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Are LED or HID light retrofits worth the cost?

Sections: Aftermarket

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Spyder Spec D Retrofit Kit

A complete HID retrofit lighting kit from The Retrofit Source. (Photo courtesy theretrofitsource.com)

Editor’s note: Please welcome Frank Cruz to In-Car Tech Tell for his debut contribution. We hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of him around these parts.

Are retrofits really worth the cost?  There are three general ways to answer this:  “No, I’d rather buy some other mod,” “Yes, the output is unmatched,” or “What the heck are retrofits?”

I’ll take on that last response first. Retrofits commonly involve inserting a projector-typeHID filament into a headlight that does not have one, or changing the projector shroud of a light that does already have one. Some who believe retrofits are not worth the cost might argue a brighter bulb can make a difference, but they still do not compare to the quality of a projector. Another alternative are projectors commonly found on eBay for cheap, but the saying “you get what you pay for” really comes into play here.

My Cobalt LT has OEM headlights with Sylvania Ultralight bulbs, 9007s. My Cobalt SS came with Gen 3 Depo headlights that use H7 bulbs. The black housing gives a better look, and without the LEDs on, it gives a clean look. However, the clean look is lost when the cheap lens used to make the headlights yellows and becomes cloudy. I’ve tried headlight restoration kits, which help, but the imperfections are easily noticeable. Getting the good stuff isn’t cheap. I recently ordered a set of retrofits, spending $40 on a set of OEM headlights, $150 on a kit, $50 on paint and other materials, $150 in labor, and another $150 for an HID kit that included 5000-Kelvin H1 bulbs from theretrofitsource.com.

Putting aside the performance aspects, the retrofits look much better than both OEM and Depo headlights. With more lumens, and a crisp cut-off, the visibility should be much better. The lights will hopefully be on by the end of the week, and I’ll have a side by side comparison between the OEM headlights, Depo headlights, and retrofits, so stay tuned!

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