I’ve had this problem on my Alfa Giulietta (2012, Distinctive) where the passenger side headlight bulb blows all the time. Relatively speaking, of course, but it’s often enough that it feels unreasonable, and it’s always the passenger (left) side, never the driver side. To rub salt in the wound, that’s the side with the battery, and it’s impossible to replace the passenger side bulb without removing the whole bloody battery. If only it were the high-beam bulbs, those can be changed in 30 seconds with your eyes closed.

Choosing long life bulbs would go some way to alleviating this annoyance, but the compromise is that the light is much yellower and not as bright. No, I like the nice fancy bright, white halogen bulbs so it’s not like I can really blame anyone else. They’re rated for 400 hours lifetime, and that’s probably about how long they’re lasting – that’s 4 hours of use per week over two years. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rated lifetime is optimistic, assuming an ideal supply voltage, minimal on-off cycling, minimal vibration, and a well-cooled housing. Modern cars are basically none of those things.

The nice bulbs are also sold in pairs, and you don’t really want mismatched bulb output so you end up replacing both at once. I mean you could do it, but I’d personally be annoyed.

I decided to get some of these things, aftermarket Narva LED bulbs from Supercheap Auto. To be sure, they are [cough] slightly questionable to replace existing OEM halogens. I swear the Philips halogen bulbs were over $100 AUD last time I needed to buy a pair, but it looks like they’ve come down a lot in price, to maybe $65 AUD if you buy online. At $135 AUD these aren’t that much dearer than what I paid for a pair of halogens last time, and if the LEDs last for a few years then the extra cost will have been easily worth it.

Narva’s marketing materials claim up to 25x longer life, which I find… plausible enough, actually. There’s no metal filament to break from vibration or repeated thermal stress, so it should do really well if they’re not thrashing the LED with high currents, and not letting the driver circuitry overheat. That is a really big “if” though, because so many products do that.

There is a tiny little cooling fan for the driver circuitry in the base, but boy it gets hot quickly once you switch it on. It makes setting the bulb rotation a bit tricky because you don’t have long to get your hand into the cramped headlight housing and play with it. It’s nice that the unit is rated IP65 (completely dust-tight, and safe from water jets from any direction) I guess? I don’t make a habit of filling my headlights with water but it’s nice to know in case your vehicle can wade through modest water levels.

The LED “bulb” is really a stem that points forwards with some surface-mount LEDs on it. I don’t understand the optical geometry of projector headlights at all, but it clearly works just fine. The LED’s bayonet mount lets you roll the stem to find the correct orientation for your housing, but the change didn’t seem terribly substantial.

There’s a small dark patch that halogen bulbs don’t have (because a halogen filament roughly approximates an omidirectional source), so you can adjust where the dark patch falls. That’s about it. Pointing the cooling fan downwards and electrical contacts upwards seemed good enough on the Giulietta.

You can see a dark semicircular “bite” taken out of the light pattern, around the 5 o’clock position. The regular halogen pattern has this as well, but it’s much smaller and fainter. Rolling the stem lets you adjust the dark patch from about the 4 o’clock to 8 o’clock position.

All up I’m quite pleased with the results. The light output feels similar to the halogen bulbs they replaced in terms of reach, and the white colour is nice too. I didn’t even need to use the extension pigtails for the power connector, but it’s nice to know that they were included.