LED Headlight Install - 5th Gen

Discussion in 'Mechanics Garage' started by zoom-zoom, Dec 14, 2013.

  1. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Have been thinking about upgrading the headlights on my bike for a little while, among other things, and I had been searching about doing an HID upgrade. One of the drawbacks I can gather from using an HID upgrade to the headlights is that the HID bulbs use the existing headlight reflector and, since the bulb shines out in all directions the lights tend to create a LOT of glare towards oncoming traffic. Considering that I have trouble with the glare myself, I did not want to install something that would cause other drivers difficulty. Hence I did not want to install an HID system without also going to the extra effort of installing the projectors as well. This involved removing the lens of the headlight, removing the existing reflector, installing the retro-fit projectors, and arguably not exactly a plug and play installation. I don't mind doing all that extra work, but mainly I was concerned with running extra wiring for the headlights, and honestly the cost was a LOT higher after factoring in the cost of the projectors. One of the kits I looked at was nearly $300 US complete with the projectors.

    After reading a number of posts and a few threads about the HID's causing excess glare to oncoming traffic and the extra wiring implications because of the ballasts and current draw on start-up, I started thinking about an LED option. There are a number of cars on the market now that have LED headlights so I was sure that there must be an aftermarket option available and after about an hour or so on Google, there were a great many options.

    One company that came up frequently when searching LED's was a company called Cree. Apparently they manufacture some of the best and brightest LED's on the market and it just so happens that they manufacture LED lighting upgrade kits for cars, bikes, boats, RV's, etc, etc, etc. There were a number of sources that offered Cree LED Headlight kits but most seemed to be out of either China or Hong Kong and the shipping costs to Canada were a little expensive considering the overall cost of the kits. After a bit of searching I found a company in the US that sold a kit and it came with 2 year warranty, and the shipping was quite reasonable. Here is a link to the site that I purchased the kit from in case anyone else should be interested in trying it out.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/US-Universal-Car-Truck-H4-1800LM-50W-Cree-LED-HeadLight-Head-lamp-H-L-Beam-W-/141105877873?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&hash=item20da90d371&vxp=mtr


    The kit came complete with 2 ballasts, 2 -25W Cree LED bulbs, cooling fans, and easy to follow instructions. The kit showed up in less than 5 days after ordering and was VERY securely wrapped. The best thing about this whole kit was that it was very much Plug-And-Play. You simply mount the ballasts, install the bulbs, and plug in to the existing headlight connectors. It was literally that simple. Another nice thing about the kit is that the LED bulbs actually draw less power than the factory bulbs (25W each with the high beams on) and even less than the HID bulbs. The HID bulbs draw only 35W each (depending on the kit) once up to operating temperature but draw considerable power on start up. The LED's draw 50W total with the high beams on, as compared to the factory bulbs which would draw 90W total (45W each) with the high beams on. Not that any of us have ever had issues with the wiring on our VFR's, Noooooooooo, NEVER that, so I thought why not, power consumption is about the same and I had a burnt out headlight I needed to change anyhow.

    Cree LED Headlight Install (41).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (42).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (43).jpg

    For sake of ease to those who have just recently found this thread, I have added a list of suppliers who sell LED headlight kits at the bottom of this post so that you don't have to read through all of the pages to find the information.

    And now for the HOW TO part of the thread.

    Step One

    First off you need to remove the upper cowl. Since I have already done a How-To description on removal of the 5th gen's upper cowl, here is a link to the thread on how to complete this part of the process.

    http://vfrworld.com/forums/showthread.php/43794-HOW-TO-Upper-Cowl-Removal-on-5th-Gen?highlight=

    Step Two

    Once you have the upper cowl off the bike and a pile of parts on the floor you will need to go have a rest and grab yourself a beverage of some sort. This can be thirsty work and we don't want anyone to become dehydrated during the process of installing farkles on their motorcycle.

    Removing the headlight is as easy as removing the four screws that attach the headlight to the back of the upper cowl. Remove the headlight from the cowl and find some place safe to set the cowl so it does not get stepped on, dropped, bashed, scratched, or otherwise damaged.

