Chevy C10 Headlight Upgrades

Chevy C10 Headlight Upgrades

Last Updated August 31, 2023 | Alison Smith

Are the headlights on your Chevy C10 old and dingy? Replacing your classic truck’s headlights is a popular and easy modification. Compared to modern headlights, the stock incandescent bulbs on a C10 are dim. C10 headlight upgrades will give you better visibility on the road and a fresh look.

Types of C10 Headlights

There are a few different types of C10 headlights: halogen, HID, and LED. Halogens are a step up from incandescents, but HID and LED lights are more popular for restomods.

C10 Halogen Headlights

Halogens are the most common type of headlight on the road. Like incandescent bulbs, they use a tungsten element encased in an envelope. But rather than using glass, like incandescents, halogen bulbs use quartz that can stand up to higher temperatures.

Halogen headlights use gas around the element to convert electrical current to heat and light. These lights last longer since they “recycle” tungsten vapors. When a certain temperature is reached, the gas combines with the tungsten atoms and deposits them back on the filament. This increases the filament life and lets the bulb burn brighter and hotter. They reach full brightness immediately when turned on.

Even though C10 halogen headlights are better than the stock lights, they’re still less efficient than newer technologies. But their low cost, easy maintenance, and widespread availability make them a popular choice. Installing halogen headlights only takes a few minutes. Be careful when installing them, though, as they can be very fragile.

Average lifespan: 450 - 1,000 hours

C10 HID Headlights

High-intensity discharge (HID) headlights are another popular option. They’re also known as Xenon lights, named after the gas found inside the bulbs. HIDs are powered by an electric current that passes through an inert gas within a glass cylinder.

HID headlights emit light that is whiter and brighter than halogen bulbs, but they have to warm up to reach peak brightness. They provide better visibility, but at a cost to other drivers. They’re often mistaken for high-beams as they can sometimes be overly bright. HID lights are often more expensive and can be difficult to find. They can take 30 to 60 minutes to install. The process is relatively simple but may require more wiring work.

Average lifespan: 2,000 hours

C10 LED Headlights

Light-emitting diode (LED) headlights are different from HIDs and halogens in that they’re semiconductors. Rather than using gas, they produce light when powered by an electrical current. A tiny LED light can emit as much brightness as a halogen bulb. Although manufacturers often use multiple LED lights to make up a headlight unit.

LED lights are the most efficient option, reducing alternator wear and using less fuel to operate. C10 LED headlights are typically more expensive than halogen or HIDs, but they have a much longer lifespan. Unlike HID lights, LED bulbs reach full brightness immediately.

Average lifespan: 30,000 hours

Classic Chevy C10 truck with upgraded LED headlights

How to Upgrade C10 Headlights

Here’s an example of how to upgrade the headlights on a 1970 C10. The process should be similar whether you have a Square Body or other model year. Just keep in mind the wiring process may vary. We went with a set of stylish C10 LED headlights with a light bar for our truck. The installation time is approximately 30 minutes to an hour.

Tools Needed

The exact tools will vary depending on the specific installation, but you can expect something along these lines.

Required Tools:

  • Phillips and flathead screwdrivers
  • Cutting tool

Step 1: Remove Headlight Bezel

Start by removing the screws holding the headlight bezel. This will usually be done with a Phillips screwdriver. Once the screws are removed, take off the headlight bezel and set it aside.

Removing the screws on a C10 headlight bezel

Step 2: Remove Chrome Ring

The chrome ring around the headlight is held in place by three screws. Our C10 had two Phillips screws and one flathead. When you get the screws loose, hold the headlight so it doesn’t fall out and slide the ring off.

Removing chrome ring around headlight

Step 3: Unplug Wiring Harness

Unplug the old headlight by disconnecting the wiring harness from the factory plug.

Unplugging wiring harness

Step 4: Trim Headlight Bucket

In order to fit the heatsink for the new headlight, you may have to trim the headlight bucket so it fits properly. We used a plasma cutter, but you could use a grinder, hole saw, body saw, or Dremel tool for this.

Headlight bucket on a Chevy C10

Step 5: Plug in New Headlight

Plug the new headlight into the factory connection. For the two wires on the running light, you’ll send the black wire to the ground and the red wire to the running light or low beam wire so it runs at the same time.

Plugging in the new headlight into factory connection

Step 6: Reinstall Chrome Ring

Once the headlight is in place, slide the chrome lock ring on and reinstall the screws.

Reinstalling chrome ring on new C10 headlight

Step 7: Reinstall Headlight Bezel

Reinstall the headlight bezel by lightly tightening the screws down.

Reinstalling headlight bezel on new C10 headlight

Step 8: Repeat Process on Opposite Side

Simply repeat the process on the opposite side to complete the installation.

Complete C10 headlight upgrade

Which C10 Headlights are Right for You?

Any upgraded C10 headlights will be better than your factory lights. Halogens will be the most affordable option, but LEDs will give you the best efficiency. If you want super bright lights, HIDs are the way to go. Each type of headlight comes in a variety of designs, with C10 halo headlights being a popular choice. Whatever you decide, new headlights will drastically improve visibility and give your C10 a more modern look. Also, check out our article on 5 affordable Chevy C10 mods to further upgrade your truck.

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Sources: How Long do Headlights Last?, How Stuff Works | LED, HID, or Halogen: Which Headlights are Best?, CarFax

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.