Sylvania SilverStar ZXE and LED Light Review

Apr. 17, 2013 By Jaime Hernandez
4x4 Truck equipped with Sylvania SilverStar ZXE Headlights and Osram Sylvania LEDriving lights on a dirt trail outside of San Diego, CA.

Making your vehicle unique doesn’t have to break the bank. It can be as simple as adding some fuzzy dice, decals, or even a set of new lights. Up until this point we’ve been focusing on metal parts for our trail rig, but when we recently lost one of our headlights on an off-road trip, we decided it was time to spruce up the old girl with some modern lighting.

Since we still drive our 4x4 on the street and highway, we wanted to make sure our driving lights stayed street legal. We’ve had good luck using Sylvania’s SilverStar product line over the years on different vehicles, and were excited to try out their latest SilverStar ZXE headlights.
Sylvania SilverStar ZXE headlights are up to 50% brighter than a standard halogen headlight.

The Sylvania SilverStar ZXE headlights use proprietary xenon halogen technology that produces a bright HID-like light with a color temperature of 4200 Kelvin. Sylvania claims that the ZXE headlights offer the whitest light on the OE replacement market and the entire SilverStar product line. The best part is that they are 100% street legal and DOT compliant.

While we were at it, we also got a set of Sylvania Premium White LED lights for our rear license plate light. We really like LEDs because of their long life, vibration resistant qualities, low power draw and amazing brightness. Thanks to Sylvania’s new LEDriving lights, now the intergalactic look of modern sport cars can be had by simply swapping out the yellow incandescent bulbs on your ride with these light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Sylvania LEDriving lights are up to 150% whiter than stock miniature automotive bulbs and have a color temperature 6000 Kelvin.

Sylvania’s state of the art LEDs are available as replacements for 168, 194, 2825 & 6418 automotive bulbs commonly found on license plate lights, dome lights, map lights, doors, glove boxes and many other automotive lighting applications. They are also street legal, so there’s no need to worry about getting pulled over by Chief Wiggum on your drive to the trailhead.

Replacing headlight bulbs can be done in your very own driveway with a few simple tools. On newer trucks and SUVs, some housings can be removed by simply pulling tabs to release. On Jeep Wranglers and other 4x4 trucks it requires more work, including removing the grill and unbolting each headlight housing from the fender and core support. See your Owner’s Manual for a diagram and tips on how to replace headlights on your specific model.

Once we accessed the rear part of our headlight housing, it was time to swap out some light bulbs.  Sylvania recommends using safety glasses and gloves when replacing and handling them. Light bulbs contain pressurized gas housed by glass; if not handled carefully there is the risk of damage or bodily injury. A little extra attention during this step goes a long way.

Standard Halogen headlight bulb (left).Sylvania SilverStar ZXE Xenon halogen headlight bulb (right).  The Cobalt blue coating provides optimal light transmission and color.

Most headlight bulbs come off the housing by simply turning counter clockwise. Sometimes there is a safety lock tab that needs to be pressed down to get the bulb to turn. No brute force needed, just a little twist should do the job.

When replacing the light bulb, try not to touch the glass, concentrate on only handling the plastic part of the light bulb. If things are a little dirty on the vehicle’s headlight plugs, use some electronic cleaner, let it dry, then add dielectric grease to the plug for improved insolation, lubrication and sealing of rubber portions of the connector.

Slip the headlight bulb into the wiring connector, making sure it clicks in place. If it’s not securely installed, there’s a chance the plug will back itself off with vibration, leading to headlight power loss.

Carefully insert the light bulb into the back of the headlight housing and turn clockwise until it stops or clicks in place. Use extra care not to touch the back of the housing with the new headlight bulb to avoid bringing any contaminants inside the headlight housing.

Before re-assembly, we recommend checking the lights to make sure they work. No sense in fastening the headlight housing and grill, just to find out there’s a loose wire or one of the headlights isn’t working. With everything reassembled and back in place, the truck should be ready to roll. No headlight adjustment needed when replacing the bulbs, unless they are clearly out of alignment.