    Step Three

    You need to remove the existing bulbs from the headlight housing. Remove the big rubber gasket on each side of the headlight and you will see the bulbs are held in place with spring clips. Release the retainer clip swing it open and remove the bulb.


    Cree LED Headlight Install (49).jpg

    Step Four

    As you can see from the pictures, and you may have already discovered from previous headlight replacements, the factory bulbs (and the headlight housing) have positioning tabs that are set in different locations than a standard H4 bulb. The same thing can be said for the Cree LED bulbs. This leaves you with an interesting choice. You can either remove the two lower tabs (the narrower ones) tabs on your new $90 LED bulbs and let them sit in the housing, or you can install the bulbs using retainer rings. When I purchased my bike, it already had a set of retainer rings so I removed the tabs from the Cree bulbs and inserted the bulbs in to the housing as per usual. SEE, I told you this kit was simple to install. (I may have voided the warranty on the bulbs mind you as they are now, quote un-quote, modified).


    Cree LED Headlight Install (29).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (25).jpg


    Step Five

    Pass the LED bulb wiring through the center of the large rubber gasket and then re-install the gasket on the back of the housing. So far, not much different than installing a regular H4 bulb, RIGHT, well, here's is where it changes. Now that you have the bulb installed and the wiring for the bulb hanging out in mid air, you have to install the cooling fan. This part can be a bit tricky to accomplish as the big rubber gasket sticks out above the bottom of the bulb. I found the easiest way to get this to work was to hold the bulb power wire and push it down against the gasket on one side of the bulb and center the fan on the threaded bolt sticking out on the base of the bulb and CAREFULLY screw the fan base on. The metal on the fan base is not exactly thick so be careful not to cross thread it when you screw it in place. This was probably the most annoying part of the install and it took more than a couple tries to get the threads started whilst holding the gasket and the wiring for the bulb out of the way.


    Cree LED Headlight Install (30).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (31).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (32).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (33).jpg


    Eventually I came out victorious, as will you, and now you should have something resembling this finished product.


    Step Six

    Now you have to figure out where to install the ballasts that provide the power to the LED bulbs and the cooling fans. The ballasts are not overly large but they do need to mounted securely, and let's face it, motorcycles are not known for there vast quantities of FLAT surface areas in behind the fairings. The length of the wiring for the bulbs is about 10" long in total from the ballast to the rear of the bulb so there is a reasonable amount of wire to find a location and I chose to mount the ballasts to the side of the headlight housing for sake of ease, location and basically because it was the largest FLAT spot I could come up with.


    Cree LED Headlight Install (8).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (5).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (7).jpg

    I attached a couple of squares of coroplast to each side of the headlight housing with 3M rubberized moulding adhesive tape. This is the same kind of double sided tape that car manufacturers use to adhere mouldings and emblems to vehicles so it is quite strong and flexible. I used the coroplast to space the ballasts away from the housing a bit to make the ballast clear the edge to headlight housing. I also thought that if the ballasts were to get warm (or HOT) that it would provide an air gap on all sides of the ballast. As you may notice from the pictures I have installed the ballast at a slight angle compared to the coroplast. At first I installed the ballasts square to the rear face of the headlight housing and then installed the fairings only to discover that the ballast on the left side of the headlight interfered with the main wiring harness loom on the back of the gauge cluster. DAMN, that was a PIA, especially after I had done such a tidy job of measuring the coroplast squares, lining up the ballasts to make sure they looked almost like they belonged there, and installing the fairing. For some reason the left side of the fairing protested lining up properly when I went to install the upper cowl, and after a little searching with the flashlight I discovered why. So I peeled the ballasts back off the coroplast and re-installed them on a bit of an angle, so that everything had it's own personal HAPPY SPACE. It doesn't look as nice as the first time I installed the ballasts but at least everything clears and the wiring harness doesn't rub on the edge of the ballast.


    Step Seven

    Now that you have everything installed you are ready to re-install the headlight in the upper cowl. With the ballast on the side of the headlight and a bunch of excess wiring hanging out on the back of the headlight housing, I thought Uh-Oh, what to do with the bulb wiring and the cooling fan wiring as I did not want them to get caught up on anything either during or after the install. I discovered that the there was a space between the fairing and the post that the headlight attaches to so I ran the bulb and cooling fan wires behind the headlight housing mounting flange and that used up the excess wiring length and made everything look a bit more, well. tidy. The ballast power connectors that plug in to the factory wiring harness for the headlights do not have to be run in the same place as the bulb and cooling fan wiring and just hang as shown in the picture.


