Picture of DIY LED car headlights!
This INSTRUCTABLE will go through the steps I am going through in the making of homemade fog lights for my car, a Hyundai Atos (sold as a Dodge Atos here in Mexico).
At first phase completion, my first 78 LEDs are dissipating 5.8 watts while my resistors only dissipate 0.85 watts, and the array is already powerful enough to dwarf the two front marker lights, which draw 3 watts each. My final objective is installing, at the very least, 300 LEDs at a total energy expenditure of 21 watts at the LEDs and 3.2 watts at the resistors.

All comments welcome.

I Can pick the laser cutter up either in Florida or in a couple of addresses in Texas. I'm still on the run! 

Here's an index:
Step One: Justification and Objectives
Step Two: Exploration and drawing the assembly goals. I decide here to go for two construction phases.
Step Three: I procure the stuff I'll need for phase one.
Steps Four, Five and Six: I build the LED modules, prepare the area to receive them and install them.
Step Seven: I put the first 78 LEDs to a road test.
Step Eight: I put finishing touches to Phase One and start drawing objectives for Phase Two.
Step Nine: Minor improvements.
Step Ten: Brake Lights
Step Eleven: What not to do
Step Twelve: How to do it right.
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RL-Tech3 months ago
awesome write up! thank you for this.
Bhakto4 years ago
whats the difference in 5mm leds and 3mm leds?
does the 3mm have more range but less angle (zone)but more range (distance)
j_hagen_97 Bhakto11 months ago

The difference between the two, 3mm leds are smaller than 5mm leds

grimgroper4 years ago
i plan to get 20x10w 700L LEDs to replace my head lights and high-beams. 

LED from ebay:

ill use some sort of lens, possibly the oval one:

what is the best way to set it up so that they will be dimmer when the high-high beams are off, then full power when i flick the high beams on? would also like to install some kind of variable resistor so i can adjust the brightness whenever.. 

correct me if im wrong, but i was thinking to do that id have a few different circuits each with a different resistor in it. then to choose the brightness i would just change between them. would that work?
bpfh grimgroper3 years ago
bpfh grimgroper3 years ago
You may well need active cooling for this then. The higher power the LED, the more heat they generate. If you are driving at a reasonable speed, then OK, a small heatsink will be enough with the airflow, but if you are in traffic, you risk overheating them, and as mentioned in this instructable, either a really shortened LED life (along with chromatic aberations - a.k.a. the led changing colour), or even go to a critical burnout....

For these reasons, unless you make up spares, I would personally go using these high power LED's for foglights/spotlights and install HID bulbs that can be swapped out with regular bulbs if there is failure.

OK, Audi used LED headlights to amazing effect on their Le Mans car this year, but they had a decent stock of spares ;)


That is my only problem. HOW to focus the lights. Here is my plan so far

4x6 inche copper slab. on the front a 70mm 20watt 1900lumen LED
on the back 2 massive copper heatsinks. Ram air tubing for cooling while moving though I think I have sufficient copper to dissipate 20watts even without the ram air.

12v to 32 step up converters (the led's are 32v)

my problem is how do I FOCUS the light into a SPOT like a headlight instead of the flood they will be stock.

I checked your led-spot link but it don't work and its non obvious where to go on the site.

any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Nachoman (author)  nerys3 years ago
Google "LED Optics" or follow these links: and .
its been along time since ive read that post so iv moved on from those led im not even sure what the brand was... so iv been looking at lower voltage LEDs which make the divers cheaper because you have to have constant current drivers resistors are not a good idea...

iv started a thread on candlepower forums which has been pretty informative. at the moment im basically just playing the waiting game till i have all the information/time/money to start this project

jump on have a read feel free to add anything
Sadly I have found CPF to be 100% useless. They refuse to alter the discussion from "its illegal if not dot approved"

sad that they are the only real LED forum around and they probably HAVE the info that I need.
this is nice.

