Converting RV Lights to LEDs – Part 10: RV Headlights!

TheRVgeeks LED Conversion 29 Comments

We’ve been slowly but surely converting our entire RV to cool, energy-efficient LED lighting. Today we’re featuring one of our favorite upgrades so far: our RV’s headlights.

When the topic of LEDs comes up, RVers most often talk about interior lights. Of course those are important for boondocking, since they use so much less power than incandescent, halogen or even fluorescent lights. They also put out a lot less heat, which is just as important when camping off the grid in a hot climate.

We generally prefer to drive during the day, but our work schedule sometimes dictates staying on the road after dark, especially during the winter when the sun sets so early. We’ve been pretty unhappy with the performance of our stock halogen headlights for a long time.

You may recall that we upgraded our car’s headlights to HID a couple of years ago, and we’d considered doing the same thing on the RV. Even though we were happy with the light output from them, we held off, due to the additional wiring that had to be run, and a ballast failure.

So when Steve from M4 started offering LED headlights, we were all ears. We’ve now had such a great experience with the LEDs (almost as easy to install as direct incandescent replacement bulbs, but with light output similar to HIDs) that we’re ready to share how happy we are with them. As you’ll see in the video, the installation couldn’t be much easier, and the light output is so good, we literally comment out loud about how great they are every time we drive at night.

It’s been so good in fact that we’ll be replacing our car’s HIDs with LEDs soon, so stay tuned for an update!


Visit M4products.com and enter the Coupon Code “RVGEEKS5
at checkout to receive a 5% discount on your entire order!
Or Go Directly to the M4 Headlamps Page:
m4products.com/headlamps


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We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, but our opinions are our own and we only feature products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence. The RVgeeks participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.


Comments 29

  1. Thanks. I appreciate it. I watched the video again and saw where you covered that. I’m not sure how I missed that the first time.

  2. I would love to replace our headlights, ours are very dim as well. I went to the M4 products page, there are so many different versions to choose from. How do you determine which version your RV needs?

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      Hi Robert. There should be a number on the back of your current headlight bulbs that you can cross reference with the bulbs on the M4 headlights page. For example, our lights that we showed in the video are 9006, and the M4 replacement for it is 9006-V7 (which stand for version 7). Once you find a similar number on the back of your current bulb, you should be able to find it. If you can’t find a corresponding number, you can reach out to Steve at m4@m4sales.com.

  3. I just upgraded the headlights in my wife’s Honda Fit with the M4’s and the results are unbelievable! I would not have known about them, were it not for you guys. The only downside is a DRL warning light flashing on the dash. The daytime running lights are on, though, so I’m not worried about it. A small price to pay to see so well at night.

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      That’s great, David! We’ll be upgrading our Honda CR-V soon, too. Ours is a 2003, without DRLs. Maybe the electronics in newer cars are more complicated and can cause an anomaly like the DRL light. Glad to hear you’re happy with the LEDs, too.

  4. I upgraded to M4’s LED headlights last year. I’m jealous however at how easy YOUR installation was! Mine was a lot more involved. First, I have no generator slideout. Second, my headlight sockets are protected by a rubber boot, which prevented the installation of the heat sink. I was faced with the decision of abandoning the project or modifying the boot. I chose the latter of course, so I was forced to cut circular holes in each headlight boot to accept the bear sinks. After all that work, the headlights had to be re-aimed, as my projection style headlights didn’t project the LED light far enough down the road. I now have them aimed as high as I can get them, and they are finally giving me the results I had hoped for. So far no complaints from on-coming vehicles. Keeping my fingers crossed that cutting into the headlight boots don’t allow the intrusion of moisture…

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      Wow, Craig. Your install sounds more like the HID upgrade we did on our car (which we’ll be switching to LEDs in the near future). Glad it’s all come together for you though.

