European Vehicles and Can-Bus LED Bulbs: What Are They?

Can-bus stands for controller area network and is a specialized communication network that allows devices within the vehicle to communicate to the cars computer or ECU. With this complex system in place, the driver will be notified of any parts of the vehicle that are not operating within the manufacturers limitations such as non-functioning lights, low tire pressure, parts that are not working correctly, and more. Many modern European vehicles such as Audi, BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and more are the most common candidates for can-bus systems; although some of the newer American cars are starting to develop this technology as well.

With aftermarket LED lights, vehicles with can-bus systems are not optimized for these lights so special can-bus or “error free” LED bulbs were created to solve this issue. Can-bus LED bulbs solve the problem using three common ways: Raise the wattage using built-in resistors, using higher wattage LED diodes, or raise the wattage using computer circuits within the LED which makes the bulbs non-polar and have a constant and stable power source. While there is no absolute fix for every vehicle and error messages, there are several innovative ways to go about solving it.

The most common way to fix can-bus error messages is to raise the wattage draw of the LED by using resistors. With resistors in place, the current is slowed down at certain points of the circuit which create more load on the light system which mimics the draw of the factory incandescent bulb and therefore prevents the error message from appearing. This is also the least expensive way method of the three, but it does have a setback: Heat issues. Since resistors slow the circuit, the resistor also creates more heat which is the number one enemy of LED diodes. While higher quality LED lights with built-in resistors are available, heat issues still plague them.

Can-bus LED lights can also be created using higher wattage LED diodes instead of the regular 1210 or 5050 LED diodes. High power LED diodes have typically more wattage draw due to the increased output and can easily fool certain vehicles with a lenient can-bus system. These lights are brighter than a number of LEDs out there and the risks of overheating are not as much as can-bus LED lights that have built-in resistors. Unfortunately, since LED lights draw car less power than the conventional filament bulb, high power LEDs are still not creating the same type of draw thanks to their ultra efficient light producing design.

The third and last most common can-bus LED light in this article is the use of electronic circuit chips that use computers (in themselves) to regulate the wattage draw. In addition to being able to control the amount of resistance is created to suit the needs of various systems, it also makes the LED bulb non-polar (able to be installed in any direction and still light up) and provides it with a constant and stable power source. These types of can-bus LED lights are typically more successful at preventing error messages from appearing than the other two alternatives. However, due to these upgrades, these bulbs are typically more costly as well.

Overall, with all these ways to prevent error messages, some may work or none may work. Unfortunately, due to the way certain vehicles are designed to regulate the light system and what parameters are measured to determine a fault, can-bus LED bulbs may not work for all vehicles. As technology becomes more advanced, future can-bus LED lights will become more sophisticated to allow it to be compatible with all makes and models. Until that time comes, we have three common ways to in an attempt to get rid of error messages associated with LED lights and can-bus systems.

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