LED Lighting Guide for Your Car

Every year, LED lights gain more popularity thanks to their high efficiency, long lifespan and versatility. They’re not just for buildings and outdoor events, either — LED lighting can make a road trip safer and more enjoyable, too. In many cases, installing LED lights inside a car or outside improves visibility, reduces the load on your battery and adds custom style.

If you’re considering LED lighting for your car, this Birddog Lighting guide will get you up to speed. We look at why you should choose LED lights, the types of lighting available, the best LED interior lights for cars and much more so you can create custom vehicle lighting projects with ease.

Benefits of LED Lights for Cars

Whether you’re looking at headlights or accent lights, there are many advantages to LED vehicle lights. They use much less energy than the incandescent, halogen and high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs that have long been the standard for cars. LED lights also shine brighter overall — and since they’re directional, more of the light goes where you need it too.

Furthermore, LED lights start up immediately without a delay or warm-up time, giving you immediate illumination. The biggest advantage, though, is their durability. Even the lowest-end LED car lights last 15,000 hours, which is 15 times as long as traditional bulbs. The best lights last 30,000 or even 50,000 hours, more than paying for the higher up-front cost.

Types of LED Car Lighting

There are several ways you can include LED light in your vehicle layout. Let’s look at the most common uses and the lights you might use.

Exterior Visibility Lights

Cars have more than half a dozen standard exterior lights for everyday driving. In each case, switching to LED has a number of benefits.

  • LED Headlights: One of the best, most cost-effective safety upgrades anyone can make is replacing their halogen or HID headlights with LED bulbs. You’ll be able to see more on the road at night, and in many cases, they’ll last longer than you own the car for!
  • Tail Lights: Some red LED taillights will provide the same visibility for other drivers that you have when your headlights are on.
  • Brake Lights and Turn Signals: The instant response time of LED lights makes them an excellent choice for these safety lamps.
  • Hazard Lights: If you need to pull over or warn others of danger ahead, you’ll feel confident knowing amber LED lights are doing the job.

You’ll need to make sure you get the right base for each bulb. Headlights typically have a bayonet base that twists and locks into place. Other exterior lights might use festoon bulbs or a wedge base. Look at the current bulbs or consult your vehicle manual before making a purchase.

Exterior Accent Lights

Now we get into lights that are more about style. Using IP67 waterproof LED strips for cars gives you the ability to create a variety of effects. Outdoor LED lights under your car add a cool glow at night. Place them on the door, spoiler, deck lid or truck bed to provide a unique pop. If you own an RV, add strip lights or rope lights to the awning for nighttime gatherings. They come in many colors to complement the vehicle. We recommend against RGB lights, though, as they can create confusion and safety hazards on the road.

Interior Lights for Cars

When installing lights inside a car, there are a few directions you can go. G4 base LED bulbs are compatible with most driving lamps, giving you needed visibility to find items at night or see directions. You can also use strip lights and rope lights either to replace the overhead light or design a temporary light display for competitions and shows. Avoid being too elaborate, at least with lights you plan to have on while driving, as an overly bright display could be a distraction to yourself or others.

Light the Way with LEDs

Birddog Lighting has a large selection of LED automotive and RV bulbs that will shine bright and last for a long time. If you have further questions about LED lights for cars, call or email our experts Monday through Friday for advice.

LED Car Lighting Frequently Asked Questions

How do I connect LED strip lights to my car?

Low-voltage LED strip lights can be permanently hard-wired into your vehicle wiring using a 12-volt accessory (ACC) wire. For temporary lighting you can easily turn on and off, get a set of lights with a cigarette lighter plug and switch.

Note that when you install LED lights in a car, the self-adhesive backing is often ineffective since interior surfaces are rarely smooth enough. Use zip ties every 12 inches to attach your lights to the nearest wire bundle or structure for a quick, reliable solution.

Do LED strip lights use a lot of electricity?

LED lights use up to 90% less electricity than halogen or HID bulbs, putting less strain on your vehicle battery. However, like their traditional counterparts, longer strips consume more power. If you have a complex lighting setup, you may need a larger battery or auxiliary battery to make sure there’s enough juice for both that and essential electronics.

Is it illegal to have LED lights inside your car?

In and of themselves, LED lights inside a car aren’t illegal. That being said, some states and municipalities outlaw lighting they deem a distraction to fellow drivers. This could mean lights that are excessively bright, have flashing effects or use colors commonly associated with first responders and could therefore cause confusion. Check your local ordinances and err on the side of caution when in doubt.

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