As I transformed my tail lights in such way that they work all 4 together in position light or brake light (all 8 halves), I had to reduce the current drained of 8 x 5W/21W light bulbs. It is impossible to power 168W (up to a theoretic 14 Amp) with the existing wire harnesses and fuses.
That’s how I started my research several months ago in hope to find the best LED light. The objective was to resolve 2 main issues with incandescent light bulbs :
- important power consumption and current drain
- high level of permanent heat in position (5W) and extreme heat in brake (21W)
- short life time
The problem is that I wanted the LED’s to be at least as bright as the incandescent light bulbs. And that’s a real challenge especially if you want to keep the power consumption and heat at the lowest level. They must be also fit the tail lights which is quite tight. They can’t be larger than the standard light bulbs but there is a margin in the length.
Here are all the details of the best LED’s I found. I eliminated many of them which are not ever worth to be mentioned. Unfortunately, most of the LED’s you can find online or on Ebay fall in this category. Despite the commercials announcing “The brightest LED” etc, in reality, they are totally useless, and are even dangerous to be used as brake/stop lights at daylight. Many cheap LED lights failed also on my test bench after being permanently powered during a couple of hours in the brake/stop light position. That was far from the often announced 50.000 hours life time.
The LED technology has been evolving a lot during these last years and will continue to do so. Today, we’re far away of the classical 5mm LED. Most of the LED bulbs use the SMD technology which is quite cheap, runs at a reasonable current and heat but are still limited in terms of brightness. Most of the LED bulbs uses SMD LED’s. Hyperflex LED’s provide a much higher level of brightness but will heat easily. High power LED’s deliver an intense level of brightness but must be cooled by a serious heat sink.
Most of the LED lights are setup to run at exactly 12V. The problem is that most of the cars with a running engine will deliver a minimum of 14.5V. That means that the LED’s will be overpowered and will fail prematurely. This was the case with several SMD LED’s which failed after a couple of hours. Only the High Power LED’s have an integrated current driver. A current driver will deliver exactly the right current needed by the LED’s whatever the voltage is. Thus, they will never be overpowered.
All tested LED lights are standard dual contact S25/1157/BAY15D bulbs having a 15mm bayonet base. It’s essential that the bulbs have side LED’s in addition to the front LED’s to light up the entire tail light.
I truly tested the following LED’s during long periods of time. A couple of them failed immediately when shipped but have been replaced by the seller.
To compare the LED light brightness and effect with traditional 5/12 light bulbs, I took a picture of each of them under identical ambient light conditions. The left half of the taillight contains a 5/12 incandescent light bulb while the right half contains the tested LED light. It’s quite challenging to take a picture comparing both lights as a camera will flatten the light difference. The light difference in the pictures must be interpreted by at least doubling the difference you can observe to get closer to the real difference.
I measured also the maximum operation temperature reached after 2 minutes lighting up the position and stop lights with an ambient temperature of 17.4°C / 63.3°F. This measurement is important to know because it will tell how much heat the plastic tail light will have to deal with. This is especially the case when in some countries you have to use permanently the position lights as well as the time the stop lights will be used in traffic jams or at traffic lights (especially F1 cars).
Of course, such LED’s can not only be used on the F430 but in theory on any older Ferrari having the incandescent light bulbs.