Upgrading brakes and lighting

I’m a relatively new GEM owner (2001 E825) and am wondering about two “upgrade” projects.

  1. Upgrading the headlights w/ LEDs. SuperbrightLED dot com has “running lights” which draw less current AND are brighter than the existing lights. They also sell a H12 bulb which I THINK is what’s in the GEM now. Anyone tried this?

  2. The drum brakes on the GEM leave quite a bit to be desired; especially w/ the upgrade 7.5hp R4F motor and reprogrammed controller. I can run along at 35mph and the car lacks a bit of ‘whoa power’. As a result I’m thinking of upgrading the brakes to aftermarket disk brakes. Anyone taken this on?

UPDATED 7/23/13
I contacted NEV Accessories in Chandler AZ (480)-753-0684 regarding a disk brake conversion kit for 1999-2004 GEM’s. Unfortunately they are currently out of stock with no projected date for when they might become available. Apparently one of their suppliers is backordered on something they need to make the kit. They recommended watching their web site at NEVAccessories.com for availability when/if they become available again. The cost is around $600.


The headlights are H-2 bulbs, commonly found in fog and driving lights. There’s no LED direct replacement that will work in the existing reflector - you need to replace the entire headlamp to utilize LEDs. Available LED driving lights don’t have the ability to focus the beam that well and provide an adequate cutoff to prevent dazzling oncoming drivers. I have a set of 4 watt LED driving lights which project an amazing amount of light - but it’s not that well focused. I would hesitate to use them on the NEV due to the problem of not having a hard cutoff pattern which can illuminate the road without blinding others drivers.

Cars which come with LED lights from the factory do it by using expensive projector systems that focus and collimate the beam through a shaped opening to give you the upper edge cutoff required. Unfortunately, they’re not made in sizes to fit our GEMs.

Bummer about the H2 vs H12 bulbs. I knew about the “focus” issue since LED bulbs aren’t a single point source but rather a collection of multi-LEDs to generate adequate lumens. And you’re right that without special reflectors, the light wouldn’t be focused very well. One the other hand, just about anything would have to be better than stock which are more like running lights than headlights anyway. Maybe OK at 25mph on a golf course heading to the 19th hole at dusk but not for cruising home on public roads at 35mph in the dark.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen any direct replacements for the on-board GEM “headlights” so that’s not really an option. I know there are LED “running lights” available in the aftermarket. While admittedly they aren’t intended for use as"headlights" they sure put out a lot of light with little current draw.

The stock headlights on my 2001 GEM are pretty much a joke right now and I’m unwilling to risk driving on public roads at night for that reason.

One question though, if you can legally put LED driving lights on your big iron, why couldn’t you use them on a GEM? Seems to me the same cutoff problem would exist w/ these LED lights on any vehicle. I imagine you could rig a switch in the circuit and “dim” them for oncoming traffic thus avoiding the blinding issue.


Technically, these aftermarket driving lights are not legal. The laws are just not enforced.

My upgraded GEM w/ 7.5 HP R4F motor and reprogrammed controller needs some real “whoa power” and factory drum brakes weren’t getting it done.

I’d called NEV Accessories in Chandler, AZ (480-753-0684) several weeks ago about their disk brake upgrade kits for 1999-2004 GEMs. They were listed on their website and then disappeared for awhile since they didn’t have parts to build them. I let them know I’d buy the kit if they ever got the parts to put it together.

They called yesterday to let me know they had the parts at $580+shipping if I were still interested. I was and they shipped today.

I’ll post back once I get them installed to let you know how it went.


You could buy projectors and fit them into the existing housings but there would be a lot of fabrication. It is done with cars all the time. German orbs are the best but very pricey. HID might be a cheaper way to go. They can be used with or without the projector style orbs depending on the style of the reflector.

Just completed the disk brake upgrade to my GEM. Ordered a disk brake upgrade from NEVAccessories.com and it went pretty well. The original studs were 10mm and used tuner lugs for my custom wheels. The new disk brake studs are 12mm so I had to order 12mm tuner lugs which should arrive in a couple of days. Once I get the wheels back on, I’ll let you know how it stops.

I posted this same offer at the next higher level on the forum but as a result of the upgrade, I have a set of OEM drum brakes in good condition for a 01 GEM E825 shortbed that I’m willing to give away if you pay the shipping from Cleveland, OH.


Well I completed the conversion of my front drum brakes to disk brakes tonight and got everything bolted back on and no leaks.

After a short test ride I can’t honestly say I notice any more flat-out stopping power BUT it is more “graduated” stopping process. With the drum brakes, there wasn’t much pedal travel and they were “full on”; let up and they were “full off”. Kinda touchy I think - you had to pay attention. With the disk brakes, there is more “finesse” available on the pedal and that provides much finer control over the braking process.

On the balance I’m satisfied it’s an improvement though I’m not sure it was worth the $600! For that much money I’d probably go for bigger batteries the next time and try for more range.

UPDATED 8/24/13
After a longer ride today I’m more impressed than after my short test ride yesterday. The disk brakes DO stop better than the drum’s ever did. Still not sure it’s a $600 improvement but it is better.

UPDATED 8/30/13
The longer I live with the disk brakes, the more impressed I become. Maybe it’s breaking them in or scuffing them up w/ use but I’m impressed more every day. Certainly the “touch” is better and there is much improved stopping power.