My Reasons To Switch
The main reason I wanted to switch is because I'm one of those Iron Butt loonies with a fuel cell and beefed up sub frame...and replacing a burned out bulb in the tail is a genuine PITA for me. Even running the "long life" bulbs supposedly rated at 10,000 hours...they don't seem to last close to that. I've had to replace them several times now in parking lots right before rallies and it sucks!. With a 50,000 hour rating of the LEDs I'm hoping for longer life at least.
1157 rated hours 1200/5000One thing I'd rather not sacrifice is braking conspiciousness. I know enough of LEDs that the ratings and methods to calculate are very different and what they promote on websites doesn't match expectations. I could throw milacandela ratings and attempt to convert to lumens, but pictures later are probably more telling.
1157 LL 2000/10,000 hours
LED 50,000 hours
Another LED advantage is you might save a few watts and that's always good for us Gen 1 owners. BY my calculations the tail light loop uses about 17 watts in the stock pair and about .14 watts for the LED.....so 17 watts is a small gain.
1157 and 1157 LL 8.5/27 wattsAnother thing I didn't realize, but these bulbs also illuminate the license plate. If one looks closely at the bottom of the reflector you see windows that let some of the white light down onto the plate. Using a regular backward-projecting LED wouldn't aim any light down this direction. By the way...I suggest cleaning it occasionally....it is grungy!
LED .07/.11 (50/75 mA @ 14v)
So, I had done enough homework to drop $32 after shipping for a pair of the bulbs. Superbrightleds.com even had a model specially designed to mimic an 1157 with 19 backward facing elements and 6 LED elements aimed towards the plate.
I Got Mail!
They came standard mail in a few days and looked well engineered at closer inspection. Another thing to note is that the width of this bulb is 25mm...the same as a stock 1157. Many LED replacement lights are larger than the hole in the reflector and won't fit. So, if you think about a different 1157 replacement don't go more than 19 LEDs on the face or much over 25mm.
For the shots that follow the left is stock and right is LED. I replaced the right bulb and took this series of shots. Unless noted, for consistency each is f4.5 at ISO-100 for 1/10 second on an Olympus E-500 dSLR.
Tail lights on, no brakes.
The LED bulb (right) illuminates the rearward LEDs to 50mA....which seems about the same as the stock bulb in intensity. The reflector is "filled" about the same level.
Oblique view with just the tail lights on....again they look about the same.
Hitting the Brakes
With the addition of brake lights the LED adds 25mA to the output for a total of 75mA (50% increase) while the standard goes from 8.5 watts 27 (300+% increase). The difference in reflector fill and overall luminosity is much more noticeable. The left is from the bulb filament that is being redirected backwards by the reflector where the LED is coming more directly from the 19 LEDs.
I think this is the reason the bulb is more obvious as a shape behind the plastic. It looks blingly cool, but I suspect it's not as noticeable in an emergency situation by traffic behind you.
At an oblique angle the intensity is more similar. This surprised me a little bit, but I think the reflector is biased to focus backwards...which makes sense since you are less concerned with traffic at oblique angles than the car right behind you.
Fleeing The Scene
I took another picture with the garage lights out and no brakes (f4.5 ISO-100 1/4 second). License plate illumination.....if you're into that sort of thing....is slightly better and whiter with the LED.
When I replaced the second bulb with an LED I had a system hiccup. My Hyperlites started flashing even when I didn't press the brake. Doh! But after a weekend of pondering, forum suggestions, and even popping a fuse (it's the "fan" circuit BTW)...I found I had installed the Hyperlites last year incorrectly. Once I read Hyperlites troubleshooting suggestions and swapped two lead wire the LEDs worked fine together.
The 19 LED rearward facing and 6 side facing output in low-level tail light mode is comparable to the 8.5 watts of a regular bulb. People are going to be able to see the tail of the FJR fine cruising at night. Call it a push.
But if you stand on the brakes those 19 LEDs...even in high-level output mode....they just aren't as good as a set of conventional filament blasting out 50+ watts of photons to the Suburban that may be behind you. You can mitigate this with a supplementary set of Hyperlites and blink your way to conspicuousness, but if you're thinking of swapping just the existing bulbs....I'd think long and hard about LEDs.
I'm personally going to stick with LEDs because I DO have Hyperlites and really hate tearing the tail off my bike every other year to replace a burned out bulb.
I didn't consider replacing the outboard turn signal 1156 bulbs. The turn signal bulbs are bright like the brake lights and I would worry they wouldn't be as bright as stock bulbs. That and turn signals work off a flasher so LEDs would change the blink rate drastically. Finally, turn signal bulbs rarely burn out anyway because they're not on very often. I've never lost one before.....and same deal for potential watt savings because they're rarely on.
I didn't consider the front marker/turn 7443 wedge bulbs in the fairing. Besides being easy to change the blink rate would likely be an issue to. Watt savings would be a very small issue because they use 5 watts each in cruise mode.
After I posted this review somebody brought up alternative bulbs for the 1157 that potentially include a higher wattage brake filament. The 7443 appears to have a 40 watt rating and lower life than the supposed 32 of the 1157 so I went to Napa and bought a pair. Pictures didn't show any difference though and when I ran an ohm reading on 1157 and 7443 I got .6 ohms on both. Maybe the 7443 has become Americanized...I dunno.
Left is 1157 and right is 2357. f4.5 at ISO-100 for 1/10 second. I couldn't tell any difference.