I am also getting some LED lights from for my bike mode
Nachoman (author)  grimgroper4 years ago
I know I haven't updated in quite a bit, but I have kept experimenting with LED's.
What really makes a difference between high and low beam is angle: the low beam is actually supposed to fall to ground and illuminate no further than 20m / 70 feet; the high beam is supposed to be horizontal and illuminate further.
While different circuits would help you a lot, don't forget considering something like this actuator:
Works on a momentary-On switches.

And, if you make different resistor circuits, don't forget to keep them separate, preferably by having them on opposite ends of a same toggle switch. I'm saying this because a friend of mine did some taillights out of these huge PCB's covered in mid-power square LED's, and then I had to tell him that his effort was a waste because his break-lights were at 30% power during the day, which is precisely when you need them at full power.

Furthermore, I don't think your vendor is including heat sinks. If you are going for 10W LED's, by all means get some mayor heat sinks.

ah yeh i know where your coming from with the actuator, good idea, however it would probably be very difficult to get right due to constant vibrations, bumps etc...  i think ill just have to get some smaller more suitable leds for low beams and run them separately.. 

i have got the heat sink covered, a mate that is in the metal working industry, said he would be able to cnc route out some aluminum for me, ill just have to work out a design for him. 

not 100%sure what you mean with the break lights? 

Nachoman (author)  grimgroper4 years ago
Brake lights, not break lights. Sorry for the typo.
- - - - -
This type of actuator isn't designed to hold things in place, but to forcefully yank things up and down, then release them so they can be moved up and down manually. I was thinking more about the actuator moving a board between two anchor points, were it would be held by magnets.

About vibration and such stuff, don't worry. I haven't uploaded such project here (or at least I don't think I have uploaded it), but I made a very good LED headlight for my bicycle and learned that, as the light is emitted by a load of tiny emitters rather than a single one, the resulting beam is way too diffuse for you to worry about the effects of vibration. That headlight was actually the very best light emitter I have ever had for mountain cycling, as I had a narrow field of light ahead of me, rather than a defined circle riddled with lens and reflector lines jumping all over the place.

About heat sinks, imagine your Star-less 10W LED's to each be the flame of a lighter, then remember they emit more light the colder they are AND that they burn themselves out just a little above boiling point. It's really about how dense you want to put them, but I you do put them in a cluster, you might not even want to bother with fans and go straight for liquid cooling.
I'm not really exaggerating: I recently made a new dentist's light for my Mum from a 1W LED with a proper heat-dissipating Star. I installed into a 2*2*2 inches pin-type heat sink and the heat sink still feels warm to the touch.
awupper5 years ago
Looking at the picture of the front of your car. Your stock headlights are dim because the covers are fogged. You need to polish them back to clear. This will make a huge difference in your ability to see.
bpfh awupper3 years ago
I agree. You seem to have "mercedes headlight syndrome" (I see a lot of Mercs with the same foggy headlights!).

Try and remove the headlights, and rince the inside out with a lot of soap and hot water to remove dust and crud, then leave to dry in the sun.

After that, if you want a real cheap solution, start polishing the glass of the headlights with toothpaste. They should end up much clearer but it takes a lot of effort! (but toothpaste is far far cheaper than commercial glass polishing compound!). A google search for atos headlights turned up this site : (no affiliation with these guys). The results look spectacular!

itstemo16 years ago
OMG... I have been complaining about my head lights for the longest time. They just don't cut it. I use my brights all the time... well just when no one is around. I am so doing this this. And I like how you don't care about modding your car. My car isn't in such a bad state (its been body kit modded) but I am still afraid of having big giant buttons on my dash board. Anyways I am so going to do this!!!!!!!... I hope the Salt, Snow and Water from Michigan doesn't kill my car. Y tu ingles es mucho mas mejor que el mio. Y eso que hablo y escribo ingles todos los dias.
The plastic outer portion of the headlight lens becomes oxidized, and sandblasted from various debree. This makes the plastic have a yellowish or dull finish.

