I love the output from the factory headlights – said no one ever!

A month or so ago I noticed that one of the headlights on MobileHQGU had blown out. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always made it a point to drive with headlights on at all times as an added safety measure. Yes, the Patrol ends up looking like a Telstra service vehicle, but I feel the positive effect of being easily detectable to other members of traffic (not that you could miss a massive accessorised fourby wrapped to look like it’s done the lap!) outweighs that negative.

Younger models now come with Daytime Running Lights (DRL) and it’s noteworthy that some aftermarket bull bars have DRL’s as an option, but our battle-hardy beast makes do with halogen bulbs.

“I love the output of my factory headlights,” said no one ever. Seriously though, newer vehicles with factory HID or even LED lighting may cast a better beam, but the old halogens in vehicles of the GU’s vintage are paltry and barely sufficient for road driving let alone off-road and outback conditions. An upgrade was in order.

So it’s no secret that there are a multitude of reviews online that compare and rate the virtues of aftermarket driving lights. These reviews are available in written format, scientific comparisons, videos and everything in between. They usually uncover the merits of the latest HID/LED/Halogen units and go on to compare the ever-popular light bar versus traditional round lights.

I have no doubt that there is a place for upgraded aftermarket light units in our hobby. The issue is you can’t drive around with these lights on in normal driving conditions – it’s simply dangerous (and illegal!). Maybe it’s a function of the cost of these units, or the fact that it’s not as exciting, but it would seem to me like not much focus has been put into reviewing ways to improve the “low beam” output of factory light housings.

Recently when returning from the Brisbane National 4X4 show, we were unfortunately caught driving at night, in rain, on a two-lane temporary carriageway. With a steady stream of oncoming traffic (with their headlights on no less), it was incredibly difficult to make out the markings on the road at times. Risky and downright fatiguing stuff, but you back right off and do your best to navigate through it. The ability to use high beams would’ve resolved the issue readily, but obviously not an option.

What I wanted to explore was how I could improve the output from the GU’s factory light housings. So after a few hours of research the options available were; replacement halogen globes, retrofit LED units, complete HID conversions and for some vehicle models, complete all-in-one replacement light housings.

I didn’t feel the need to complicate such a simple and critical component with new wiring and the need for washers with the HID option. I also found that LED replacement bulbs had mixed reviews and questionable legality, so I decided to delve further into replacement Halogen bulbs. My thoughts went back to a testimonial we got from Jake at Narva, so a quick call to him resulted in a few options from their range.

Now I have to warn everyone here, many of the articles written on aftermarket lighting can be quite scientific and greatly detailed. This is not going to be one of those and the photography won’t be great either! What I aim to give is a “seat of the pants” view of the change that these bulbs made in day-to-day use.

We ended up going with the “platinum 130’s” for the main headlight housings and “long life 60’s” for the driving lights. An important point to note is that aftermarket bulbs which provide a higher output generally won’t have the same life as a factory rated unit. Knowing this, I still opted for the higher outputs and will report back on longevity.

Installation wasn’t the most difficult work I’ve done on a vehicle before. Some people online recommended removing light housings and the airbox for the GU, but I was able to get the bulbs in with no disassembly albeit a bruised knuckle here and there. The 130’s came with matching parker bulbs, which I didn’t get around to getting in – these are likely to involve some disassembly at a later stage. The driving lights in the ARB Bullbar were a little more involved, necessitating removal of the entire assembly to replace the bulb and a new spade connector on each side to replace the bullet type that were there to start with.

So how did they go? I have to say the difference is remarkable. The photos below tell the tale, but I saw a notable improvement in visibility all round with a marked improvement in range and spread. On a recent trip I left home before dawn in greasy and wet conditions where the extra visibility was definitely appreciated and confidence inspiring.

Night driving goes hand in hand with fatigue and ultimately the best thing to do is stop and have a rest, but I feel the extra visibility is definitely a safety measure which could reduce fatigue. So all up a great little upgrade that everyone should seriously consider. When combined with the interior festoon LED bulbs Jake kindly sent along with our package, this has got to be the quickest, easiest mod that delivers great bang for buck.

Let there be light!!

 

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Comments 43

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Andrew,

      To my knowledge the extra draw doesn’t require upgraded wiring and i’ve seen no evidence of extra heat in cables etc.

