Tips for using LED lights in your car

LED lighting is a cutting-edge technology that, due its superior brightness, energy efficiency and longevity, is now used in all sorts of different lighting applications, domestic and commercial alike. One place where LED lighting also has great potential is your trusty vehicle. Many of us have long sought to customize our factory-made, standardized cars, whether to make them more suitable for our specific needs or to communicate something of our individuality. And one of the easiest ways you can modify your vehicle – and it is also one that will draw most attention – is to change the lighting. Read on for the best tips around for using LED lights in your car.

What is LED lighting?

First off, a word about LEDs or light emitting diodes. These are a simple device made up of a semiconductor material designed so that, when an electric current is passed through it, electrons are knocked loose from the surface of the material, and in the process emit small packets of light energy known as ‘photons’. LEDs are basically a means of converting electrical energy into light – and they do this very well; LEDs are up to 80 percent more efficient than conventional incandescent lamps, and up to 40 percent more efficient than fluorescent and halogen lights. They are also free of many of the problems that plague these older forms of lighting – high heat output, flickering, humming, temporarily burnt out filaments, and more. They also tend to be brighter and deliver a cleaner, whiter light than these kinds of lighting. And if you don’t like white, then LEDs are available in lots of other different colors as well.

All good reasons to upgrade your car’s lighting to LEDs – whether it’s the dashboard and console lights, undercarriage lights, cabin lights, trunk lights and more. Let’s take a look at what’s involved in installing LED lighting in each of these areas.

Safety, Lighting Kits and the Law

Before proceeding, though, a word about upgrading your vehicle’s lighting to LEDs. While similar, every model and make of car has a different design and construction. There is no ‘one size fits all’ advice out there for installing new lighting in your vehicle, that’s why it’s a good idea to use a pre-made lighting kit when doing this – one that you have made sure is compatible with your type of vehicle. These LED lighting kits come with full instructions for installing the lights, and contain all the parts and wiring you will require – because they are specifically designed for your vehicle, they are a much safer option than doing your own custom installation and wiring. Bear in mind that most of the lighting options we discuss here don’t really require you to tinker with the wiring in your engine compartment, all of them can be powered as a set of USB lights using the regular 12 volt DC outlet in your vehicle.

Another bit of advice: before doing anything to your vehicle, check with the laws in your state or province to ensure that adding customized lighting to your vehicle is legal in your area; some states prohibit certain kinds of vehicle modification.

Dashboard and console lights

Dashboard and console lighting are now standard in all vehicles, included to enhance the safety of nighttime driving, yet in many cases, the lighting present is far from perfect, and upgrading it is not a bad idea at all. Generally speaking, the type of light that keeps all the internal instruments of your car lit up at night is a small, low-wattage incandescent light whose output is pretty dim. In addition, there are plenty of LED retrofit lighting kits around for these type of lights that follow the original design of your instrument panel. And as we have seen, LED lights give you far more options when it comes to color than older forms of lighting technology. One tip: to reduce glare from your LED dashboard, it is recommended that you backlight the instrument panel, and this will require that you remove the dashboard to install your lighting.

Under-the-dash lights

Another area where you can upgrade your car’s lighting to LEDs is the drab, orange colored lighting to be found under the dashboard. Fortunately, this is even easier to install than new dashboard lighting. Simply mount a small row of LED strip lights under the dash and connect them to your car’s 12 volt DC outlet (you can also wire them to the battery). In fact, both your dashboard and under the dash lights can be connected to the one physical switch or can be set to the same, wireless remote for convenience’s sake. Alternatively, they can be kept separate so you can customize the color and intensity of each. Remember also to angle your under the dash LED lights towards the floor to reduce glare.

Cabin lights

There are already many LED retrofit kits out there for upgrading your car’s cabin lighting and reducing the burden on your car’s electrical system. But besides straightforward running lights, there are also many lighting options out there for adding to your car interior’s décor. Use LED rope lights or multi-colored Christmas lights to decorate the inside of your car, van or RV. Install LED dimmable lights in your cabin and trunk so you can fully customize your car interior lighting to suit the needs of the moment

Undercarriage lights

Undercarriage or chassis lights are a feature of more and more new vehicles now – if you own an older vehicle, why not get an LED upgrade so that you, too, can enjoy the sensation of speeding down the freeway, seemingly floating along on multi-colored lights? Once again, there are loads of LED lighting kits out there that are specifically designed for every model and make of vehicle, and actually mounting the lights to your car’s underside is a piece of cake also. The trick is simply to make sure everything is fully weather-proofed. Use a set of waterproof zip ties or adhesives hold everything in place, and then all you have to do is run a pair of power cables from the underside light to the battery. Or, you can purchase an LED lighting kit that comes with a remote console for controlling the lights from within your car.


Blogger, editor, developer who loves green living. Interested in photovoltaics and solar lighting. Reviewing solar products since 2013.

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1 Response

  1. It was really informative when you talked about how installing LED lights in your vehicle can reduce the burden on the electrical system. When purchasing LED lights for your vehicle, I would think that it would be important to make sure that they are compatible first. Looking online could be a good way to get the right kind of LED lights for your vehicle.

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