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GMC Sierra 1500 Headlights: Overview Guide

GMC Sierra 1500 Headlights: Overview Guide

In terms of exterior components, your lights serve the most important function for your GMC Sierra 1500. Whether you’re off-roading in your Sierra or just driving at night, your factory halogen bulbs can leave you with very little visibility and susceptible to accidents. Unlike the F150, the Sierra and Chevy Silverado took a long time to actually adapt their headlight cluster to the modern age. While seemingly innocuous, many Sierra enthusiasts became very disgruntled with the headlight displays that came with their massive investment. Fortunately, the 2017 Sierra comes equipped with LED headlight displays, although that doesn’t mean their performance can’t be improved. For older Sierras, we’ve prepared this guide with information and options to upgrade your tired old halogen bulbs and take back your vision.

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Visibility is an understated asset in the automotive world. Seeing clearly at night and allowing other drivers to see you is one of the best safety investments you can make. Upgrading your lights can also be a styling statement while lowering the draw on your truck's electrical system.

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The Sierra’s Stock Headlight Display by Year

The 2016 line of GMC Sierras saw the first significant improvements in their headlight displays. Instead of a single filament halogen bulbs, GMC offered factory fresh HID kits on select 1500 models.

With its dazzling curved LED dayliner display, some owners unfortunately still had to suffer with 9012 halogen bulbs that kind of made the rest of the Sierra’s headlight improvements facile.

This was simply the leftover low beam display from the 2015 Sierra 1500. While sporting an impressive 1875 lumens, this still didn’t quite deliver the visibility or distance that HID conversions could. Even more hairbrained, owners had to install a canbus system to ensure their HID lights worked properly.

The 2014 Sierra used this same bulb for both its low and high beam clusters. All models between 2007-2013 used the same three bulbs: 

  • H11LL low beams
  • 9005LL high beams
  • 5202 low wattage fog lights

While factory halogen bulbs will provide you with the vision necessary to physically drive, they don’t provide you with much distance or visibility to react to incoming obstacles at high speeds. Consider upgrading your bulbs with LED headlights that run for over 50,000 hours or HID kits that reach beyond 2500 lumens. 

All GMC Sierras have a single bulb for low beams, high beams, fog lights, and turn signals. Unfortunately, with a very low use life, low beam halogens burnt out very quickly. Not only do you gain more visibility by investing in better headlights, you also save money on replacement and use over time. 

In this rest of this guide we’re going to discuss:

  • LED, HID, and halo ring bulbs 
  • LED dayliner strips
  • Positioning new bulbs 

Understanding Different Headlights for your Sierra 1500

With a robust selection to choose from, Sierra owners can customize their Sierra with chrome, amber, or smoky black headlight clusters. Unless you’re buying a $5 replacement halogen bulb, an aftermarket HID and LED light panel offers far greater capabilities and range of options.

LED Bulbs: LED bulbs are light emitting diodes that require very little power to operate. The diodes are powered by semiconductors that pulsate when a small amount of electricity runs through it. With advances to LED technology, they not only produce brighter light than halogens, but clearer light that's not brownish. Guaranteed to last at least 10,000 hours, installation and replacement of an LED conversion kit is fairly cheap and will save the most money over the long run.

HID Bulbs: These high-intensity diodes operate similarly to halogen bulbs, using ionized gas that powers a lamp. The main difference comes from the idea of removing the filament and powering two seperate diodes at a low temperature, resulting in greater use life. You’ll find that some HID kits remain the brightest bulbs on the market. The only caveat is that initial install and replacement costs are more expensive than an LED conversion or retrofit. 

There are also halo rings, also called corona rings, which add substantial luminosity to your existing light bulb panel. Choose from CCFL or LED halo rings that will increase your total lumens both day and night. Both are inexpensive upgrades and commonly found in many aftermarket kits. CCFL bulbs run brighter at night while LED corona rings remain brighter during the day.

What Are LED Dayliner Strips for my Sierra 1500?

A fairly inexpensive and stylish upgrade that many Sierra owners purchase is a set of LED dayliner bulbs that fit within the existing headlight cluster. Dayliner bulbs add more brightness to your headlights during the day and a little more luminosity on top of your projector bulbs.

Choose from color changing or static diodes that provide your Sierra with a little more visibility and dazzle.

Positioning Your Sierra’s Headlights

Whether you’re installing an HID conversion kit or have a lift on your Sierra, you’ll need to make sure your headlights are aligned for your safety. This will also ensure you don't blind oncoming drivers with your forward lighting. 

It’s recommended you consult a specialist or the owner's manual before attempting to do this. Make sure your Sierra is completely level and facing a wall. Mark the point at the wall where your headlight hits and make sure it is even vertically and horizontally. This should not be more than 3.5 feet up the wall.

Inflate your tires evenly and make sure you have someone in the driver’s seat. Drive the car back at a length of at least 25 feet. Going under the hood, you’ll need a torx head. Start by adjusting the upper screw to aim the vertical field toward the center of the wall. 

Be sure to adjust each headlight separately to ensure complete accuracy. Finally, turn the side screws to adjust the horizontal field and align it with the center of the wall. If your adjustments feel off, take it to a specialist who can help. 

Fitment includes: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Denali, Hybrid, SL, SLE, STL, WT, XFE