      I will look into this however.

      Kalen

    2. Hello;
      NSW law limits headlight globes to 55 / 60w.
      Having said that, in my ’60 series, I had 90 / 130w,
      along with 130w in the Hella driving lights

      Result:- DAYLIGHT out the front. Fantastic lighting, or so I thought………
      I bought LED driving lights from Jaycar, spot / spread and an LED headlight up grade from NQ

      It beats ANYTHING I have ever used.

      Warren Price.

    3. It is my understanding that the Narva PLus 130s are only a white light, not a higher wattage. Yes, if you put in higher powered globes, you may be required to upgrade some wiring (and sometimes also relays as I found out late at night in the middle of nowhere at 120 ks and all the lights suddenly switching off!). And with virtually any vehicle produced since the lid ninties, you will not want to use higher wattage globes at all, coz they tend to melt lenses, glode holders, wiring plugs etc.

  1. one of the best mods to do to your vehicle. Living int he country with a few of skippy’s mates along with wild deer to contend with putting the Plus 130’s made a huge difference.

    1. Post
      Author
  2. I didn’t understand this article. Too much jargon and ambiguously described results. What type of lamps were used and what exactly was the lighting improvement. Also any replacement light will be bright when new, the brightness drop off is important. It would be good to leave one old one in for 6 months. Also unclear why some lights are illegal.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Sean,

      I wasn’t aware that brightness drops off – will definitely keep an eye out for that and report back, along with overall longevity of the bulbs.

      Not sure what you mean about jargon to be honest – compared to what i read in researching my options this is a very basic (layman is what i’d call it) view on the process and the improvement. This was never going to be as detailed and scientific as other reviews available on aftermarket lights unfortunately as it’s not our forte.

      What i can say is that the light output, visibility, and comfort of driving at night was markedly improved using the Narva Platinum Plus 130’s in the headlights and long life 60’s in the driving light housings.

      A great value for money upgrade to an area that is too often overlooked in my opinion.

      Kalen

  3. Looks like the “After” pics are from a spot closer to the road sign. See pothole and count the fence posts.

    1. Post
      Author

      they were! the original position was blocked with a huge pile of dirt. Also the truck in the distance was much closer. Definitely not scientific, but the spread and length of the beam is very impressive in comparison in real life 🙂

      Kalen

  4. In the picture of the Club4x4, in the bush, it shows what appears to be fog lights operating.
    This is fine in the bush, but would be illegal, not to mention annoying to other road users, when on public roads, unless it was in appropriate (read reasonably heavy fog) conditions.

    1. Post
      Author

      Agreed Wayne – a fog light however usually has a yellow lens or light. These are moreso a driving light and used with discretion.

      Kalen

  5. You sure you got the right pictures in the right spot? Obviously the pictures were taken from a different angle/ spot. Hence the flash on the pictures on right hand side

    1. Post
      Author

      G’day Garth,

      Well picked and we knew that wasn’t going to be great – the other thing is the truck in the distance was much closer too.

      I can follow-up with more accurate photos definitely – the photos were really just to give an indication and i can safely say the spread and beam of the light is so much stronger with the new lights!

      Kalen

        1. Post
          Author
  6. In some ways the original setup looks better, I wouldn’t waste my time with an upgrade that gives such a marginal improvement.

    1. Post
      Author

      The improvement i way way better than marginal Bill. The spread, the length and the flood of light is much more consistent and strong. The photos are just an indication by someone who really isn’t a photographer (read me!) and challenges in replicating the exact spot where the original photos were taken.

      This has got the be the best bang for buck upgrade anyone can do for usability.

      Cheers

      Kalen

  7. Halogens are so yesterday when there is so much advantage in converting to HID. After many years driving from Canberra to the Snowy Mtns on late nights for skiing and having tried every possible halogen the change to HID was an revelation. Its not so much the high beam (the 130 halogens are ok on high beam) but the LOW beam – Yeeeck! On the ‘flick down’ from high beams generally with LED spotties the HID low beam performs well and does not leave one straining for visibility. The penetration at totally legal after market HID setup (tested by ACT motor registry) and width into the ‘kangaroo zone’ much brighter that of the many branded halogens or ‘one of the illegal rally globes’ available. Also on the wet roads the intensity of the HID reflects better back to the driver. Chuck the halogens and go good quality HID, also no filaments to break. My years of testing have extended between Landcruisers, Nissan and now Mazda BT50 which has the worst ever (for 30 years of driving) standard low beam and no well known halogen brand would fix that until the HID’s came on board.

