Halogen Brake Light Bulb
DesignTech 50 Watt Halogen 1156 Brake Light Bulb
I blow through a lot of money on webBikeWorld
reviews! Here we go with brake lights
Maybe I have a fixation. I'm looking for the perfect brake light:
low watts, low heat, lasts forever with no damage from vibration, lights
up in nanoseconds, and is so bright that when I ignite it, the whole
world behind me instantly stops!
I've installed various brake light enhancements on my motorcycles, and
since this article was first written, there's finally an LED replacement
for an 1157 bulb that seems to be as bright as an incandescent (see more
on the wBW
Lighting Page). But we've also received emails suggesting that we
should try the "super bright" halogen brake light bulbs that
have become available in some auto parts stores. These are sold under various trade names,
but you can usually expect to find the words "super bright"
somewhere on the box.
The 21 watt 1156 bulb is frequently used in automobiles as a backup light
bulb. It's also used in many motorcycles, including my BMW R65, as a brake light.
The R65 has a 5 watt bulb as a rear running light that is always
on, and an 1156 upper light that comes on only when the brakes are
The halogen replacement bulbs are also available in 1157 size.
What's the diff? The 1156 has one contact on the bottom of the bulb; the
1157 has two contacts and two filaments. If your bike's brake
light goes from off to on, it's probably an 1156. If the brake
light acts as a running light, then the same bulb gets brighter when you
apply the brakes, it's probably an 1157 (more articles also on
substitutes for incandescent bulbs on the wBW
The 50 watt 1156 halogen replacement bulb I purchased from AutoBarn is claimed to be
"2-1/2 times brighter" than the "standard
bulb". Is it really? I realized that the halogen bulb might
not last as long as an incandescent long life 1156 (on my R65), because
halogens in general do not like vibration, but I
just had to try it.
I also realized that halogen bulbs are famous
for their heat output. I'm not an engineer, but it makes sense
that more power means more light...and more heat! So I decided to
get scientific. I purchased a Pyrex "Professional"
digital thermometer (at Bed, Bath and Beyond no less!) with a remote
probe. I hope you appreciate the money I blow on this stuff! I
know my wife sure doesn't........
Before I checked to see how bright the halogen bulb was, I wanted to see
how hot it burned. I figured it wouldn't make any difference how
bright it was if the taillight housing was melting into the fender as I
stood at a stoplight. So I mounted each of 3 bulbs: the LEDtronics 1156,
a standard GE long life incandescent, and the DesignTech halogen.
I was going to measure the temperature inside the taillight housing with
each bulb, but that proved to be too difficult to get the probe and
everything lined up consistently. So I went for the gusto -- I measured the temperature
right at the bulb at 1 minute and 2 minute intervals. I don't know
about where you live, but around here in D.C. the stoplights can last as
long as 3-4 minutes, which seems like an eternity. I figured I'd
test for about the worst case -- the longest you might have the brake
lights continuously applied. Here's the results:
55 degrees F.; all temperatures in Fahrenheit
|GE incandescent 1156
|DesignTech halogen 1156
1: Temperature vs. Time
After 2 minutes of testing the
halogen, I started to smell something burning. I quickly turned
off the ignition and checked the chrome plated plastic taillight
reflector. Yep, some black burn marks above and below the
bulb. I don't know about you, but 314 degrees F is way too hot for me!
I then took some photos of the lighted bulbs. While photos don't
do justice to lighted brake lights, I think you get the idea. These are
original photos taken for this test; they are not the same photos used
in the webBikeWorld LEDtronics LED bulb test.
correspond with the LEDtronics test though; the LED bulb in Photo 1
looks weaker than the standard incandescent bulb in Photo 2. The
halogen is a bit brighter in Photo 3, somewhat noticeable towards the
right and left edges of the lens.
However, it's not really all that much
brighter -- certainly not "2-1/2 times brighter", as claimed
on the box, and not what you think you might get from a bulb that was 29
more watts than the standard bulb.
This backs up what my eyes saw -- I was pretty disappointed in the
brightness of the halogen. From they hype on the box, I was
expecting to have to whip out my sunglasses, but that's not really
the case at all.
So what's the bottom line? My feeling is that the
extraordinary heat of the halogen bulb could easily
damage a motorcycle taillight lens assembly. And
while there is some difference in brightness, it's not
enough to justify the risk. Also, my experience
with halogen bulbs in household lamps tells me that they
are very fragile. I'm not sure this bulb would
handle the vibration of a motorcycle. It may be
alright for use in a car's backup light, where the bulb
is rarely lighted for more than a few seconds, but not
as a brake light. The search continues......
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Review: DesignTech 50 Watt Halogen 1156 Brake Light Bulb
International, Inc. or online at
and other auto parts stores
Retail Price: Around $9.95
| Sizes: Available in 1156
(single contact) and 1157 (dual contact brake/running light)
Comments: Barely brighter than
an incandescent bulb, and runs hot enough to be
the devil's own brake light.
Motorcycle Lighting Page