighting up amber. I'm also doubtful that a resistor would change anything.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-16-2018, 10:43 AM
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Someone did that with the stock amber incandescent bulbs and posted the results in the Facebook group. I can't remember who it was though.



Based on my experiences with the Morimoto X-VF and several different kinds of 194 and 921 LED bulbs I bought back around 2010, long-term reliability has often been an issue. Apart from the Morimotos, I think all the bulbs that failed on me were eBay specials from sellers in China. So far, I haven't had any issues with the iBrightstar switchbacks.

Also, it looks like the iBrightstar 3157 switchbacks on Amazon were just temporarily out of stock. They're listed with an in-stock ETA of 3/20 now.

I'm not familiar with how the Escort lights are wired and nothing really sticks out to me as to why the running lights are lighting up amber. I'm also doubtful that a resistor would change anything.
If one wires the inner running light as another turn signal/running light does the flasher work properly?

The Escort has 3457A turn signal bulbs in the grill and also 194 bulbs at the corners that also flash. From what I read they are sequential flashers. When the grill light flashes for the signal, the corner light turns off while the grill light flashes. They work together, but alternate when flashing. I noticed the dim filament is always lit, even when the bright filament flashes on the incandescent. Somewhere I read the switchbacks have circuitry that turns off the white and resistors may be necessary to get the white to come on. Since I cannot wrap my head around sequential flashers with their extra relay, I will give up on the experiment on the Escort.
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-16-2018, 01:21 PM Thread Starter
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If one wires the inner running light as another turn signal/running light does the flasher work properly?
Yes, and I found the post in Facebook. It was OxmanWI who did the mod. The running light blinks with the corner light and doesn't alternate like on the Escort with running lights on.

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Originally Posted by 97 V8 Swap View Post
The Escort has 3457A turn signal bulbs in the grill and also 194 bulbs at the corners that also flash. From what I read they are sequential flashers. When the grill light flashes for the signal, the corner light turns off while the grill light flashes. They work together, but alternate when flashing. I noticed the dim filament is always lit, even when the bright filament flashes on the incandescent. Somewhere I read the switchbacks have circuitry that turns off the white and resistors may be necessary to get the white to come on. Since I cannot wrap my head around sequential flashers with their extra relay, I will give up on the experiment on the Escort.
Unfortunately, from my understanding, switchbacks aren't going to work with that configuration. A resistor shouldn't affect which part of the LED bulb is active.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-16-2018, 02:56 PM
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Thanks for the info!

Thunderbird has a pretty straightforward turn signal system. It's merely one grounded filament at each corner and the indicators on the dash.

If I were to connect a second identical LED in parallel to the front signal wires would it mess anything up? I can get some good wire and connectors at the junkyard to connect a 3157 LED to the inner parking lights. I would also like to put the resistors on this added wiring.

The Escort has much more complex turn signal wiring. It has twice as many lights and the circuit is three times more complicated. What the Haynes manual calls the cornering lights is where the direct positive feed goes. Then a relay reverses voltage and the ground goes through the socket I tried for the LED. As far as I can tell, the polarity is always wrong in that socket.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-18-2018, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
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Looking at the video OxmanWI posted in the Facebook group, he did use LEDs for both the inner and corner bulbs, so that shouldn't mess up anything. As for controlling the hyperflash on our cars, you could go with resistors to all the blinking LEDs, but I would look at changing the flasher relay under the dash to a relay that supports LEDs and skip the resistors altogether in front.

I only have resistors in the rear for the LEDs I put in the corners and CHMSL. That was only done to stop the current bleed that would otherwise cause them to constantly glow dimly. The LED flasher relay took care of the hyperflash regardless, but that bleed through the brake lights also prevented cruise control from functioning.

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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-18-2018, 07:27 PM
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There is a TRIDON/NOVITA EP34 flasher listed for TBird. So LEDs in front should work without mods. I did read somewhere that resistors are necessary for the rear in order for the cruise to function.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-25-2018, 09:15 PM
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Today I installed the iBrightstar lights. The original flasher in the TBird hyperflashed of course. But the hazard switch is unaffected by LEDs. The Novita EP34 will flash correctly with any or no lights in the front. I temporarily installed clear 3157s in the inboard lights. They look so yellow and dim there. The iBrightstar works well in the corners. The yellow marker is very bright under all conditions. There are 2 LEDs shining directly into the corner marker. It seems like the inner lights made a lot of light with the white LEDs. For the corners, the white LEDs make a small cloudy pattern on the garage wall. But the amber light mode makes a bigger brighter star pattern on the wall. Maybe the location of the amber LEDs on the bulb makes a better beam. Somehow the amber seems brighter. They work well. Clear, smooth lenses on lights may not be ideal for LED lighting.

They are back in stock for $25.99. I'll order 2 more and get some 3157 sockets at a junkyard and connect the inner running lights.
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-26-2018, 12:50 PM Thread Starter
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Glad you got it working in the Thunderbird. The amber blinker in the iBrightstar's 3157 high mode should run noticeably brighter than the white in 3157 low. If the amber was the same intensity as the white, then you would get the same issue I had with the Morimoto X-VF bulbs with them not being bright enough in daylight.

