Gen2 Prototype of Custom LED Projector Headlights

Discussion in 'Lighting Discussion' started by SurrealOne, May 11, 2012.

  1. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member ROTM Winner 1000 Posts

    I got sick of looking for headlights for my NBS truck, as the ones for sale that I liked the looks of were junk that had functional problems (useless high beams) ... and the ones that were functional (OEM) had no real curb appeal, to me. @pmf608 suggested I crack my headlights open to remove the amber reflector, myself, as he knows I don't like amber on my truck. He also suggested I look into Yukon Denali headlights, as I wanted functional halogen projectors AND functional high beams. That got me going...

    My first lesson was to learn to crack open and reseal my OEM's. There are write-ups on the Internet for how to do it, already, so I won't get into it. (The one I found to be the best is here:, and it has links to photographs, too.) This is slow and time-consuming and, thus, an endeavor truly for those who have patience for details; one slip can scratch the lens, the chrome, or both.

    My second lesson in this was to crack open a pair of Yukon Denali headlights. These were much tougher to work with. They are heavier (which tires the hands/arms when working with a headlight for 8 hours, straight) and the sealant/adhesive on them is MUCH stronger. The Yukon Denali lights took me 3x as long as my OEM Sierra lights ... simply due to the sealant/adhesvie being different.

    My third lesson was to play with LED placement to find what I might want. I'd never done LED strips, before, so I headed over to and ordered up a set of pre-made strips. I specifically bought the Audi A5 R8 Style Xenon White Side Glow 20" 21-SMD Flexible LED Strip Lights (link: These ended up being VERY blue despite confirmation that I had received the white ones. They were not the brightest LEDs I've encountered, the adhesive on them was so-so, and the stranded wires were 22ga garbage that my dead grandmother could tear apart with her bare hands, God rest her soul. The black background was an issue, too, as the strips called far too much attention to themselves in the headlight due to the black strip colour. Still, I installed them as a Gen1 prototype to get a feel for the work. Ultimately I was so unhappy with the lights AND with the results that I disconnected the lights and left them that way ... and also avoided photos out of embarrassment.

    My fourth lesson was in LEDs, themselves. I found a place through which I could custom order them from China. I wanted to buy American but I couldn't find what I wanted that was Made In The USA ... so out to China I went via, which was quick to answer questions, knowledgeable, and very professional. They're clearly operating in a far eastern time zone, so responses were slower than a local vendor might have been, but because it was due to the time zone difference I didn't mind, at all, as I'd ask a question one day and wake up to the response the next. From I spec'd a 16.4 foot roll of Side View Flexible SMD335 LEDs in "Pure White" (5500-6500K) on a white background with waterproof surface injection (IP65) gel. Here's the link to the LEDs and the options for them: The LEDs arrived much faster than I expected. If you order from them make sure you keep your package weight under 1kg and also select the full disclosure option for customs, as both will help speed things along.

    My fifth and final lesson was on a new Gen2 prototype ... based on lessons learned from the Gen1. For the Gen1's I had mounted the LEDs upside down to the headlight lens, itself, as it allowed me to use silicon adhesive without worry for the chrome AND it guaranteed me clearance when replacing the lens. In hindsight this was poorly thought out, as it caused reflections in the chrome, looked hideous, and would eventually result in loose, sagging, and/or waving LED strips within the headlight, as gravity is a force that never sleeps and all adhesives eventually fail. So, this time the strips were to be applied directly to the chrome and tested for look before sealing them up.

    Here are some pics of the prototyping and finalization.

    In this pic:
    Custom-made Gen2 right and left (note red/black wire positions) LED strips

    In this pic: Gen2 prototype right LED temporarily attached to right (driver's) headlight for fitment

    In this pic: Gen2 prototype lens placed on assembly for fitment

    In this pic: Gen2 prototype LED leads exiting a pre-existing vapor port (for convenience) connected to test power

    In this pic: Gen2 prototype front view with test power

    In this pic: Gen2 prototype side view (wire exiting pre-existing vapor port, for convenience)

    In this pic: Gen2 finished product side view (unlit)

    In this pic:
    Gen2 finished product front view (unlit)

    In this pic: Gen2 finished product front view (lit)

    In this pic: Gen2 finished product weatherproof quick disconnect wiring (red terminals)

    I have already modified my truck wiring to provide quick disconnect points that are tied to my DRL's. A diode adjustment for my DRLs renders them on any time I am driving (day or night). Weather permitting, the Gen2's will be installed this weekend and I'll take some photographs while I conduct a bulb review.
    Last edited: May 11, 2012
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  2. Jeremy09LTZCrew

    Jeremy09LTZCrew Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    Looks awesome. That's a lot of work, but you now officially have custom and unique headlights. That looks like a fun project. I almost called it a fun "little" project, but it's not really so little.
  3. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member ROTM Winner 1000 Posts

    Heh, no, not little, at all, in terms of time. Not cheap, either, since I've basically done three sets of headlights (clear OEMs, Gen1 Yukons, and Gen2 Yukons). That doesn't include the craptastic fleabay headlights I tried before I began tinkering on my headlights. But I wanted it "my" way and I felt like learning. I also don't mind having spare headlights, as they let me work on a set while I can still drive at night on a different set.
  4. Enkeiavalanche

    Enkeiavalanche Loving the Outdoors Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 5000 Posts

    Look'in good.. It is alot of work But in the end if you like what you see it will all be worth it.... Thanks for the Write up....:great:
  5. Pikey

    Pikey Moderator Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 5000 Posts

    Looks really nice. I am looking at putting in denali headlights on my yukon. Do the Denali lights really throw that much more light?
  6. pmf608

    pmf608 Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    Looks good! Now, lets see some pictures of them mounted onto your truck... that's the real test.
  7. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member ROTM Winner 1000 Posts

    Weather permitting, I'll have pics this weekend, sir. Saturday is dedicated to a thorough light review for Enkei's friend at Sylvania (again, weather permitting).

    The standard configuration for our trucks is 65w 9005's for high beams and 55w 9006's for low beams -- without projectors. Yukon Denali headlights use 65w 9005's for high beams AND low beams. So, you have 10 more watts of energy going into the bulbs in each headlight ... and more energy usually (but not always) means more lumens of output. The projector in each assembly also provides a tighter low beam pattern ... so you get better visibility with your lows.
  8. moogvo

    moogvo Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    Awesome write up Surreal. Thanks for sharing this.
  9. dsfloyd

    dsfloyd Epic Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 1000 Posts

    great write up. I like the yukon upgrade and LED's
  10. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member ROTM Winner 1000 Posts

    The weather was cooperative, today, so I swapped out the Gen1's for the Gen2's and am pleased with the results. I think the nose of my truck is finally done. (Yay!)

    In This Pic: Gen2 driver's side finished product (night view)

    In This Pic: Gen2 passenger side finished product (night view)

    In This Pic: Truck front (day view w/ all lights on)

    In This Pic: Gen2 finished product 's installed Truck Front - May 12, 2012 (day view)

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