      1. Yeah, I’m also kind of envious of how easy yours was ;-)

        I’m in the process of upgrading to Morimoto 2Stroke LEDs, and like Craigs, my headlights have a rubber boot at the back, and the heat sink of the lamps makes them longer then the space inside the headlight housing. The 2Strokes 9005/9006 install kits come with some “boot extenders.” What I did with them is cut out the center of the original rubber boots – and naturally, the headlights are designed such that the lamps don’t center in the holes, making it more fun – and put the Morimoto “boot extenders” in them with a generous amount of RTV silicone just now. While that’s setting up, I’m going to go out and remove my old headlights. I may not get to work on the install until tomorrow, because it says it takes 24 hours to fully cure.

        Craig, what kind of motorhome do you have? Mine’s an ’08 Bounder. The headlights in it come from a 2006 Ford Expedition. They were beyond salvage by polishing, so I put a new set of Depo headlights an Amazon and put the LEDs in those. I hooked one up last week and tested it. They’re crazy bright. Can’t wait to try them in the vehicle.

        Cutting into the boots and not sealing them up will allow moisture into your headlights sooner or later. If not from condensation, then almost certainly the first time you drive in rain. Those boots are there for a reason, and you know how car makers are: if they could save 2 cents per headlight by not putting them on, they would certainly do so if they though they could get away with it. One option might be to get some of the Morimoto boots. I’ll let you know how mine turn out. I got them from the Retrofit Source, but there are probably other vendors as well. It could even be worth checking with M4 to see if they have anything like that. I got a lot of my interior LEDs from M4 and really like them.

  5. I think the best advise comes from personal experience, and time and time again you’ve proven that you go through the experience before you offer the advice, kudos! Guess what I’m about to order for my ’02?
    Thank you, and keep up the great posts.👍🏼

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  6. You mentioned the horizontal cutoff. I’ve been considering an LED upgrade myself because yeah, my MH’s headlights are just awful. If you have time, I wonder if you could take a picture of your headlights shining on a wall at night to illustrate what your cutoff looks like?

    Thanks!

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  7. You can see more specific concerns as “Donald Moore” on the You Tube page of their presentation at the web their You Tube page linked below.

    Please understand this. I am big fans of you guys but these are NOT DOT/SAE approved. The product information on M4’s site says this thought they certainly don’t make that obvious much like most other kit makers.

    I am not aware of any HID/LED light bulb kits that are street legal. In other words, these are only for off road use only. The DOT has in the past been trying to crack down on these kinds of products but have not had much success.

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      Hi Don. LED headlights are indeed not DOT approved. The ramification could technically be that you get a ticket. But that has generally only been even a remote possibility for lights that are (ahem) glaringly different, such as extremely blue HIDs. They do still use your DOT approved fixture, so light output is greater but similar in pattern, since it’s the fixture that plays the biggest role the distribution of light. The DOT regulations aren’t keeping pace with technology, as the specs are written in watts, which applies to incandescent bulbs, and is mostly meaningless for LEDs, since the watt ratings are so small in comparison. As our regular viewers are aware, we’re very particular about what gear we use. You’ll notice heavy winter coats being worn during the shoot, and we’re just now releasing the video at the end of May. That’s because we’ve been testing these at length for over 4 months for their practical application and use. When we said we have not been flashed by any driver who thought we were blinding them with high beams, or with too-bright/glaring headlights, we literally mean that we have not been flashed one single time. We’ve even driven our own RV and car toward each other to see how the oncoming lights appear compared to other vehicles, and followed the car with the RV to see how the lights appeared in the rear view mirrors. Again, we were satisfied than in real-world use, there were no issues with glare. We were not willing to release this video until we were totally satisfied and confident that our increased ability to see was not coming at the expense of our fellow drivers who share the road with us. We can’t guarantee that all combinations of LED headlights and fixtures will be the same as ours, but we’re confident that this LED design has done an admirable job of replicating the light pattern of our original bulbs. If anyone is concerned about the legality in any particular jurisdiction, they should contact their local authority regarding use. Also, we looked for a comment on YT so we could reply, but don’t see it. Possibly caught in YT spam filter?