    1. Post
      Author

      Peter thanks for writing in on this experience.

      The challenge that i found with HID was legality. What i found was that for a HID to be legal it required washers – how do you get around this issue?

      Cheers

      Kalen

      1. More than that, HID’s (low beam) headlamp housing need to be of a self levelling type unit as so not to blind oncoming traffic according to ADR!

        The only few old school 4wd’s that somewhat qualify in this field are the Range Rovers & Landrover Discovery with their self levelling air suspension. And even then, there could be question marks with the insurance company as they’re not a standard feature, (though with the exception of maybe Club 4×4). Other than that, HID’s are great!!

        On another note. I did have LED low beam globes in, and weren’t too impressed with them at all.
        The problem with LED low beam (not the CREE LED of light bars) that the light emitted only shines in certain light frequencies, meaning that not everything on the road and objects in the distance reflect back until were just about to run into it. Driving along the Silver City Highway on route to Broken Hill at night, they were just plain dangerous. As soon as i got to Broken Hill, i straight away removed the LEDs back in exchange for a set of NARVA 120 Plus Halogen, and i’m here to tell you that they are heaps better!! Yes they may not be as white as LEDs, but everything illuminates as they should, because Halogen (being a source of heat) shines in all light frequencies. Plus with older vehicles, they don’t recognise LED low beam because of the low power draw, so they constantly show up as a blown globe warning. Yes you can put a resistor in there to alleviate this issue, but, personally don’t think it’s worth the effort. However light bars and LED spotties with the cree led’s in them, are fantastic, and a different kettle of fish.

        1. Post
          Author

          You’re right Andrew – the combination of washers and self levelling are whats required.

          Look id love the output but i guess i find it frustrating having an non-compliant car behind me or coming towards me so id rather than be that guy especially when the lights are at such a high level on the GU

          Kalen

  8. Disagree. A driving light is switched with high beam. Fog lights can be yellow, but rarely are these days. They are generally lower than a headlight & have a low spread beam designed to cut below the fog without reflecting back at the driver.
    The amount of people driving around illegally with fog lights in frustrating, their incorrect use is illegal for a good reason.

    1. Post
      Author
  9. I second Barry’s comment, the white fog lights are blinding, Toyota’s and Ford’s are the brightest.

  10. A great review and has solved a long standing “what the hell should I replace my globes with” question. Thanks again. Tim

  11. I’ve done the exact same thing in my Pajero albeit with OSRAM Nightbreaker bulbs. I faced the same issues in that to fit HID’s i would need to track down either a wrecked Exceed with the factory self leveling and washers or run an illegal set up, LED’s weren’t widely available when I first changed out my bulbs.

    They don’t provide a ridiculous amount of extra light, but the light is slightly whiter, is a more even spread with less hot spots and goes slightly farther. Lifetime so far I had both bulbs blow within about a month of each other after 2 years in the car. Not too bad really, only issue is trying to source them from a store within Australia.

    I have use Narva’s in previous vehicles but decided to try something different this time and was very happy with the results.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks Rhys,

      Yes the HID option was an attractive one – but not legal without the ancillaries which aren’t available on the humble GU anyway.

      There are LED replacement bulbs on the market, but they are clearly marked not for road use. The reviews on output on a regular halogen housing was a bit touch and go as well.

      Cheers

      Kalen

  12. I have a prado 95, similar issue with light. Lots of night driving. The narvas only lasted me 14 months, great lights but lose low beam in each globe within a month of each other. Switched to Phillips, got 18 months then same thing, low beam goes in one then about a week later in the other. Currently running ones from repco (plus 30) bought from a servo at a tenth of the cost with same output. Something to note, prado globes from factory were unadorned plus 50’s. Higher output reduces longevity, corrugations reduce longevity, constant use reduces longevity, just suck up the cost and enjoy the drive.

    1. Post
      Author

      Like most modifications there is always a downside – as long as you go into it knowing what they are then it’s all good.

      I’m looking forward to seeing how long these globes last.