    Cree LED Headlight Install (9).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (10).jpg

    Step Eight

    Once everything is buttoned up on the back of the headlight housing you can re-install the upper cowl on the front of the bike. Be sure to check that none of the wiring is obstructed or pinched, and that none of the new parts interferes with anything else on your bike. The only thing on my bike that is not factory on the upper cowl is the LCD volt meter installed on my gauge bezel, but if you have any other parts installed on your bike you may need to check clearances here and alter the installation accordingly. I ran the factory wiring for the headlight connectors behind the black plastic shield that frames the inside area behind the front wheel. The connectors sit just behind the hole in the upper cowl for the factory turn signal openings and are easy to connect after everything is installed.


    Cree LED Headlight Install (13).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (14).jpg


    Now that you have everything installed, you can test the LED headlights to make sure everything is working. Unlike me, if you have removed the battery from your bike for winter storage, don't forget to re-install the battery before you turn the key on to check if the new lights work. I can guarantee that if the battery is not installed, the lights, they WILL NOT WORK.

    Ok, now that the battery has been re-installed, the lights do indeed come on, and MAN are they ever bright. The ratings for the bulbs are very similar to HID headlights as far as brightness. The Cree LED bulbs are rated for 1800 Lumens (very similar to the light output of car HID headlights in say, Mercedes Benz and Lexus automobiles) and the color temperature of the bulbs is 5000 K (compared to standard car HID's at 4300 K).

    When the low beams of the Cree LED headlights are engaged the LED closest to the upper part of the housing illuminates and reflects off the upper part of the reflector only so there is very little glare created as most of the light is reflected down at the road. Here is a side by side comparison of the stock lights versus the Cree LED lights with the low beams engaged.

    Standard H4 Bulb on left and the Cree LED Bulb on right

    Cree LED Headlight Install (27).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (38).jpg


    When the High Beams are switched on both LED's on the Cree Bulbs illuminate and the light shines off the top and bottom part of the reflector housing. The diodes on the Cree bulb are also spaced differently on the bulb itself so that the light emitted from the diodes hits a different spot on the reflector depending on whether the high or low beams are turned on. Here is a shot with the High beams on. Again the Standard H4 Bulb is on the left and the Cree LED bulb is on the right.


    Cree LED Headlight Install (28).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (40).jpg


    Here is photo of the front of the bike with the low and high beams illuminated. The photo on the left is with the low beams on and you can see how the upper part of the reflector is illuminated causing the light to shine down toward the road surface. This should also reduce glare toward oncoming traffic. The photo on the right is with the high beams switched on and now the full headlight reflector is used and the light is cast further up and out. I will have to roll the bike out of the garage and see what the difference looks like out on the actual road, but for now I am very impressed with the light output. I will adjust the reflector if I need to at some point but I think that they should work fine as they are currently aimed.

    Cree LED Headlight Install (21).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (22).jpg Cree LED Headlight Install (34).jpg




    Here is a recap listing a few of the LED headlight supplier links that have been posted so far. There is a large range of costs and warranties so there are numerous options to choose from.

    Each of the kits have their merit but in terms of design, I think there are only two real different styles given the companies listed here. All the listings here sell a kit that is very similar in style and components with the exception of the Lifetime LED's. All the other manufacturers have a bulb (with separate and removable cooling fan assembly) and power supply (ballast), whereas it would appear the Lifetime kit has the bulb, cooling fan and heatsink all in one package (though it would appear that the cooling fan assembly is not removable which might make the installing the bulb more difficult ) and a separate power supply (ballast).