I find the iBrightstar's white output to be very good. That's why I bought a second set of these switchbacks shortly after writing this bulb comparison review to also use them exclusively as white inner driving lights. I opted to have my inners wired as daytime running lights since I've been getting increasingly irritated by other drivers not having any lights on at dusk or when it rains. The least I could do was ensure that I'm always visible from the front, even for the few seconds it takes before automatic headlights trigger after entering a parking deck or tunnel.
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-18-2018, 01:34 AM
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Today I installed some iBrightstar Newest Extremely Bright Dual Brightness Super Duper Brilliant Red... tail light bulbs. And they worked very well. At first, I thought the brake/turn circuit was too bright. From what I've read, these bulbs are approximately 3 times brighter in high mode than incandescents. The running light is brighter, but not by as much. There is great contrast when the brake/turn circuit comes on. There isn't any obnoxious glare unless you are less than 10 feet from the car, on your knees and looking directly into a tail light. But they are bright as Hell.

They seem well designed. Very similar to the iBrightstar switchback. 6 LEDs shine directly on the side reflector, increasing visibility dramatically here. The sun was shining on the side of the car when I installed the lights. You could not see that the incandescent running light was on from the side. With the LED you could. Like the front LED lights, I feel there is a major improvement in side and offset visibility. It's the drivers 50 feet to the side that are more likely to hit you than the ones 1000's of feet down the road.

So the cruise control would work I used 194 bulbs instead of resistors. My car has what seems to be a factory trailer harness on the left side of the trunk. I wired some side marker pigtails to a trailer connector.

For backup lights I got these: 3157 3156 High Power 80W Ultra Bright White 16 CREE LED They were very cheap, only had to wait for them to come from Hong Kong. The quality of these may be a bit lower. One had a projector that rattled and I noticed the top easily unscrews and the projector and glass side tube come off. When I tried to install it, it was too long and hit the lens. I took the top off the light and discarded the parts and the light fit. And the light seems to work well. From the outside, if you look very closely, you can see the 4 LEDs on the end of the bulb through the second clear strip from the top of the backup lens. It's in the right spot. I could see on the garage door how the backup light lens has a cutoff and focuses the light back and down. And I could see that the LED side had much more light to the sides as well as the back. And yes, they are bright as Hell.

I'm waiting for another set of switchbacks to come. I got some 3157 pigtails from the junkyard and 3 pin connectors from Amazon. I'm going to leave the stock front inside plugs alone and add removable connectors.
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-18-2018, 10:10 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by 97 V8 Swap View Post
Today I installed some iBrightstar Newest Extremely Bright Dual Brightness Super Duper Brilliant Red... tail light bulbs. And they worked very well. At first, I thought the brake/turn circuit was too bright. From what I've read, these bulbs are approximately 3 times brighter in high mode than incandescents. The running light is brighter, but not by as much. There is great contrast when the brake/turn circuit comes on. There isn't any obnoxious glare unless you are less than 10 feet from the car, on your knees and looking directly into a tail light. But they are bright as Hell.

They seem well designed. Very similar to the iBrightstar switchback. 6 LEDs shine directly on the side reflector, increasing visibility dramatically here. The sun was shining on the side of the car when I installed the lights. You could not see that the incandescent running light was on from the side. With the LED you could. Like the front LED lights, I feel there is a major improvement in side and offset visibility. It's the drivers 50 feet to the side that are more likely to hit you than the ones 1000's of feet down the road.
This sounds promising. How much brighter do you think the iBrightstar bulb's red running light is compared to the trunk lid LED panels?

I still have Morimoto X-VF bulbs back there and I'm not too fond of them. The Morimoto 3157 high circuit for brake/turn signal isn't significantly brighter than the low for the running light. I don't think the blinker contrast is good enough with these bulbs (maybe 2:1 at best instead of 3:1 or higher), but the running light circuit is acceptable. I've come to realize that if I'm just looking at the running lights, it looks odd for the corners to be significantly brighter than the trunk lid LED panels. The stock incandescent bulbs were very good at matching the trunk lid LEDs in brightness, but that means they would get washed out in the sun.

In time, I will probably rectify the brightness difference between the corners and the trunk LED panels one way or another. My trunk lid LEDs are all still intact, but I'm considering replacing them with either the Redneck Rides sequential Thunderbird taillight kit or something else.
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-18-2018, 10:50 AM
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The iBrightstar running light is significantly brighter than the trunk lights. Maybe twice as bright. There is plenty of contrast. More than enough.
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-22-2018, 08:04 PM
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I have most of the lights switched to LED and Phillips VX headlight bulbs.

