• Old vs New: How Much Brighter are Modern Truck Headlights? [Video]

    A lot of developments have been made in automotive technology since 1985. Airbags, ABS and traction control are now standard features on just about every new vehicle. Headlights are another area in which technology has developed significantly since the 1980s. However, many new vehicles are not rated very highly as far as headlight brightness. Here is a comparison showing you the difference between old and new headlights.

    To highlight the difference, we took our 1985 Chevy K10 “Big Green” and a 2017 GMC Sierra 2500 All-Terrain X to a country road in the middle of the night.

    There is certainly a noticeable difference between the two trucks. Big Green’s lights are much more warm and soothing to the eyes.

    Modern Truck Headlights

    The GMC, by contrast, has a much harsher blue/white light. However, this, coupled with the GMC’s LED lights on its sports bar, give the GMC a lot of light. The country fence that we used as a benchmark was almost completely lit up thanks to the GMC’s excessive use of LEDs.

    To get a good visual comparison of the advances in headlight technology since the 80’s, be sure to watch the whole video!

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    80 thoughts on “Old vs New: How Much Brighter are Modern Truck Headlights? [Video]

    1. Some day we will not have the “too bright” problem in our vehicles.

      Our side mirrors will be replaced with little tiny aerodynamic stems with cameras that feed screen inside close to the driver and they will properly balance the light behind us.

      The windshield mirror will also be digital, and TFL, it would be great if you could test the GM windshield rear view mirror at night and show us how it handles “too bright lights” etc.

      Also, the windshield and windows will handle all the annoying lighting conditions by filtering smartly all these conditions.

      Let’s hope sooner than later, as soon as all the dumb masses (that’s you all, if you didn’t know–and you didn’t), sober up and realize that all the fancy, unimportant styling etc. is taking away from the resources that ought to be put to all the above safety and driveability features.

    2. I think the biggest reason truck headlights rank so low is due to regulation. They are regulated for height of the beam. Just look at any modern truck or car and shine the lights onto a garage door. They are perfectly flat on the top. Regulation has them not shining at a certain height and in order to broadcast the light out, you need to shine it at a higher level. Like a car. But since trucks are high from the start, they need to be pointed downwards more than a common car. But in the end, modern truck lights are soooooo much better than what we had 15 or more years ago.

      1. Headlights have a “cutoff” so they won’t blind other drivers. The flat beam pattern is much better than scattered light you see from people that put HID kids into reflector headlghts.

        And yes DOT regulates how far your headlights can shine out. So high the truck, more downward headlights must be aimed.

      2. I’ve been saying for years that truck headlights should be mounted lower. This would give better distance down the road, and not be so irritating to car drivers when approaching oncoming trucks.

        I suspect mfrs like to keep the headlights mounted high because it makes potential customers want to sit higher up to get out of the glare of oncoming headlights, so customers move up to SUVs and trucks, where mfrs make their most profits.

    3. The redneck lights are mounted too low to be useful. The spread patten is also not much help. I run redneck lights too but they are round pencil beam led, mounted higher (big hurt on mpg at speed) but they can light up a road sign a mile away

    4. One feature that would be nice if it was more available would be adjustable or maybe automatically adjusting headlights when the pickup is loaded/squatted. I think either the Tundra or Titan have this feature but not Ram, GM or Ford.

    5. Top Safety Pick rating isn’t quite the highest safety honor the IIHS has to offer. The highest is the Top Safety Pick+. This rating requires that a vehicle have headlights that earn an “Acceptable” or “Good” rating. None of the F-150’s headlights do this. In fact, every single headlight type offered on the F-150 earned the lowest rating of “Poor.”

        1. No. Ford is at the bottom.

          Honda Ridgeline, is available with good-rated headlight.
          The GMC Sierra has acceptable-rated headlights available on certain trims. Other versions earn a marginal or poor rating.
          The two kinds of headlights available on the Nissan Titan both earn a marginal rating.
          The Ram 1500 has marginal headlights on certain trim levels.