    1. eBay seller wyfb that I linked to in the original post. Cost $79.95 US ( 2 Year Warranty )

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/US-Universal-Car-Truck-H4-1800LM-50W-Cree-LED-HeadLight-Head-lamp-H-L-Beam-W-/141105877873?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&hash=item20da90d371&vxp=mtr

    2. VLEDS.com. Cost $119.99 US (1 Year Warranty )
    http://www.vleds.com/bulb/h4-cxa-2000lm.html

    3. Electrical Connection.com. Cost $149.95 US (1 Year Warranty )
    http://www.electricalconnection.com/other-lighting/led-hl-h4.htm

    4. eBay seller electradecenter (UK site for overseas buyers) Cost £47.56 (1 Year Warranty )
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/281225023832?var=580265646215&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1423.l2649

    5. Lifetime LED's. Cost $149.00 US ( Lifetime Warranty )
    http://www.lifetimeledlights.com/H49003-LED-headlights-_p_59.html

    6. Ebay Seller dmihawk. Cost $79.98 US ( Lifetime Warranty )
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/18126903435...iewitem=&sspagename=ADME:L:OC:US:3160&vxp=mtr
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2014
    soloii-74 likes this.
  2. Outboard John

    Outboard John New Member

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    Nice write up Zoom! Those little fans on the back of the LEDs sure are cute:tickled_pink: I look forward to your evaluation of them on the road. My 07 came with HIDs installed and they are blistering bright, but I do feel a bit guilty about the light scatter (glare). May look into those LEDs down the road someday.
    John
     
  3. nookiaz

    nookiaz New Member

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    Dude! Nice & impressive mod!
     
  4. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Thanks John.

    The fans really are quite cute and make very little noise and honestly they don't seem to move much air either. I think the main reason for the lack of air movement is they suck from the bulb base and blow away from the headlight housing but there is not much of an opportunity to get air in there. If I notice the base of the bulbs start getting too warm I may think about placing some spacers of some sort under the screw on flange that attaches the fan so that more air can flow around the bulb. I turned the headlights on this morning for about an hour or so with the battery charger plugged in to keep the charge up and the bulbs did not seem to get that warm, so I think they will be fine.

    I'll update the thread a bit once I have had a chance to ride the bike with the new lights. Might be a while though...... :smow:
     
  5. RDMCD

    RDMCD New Member

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    Zoom, do you think the leds will be an improvement over the stock low beams? I've never felt safe at night on a country road when meeting or following cars with low on. Just not bright enough.
     
  6. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    I think the LED's will be vast improvement over the stock bulbs. The pics do show that the lights are brighter but honestly they do not do justice to just HOW MUCH brighter.
     
  7. Allyance

    Allyance Insider

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    Nice job, I will do same soon. Keep an eye on fans, I used to use a tone of these in the computer biz, any dirt on blade upsets balance and wear bearings.
     
  8. nookiaz

    nookiaz New Member

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    I got LEDs lightbulbs at home, replacing all of my CFC's & incandescents ; LEDs do run hot. They all have heatsinks on the base of the bulbs...Back to the topic, the brightness is worth having to check on those fans regularly though. I guess is just an additional item to add to maintenance checklist...
     
  9. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Ok, so I had to move some stuff around in the garage tonight and I took the opportunity to roll the bikes out in to the driveway. The temperature here has warmed up to +5*C which is nice considering it was -20*C at this time last week and we had 3 inches of snow. Now we have no snow to speak of, and there is supposed to be a chance of rain tomorrow. Hmmmmm, strange weather.............

    Any hoooooo, so here are a few side by side comparisons of the light output of the new Cree LED lights in my 2000 VFR, compared to the Sylvania Silverstar H4 (60/55W) in my wife's 96 VFR. I understand that the bikes are not exactly the same but the height of the headlight from the center of the bulb to the road surface is within 1.5 inches and both bike were perfectly side by side.

    Here are the low beams with the bikes placed side by side.

    96 VFR - Standard H4 Low Beam.jpg 2000 VFR - Cree LED - Low Beam.jpg Cree LED (left) vs. Sylvania Silverstar H4 (right) - LOW Beam.jpg


    And now with the bikes side by side and the High Beams turned on


    96 VFR - Standard H4 High Beam.jpg 2000 VFR - Cree LED - High Beam.jpg Cree LED (left) vs. Sylvania Silverstar H4 (right) - HIGH Beams.jpg

    The distance from the bikes to the Jeep on the other side of the street is approximately 80 ft. As you can see from the photos there appears to be considerably more light down on the road surface directly in front of the bike with the Cree LED headlights, and the area just to either side as well. The high beam spread also appears to be a fair bit wider as well which should prove beneficial for riding at night considering our local rural roads have no street lights and are quite twisty.
     
