If you have a C or D battery Maglite flashlight with an old incandescent bulb, you should consider replacing it with a new LED bulb. My testing has shown that the replacement LED’s light is significantly brighter and much whiter. The batteries will last longer as well!
I have two 3-cell “D” Maglites that I wanted to modernize with LEDs, so I purchased the TRLIFE Maglite LED Conversion Kit (for 3-6 cell C&D Maglites). There is a different version for 2-cell Maglites.
Since I had two identical Maglites, I was in a perfect position to compare the difference in brightness of the two bulbs side-by-side!
Swapping Out the Bulb
Installation of the new LED bulb is really easy. First, unscrew the top of the Maglite and remove it. Then remove the parabolic reflector. Next, unscrew the metal bulb holder and lift it out of the flashlight. Replace the incandescent bulb with the LED bulb and then screw everything back together! Really simple, no tools needed!
First Impressions: Testing at Low Battery Voltage
As I mentioned, I have two Maglites. I decided to swap the new LED bulb into the Maglite with the weaker batteries, which I measured to be 1.26V. With those batteries, the incandescent bulb wouldn’t even work. I wondered if the LED bulb would. My other Maglite’s batteries were at 1.33V. I kept the incandescent bulb in there.
I turned both flashlights on. The first thing I noticed was how much brighter the LED bulb was. The incandescent light was very weak by comparison. This is pretty amazing since the Maglite with the LED had weaker batteries!
The light from the LED was also much whiter, with a tad greenish tint, while the incandescent was dark yellow, almost orange by comparison.
So, my low-voltage battery test was a resounding victory for the LED bulb! Using batteries that were basically dead when using an incandescent bulb, I was able to get a pretty bright light using an LED bulb… even brighter than an incandescent Maglight with slightly stronger batteries!
Testing with Fresh Batteries
My next test was to swap in fresh batteries and check brightness. With new batteries, the LED Maglight was blindingly bright; significantly brighter than the incandescent, and again much whiter.
Both versions suffered from a “donut” effect when expanding the beam, where there would be a dark spot in the middle. Both the LED and incandescent bulbs had this problem, so it’s not something unique to the LED bulb. It’s a shame, but I’m guessing it’s due to the reflector design and not a flaw in either bulb.
Bottom line, the LED bulb was noticeably brighter and much whiter than the Maglite’s incandescent bulb. It also should make your batteries last longer. Although I didn’t do a battery life test, I did prove that the LED bulb would work down to a lower battery voltage than the incandescent bulb would.
Should You Upgrade?
You might think that given these advantages, everyone should upgrade their Maglite bulbs to LED. And yeah, if you use your flashlight a lot, like if you need it for work or in a garage or outdoors, you should upgrade! I would definitely recommend the LED bulb for police officers!
But, the LED could actually be TOO bright for some applications, especially for close-in home use. If you don’t use it that often, the longer battery life might not help, as the batteries could simply go bad before you use them up.
Also, some people might actually prefer the yellow light of the incandescent bulb. The white LED light could actually hinder your night vision while using the flashlight.
For occasional home use, I would recommend a small Maglite flashlight that uses AA batteries instead. If you don’t use your flashlight very often, then 2 or 3 “D” or “C” batteries might be overkill given the lower power consumption of the LED. Why not just use a smaller flashlight that you can keep in your pocket then? I like the Mini Maglite Pro LED, which uses two AA batteries and is much easier to carry.
I hope this comparison will help you decide whether to get this LED upgrade kit for your Maglite! – Brian