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Gear: Testing Sylvania's ZEVO LED Headlights

LED lighting may be proliferating on new cars, but generally it can't be added later to the older, used cars many people have in their driveways. One exception is the ZEVO LED headlight from Sylvania, a round sealed-beam replacement unit that can upgrade many older cars from incandescent to LED illumination.

Because the Sylvania ZEVO bulb is a standard, H6024-style, 7-inch diameter sealed beam, it fits a long list of older vehicles. Everything from the original Ford Mustang to the Volkswagen Bus, and from the to the Jeep Wrangler uses this type of light bulb, and thus can be quickly updated to use LEDs instead.

We put the Sylvania ZEVO LED headlights to the test in a first-generation Mazda Miata. The stock headlights are concealed within the car's signature pop-up light housings, and are known for providing pretty dismal light output. Swapping the weak, yellowed incandescent bulbs for the LEDs couldn't have been easier. Whereas many modern cars require extensive surgery to replace headlight bulbs, removing a handful of screws allows home mechanics to slide the old sealed beams out, click the power cable into back of the new LED units, and fit them snugly in their housing.

The difference at night is immediately obvious. The Sylvania ZEVO LED headlights cast a wide, bright, white light that extends farther forward of the car than did the previous incandescent bulbs. We saw the headlights glinting off street and stop signs, and noted that the coverage to the sides of the car was much more consistent and evenly lit. Sylvania says the LEDs are rated at 1100 lumens of light output but consume about half the electrical energy of incandescents -- figure about 20 watts on low-beam operation versus 40 watts -- meaning an older car's electrical system won't be overtaxed by the brighter lights, as can happen when upgraded to xenon or HID lighting.

One peculiarity about the Sylvania ZEVO LEDs is that only the top half of the circular headlight is used for low-beam illumination, which almost makes the car look like it is squinting. That's because the LED elements are mounted on a "bridge" at the center of the headlight, and they shine onto the top half of the reflector before being reflected down toward the road. Turn on the high beams, and both the upper and lower halves of the bulbs are active, so its light output resembles traditional headlights.

Although the Sylvania ZEVO LED headlights are not cheap, as they have an MSRP of $500 a pair, the improvement in night vision is significant. Whether it's for a daily driven car that regularly is used past sunset, or a classic car that only occasionally is driven in the dark, upgrading dim sealed beam headlights for these LED units is a worthwhile and easy investment in vehicle safety.