Try this simple LED headlight upgrade for classic cars

We love old cars, but we readily admit they have their weak points. Even in newer old cars like the NA-generation Miata, headlights are an issue. Today’s cars feature brighter, farther-reaching light for safer nighttime driving. Thankfully, there are several ways to upgrade factory headlights in a classic car. We looked for an approach that wouldn’t stand out as an obvious modification, which meant multisegment lights were out. Instead, we went with a pair of seven-inch LED headlights from

[This article originally ran in Hagerty magazine, the exclusive publication of the Hagerty Drivers Club. For the full, in-the-flesh experience of our world-class magazine—as well other great benefits like roadside assistance and automotive discounts—join HDC today.]

These upgraded lights use a German Hella H4 lens and cost $269 for a pair, but sets start at $189 and look just like OEM headlights. Each bulb puts out 4000 lumens compared with the typical 1700 lumens from a standard H4 headlight. Because they’re LED and not a regular bulb, these use about half the wattage, so there’s no need for additional wiring or worrying about your charging system. LEDs should last much longer as well, with this set claiming 30,000 hours of run time.

LED replacements are direct swaps for any classic car that came with H4 bulbs. High-output LEDs have a passive heat sink that makes them deeper than original bulbs. On some cars, it’s no problem, but if your headlight mounting has tighter packaging, has a lower-output solution to fit.

Here some tips to get you started:

  1. Simply remove the trim and retaining ring, then unplug the old light and plug in the new one.
  2. Once they’re hooked up, make sure the new bulbs are aligned. Consult your owner’s manual or shop manual for instructions.
  3. The color temperature of the LEDs is whiter than that of the old bulbs, but warmer bulbs are available.

Hopefully this will help illuminate your path to safer and happier classic ownership.

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