I connected the inner lights to the turn signal and installed a second set of iBrightstar bulbs. They work together perfectly. They are not too bight at night. The light isn't strong beyond a car length. With just the outer lights the turn signal didn't seem to light up overhead signs like most turn signals do. With 2 lights it does a better job. LEDs seem to work differently. From the driver's seat, my Escorts 3457 amber front turn signals seem to light signs and such better than the LEDs. Yet the LEDs seem very visible and are much brighter when viewed from the side.

The rear LEDs are nice and red with good contrast but not too bright at night. The housing design of the car's lights works with this type of LED. The front lights have a similar reflector to headlights and bulb shields like headlights. They do focus and except from the side, you only see reflections of the light sources. The rear lenses have a reflector directly behind the "projector" of the LED and it diffuses it.

I had crappy headlights. They were Phillips NightGuide. There is a yellow coating over part of the bulb. Made the left side of the headlight reflectors yellow. These were terrible. With Phillips VX bulbs it's a whole new world at night. I can see the light pattern and the lights need only minor adjusting. The VX bulbs are slightly brighter and whiter. But they look yellowish between the LEDs. I am satisfied with the lights for now.

The LED flasher flashes quite fast. It's not hyperflash, but faster than most. It flashed the same speed no matter what bulbs are installed or missing. Hazard flash is the same. It has a louder click also. The cruise control works fine with bulbs in the trunk instead of resistors.

Today I took a drive and many motorcycles are out for the first nice weekend here. And many motorcycles seem to have the latest aftermarket LED lighting. In the bright sun, it looks like the old-fashioned big incandescent lights are more visible to me.
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post #16 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-24-2018, 02:31 PM Thread Starter
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The iBrightstar LEDs definitely light up the corners a lot better than stock. I notice this whenever I use the turn signal and I see the white light projected on the road turn to a blinking amber out of my side window through 35% tint, and then when it switches back to white again after turning. I only have vague memories of riding in '80s luxury cars, but in terms of light thrown to the ground, it's like having a brighter and more functional version of a cornering light.

I was dormant with all car mods from the late-2000s until 2016, but I know there were attempts at a group purchase for LED turn signal side mirrors in 2009. I never thought they were a must-have for our cars though unless you just wanted them for the aesthetics. Functionally, I think having sufficiently bright LEDs in the front corner light housings achieves the same goal in terms of blinker visibility to cars driving in your blind spots.

In the rear corner housings, I had Sylvania Zevo LEDs prior to the Morimoto X-VF I have now. The Zevo LEDs were almost a perfect match for the OEM bulbs’ brightness (which meant they were pretty dim). However, they also produced a “black hole” in the middle of the housing because the Zevo's design only directs light to the sides and not forward (or rearward, relative to the car). Replacing the LEDs in the trunk panels with brighter LEDs will have to be part of the equation if I want brighter corner 3157 LED bulbs to match.
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post #17 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-24-2018, 05:18 PM
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I never noticed the black spot with the ZEVOs but maybe it's characteristic of the slightly smaller Thunderbird housings vs the Cougar ones spreading the light better, it beats a hot spot. What I like about the ZEVOs back there is the brake light brightness is significantly brighter than the taillight brightness, while most alternatives are practically indistinguishable between an overly bright taillight and the brakes/turns, which is unacceptable.

I have ZEVOs in the front too but am way less satisfied, they're dimmer than the stock incandescents, so I may give these ibrightstars a go, but only in amber/amber. I don't like the switchbacks, I'd have no front amber running lights with the clear corners and 9005/9006 headlights

-Matt
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post #18 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-24-2018, 08:26 PM Thread Starter
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That's true. I should clarify my previous post in that the Zevo running light circuit was dim and matched stock brightness, but the brake/blinker was noticeably brighter than stock. The bulb just doesn't play well with the Thunderbird corner tail housing unfortunately.

The black hole effect wouldn't even be that bad if it weren't for the fact that due to how the bulb socket's twist lock collar is aligned with the housing, the bulbs are oriented differently in the driver and passenger sides once fully seated. That causes the dark spots to be different sizes.

VLEDS makes a 3157 LED that has a rotating head so you can adjust it to perfection, but their bulbs are expensive, and without any LEDs that fire straight ahead, it would still have the black hole effect in the Thunderbird's tails.

High Visibility Red 6 LED 3156 3157

I like VLEDS bulbs for pure power output, but I don't think their LEDs for exterior-facing applications are usually worth it. I'm sure if I had reviewed their Triton 3157 bulbs, they would blow away everything I tested in the original post, but I wasn't going to pay $150 for a pair of 3157s. In this car, I only have their red 921 in my CHMSL, which I purposely bought to overpower the 35% window tint on the back glass.
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post #19 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-25-2018, 12:02 PM
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It's a matter of finding the right bulb for your housing. I was some YouTube videos of the iBrightstar switchbacks in cars like Hondas with clear lenses and no bulb shield and one guy was bragging how they are almost as bright as headlights. Good luck in rain, fog or snow. That's where those bulbs that fire from the rear should go.

I am happy with the iBrightstar in the rear. I am also happy with the $14 per pair price.
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