Flip Out Led

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New LED lights for the future automotive

Almost every decade has a front-and-center design craze that one trend setting automaker launches and others soon follow. There's about one a decade, so let's see how many you remember and what's in store today.

Fabulous 50s: Get in your time machines and let's take a trip. If you've got your pompadour as high as you can, you're ready for the fabulous 50s. In the 1950s, Cadillac started the tail fin craze that evolved to the outlandish 1959 Cadillac with a 60-inch (from ground to tip) tail fin. Collision repairers went crazy reforming damaged tail fins, luckily having enough thick metal to shrink back into shape.

Far Out 70s: Skip ahead with your 8-track to the 1970s. Automakers went overboard with "landau" half vinyl tops that had various shapes of opera windows. These heavily padded tops acted like a sponge, holding in moisture and becoming a breeding ground for rust. Collision repairers had to become experts at peeling back these roofs and assessing deterioration when replacing quarter panels.

The Big 80s: Pop-up headlights popped up in the late 1980s. Who remembers that infamous 1982 Pontiac Trans Am KITT? Some U.S. carmakers were guilty of this, but it seemed every Japanese brand had a popular car with pop-up headlights that were damaged in rear-end collisions with pickup trucks. They had so many moving pieces that the only way a shop could keep the repair moving was to tear down each assembly with the slightest damage.

In the decade of excess, we went from chrome bumpers to a short-lived fad of aluminum bumpers to save weight. These annoyed many repairers because they scratched easily and there were no valid repair or sublet methods. They were expensive to produce and always looked dull. The auto industry settled on plastic bumpers that some vehicle designers affectionately nicknamed "love handle" bumpers because of their bulbous appearance. They soon became massive pieces that covered most of the vehicle's front section, making them the primary damaged piece in collisions. Collision repairers learned plastic repair technology, now a key performance metric of many direct repair programs.

Today's design fad is lighting. Headlamps and tail lamps are experiencing dramatic changes. Until 1985, separate bulb halogen headlamps were not allowed in U.S. cars, though they offered superior nighttime visibility. European and Asian cars had to be clumsily adapted from their aerodynamic halogen headlamp units to our approved sealed beam headlamp requirements. Sealed beam headlamp makers lobbied for years to prevent the adoption of halogen technology because of the cost of changeover. Today, halogen headlamps are everywhere, and shops are repairing tabs and polishing lenses as a way to repair minor damage in these parts.

Looking to the future, this practice will be complicated with the advent of the LED "halo" effect spreading among auto designers. Audi pioneered LED running lights in the halogen headlamp units used in its A and S series. Affordable Chinese-made LEDs have brought down the price of this technology, and even economy automakers are looking to add the high-cost look of an LED halo. The Kia Soul, a vehicle with a base price under $15,000, recently got a facelift and now sports LED eyebrows to the halogen headlamp units. Many of these LED units are not serviceable separately. So if you have a row of 12 individual LEDs and one is damaged or burns out, the entire unit has to be replaced.

I recently experienced the "joy" of LED light ownership when the third brake light or CMHSL (Center Mounted High Stop Light) on my Chevrolet Suburban burned out and failed the safety inspection. No big deal, I thought, until I drove to the Chevrolet parts department. The one-piece LED unit retailed for more than $300.

As automakers embrace this costly design fad, it will impact the collision repair industry because there is no repair strategy, only a replace strategy.

Overall, the
LED lights
are widely used for automotive lighting, such as LED daytime running lights,
LED bulbs
for car interior and many more to be discovered.

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