          The Ford F-150, the centerpiece of the best-selling F-Series line, is among the poorest performers. Both the base halogen and the optional LED low beams provide inadequate visibility in all test scenarios, including both sides of the straightaway, on sharp curves in both directions and on gradual curves in both directions. The LED lights also produce unacceptable glare. The high beams on both versions have mostly inadequate visibility too.


          1. Here an excerpt on the ram crash test since you want to bring in IIHS

            The driver’s space was seriously compromised by intruding structure. Lower interior intrusion measured as much as 40 cm at the footrest and parking brake pedal. Upper interior intrusion measured as much as 39 cm at the upper hinge pillar and 34 cm at the instrument panel. The steering column was pushed back 27 cm toward the driver dummy.

            1. You brought in IIHS, so I am reminding you that ram is the most unsafe truck based on what you brought up, IIHS.

            2. IIHS for headlights test Jimmy. I didn’t bring crash test. You did. Out of topic. Focus. Headlights. Ford is at the bottom with headlights.

    6. Headlight advancements? Really? I have led flashlights brighter than any truck light for 5 dollars plus the batteries. Ram has a split tailgate and there are spy shots of the new Ram. And there is a TFL Power Wagon VS HD All Terrain video on You Tube. What gives?

      1. I know, Rambro. Its a joke.

        But as long as people put their money down for styling and unimportant crap, the industry will not develop the safety and quality of our vehicles..

        And another thing that is a joke…

        I called you all dumb masses, not dumb… well you know 🙂

        The sentiment was serious, but the word play was the joke. Ah, my Friday schedules are too fluid.

    7. US Headlight beam control requirements are terrible and too much of the light ends up in the opposing traffics side of the road, which hurts peoples eye. By contract, the EU requirements for Headlight Beam control are safer and less intrusive to drivers eyes in oncoming traffic.

      This is self evident when one drives in EU nations at night vs the US. If anyone doubts my claim, go try it out and see how your eyes feel afterwards!!

      1. I can confirm that. Everyone will get a huge ticket, if using lights and light bulbs like in North America.
        There is a Technical Control Station you have to pass every few years and 90% of vehicles driving here wouldn’t make it, because of headlights.
        And the “best” ones are the blue. Lots of lights everywhere,like you said, but driver don’t see anything. What pisses me of, that even my autodimming mirrors doesn’t work for this blueish headlights.

            1. Your right, it isn’t odd that your ram that is the most unsafe truck, doesn’t have a well working self dimming mirror system. Thanks for the reminder.

            2. You brought up your defective auto dimming mirrors. Not me. So try to stay on topic. Unless you want to focus more attention to your auto dimming mirrors and their design flaw or how unsafe your truck is.

            3. My auto dimming mirrors are not defective. They work, like they suppose to. When someone has Christmas tree Chinese headlights, with unacceptable glare like ford and illuminates the whole cabin ,to simulate a daylight, the sensor is going to adjust mirrors accordingly.
              Anyhow, I am not going to talk out of topic. Headlights are the problem and new ford is at the bottom in headlights safety,with “poor” rating.

            4. So they are designed to not work with lights. Excellent design feature for self dimming mirrors. Hahahahaha

          1. My mirrors works for all of them, just one fella had something special. His light were all over the space my cabine was lid,even he had a low driving “sports car” aka honda civic and maybe the reflection was making this problem, fooling the system,tha it’s a day light, because it was first time I experienced that in 6 years.
            Very annoying.The sensor is in the central mirror.

      2. I’d rather deal with a little extra light from the opposite side of the road than not be able to see the deer/elk/moose that could be standing over there ready to run out in front of me.

        1. That’s not what Ford’s headlights were designed for. Lots of glare, but you don’t see a deer.
          You all should drive european headlights to see the huge difference. When I moved to NA 20 years ago, I couldn’t believe, how crappy headlights are standards in here.
          Lots of light,but non on the road.

    8. I personally prefer the HID/LED headlights over halogens. Halogens use more wattage and amps and put out less lumens than a lower wattage LED or HID.