  10. nookiaz

    nookiaz New Member

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    What a difference the LEDs make. Any potential issues with blinding on-coming folks when the high beams are on ?
     
  11. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Don't believe so as when the Low beams are on there is only one LED lit on the Cree bulb. This diode only shines up toward the top part of the reflector and thus most of the light is directed downward to the road instead of up toward the eyes of oncoming drivers. The cutoff line is actually fairly sharp when compared to the standard bulb. If I get a lot of people flashing their high beams at me, I will adjust the bulb focal point down and slightly to the right, but from the looks of the light pattern on the ground the adjustment as it sits should be fine.
     
  12. apexandy

    apexandy New Member

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    Brilliant! Literally...

    Let me get the chains onto my bike and I'll bring it over for an install :)

    Thanks for the how-to Zoom-zoom!
     
  13. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Thanks Apex. AND for those who want to see something truly incredible, check out apexandy's VFR "Street Fighter" build. Talk about an amazing transformation from mild to WILD. Even if you are not a fan of naked bikes or Street Fighter transformations in general, this thread is worth a look. The skill and dedication to detail on Apex's build is amazing.

    http://www.vfrdiscussion.com/forum/index.php/topic/75243-my-95-vfr-sf-project-the-process/

    To all who dare to visit the "Other Site" , ENJOY. I know I did!!!
     
  14. apexandy

    apexandy New Member

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    Thanks Zoom-Zoom, I'll have your promotion contract paycheque in the mail soon :) You are too kind my friend!

    Are you going to upgrade the lights on the 4th gen now?
     
  15. Mohawk

    Mohawk New Member

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    the reason the cree is brighter on high beam is that both LED's are on so the low beam is lighting the road close to you !

    Brilliant write up, considering these for mine now.
     
  16. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Yes, Angie has already indicated that upgraded lighting should be in the cards for her bike as well. She also expressed an interest in upgrading the lighting to the vehicle headlights as well. Hmmmmm, what have I started. LOL
     
  17. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Thanks for the compliments and I hope the information proves useful to anyone interested in the upgrade.

    Yes when the low beams are on only the upper LED on the Cree bulb is illuminated and the LED itself is situated slightly further from the face of the reflector itself. The high beam engages both LED's and the high beam diode is closer to the reflector. One thing I noticed more than anything else is just how much extra light is placed on the ground directly in front and to the sides of the front wheel. Honestly the photos do not do a great justice to just HOW much more light is being produced. Also since the bikes are sitting on the center stands the headlights are sitting at a slightly downward angle compared to when I am sitting on the bike. By the time I put the bike on both wheels and add my weight to the bike the beams do shoot out a fair distance further. I would have taken some more photos but the battery in the camera died while I was taking the driveway photos and since it was about -15*C when I took the photos I did not want to put the bikes away and then pull them out again when the battery was charged, and I did not want to leave the bikes outside either. Brrrrrrrr, it was cold.

    Oh and I never mentioned it in my original post but the total cost of the kit including shipping charges was only $105 CDN. so about 1/3rd the cost of the HID conversion.
     
  18. vfrcapn

    vfrcapn Member

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    Great write up. I recently started a new commute by freeway and this time of year it's in the dark morning and evening. It's made me realize how bad the stock headlights are. Definitely looking to do this and I like the fact that it's easily reversible, even on the road if you had to plug in an H4 bulb in a pinch.
     
  19. 34468 Randy

    34468 Randy Secret Insider

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    Great read Bill. If I hadn't already upgraded to HID I def would consider LEDs. I see we could corm a threesome for a nice day ride next time I ride up to Vernon. A foursome if Anvie joins us.
     
  20. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Good point Captain. I had not thought about this but yes, if you were to need a new bulb for some particular reason, you would only need to insert a new bulb and plug the factory harness in to the replacement bulb. I did notice on one of the Cree listings that you can also purchase just the LED bulb should one ever fail, and the bulb itself was not that expensive.
     
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