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  8. Another professionaly done video with useful content! We’ve just upgraded all our lights with LEDs from M4 and the results on power consumption were dramatic to say the least. Now I have something else to add to the list that will be an improvement over our existing setup and help reduce the load on our trucks electrical system and improve driving safety. You guys do all the heavy lifting with your videos and make life much easier for people like me. I really appreciate all that you do! Scott

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  9. Since there is a very definitive horizontal cut off, do the bulbs need to be installed in the correct orientation?

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        Thanks for posting that link, JB. The orientation is, indeed, important… as the output from the LEDs needs to work in concert with the design of the headlight assembly to produce the correct light pattern. These bulbs were designed to replicate, as closely as possible, the light output pattern of the bulbs they replace… and SHOULD (in most cases) be aligned correctly right out of the box. If, for some reason, they don’t align correctly in a particular situation, they do have a set screw that allows you to rotate the light in relation to the mount, so that they will.

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      Hi Allan. The cutoff is actually a combination of the bulb’s light pattern and the headlight assembly itself. These bulbs are designed to replicate (as closely as possible) the light pattern output of the incandescent/halogen bulbs they replace… so in most cases, they will be aligned correctly out of the box. Typically, that means that, when inserted, the LEDs will be aiming out to the sides of the housing. But if that isn’t the case, the bulbs do have a set screw that can be loosened to allow you to align them correctly. Again, in MOST instances, that shouldn’t be necessary. But, if it is, the bulbs can be rotated to correct it. Hope this helps!

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      Author

      LED headlights are indeed not DOT approved. The ramification could technically be that you get a ticket. But that has generally only been even a remote possibility for lights that are (ahem) glaringly different, such as extremely blue HIDs. They do still use your DOT approved fixture, so light output is greater but similar in pattern, since it’s the fixture that plays the biggest role the distribution of light. The DOT regulations aren’t keeping pace with technology, as the specs are written in watts, which applies to incandescent bulbs, and is mostly meaningless for LEDs, since the watt ratings are so small in comparison. As our regular viewers are aware, we’re very particular about what gear we use. You’ll notice heavy winter coats being worn during the shoot, and we’re just now releasing the video at the end of May. That’s because we’ve been testing these at length for over 4 months for their practical application and use. When we said we have not been flashed by any driver who thought we were blinding them with high beams, or with too-bright/glaring headlights, we literally mean that we have not been flashed one single time. We’ve even driven our own RV and car toward each other to see how the oncoming lights appear compared to other vehicles, and followed the car with the RV to see how the lights appeared in the rear view mirrors. Again, we were satisfied than in real-world use, there were no issues with glare. We were not willing to release this video until we were totally satisfied and confident that our increased ability to see was not coming at the expense of our fellow drivers who share the road with us. We can’t guarantee that all combinations of LED headlights and fixtures will be the same as ours, but we’re confident that this LED design has done an admirable job of replicating the light pattern of our original bulbs. If anyone is concerned about the legality in any particular jurisdiction, they should contact their local authority regarding use.

  10. LED headlights are definitely a big improvement and I agree with everything you mentioned in the video.

    There are two points that I found out only after installing LED’s on my motorcycle:

    1. The visual area at night goes from very bright to incredibly black with a sharp line. With regular incandescent lights the visual out front is not as bright and it fades to black over over several horizontal degrees. So, if you find that there is ‘something different’ when driving at night first few times (besides the brightness) and you can’t quite put your finger on what it is, it may be the abrupt change from lit to not lit.

    2. Some vehicles can not handle the heat. It appears that Steve has used a huge rear-mounted heat sink to draw the heat away from all the plastic up front. Looks like a big improvement over older LED lights that melt headlight housings.

    All the LED headlights I’ve done have separate bulbs and ballasts. I really like the wiring setup with the built-in driver. In fact I like it so much I’m probably going to put it on my Christmas wish list.

    Thanks for posting this video.

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      Thanks for all the very useful additional information, John. In our experience, Steve’s bulbs always seem to be a step ahead of other LEDs, so we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the same is true for the headlamps, both with the wiring and heat sinks.

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