TIP: According to Sylvania, most headlights dim about 20% after just two years. For optimal lighting power, it’s recommended they be checked and replaced regularly. Headlights should be changed in pairs.
Standard license plate incandescent bulb (left). Osram Sylvania Premium White LEDriving light (right).

Once our new headlights were in place and everything was re-assembled, we moved to the back of the truck. Our license plate light housing uses two 168 automotive style bulbs to illuminate the area. At first glance, the Sylvania LEDriving light looked larger in diameter and taller than our OE bulb. Much of this has to do with the extra circuitry needed to make an LED light work. Upon closer inspection, we learned that it would fit and that it would also save us power. 

The factory bulb was drawing 4 watts, the new OSRAM Sylvania LED light only draws 1 watt. Our energy savings went from 8 watts down to 2 watts total for two lights. Pretty impressive, especially once we saw how bright they are.

It was a snug fit going in, but once we got the prongs lined up, the Sylvania LED light went in with minimal effort. It was actually harder to get the old bulbs out. We highly recommend using gloves when installing these little guys too. We’ve had them break in the past while trying to remove. Let’s just say things got a little bloody.

RECYCLE: Please recycle your old automotive light bulbs and headlights – don’t just throw them in the trash. Check with your local auto parts store or waste management facility for disposal options.


Initially, we only upgraded the driver side headlight to see the difference in color and brightness. Our old halogen headlight looked very yellow compared to the new SilverStar ZXE. It was also not as bright as the new ZXE bulbs. We did the same for the rear license plate light, leaving one OE light bulb and replacing the other with the new Sylvania LEDriving light. The difference in brightness and color was dramatic. Not only was the Sylvania LED whiter, it was also much brighter. We also gained more light, making it easier to attach recovery gear in the dark.

After installing a complete set of SilverStar ZXE headlights, we were able to test our new automotive lighting as a whole. We outfitted our Toyota Land Cruiser with two 55W low beam and two 65W high beam headlights and set out. We tested the SilverStar ZXE hi-beams both on backcountry roads and off-road. In our case, both low and high beam headlights work together, giving our 80 Series Land Cruiser a total of four headlights to illuminate the way. The higher color temperature of the ZXE bulbs work great both on the pavement and dirt.

The light emitted from the ZXE bulbs seem to reflect road signs, rocks, trees and obstacles along the road much better than our old halogen headlight bulbs. They are also easier on the eyes; we strain less to see what is ahead. The whiter light temperature of 4300K is much easier to see than the 3100K of a standard halogen bulb when driving. These ZXE bulbs are also brighter than the old standard halogen bulbs we had. They are by no means blinding bright, and that’s a good thing.

Many off-road adventures go into the night, and we only end up running the vehicle headlights when traveling in a group. We don’t like to blind our friends with high power off-road lights, but we still like to see where we are going. The low-beam SilverStar ZXE have great peripheral view and work great for slow-speed crawling and convoy travel. If we need a little more vision down the trail, the high-beams truly shine on the dirt, giving a healthy piercing light for higher speed travel. The SilverStar ZXE provides a balance between performance and safety on and off-road. 

We weren’t expecting much of a difference from OE replacement bulbs, but after testing and doing the complete lighting upgrade, we are really impressed with the new Sylvania SilverStar ZXE headlight and LEDriving Premium White LED lights. They have definitely modernized our ride by giving it a much brighter and whiter light both in the front and the rear. Our truck stands out from the crowd. Even during the day, the ZXE headlights have a blue-tint coating that comes through on the reflector, giving our 4x4 a custom look that is subtle yet eye catching. For newer vehicles with clear lenses, the blue reflection will be even greater.

From simple replacement bulbs to brighter and whiter light, we’ve found Sylvania offers a good quality product that is fairly priced and also won’t get you a ticket on the road. This latest offering from Sylvania fills the gap for those looking to get a modern HID white light look without the use of a non-street legal HID conversion kit.  For less than a tank of gas, one can completely transform the look and attitude of most any truck, Jeep or SUV.

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