      I perfer HID’s better than LEDs, as most LED headlights don’t get hot enough to melt ice on headlight lenses. And the color spectrum of HID is less blue/pure white than the LED headlights on vehicles today.

      The GMC HD’s use a HID headlight system, not LED. The only LED headlights on GM trucks are the high trim 1500 trucks. The 2500HD Silverado uses halogen projectors and the 2500HD Sierra uses HID projectors.

      1. I agree the HID’s are generally the best. I have the factory Bi-Xenons on my F150 and they are decent. The best I have seen were a set of Morimoto MiniD2S projectors I retrofit into my jeep liberty with 50W ballasts. Those things were super bright, had an extremely wide pattern, and an extremely sharp cutoff. My wife took out a deer 3 months after I installed them and I never got around to redoing the install.

        But, I had a 2006 GTO and 2007 Legacy GT and both had halogen projector low beams and normal reflector highs that came on simultaneously. The were both very good.

        1. I retrofitted my 2016 Tundra headlights with a 35w Morimoto MiniH1 and it’s night and day compared to the halogen H4 bulbs Toyota used. The beam pattern of the Morimotos are awesome.

          I have a friend that had a 2016 Silverado with the HIDs, while his are great for factory lights, they just don’t compare to the Morimotos in regards to light output and beam width.

    9. Gee, guys – – – –

      I don’t see what all the headlight fuss is about. This must have been started by some wet-eared whining safety geek at NHTSA with too much time on his hands…. 🙂

      I often drive with my lights off on a clear moon-lit night using back roads. Saves the battery-plus-charging system, and it’s a lot more beautiful. After 20-30 minutes, your rods-and-cones become “night vision”, and the moonlight/starlight become your guide. Really neat.
      (What was that thump-thump? Oh, just one more flat coyote…(^_^))


      Seriously, I am not completely enamored by modern LED or HID projector lamps. They are too bright and too pencil-focused for me. In theory, they should be aimed low and avoid the driver’s eyes in oncoming vehicles. In reality, that only works on flat, even, smooth roads. If you have undulations or bumps or railroad crossings, then, WHAM, you get it right in the old retina, and see absolutely NOTHING for a few seconds after that! How much road do you cover at 55 MPH during that the 2 or 3 seconds of “blind-out”? Remember, 60 MPH = 88 feet/sec! Yeah, that is exactly how I hit the deer with my (then) brand new Nissan Frontier: the deer here often wait for a passing car in one direction and then do the “deer leap” thing in front of one coming the other way!

      At the risk of being accused of Luddite tendencies (alright, I do have some), I like the old sealed beam GE incandescent lamps just fine. Even the upgrade to halogen lamps was acceptable. And now, “ze Chermans” are experimenting with variable computer-controlled LASERS for headlights! Have we lost our minds?

      The trouble is that we are just driving TOO FAST at night: SLOW DOWN! Yeah, take 5-10 MPH off the posted speed limit. (Speed limit does NOT mean the speed you should go; it means the speed you should not go beyond!) We need to stop trying to make night into day, and pretend that we can fly along a country road at 60 MPH after dark: there are way too many things that will arise that are simply NOT detectable by ANY headlight system because it is simply MONO-DIRECTIONAL, not omni-directional**. Even damaging potholes may be hard to distinguish from just black spots in the pavement. So, just SLOW DOWN: be safe out there (^_^)…

      ** If we all had flying overhead lighting drones that would accompany, and stay ahead of, our vehicles as we drive, then MAYBE we could simulate the noonday sun, except how would they deal with low overhanging trees..(^_^)?


      1. Bernie the drones would all crash into each other, who would insure it, what if hail is coming down? What we need are smart windshield that block the headlights and let us see. Cadillac also offers a windshield that illuminates warm bodies like animals right into the windshield. You link that to autonomous driving and close your eyes because neither one will be needed in the future.

