LED Headlight Fail!

by Ben N on April 10, 2019

One of the upgrades I made after purchasing my Mitsubishi iMiEV electric car was to install LED headlights. Well, today, the second of the two LED headlamps failed!

I had to take a look at my blog to remember when I actually DID install the headlights. Turns out it was just over three years ago. (See the original LED HEADLIGHT BLOG HERE.) At that time, I was really pleased with the overall look of the lights. The improved efficiency was a better fit for an electric car, and the more blue tone of the LED lights had a more modern look.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to simply replace a headlamp on the iMiEV. There’s almost no space under the tiny hood! The entire headlight assembly has to be removed to access and replace a lamp. If you came here to learn how to do that, don’t worry, somebody ELSE has already shot a video on how to do that.

How to remove the headlight on a Mitsubishi iMiEV

Seeing as how I’ve removed the headlights before, it wasn’t too bad. (The first time you ever do this, it can be a PAIN figuring it out!) Once it was out, I pulled the LED lamp. I put in a halogen bulb, tested that it worked, and then reinstalled the headlight assembly.
(The updated version of the LED lamps I bought is: https://amzn.to/2WWyoO0 )

Next, I tried out the the LED lamp I had just pulled with my bench power supply. I connected up 12V with alligator clips and turned on the power. Surprisingly, the LED lit up! It hadn’t in the car!
The big thing to notice right away was NOISE. There was a strong rattle, clearly the bearings for the cooling fan. I recall the other headlamp working intermittently before it failed. Likely, this lamp failed in the same mode as the first one.

Video of LED headlamp with failing fan

LEDs themselves are actually amazingly robust devices. When there is a failure, it’s almost ALWAYS due to a faulty cooling system. In a fan-cooled system, if the fan dies, the entire unit tends to go with it!

So, right now, I’m back to the stock halogen lights. They work fine (although they use a little more power than LED…) More than anything, I guess I’m just disappointed that the LEDs failed! LED is supposed to be a long-lasting, energy-efficient technology!

There is another style of LED headlight out there which uses cooling ribbons instead of fans. (For example https://amzn.to/2KnXwvH ) That is a PASSIVE cooling technology – no worries about a fan breaking! If I do replace my lights again with LED, I might give that style a shot. My only concern is if there is enough SPACE for the ribbon heat-sinks to be properly spread out inside the headlight assembly.

Have you upgraded a car with the Fanless Style LED headlights? How have they worked for you? Let us know!

And until next time, stay charged up!
(And keep your lights on!)
-Ben Nelson

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