      Kalen

  13. It comes down to the quality of your car or truck if you have descent headlights. My car has 35Watt xenon bulbs from factory. I guess an asian truck would not has the same quality as a euro. Also night blindness is an issue with some people. Torturing other road users with illegal bulbs is becoming a major issue.

  14. Having done a air bit of country driving in the transport industry the problem for me was low beam light. With the long straight roads of Aus you are driving for long distances on low beam because someone is usually coming in the opposite direction. This is where, for me I have come across critters out of the blue because they are hard to see with low beams. The best option I have come across is a “projector” style light that is bright, but it has a clear cut off line on low beam so you aren’t blinding on coming traffic. Projectors can be retrofitted to older vehicles and paired with either HID or LED globes.
    One thing that has cropped up on the last few years with high powered high beam. spotties or light bars is the amount of reflection you get back from the road side signs. They are everywhere now and highly reflective, so with high powered high beams you actually see less because of all the reflection. This can be lessoned with light frequency around 4300 K.

  15. Pictures don’t really do justice to the true improvement when sitting in the drivers seat. I was happy enough to only change my high beam bulbs to plus 60% and am very happy with them. Then a 22inch light bar made highway driving even better. Light bars don’t seem to get damaged as easily when you unfortunately strike a roo like spotties do. geez some of the criticism about your article is a bit unwarranted.

    1. Post
      Author

      It’s all great discussion Shane. Ultimately the industry is more interested in the big, sexy (and expensive) upgrades. I think this is one that warrants more discussion and review as it’s more relevant

      Kalen

  16. I think this is a great article
    I own the same model patrol with the standard headlights. I have the same problem with the output of the lights. I have hit many potholes and missed judged taking corners. White knuckled in the rain at night
    Thank you for this article
    I will know wait for funds to invest in those narva bulbs

    1. Post
      Author
  17. This article has generated a great deal of interest both positive and negative. I too have been searching for a better alternative for my GU. I tried HID’s and liked the light output but found that the left hand light blew with monotonous regularity and as a consequence I got sick of replacing them which in it’s self is no five minute job. I am keen to try higher wattage globes but am concerned at the extra load placed on the headlight switch contacts, is anyone aware of issues such as this.

    1. Post
      Author

      Great question – personally i have used higher wattage globes on other vehicles i own and have owned to no consequence. HID has always been something i’ve wanted but have stayed away from because of the legality question and i personally hate when they’re put into vehicles with housings not designed for them – too blinding for everyone else without the self levelling function.

      Hopefully someone will chime in with some answers

      Kalen

    1. Post
      Author
  18. Hmmm, I always thought that unless specified the “plus” halogens were the same wattage as standard, usually 55/60, and the increased “output” was due to gases and coating used inside the globe. But I am no car lighting engineer.
    I have used Narva 130s, and they were good, but like others they both died within a month of each other though lasted two years. I am now trying Phillips plus 30s at 4300k. I do like the ‘whiter” light. I also put in an upgraded loom I built and just used the existing socket to switch a relay. Used ceramic sockets for heat tolerance as well, plus the cabling gauge is huge compared to standard. No real voltage drop on those cables!.

    I have/had headlight washers until I fitted a steel bar so could run HIDs if I could get a replacement suitable. But frankly I don’t like the colour of most of them and hate cars with a retrofit coming towards me, especially in the wet at night, but that could just be my eye sensitivity. I may replace the entire headlight with a projector style to see how they go as I can get an ADR approved one.

    I believe some car headlights respond better to an “alternate” bulb upgrade than others. Suck it and see I reckon, just a pity good globes are so expensive.

    Rob

  19. Most, Driver’s these days are down right ignorant to the road rule, common sense and curtsy. Just stop and look around, whether your just driving down the highway or driving around town, drivers are ignorant. The driver that doesn’t keep left on multi lane, even though the sign said keep left unless overtaking, those that illegally park on the footpath. Then there’s those who cannot park within the marked lines and of course there’s those that have no idea on how to use their headlights, this includes those who use illegal wattage light bulbs .

    If our Police Officer’s, Parking Officer’s, Council Rangers, RMS Officer’s in force the rules and laws in the way that they are supposed to, fined those guilty of these afencse then used that money to help repair our roads . Maybe there would be less accidents and we would be a lot happier driving around this country.

    Regards
    Terry

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