LED Tail Lights | Are They Brighter, Better-Looking, Or Both?

Tail Lights In Different Designs

One look through the Custom & Factory Tail lights section of our website will convince you there's no question that tail lights equipped with LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights boost the look of any car, pickup, SUV, or van. Once you consider that more time is spent looking at the rear of vehicles compared to the front, purchasing LED tail lights to create a memorable and unique look for its backside is simply money well spent.

For example, when you and others are walking toward your car while it's parked, you're usually admiring at the rear of it. Usually, that's all your neighbors will see of it in the driveway as well. And while other drivers on the road will see the front of your car only for a momentary glimpse, those travelling the same direction as you will spend much more time noticing the rear of it, especially if it's been customized so that it doesn't look like every other car on the road.

With a large variety of designs available to choose from, there's no argument LED tail lights add style. In this article, we'll discuss how they add function in addition to form.

LEDs Boost Safety
Cadillac Deville Rear View

First introduced as tail lights on the 2000 Cadillac Deville, LEDs are particularly suited to use as brake lights because they have a faster rise time than traditional incandescent bulbs. That means LEDs reach full illumination 0.2 seconds faster than standard incandescent bulbs do. Those two-tenths of a second may not seem like much, but at 60 miles per hour it gives the driver behind you an extra 21 feet of stopping distance. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that's enough to significantly reduce the odds of an accident at speed. If you were to stand behind a vehicle configured with incandescent brake light bulbs at the corners and LED bulbs in the center (third brake light), you would visibly notice the LED center bulbs light up faster than the corner ones when the brake pedal was pressed.

Tail Lamps With LEDs Also Make Economic Sense
LED Tail Lights Make Economic Sense

Since LEDs are transistors coated with a substrate that emits light when current is applied, they generate more illumination per watt than traditional incandescent bulbs. Consequentially, they use only a fraction of the energy normal bulbs do. Unlike incandescent bulbs, LEDs don't burn hot. Energy isn't wasted creating unnecessary heat, and the lack of heat buildup prevents plastic light cover assemblies from becoming degraded. Additionally, because LEDs come sealed in moisture-proof casings, are extremely resistant to vibration, and do not get consumed during use, they typically last up to 60,000 hours. Compare that with a 2,000-hour lifespan for a typical incandescent bulb, and you'll realize tail lights with LEDs will probably last a lifetime once installed on your vehicle. Eliminated are hassles of frequent bulb replacements and tickets from police for non-working lights. It's hard to make a smarter purchase than this when it comes to car parts that add extreme levels of style AND function.

Clear vs. Black vs. Smoke Tail Lights
IPCW Custom Tail Lights
The IPCW Custom Tail Lights shown here are an example of "black" tail lights. The lens cover is clear, but features a black background bezel.

Looking through our selection of tail lights and 3rd brake light assemblies, you'll frequently run across terms such as "black" or "smoke" in Product Options fields. These terms describe two different characteristics of the tail lamp assembly and because lens cover color and background bezel piece color are two separate things, it's possible for a product to be one or both.

Background bezel piece color
IPCW LED Tail Lights Installed On PreRunner
"Chrome" tail lights feature a clear lens cover with a chrome bezel piece, such as the IPCW LED Tail Lights shown here.

A "black" tail light is one that has a black background (bezel piece) visible through a lens cover that's clear without any tint or red coloration. The size and quantity of lighting elements within the assembly determines how much "black" shows. Similarly, a "chrome" tail light is one with a chrome background bezel piece.

Lens cover color
Winjet Smoke Tail Lights Lens Cover
An example of a "smoke" tail light lens cover, these from Winjet.

When it comes to the color of the plastic lens cover itself, you'll see product choices such as "clear", "smoke", "red", and combinations separated by a slash bar such as "red/smoke". "Clear" means the lens cover has no coloration or tint at all to ensure the eye falls fully upon the design of the bezel piece beneath it. "Smoke" refers to a custom tail light assembly with a dark tinted lens cover. Most often, smoke tail lights are equipped with chrome background bezels because the greater reflective ability of chrome offsets brightness lost through the tinted cover piece. The amount of tinting determines how much light the lens cover blocks as well as how bright the chrome background appears to the eye.

"Red" tail light covers feature a heavy degree of red tinting on the lens cover for a more traditional look. Unlike smoke lens covers, red lenses are used in locations where the intended light output is red, whether the corresponding bulb is clear or red. "Combination" tail light lens covers may feature one section that's red, and another section that's colored completely different.

Traditional Red Tail Lights Lens Cover
Shown here is a set of tail lights with traditional "red" lens covers.
Combined Red-Smoke LED Tail Lights By CG
Shown here is an example of a "combination" tail light cover - the Red/Smoke LED Tail Lights by CG.
Left & Right Side LED Tail Lamp Sets
Pair Of Tail Lights
We sell tail lamps in pairs for left and right sides of the vehicle.
IPCW Very Dark Smoke Custom Tail Lights
IPCW Custom Tail Lights.

