Whether you drive a brand new offroad vehicle or a vintage one, there may come a time when your built-in headlights need to be replaced. Installing new aftermarket headlights can provide you with more powerful illumination than factory bulbs.
It’s also an opportunity to upgrade the appearance of your vehicle, by choosing a design that suits your personality and driving habits.
But should you choose a circular design or a rectangular one? Let’s look at the pros and cons of 5x7 headlights to see if these classic headlights are right for your vehicle.
What are 5x7 headlights?
There are so many different styles of headlights out there, that you might not know right away what type of headlight the term “5x7” refers to – but you’ve definitely seen them.
These headlights have a rectangular design, and are common in the pop-up or “hidden headlamp” design in some classic cars. You can also find these headlights on the Jeep Cherokee (although Jeep Wranglers typically have round headlights instead).
The term “5x7” refers to the shape and size of the headlights, so it doesn’t tell you much about the brightness or quality of the lights. 5x7 headlights usually house halogen bulbs or LEDs, and in some cases they may even contain HIDs.
In this article, we’ll look at everything you need to know about 5x7 headlights to decide which ones are right for your vehicle.
Sealed beam headlights
First, a little history. Up until 1984, pretty much every vehicle that you could buy in the U.S. relied on the same headlight design, called a sealed beam.
Sealed beam headlights include all of the components – plug, lens, bulb, housing – in a single unit. This made it easy to swap out one headlight for another, regardless of what vehicle you owned. But at the time, you were still limited to halogen bulbs.
After 1984, your headlight options expanded. Car manufacturers came up with creative designs that were unique to each vehicle, while the aftermarket introduced new options for retrofitting classic cars with modern lighting technology.
That’s why, even today, 5x7 headlights can include anything from a classic sealed beam halogen design, to a modern LED or HID lighting unit.
Halogen vs. LEDs
Why replace your factory headlights in the first place? The main reason is that halogen sealed beam headlights just aren’t very good, especially for offroad use. Sealed beam headlights have less powerful beam patterns and are dimmer than LED headlights.
Each LED headlight can produce 3000 lumens or more, and their color temperature is around 5000K, which is closer to daylight than halogen bulbs.
LED headlights are more expensive than halogen, but they’re more practical for offroad use. If you’re upgrading your factory 5x7 headlights, you’ll most likely want LEDs.
Although sealed bulb headlights come as a single unit, modern 5x7 headlights are built with replaceable components, so you can replace the bulb without replacing the entire headlight. This means it’s important to purchase replacement bulbs that fit.
Bulb fittings come in specific classifications, which include H1, H3, H4, H7, H11, HB3, and HB4. Fortunately, these classifications are universal, meaning that any bulb will fit any headlight housing that matches its classification.
Most 5x7 headlights are designed to be used with H4 fittings, which can include both halogen and LEDs. If you purchase a bulb with a different fitting, it won’t work in your 5x7 headlights. That means, you’ll need to avoid other fittings such as H7 bulbs.
Common questions about 5x7 headlights
The 5x7 headlights that we’ve been talking about aren’t the only rectangular headlights out there. You can also find rectangular headlights in smaller sizes, as well as square headlights, such as those on the Jeep Wrangler YJ.
All of these shapes and sizes can be hard to keep track of, so let’s take a closer look at 5x7 headlights and some similar models that you might come across.
Are 5x7 and 7x6 the same?
One of the most confusing things about 5x7 headlights is that they’re also known as 7x6 headlights. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make any sense. They’re either one size or the other, right? They can’t be two different measurements at once!
This Headlight Revolution video has a good explanation for it. In the video, Chris Nelson says the reason it’s known by both names is because “it’s neither exactly 5 inches by 7 inches or 6 inches by 7 inches … and instead of saying 5 and ¾ inch by 6 and ⅝ inch, we just give it a name that’s easier to remember, like 5 by 7. It’s an approximation.”
That makes more sense. Still, if you want to be extra sure that you’re looking at the right type of headlight, you can look it up by its part number: H6054.
What about 4x6 headlights?
There’s another rectangular headlight that’s a little bit smaller than the 5x7. It’s known as the 4x6. This headlight can be used as either a low, high, or dual beam.
Once again, for the sake of clarity, you can tell it apart by its part number: H656. Don’t confuse it with the 7x6, because it won’t fit into the same fixture.
Are 5x7 LED headlights DOT approved?
Another thing you might be wondering is whether 5x7 headlights are street legal. Some headlights are marketed as DOT-compliant, which means they meet the Federal Motor Safety Standards for U.S. roads. If you want to install 5x7 headlights that you can use as driving lights, then you’ll want to make sure they’re DOT compliant.
In order for LED headlights to be street legal, they have to be within certain guidelines for light output, beam pattern, and color temperature so that they don’t distract or blind oncoming drivers. Of course, this means they won’t be as bright for offroad use.
You can always install auxiliary headlights or pod lights to boost your lighting offroad, while still meeting street legal standards for the drive home.
How to install 5x7 headlights
The best way to install 5x7 headlights on your vehicle depends on whether you want to replace existing 5x7 lights or convert them from a different model. In some cases, your new LED 5x7 headlights may be replacing your turn signals and running lights too.
For example, this 5x7 headlight for the Jeep Cherokee XJ replaces several built-in lights and covers up their empty fixtures with a larger housing unit.
Don’t worry if you’ve never replaced headlights before. Most aftermarket kits come with a “plug-and-play” installation, which means you’ll have all the components you need for an easy DIY replacement project you can do at home.
Step 1: Remove your existing lights
First, remove your existing lights from the front of your vehicle. If you’re replacing built-in sealed beam headlights, then you’ll be able to remove them as a single unit.
Some vehicles have a mounting bracket that you’ll need to remove first. As we saw with the Jeep Cherokee, you may have to remove additional lights too. Once the headlight is free of its housing, you can unplug it from the wiring harness.
Be sure to clean out the housing before you replace the light to remove any build-up of dirt and grime. Then you can go ahead and install the replacement headlights.
Step 2: Install your new headlights
Once again, this step should be relatively easy. If you’ve bought a unit that’s a match for your vehicle, then it will plug right into place without the need for any adaptors.
After you plug it in, you can reattach the housing and test your new headlights out. You should have a low beam, a high beam, and in some cases, daylight running lights.
If you want to see the difference between your new headlights and your old headlights, replace them one at a time and then compare them. Your new LED headlights should be brighter and have a more defined beam than the built-in halogen headlights.
Step 3: Align your 5x7 headlights
Finally, you’ll need to align your 5x7 headlights. This ensures that your headlights are angled properly, and won’t be a hazard to oncoming drivers. You should always align your headlights when you replace them, no matter what design they have.
Start by parking your car in front of a blank wall or garage door where you have enough room to back up at least 25 feet. Then, turn on your headlights and use tape to make a “T” where each beam hits the wall. Do this for both your high and low beams.
Back up 25 feet and cover up one headlight. Use your adjusters to angle the beam so that it falls at or below the center of the line you’ve marked out with tape.
Then, angle the beam horizontally so that it aims to the right of the T. This ensures that the beam is aiming to the right size of the road, and not at oncoming traffic. Repeat this step for the other headlight and then you’re good to go!
Choosing the right 5x7 headlights for your vehicle
Upgrading your headlights is a simple process that can improve your ability to see and be seen, whether you’re in a wide open space or on a road with other drivers.
With their classic rectangular look and a variety of design options, 5x7 headlights are a good choice for offroad vehicles of all kinds.You can browse the selection at Inspired Engineering, and give us a call if you want to confirm that a specific headlight will be compatible with your vehicle!