There is Turtle wax brand headlight restoration kit for about $11 that works great. I used it on two vehicles and had enough left-over for at least one more vehicle.

The kit is for one use. Once the package is opened, it has to be used. The sealant is in a tear open package. It will evaporate and become a dry cloth. I reuse the left over of the other ingredients for future touch-ups. The sealer that dries out can be substituted with Future floor wax. I will need to be reapplied every once in a while, because weather will eventually wash it off.

It is probably the cheapest way to fix the problem. The $11 kit is a fraction of the cost of replacing the headlight lens.

Good luck
If your headlights are dim due to weathering or 'sandblasting' (normal use) like my 2000 Camaro, use a very fine jewelers rouge & cloth Dremel wheel to polish back to gain some more transparency.
Nachoman (author)  itstemo16 years ago
Thanks. Between us, I considered this project as aborted when I crashed my car last year (and the entire front end was replaced), but I'm still doing some improvements here and there. Two pivotal tips: (1) If its going to be exposed, it has to be weatherproof. When I was doing this project, I was weatherproofing with injected silicone, yet I have since moved to baths with epoxy resin (polyester resin for making fiberglass). Whatever you do, test it by submerging it into a small volume of brine and letting it work. If there are any bubbles, stop the experiment immediately, dry the piece and give it a new coat with the resin. If there weren't any bubbles, let it work for a few hours (a half-watt light won't precisely ruin your carbon footprint) somewhere you can check on it every half-hour or so. If the water has developed any colours or has turned even slightly murky, stop the experiment, check if the brine hasn't destroyed the piece and put on an additional coat of resin. When a piece finally passes the brine test, give an additional coat of resin (just for luck) and install. (2) To install the headlight-assist units, park your car on level terrain some three meters away from a wall, then use a lever to place a chalk mark directly level with the point of installation for each and every one of your modules. Then, with each module, point it into its own chalk mark as you install it. Unless your car is taller than average, this arrangement should give you the best throwing distance without really affecting fellow drivers.
 oye amigo eres de mexico verdad? podrias ayudarme con un proyecto similar es que yo quiero aprender a hacer tiras de leds y la verdad es que la verdad nunca e hecho nada con leds pero realmente tengo la inquietud de poder manejalos algun dia y me parece fantastico tu trabajo. ojala me puedas ayudar te lo agradeceria mucho.
ATTE. Diego Soto A.
mickey_0795 years ago


I really don't see the purpose in this mod. I'm not being nasty or rude as I see you did put alot of work into it, but in my opinion... you put too much work into, it doesn't that look that good (especially the interior).

Why didn't you just purchased a HID kit, LED parker globes, and those LED light bars similar to what you see in the Audi's.

But I do have to go you a big thumbs up for the time you have put into it.

That wouldn't be diy  and not all cars will take led kits without mods anyway 
Having just returned from Cancun (and having spent some time driving in the local chaos) I can see why you need as much light as you can get.  It's a different type of driving down there.

