Installing LED Lights For Safety
By Stephen Kassis
Safety is a major concern when driving our vintage & classic cars on modern highways. Original tail lights are not easily seen and today’s drivers expect to see bright tail lights to warn them of stop & turning intentions of our vintage vehicles. This becomes especially important with night driving. LED headlights are now available for many early cars & trucks. These work with 6 or 12 volt, positive or negative ground electrical systems. These headlights allow for much better visibility for the driver and also allows others to see your vintage vehicle easier.
Original vehicles move slower on the road than their modern counterparts. Having LED tail lights on the rear of our vintage cars helps other drivers see us quicker than with standard tail lights. This is helpful even in daylight hours.
LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting has become the standard of the automotive industry and for good reason. It is bright and easy to see! Newly designed LED tail light conversions are available in 6 volt or 12 volt, depending on application. They are made for most applications of vintage Chevrolet & GMC cars & trucks.
This is a safety item you can’t afford to be without! Whether you have a totally original early 4 or 6-cylinder with a 6-volt system or a modern monster V-8 running a 12-volt system, these are a must-have addition to your vintage car or truck.
There are many different ways to convert your vintage car from the old incandescent bulbs to super bright LED lighting: LED Headlights, LED Miniature Light Bulbs, Tail Light Conversion LED Cards, Solid State LED Lenses or Complete LED Tail Light Assemblies.
LED Headlight Bulbs are a must for early cars & trucks. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the original headlights are like holding up a candle at night. Visibility is almost non-existent! Driving these vehicles at night makes these new LED headlights a vital safety item. These headlights are a plug and play item. Just remove the old bulb and install the new LED. Most can be installed in 5 minutes or less!
LED Miniature Light Bulbs are a simple and inexpensive plug & play solution. You merely remove the old bulb and install a new LED bulb. Though this is a quick way it is the least effective solution to the problem. The draw back to the bulb solution is that the size and number of LED’s that can fit into a bulb is considerably less than the conversion cards, solid state lenses or LED tail light assemblies. This makes the LED Light Bulbs the least visible of the four options. While this is an economical solution it is just not as effective as the other options. Most LED Miniature Light bulbs are available for 12 volt applications with a limited selection for 6 volt applications.
LED Conversion Cards are available for most tail lights from 1926 through 1938 passenger cars and 1926 through 1953 trucks. These cards are sold individually with a LED circuit card and hardware for mounting. Most cards feature a license light for the left side assembly. They will work with turn signal, tail light and stop light circuits. These kits are available in 6 volt for most applications for 1953 and earlier. (Most 12 volt systems should use Solid State LED Lenses, when available). These cards cover most of the surface area of the tail light lens and are far more visible than just replacing the light bulb with an LED bulb. Additionally, LED’s do not create heat like incandescent bulbs and are therefore safe when used with plastic lenses.
Solid State LED Lenses are a complete plug & play solution. Each lens has LED’s permanently sealed into the lens. There are no separate cards to install. Most kits have plugs already attached that merely need to be twisted into the original sockets for installation. Some must have wires manually attached, which is a simple process. Solid State LED Lenses are available for both tail light and parking light applications. These are currently only available in 12 volt. However, these are a quick and easy upgrade for a huge increase in safety.Recently added to this category are the Sequential LED Lenses. These lenses are LED but they flash sequentially to indicate the direction of the turn. This latest improvement adds an extra level of safety and individuality. Make your car or truck stand out with this fantastic upgrade! Tail light lenses are available in 12-volt for 1937-1964 passenger cars & 1940-1966 trucks; 1967-1972 Fleetside trucks; 1973-1987 Fleetside trucks. Also available are LED Marker Lights for 1968-1987 trucks.
LED Tail Light Assemblies offer a complete solution for those street rod or original applications requiring complete replacement tail lights. A large number of complete assemblies come in stock appearing housings and also flush mounted units for Street Rod applications. Stock units look like the originals and mount like the originals, except that they will have LED lenses. Flush mounted units have no housing, just a tail light rim (bezel) and LED lens ready for mounting on any flat surface. Complete units are only available for 12 volt systems. The most recent of these complete tail light assemblies to become available are the 1933-1934 passenger car and 1935 Standard passenger car tail lights. One thing to note with LED lighting is that it has very little current draw on the electrical system. For this reason, if you run LED’s on the front and rear of your vintage vehicle, it will require an electronic flasher or a load resistor to operate the turn signals.
Whether you are driving your vintage car or truck on a cross country trip or just a 50 mile tour with your local car club, the safety of LED tail lights will pay for itself many times over. You have probably already seen others that have made the LED conversion to their vintage vehicle. Next time you get the opportunity, follow one of them for a short distance. We guarantee you will be impressed with these bright, high visibility tail lights. They are a must-have item for your old car or truck!