The standard Trad headlamps are really quite pitiful compared to modern cars, producing a dim yellow glow, which is hardly safe on today’s roads. If you are a fair weather Morgan driver this may not trouble you much. But my early morning outings often begin in the dark, and it can often be dark for quite some time. I have replaced both pairs of headlamps on my Morgans. The Roadster has a pair of Halo sidelamp units designed for Land Rovers. My Plus 4 has Cibie units, sold by Librands. In both cases I fitted good quality H4 bulbs, but the light output is still poor.
First the legal disclaimer. Technically, aftermarket LED bulbs are not road legal according to the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations, as they are not E marked. Sections 4 & 5 state that dipped beam and main beam headlights are required to have an approval mark - usually E mark or a British Standard mark. For nearly every other application, an approval mark is also required. If the bulbs for your headlights are H4, the “H” stands for Halogen meaning the headlight unit including the reflector has been purposely built for a Halogen bulb. The number that follows the “H” indicates that only an H bulb with the same number can be installed.
Rear brake lights are required by law to operate between 15 and 36 watts, however a 15w LED would produce an immense amount of light, and so is totally unsuitable at that wattage. Unfortunately, the legislation is old and outdated. Written in 1986, there are still many things that need to be changed. For example, the legislation doesn’t take new technologies into account. It was written at a time when the idea of replacing one technology for another within the same headlight unit just wasn’t on the table.
The MOT manual states “Check HID and LED headlamps for mandatory levelling and cleaning devices” and the tester should check the lighting for “Operation“, “Security” and “Condition” which essentially means that they need to make sure that the lights work, and are fitted correctly. Nothing else is mentioned regarding the use of LED headlight bulbs. In respect of self levelling and cleaning devices, section 4.1.5 of the MOT inspection manual states that not all vehicles are fitted with a levelling device, and so if your vehicle doesn’t have one, it would not be tested. With no other mention of after-market LEDs in the MOT guidelines, all that is left is for them to check is that the beam pattern is correct and the colour of the light is predominantly white, white with a blue tint or yellow. Any good quality after-market LED bulbs will meet this criteria. As long as the beam pattern and the colour of the light is correct – then there is no reason an LED upgrade bulb will fail an MOT.
Having made the case that this technology is technically not road legal, I’ll now justify making these changes on the grounds of safety. And also bear in mind that there is a strong anti LED lobby out there, if you search the internet. My headlamp bulbs were sourced from Classic Car LEDs (www.classiccarleds.co.uk
)….no connection, (coughs), and other suppliers are out there.
Fitting is fiddly. Be under no illusions about that. The first one I did, probably took me about two hours, as I tried various ways of fitting the control box and much larger bulb unit into the available space in the headlamp cowl. Both my Morgans have plastic headlamp bowls. The headlamp unit will just fit inside the plastic bowl if the black heat sink is reversed. But the control unit has to be fitted behind the plastic bowl inside the cowl. This is a weatherproof component, but inside the cowl is weatherproof anyway. Interestingly inside my cowls showed dried water droplets, but touring Scotland does mean driving in torrential rain over long distances. I wanted to do a quality fit with two holes cut into the plastic cowl, with grommets, but the reality is that the control box wires are only just long enough to reach and the positioning of the box is “suck it and see”. So in the end I put two large holes in the plastic cowl at roughly nine o’clock and three o’clock positions. Then juggled the cowl back into place until I could refit the four self tappers which hold the plastic cowl securely onto the headlamp nacelle. One of the self tappers was odd.........handmade cars eh!
Then the headlamp unit with LED bulb can be connected. One end of the control box wiring is plugged into the H4 three spade plug. The other end is a 4 pin screwed weatherproof connector, with an idiot proof fitting, so I was good. I checked the alignment before removing the old bulbs, on a piece of brown paper, attached to my bench with drawing pins. The new lights needed lowering slightly. I’ll get the alignment checked when I can. A few days later I was out in the dark and was not flashed by anyone approaching, so they obviously don’t dazzle. Light output is transformational. Hopefully the images attached will show the difference. The light is white, rather than yellow, and with a much better spread. So for me, while recognising that these lights are not technically road legal, I feel that the safety improvements are worth making this change. I may at some point change the brake lamps. Still thinking about that!
I might change the Roadster to the Cibie Units, because the dip spread is significantly better than with the Halo lights.
Now the pictures......................
This is one bulb and the control unit.
Mark the position of the "marker".
Two holes in the cowl, with control unit behind.
Headlamp with heat sink.
Dip beam. LED on the right,
Main beam. LED on the right.