Good work.
Nachoman (author)  Swishercutter5 years ago
I know. I can give you also my cyclist's point-of-view:
*Mexico city: I was already pedaling down mayor avenues by age 14. No hum.
*Toronto: harder than Mexico city, but doable. Downtown 'Taranno' introduced me to the concept of cars driving like they couldn't see me.
*Cancun: if the heat wasn't enough of a deterrent, I've got enough scars on my knees and arms from 'close encounters' with taxis, mini-buses and even with a police car. My bike now is getting rusty.
JohnnyDD5 years ago
 I can see your number plate. someone can easily clone your car numberplate.
Nachoman (author)  JohnnyDD5 years ago
Anyone can easily walk down the street and have a hundred license plate numbers to clone. And local TV and print media don't bother to gloss over the license plate numbers on cars that happen to be on frame. I'm unworried.
automd5 years ago
This DIY looks really tempting to do. I saw several cars near our place that have blue and red LEDs as their lights and it really looks cool.
scubaru automd5 years ago
Just FYI, Blue and Red LED are illegal! You may only have Blue on your vehicle if it is for emergency/medical use. And red is only allowed on the rear of the car. Go ahead and make this in those colors and let me know how long it takes to get pulled over.
In Mexico (Cancun)...I saw tons of blue LED mods.  The taxis are usually the ones with the most LED's (from what I saw).  I saw some pretty creative driving down there...not really sure what it takes to get pulled over.
Nachoman (author)  Swishercutter5 years ago
*It has become a bit of a fashion among cab drivers to switch every amber light on their units to blue light: indicator lights, turning signals, even their dashboard lights. Nobody bothers them.
*Car modders around here have made a bit of a fashion to switch their forward indicator lights from amber bulbs to white strobes. They know not to get either red or blue strobes, though.

What it takes to get pulled over is pretty much mayor offenses:
*Matte paint on black or any tone of green or gray.
*For your car to have the colour scheme of the local police, firefighters or taxis.
*The police adds on a special type of protection bumper to their units. While such double bumpers are quite common, the specific design they use is not to be used by non-official vehicles.
*To have a turret that gives out any red light. This one has a corollary, though: they just don't bother 18-wheelers that have red rotating turrets installed on their underside, but they can't work those turrets inside a town or city.
*You have to have license plates, but you don't really need to have them on the outside of your car: many people use suction cups to put then on the inside of their windshield and rear window.
*Darkened windows are strictly forbidden beyond 2 shades. You can shade your car, but people on the outside are to be able to see through your car.
*To be noisy on purpose: cut tailpipes, no silencers, unreasonable sound systems.
*to drive with your headlights on High.
salobyte5 years ago
si ya le hiciste esas modificaciones, yo buscaria la manera de implementarle un generador de frecuencias (probablemente un 555) para que se vea como los autos lujosos que usan leds en las calaberas traseras ;)... excelentes instrucciones!!
cidblacky5 years ago
que tal yo soy de mexico tambien muchas felicidades por tu idea se ven de lujo los de la parrilla yo soy fanatico de los led tambien y me gustaria poder hacer algo similar sin embargo no tengo tanto conocimiento de electronica.
Arbitror5 years ago
ATV, here I come!
Kirk5 years ago
you may find it interesting
crash1385 years ago
 well after finally seeing your headlights I know why you needed the extra lighting... goto walmart and get some of that polishing compound for your headlights!  They are so cloudy you are probably at 10% of what they should be...  Id have just bought some driving lights to put on, but the leds are cool, prolly woulda mounted them in the weather proof boxes, with "Tamiya" style connectors for easy removal....
Fik5 years ago
Very nice instructable (how didn't I thought this before?).
If it weren't for the restrictions our government puts on internationalpurchases, I would be already online buying a bag of high intensity LEDsto supplement my car's headlights (yellowed plastic and expensive toreplace) and interior lights.

I'm curious, why do you blur your car's license plate in step 2 butleave it visible here in step 7?
Nachoman (author)  Fik5 years ago
I left it visible because I am not really afraid of people finding me bythe license plate. My car is head-turning enough on its own,particularly after dark.
xxrd5 years ago
instead of using a resistor plus a serie of 3 why don't u plus LEDs in serie of like 8? Furthermore, if a resistor is plugged before, the voltage (12V) for LEDs will drop making less than 3.5 V per LED
Nachoman (author)  xxrd5 years ago
It's all explained on step 4, point B. I'm extending:

If each LED is 3.5V, then the voltage drop of having 3 of them is:
12V (source) minus (3.5V times 3LED's)= 1.5V at the resistor.

I'm using the resistor to limit current. 1.5V/20mA=75ohms, but I use 82ohm (the next higher value) resistors to mitigate the slightly higher voltages that any car pumps when it accelerates.
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