Our Cars : Keith’s MINI Cooper – lighting up the way

The MINI hasn’t been seeing much action recently – blame the slew of cars crossing my path over the past few months, and the fact that I’ve needed a jump pack to get it going. That’s a shame, because when it is running, it’s an absolute delight.

Well, when I say delight, what I actually mean is that it’s one of those cars that you end up totting up a growing list of things to do in your head every time you drive it. Notwithstanding the intermittent warning lights on the dashboard that continue to glower at me, a real bugbear when driving it are the shockingly poor headlamps.

Short days, long nights, rubbish headlights

Given the short days, dark nights and general gloom of driving in the UK, you need good headlamps. This is something that really comes home to roost after any period in a new car – this is one area where technology has made a massive difference.

So, with that in mind, I picked up a pair of LED H7 headlamp replacements from my mate Warner Lewis. He basically sells these kits to people who want more light from their cars, without the need for hacking out the old wiring. Truth be told, I was a bit sceptical, and know that there are certain legalities around non-standard headlamps – but, in the end, I decided to fit them and see what happened.

After about ten minutes of faffing around, the bulbs were fitted. You get a little piece of loom to connect between your existing headlamp wiring and the new bulb holder – and, other than the fact the new bulbs are a little longer than the originals, they fit straight in. In the MINI, you have separate dipped and main beam bulbs – I simply replaced the dipped ones.

LED headlights certainly brighten your evenings

In terms of how effective they are, I’d say they work very well indeed. They’re brighter within the existing headlamp beam pattern, and don’t seem to annoy other drivers – at least no one’s flashed me yet to tell me I’m blinding them.

They do this weird flickering when you switch on the ignition before starting the car, but they stop when the engine is running – and, when you switch them on, they work just fine.

I’ll be interested to see what the views from the AROnline readership – over on Facebook when I mentioned this, there was no real consensus over whether I should be using them or not.

What do you think?

Keith Adams


  1. I’ve got H4 fitted to the Accent, much better than the frankly dire standard bulbs. All the rest except a couple are LED too.
    Never start or shut off a car with LED headlight bulbs switched on, it’ll kill them, the flickering sounds like starter draw, which means if they’re not actually switched on you’ve a crossed wire somewhere.
    Every single car on the road should be fitted with them as a general principle. They use less energy, produce less heat, can last for the life of the car, react much quicker, what’s not to like? The number of times I’ve seen idiots with one headlight or no brake lights other than the central LEDs, it’s a real danger to life and limb.
    You can get almost every single standard bulb type as a led replacement – even the combined sidelights/indicators from the 30s-50s. I know, I’ve a set to fit up front.

    • You’re thinking of HIDs when you talk about starter draw, LED only need a driver module which don’t need to produce 22Kv/75v volts like HID ballasts do..

      • No, I’m not. If I cycle the starter on my car with the led headlights on, they will flicker. But I don’t because it would damage them
        The comment below is probably what’s happening because canbus cars all do a on start or pre start interrogation of all devices and systems on the ring.
        A resistor probably won’t help since it will interfere with the canbus interrogation of the bulbs & may throw up a bulb error. The flickering might be because the small test current is enough to trigger light from the LEDs where it wasn’t enough to do that visibly with the standard halogen bulbs.

  2. PS. There’s another advantage – if you happen to leave the sidelights or headlights on by mistake, and the whole circuit is using LEDs – you won’t have a flat battery. I’ve even replaced most of the indicator circuit (incl. LED compatible relay).
    For a more incandescent looking light, try and find bulbs with K ratings around 3000-2700.

  3. Keith, the flickering might be the self-test voltage monitoring for the blown bulb warning – the LED kit will likely contain a resistor to mimic the resistance of a standard 55/60w halogen bulb but when the control module pulses the lighting circuits this will be enough to flicker the bulb briefly?

    Alternatively, if the battery is weak as you say they might flicker without the engine going because the voltage is too low!

  4. How much of your poor lighting is due the way that the inner headlamp lens degrades in early R50’s (just like it did in mk1 Mondeo’s and Citroen XM’s? Keep the LED bulbs but pick up some 7/2004 onwards headlamps where that damn inner lens is no longer a problem.

  5. Ive been thinking of doing the same to the 75, does the Mini have projector headlamps?, so do the LED’s work correctly as there is no beam pattern in the projector thus making them legal to use, or am I wrong in my assumption.

    • There were no projector headlamps on MINI’s until they first became a cost option in July 2004, several years after the MINI in this article was built.

  6. Any update on the Mini? Big fan of these modern Minis, and have recently bought a second gen Cooper S.
    Did you manage to get through the long “to do” list on this car?

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