We sell LED tail light assemblies in pairs. While we can highlight only some of what you'll find in our section, we recommend a thorough look through each page of the LED tail light sets we offer. Among all the choices visible in the main section, you'll notice each product has a lead picture. However, those lead pictures you see are just one design of many choices that can be found behind them once a specific product page is opened. In fact, other designs often look totally different from the lead picture. So we recommend looking when you have some time to spend - because you won't want to stop once you've begun.

If you prefer tail lights with a very dark smoke look, you'll probably like the selection of LED Tail Lights from Recon or Winjet LED Tail Lights, both with a nice variety of smoke lenses. And if you like background bezel pieces that display a lot of chrome, you may find some of these Winjet Custom Tail Lights designs pleasing. We also offer Spyder Custom Tail Lights that feature many clear-lens designs with a U-bar shape incorporated for style (which can be nicely paired with a similar set of U-bar headlamps). Spyder also offers LED Lights with bulbs lined up in different formations for some dazzling effects.

Spyder Custom Tail Lights
Spyder Custom Tail Lights
Spec-D LED Tail Lights Equipped With Amber Turn Signal
This Spec-D LED Tail Light layout positions amber turn signals to pay tribute to classic European car design.

Many of the LED tail lights we sell feature bulbs that flash amber when turn signals are activated. But for those that really appreciate the way classic European car tail lights had a separate, block-shaped amber section for turn signals, you'll find such designs among the choices on Spec-D's LED Tail Lights page. We even have side marker light assemblies with LEDs from IPCW (known as Upper Quarter Lights) fitted for Chevy and GMC full-size SUVs. Got a Jeep CJ or Wrangler? We have you covered with LED Tail Lights from Jeep specialist Rugged Ridge.

Tail Lights With Fiber Optics
Fiber Optics Tail Light
IPCW Fiber Optics Tail Lights
One variation of IPCW's Fiber Optic LED Tail Light designs.
Fiber Optic LED Tail Lights by Spec-D
Spec-D's Fiber Optic LED Tail Lights, with optional chrome housing finish.

Gaining popularity on newer high-end luxury cars are tail light assemblies equipped with fiber optic cables which look, on close inspection, similar to small neon tubes. They're actually optical fibers made from thin strands of glass, and they become illuminated along their entire length once a source of light attached at the end (usually an LED bulb) is illuminated. As entire tubes glow, a neon-like aura is emitted - without the drawbacks of neon lights. You'll see lights like this described as "fiber optic tail lights".

Here, you'll find IPCW Fiber Optic LED Tail Lights for General Motors trucks, Spec-D Fiber Optic LED Tail Lights for imports, and Spyder Fiber Optic LED Tail Lights for a select group of vehicles. On each of these product pages, you'll find multiple designs to choose from.

Third Brake Light Assemblies With LEDs
Third Brake Light Assembly Installed
As seen here, third brake light assemblies were mandatory original equipment on passenger cars sold in the United States since model year 1986, and all new light trucks since model year 1994.

Third brake light assemblies, also known as Center High Mounted Stop Lamps (CHMSL), have been mandatory on all new passenger cars sold in the United States since model year 1986 and all new light trucks since model year 1994. Twelve months after initial implementation, a late-1986 study showed cars equipped with third brake lights had a 15% lower rear-end hit rate than those without. Add in the faster illumination time of today's LED lights and you're looking at reducing your chance of being struck from behind even more.

In our Third Brake Light page, you'll find a number of stylish replacement third brake light assemblies equipped with built-in LED bulbs. While we'll leave it up to you to choose one among the wide choice of designs, we can say all of the assemblies are designed to fit and connect as easily as original equipment. Many of the third brake lights come with additional white LED bulbs that can be switched on when it's necessary to illuminate the area immediately behind your vehicle in the dark. If you've got a pickup truck from GM, Ford, Dodge, Jeep, or Toyota, odds are you'll find a fit with either the IPCW Mega LED 3rd Brake Light or the Recon LED 3rd Brake Light.

Third Brake Light Assembly By Anzo
The Led 3rd Brake Light, by Anzo.
Recon LED Third Brake Light
The Recon LED 3rd Brake Light.

We posed a question at the start of this article: are LED tail lamps and brake lamps only about function, or are they all about style? Like that old TV spoof that said "it's a floor wax! No, it's a dessert topping!", the answer is that LED tail lamp assemblies are both. You can easily justify that purchase of the beautiful LED lamps you've wanted, secure in knowing that you're also making your ride more visible to those behind you.


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