Motorcyclists need all the help they can get on dark roads. Too many drivers simply don’t see you when they pull out in front—without quick thinking, you’re put in great danger. One gadget that can turn the tide is an LED headlight. A brighter light not only helps you see better, but it also helps you be seen. Keep reading to learn how to install LED headlights on a motorcycle.
Why LEDs Are Better
LED lights have exploded in popularity over the last few years and in dozens of applications. From use in homes to public spaces, it only makes sense for LEDs to become the gold standard of vehicle lights, too. But what’s causing the LED craze? Are LEDs truly an upgrade, or just an example of people thinking the grass is greener on the other side?
Better Light Quality
For one thing, LEDs offer better light quality than other bulbs. What we mean by that is that LEDs produce bright, clear, white light, while other lights give off warm yellow light. This is better for illumination, and it also paints a clearer picture of what’s in front of you.
Some objects cast in a yellow glow don’t look quite right and can cause confusion, while white light colors things how they’re meant to look. This is sometimes a hard concept to grasp because all artistic renderings of the sun are yellow—in truth, the sun emits white light. LEDs provide a light source closer to that of the sun, making it easier for our brains to parse what we’re seeing.
Incandescent bulbs are not known for their long lifespans. LED motorcycle headlights can last more than 20 years longer than regular headlights—and they don’t come with a significant price difference! This means you won’t need to worry about frequent replacements, and you’ll even save money over time.
The number of lumens a bulb can produce relative to its wattage helps you know whether or not it is efficient. LEDs produce far more lumens per watt than incandescent bulbs, meaning you get more bang for your buck.
The amount of fuel and battery power required to run lights is negligible, but technically, your bike will run more efficiently with LEDs than with incandescent bulbs. This won’t be noticeable right away, but the savings will add up over time.
Range of Styles
There are hundreds of types of LEDs on the market, so you can customize your lighting to your preferences. If you don’t want to lose the option for high beams, you can use multi-LED lights.
While normal headlights don’t have a huge warm-up time, it does take a few seconds before they’re able to effectively light up the night. LEDs have an instant response, meaning they require no warm-up time at all.
LEDs also have better shock resistance than incandescent bulbs. Many traditional bulbs use a filament, which is a thin wire that produces light. The natural vibrations of your motorcycle consistently weaken the filament over time, and can even cause the filament to break before the natural lifespan of the bulb is up.
This instantaneous break can cause extremely dangerous driving conditions if the filament snaps on the highway. LED lights, on the other hand, gradually dim as they begin to die. That means you have a window to replace the bulb before it goes out completely, helping you avoid dangerous conditions.
The Types of LED Headlights
The two main types of LED headlights are reflectors and projectors. Read on to learn a little more about each kind.
Reflectors look similar to most traditional headlights with mirrors at the top and bottom. One or two LEDs point backward at the mirrors, which reflect the light forward and cast it in a wide but powerful beam.
When you look into a projector (not when it’s on, please), you’ll see several lenses. Behind each lens is its own LED light that shines forward, while the lenses focus the light on the road ahead. These features give this motorcycle headlight kit a modern appearance.
Once you have your new LED headlight, how do you install it? Not all headlights are the same, so you should refer to your owner’s manual. That said, we can provide a basic guide that should give you a good sense of what to do.
Remove the Headlamp Housing Ring
First, consider putting down a towel or shop rag on your fender, as this will protect it from any dings or scratches during disassembly. Next, find the ring screw at the bottom of your current headlamp. You’ll need a Phillips head to remove this screw; do so and set it aside.
You should see a tab on the housing ring. Use this to rotate the ring about an inch counterclockwise. Remove the headlamp housing ring and set it aside.
Remove the Headlamp Housing
Now it’s time to take the headlamp off your bike. There should be a few screws connecting your retaining ring to the housing—remove them. This should cause the retaining ring and headlamp lens to fall out, so make sure to gently catch them. Set aside the retaining ring and carefully pull the wiring from the back of your headlamp to disconnect the bulb.
Configure Your Wiring Harness
This is the most complicated step, and it’s the one that requires you to look at your specific manual. Determine how many wires your new LED headlight has (there may be wires for high, low, and wide beams). The manual will tell you which wires these should connect to.
Install Your LED Headlamp
Once everything is wired up, installation is as easy as disassembly was! Your LED light should have locating lugs that make it simple to position in the housing. Fit the headlamp into its spot, and then replace the retaining ring. Finally, reinstall the housing ring (turning it clockwise this time) and reinstall the Phillips head screw. That’s all there is to it—enjoy your new, bright light!
Now that you know how to install LED headlights on a motorcycle, pick up an upgrade kit and replace your stock bulbs with something that will keep you safe.