        1. Rambro – – –

          Yeah. A ton of reasons they wouldn’t work, which come back to: SLOW DOWN AT NIGHT! (Do not over-drive your head lights…)


    10. I’m really annoyed that all of these trucks dont have auto leveling head lights. The Bi-Xenons in my 2014 F150 are good, but when you load up the bed with camping gear or a trailer, they end up too high and then people are flashing you. Its a PITA the adjust them every time the truck changes level.

      We know they can make them. My buddies 2004 WRX STI has a switch in the cabin that lets you adjust the height of the projector beam on the fly. 2004!

      1. Adjustable headlights should be standard on all trucks, I love the feature on my Tundra. It’s such a simple system too, just a motor attached to the adjustment screw that moves the headlights up or down.

    11. My 2013 f150 factory HID headlights were bar none the best I have ever seen. Better than factory led lights in my experience. Way better than the halogens in my current f250. Those HIDs spoiled me I guess.

      1. They are better than most halogen setups but they arnt that good compared to good HID projectors. I have them in my 2014 and they are pretty average from my experience.

        1. And the HID’s along with the 4Auto transfer case were the reason I went with a Lariat instead of an XLT, but if I had to do it again I’d probably do my own HID retrofit with a better set of projectors.

          1. I thought the factory HID were were projectors. I thought they were great. Razor sharp cut off on low beams and excellent throw down the road on high beams. Never got flashed by other drivers while on low beams either.

    12. On short drives at night, those new, blueish headlights bother my eyes adjusting from dark to extremely bright and back to dark when the car passes. Driving 8-10 hours at night gets really fatiquing passing all the cars on a trip. I wish I had eyewear to block that out. I don’t know if they make those. It’s really bad when one of those new trucks is tailgating. My truck has the softer halogen lights because I wouldn’t wanna blind a little old lady.

    13. On this topic of headlights..PLEASE PLEASE do not install HID’s and LED’s in your halogen reflector headlamps and fog lamps, you are blinding the oncoming traffic. Drives me nuts when I see this. HID’s and LED’s work great when installed in housings designed for them..

    14. Roman, you are right ,that new Led or HID headlights are not worm and harsh to the eyes. Their spectrum is more towards the blueish-ultraviolet , compare to standard filament headlights and human eye is not design to focus at the blue light. We are design to see green, red , but not blue. It’s lot of light, but unable to focus , that’s why it’s very hard to recognize any objects and estimate the depth of the reflected object illuminated by blueish headlights.
      So more bluish light won’t help anyone to see reflected object better. The light spectrum is more important.
      For me it’s at the lower portion of the spectrum OEM spectrum 4300K or less.
      I have 100W 2700 K spectrum LED light bulbs in my house. It’s much easier to read and focus.

      1. The HID’s are not blue though. They may SEEM blue because we are used to dealing with sunlight, halogens, or warm white lights in our houses, but the OEM HID’s are pretty dang close to pure white. They are usually right around 5000K on the temperature scale.

        1. That’s toward the ultraviolet spectrum and my eyes don’t like them and they are terrible to focus any object reflected by this lenghtwave. 5000k is definitely blueish, they call it pure white, but it’s not good for the eyes to focus on, because it has a blue spectrum in it. 4300k is OEM spectrum mostly. I can focus and see better, when it’s less than that,
          like 4100k , or less.
          This is common knowledge , widely available , but automotive fashion industry dictates this bs and people are stupid enough to fell for that.

      2. Seriously 100w 2700K LED lights in your house? That bright of a LED would light up the moon. No wonder you can’t see zombiera. My brand new house has All LED lights and my first floor equal 100w. Sounds like you are speaking out of your butt again zombiera.

        1. Yes. I had 60W before, but it’s not enough. I should be more clear for you, so you understand, equivalent to 100W incandescent bulb in Lumens and light color. 18W and 1600 Lumens in reality.

            1. I said 18W LED equivalent to 100W of incandescent bulb in Lumens and light color. I am done with you. You are high every Friday Jimmy. Let’s talk on Monday, when you sleep it of.

            2. That’s not what you said. The fact is you don’t know what your talking about and now you are back peddling a correction when you said you have 100W LED lights.

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