Headlights are an important yet often overlooked feature of a vehicle. The stock headlights on our van are decent, but not quite what we want on our van long-term. So, Nate went searching for other options, of which there are quite a few. We have a cargo van, as opposed to the passenger version, which means it comes with the cheaper of the two front grill and headlight options from the factory (yes, the cargo could have been custom ordered with either option, but we didn’t custom order the van).
The ‘cargo’ version grill is just black plastic with 5×7 sealed beam headlights. Very cheap, very basic. The ‘passenger’ version grill replaces some of the black plastic with chrome and has shorter and wider headlights with 4 replaceable halogen bulbs (image taken from Wikipedia), and the bumper also gets some chrome trim. The turn signals are the same for either version.
In our opinion, the passenger version looks better; more modern and slightly aggressive.
After a few Google searches, here were the options we had:
- Replace the ‘Cargo’ grill with a ‘Passenger’ grill and headlight assembly. Boulder Offroad will even do it for you, though more expensive than sourcing the parts and doing it yourself. While this definitely upgrades the look, we would argue that the headlight output quality would be pretty much unchanged. The halogen bulbs aren’t much better than sealed beams. We would then probably attempt to convert the halogen low beams to true projector HIDs. Quite spendy and time consuming.
- Replace the sealed beam bulbs with Truck-Lite LED 5×7 lamps. These use a single LED (one for low beam, one for high beam) in each housing and utilize a reflector to spread the light. This is about the cheapest option and also simple to install; they just plug in.
- Replace the sealed beam bulbs with JW Speaker 8900 LED 5×7 lamps. These have multiple LEDs coupled with optics (much like the optics/projectors with HIDs). Installation is exactly the same as the Truck-Lite, but because of the optics, the light output is much higher quality. However, a pair of these is more than double the cost of the Truck-Lite lamps. The price tag alone kept us away from these, otherwise they are first choice.
So what did we decide to do? Hidden option number 4, GE NightHawk LED 5×7 lamps. You might notice that they look exactly the same as the Truck-Lite lamps, and they are. GE is apparently licensing the design from Truck-Lite and re-branding them. We chose the NightHawk over the Truck-Lite for one small difference. While on the websites they look identical, the black shelf that splits the lamp in the middle looks just like that on the Truck-Lite version, but the GE NightHawk version actually covers the black with a small band of chrome. To us, the chrome looks just a tiny bit better, and thus has sold us on those.
Since the installation is a dead-simple plug-and-play deal, we’ll just end this with a series of pictures.
It’s not obvious from the picture, but the improvement over the sealed beam halogen’s is impressive.
As a closing note, we’re very pleased with these headlights. If the JW Speaker lamps weren’t so insanely expensive, we would have gotten those, and probably been even more impressed. Because of the reflector design (instead of using optics), there are a couple noticeable ‘hot-spots’ in the beam pattern. Internet searches show that the JW Speaker lamps, with the optics, do not have this same issue, but for more than twice the price, it’s not that big of a deal.