Selecting a Headlamp Car
Your headlights are one of the most important car parts in terms of safety. Therefore, their design, light sources, colours and photometric values are strictly regulated.
Halogen bulbs contain a tungsten filament that, when energized, produces the visible light you see at night. However, halogen lights can take some time to reach full brightness and are not as energy efficient as other bulb types.
Halogen headlights are still used on around 80% of the vehicles on the road and offer an affordable, reliable option. They’re easy to install, emit a bright yellow-white light, and generate their own heat, which helps prevent headlight icing in bad weather. They also don’t require a ballast like HID or LED lights and are fairly inexpensive to replace.
Unlike regular incandescent bulbs, which use a filament in a vacuum, halogen bulbs are filled with a small amount of a gas called a halogen (usually iodine or bromine) that helps the filament heat up and generate light. The halogen gases help the bulb produce more white headlamp car light, and they also react with the tungsten filament to make it glow. Halogen headlights are also more cost-effective than xenon or LED alternatives.
The problem with halogen headlights is that they tend to cast a wider pool of yellow-hued light across the roadway and can blind other motorists when you turn your high-beams on. Fortunately, there are a number of aftermarket headlight kits that can replace your old halogen bulbs with HID or LEDs to avoid this problem. These upgrade kits will give your car a more upscale appearance while meeting SAE, DOT and FMVSS108 safety regulations. The larger bulb size also means that aiming these new headlights will be easier than with halogens.
Similar to halogen headlights but much more powerful, xenon headlamp cars use an electrical current that passes through a bulb filled with xenon gas. This creates an arc between two electrodes to generate a bright white or bluish light that can illuminate the road much further ahead than halogen bulbs. Xenon lights can also dazzle oncoming traffic so manufacturers tend to implement systems to prevent this by using self-levelling technology to keep the beam pointing downwards rather than at other drivers.
The xenon bulb looks quite similar to the filament in a standard car headlight, although this does not heat up to emit light when the headlights are activated. A specialized ballast is used to amplify the electric current from your vehicle’s engine and ignite the xenon gas inside the bulb. A Xenon bulb typically requires more power to ignite than LED headlights, though they are far more efficient once active.
The high intensity of a xenon headlight can sometimes blind other drivers and is why some drivers prefer bi-xenon headlamps as they allow the driver to switch between main and dipped beam with a simple mechanical system. Another drawback to xenon headlights is that they can take a few seconds to turn on as the arc between the electrodes is re-ignited by the ballast. This can be a problem when driving on a dark road where you need your headlights to be instantly available.
LED headlights are becoming increasingly popular in cars, including some of our top-rated models. They offer brighter light, a wider beam pattern and more focused light than halogens. In addition, they consume less power and last longer than halogen bulbs.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety experts note that in the group’s tests of headlight performance, LEDs typically score very well. They illuminate the road better than halogens without creating distracting glare to oncoming drivers. Some of our most affordable car models come standard with LED headlights, such as the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla, both starting at under $25,000.
For those that own cars with halogen headlights and want to upgrade them to LED, there are several options to consider. Depending on the type of car, it may be possible to simply open the hood and access the headlight assembly to remove the halogen bulb and replace it with an LED. For slightly more complex vehicles, a skilled mechanic or auto performance shop should be able to do the job in under an hour.
When considering new headlights for your vehicle, make sure you understand the differences between halogen, HID and LED lights. Also be aware of your state and local laws regarding brightness, color and power output. If you choose to install aftermarket headlights, be sure they meet federal guidelines and don’t exceed the legal limits in your area.
The car lighting industry has been moving forward on a path of brighter and more efficient bulbs. LED headlights are becoming the norm while HID and xenon remain popular headlamp car choices for those looking to upgrade their cars with better illumination. The first step in selecting a headlight for your car is to consider your driving needs and preferences.
Halogen bulbs are affordable and provide adequate light for safe driving at night, but they do not last as long as other options and can produce glare that can blind other drivers. A good alternative is an LED bulb that uses a fanless design and can last up to three times longer than a standard halogen. They are also dust and water-proof, making them a good choice for inclement weather.
Xenon bulbs are more expensive than halogens but can offer superior illumination. A high voltage pulse is used to ignite the xenon gas inside the bulb, and a ballast in the bulb maintains it. These bulbs can last up to 3,000 hours and provide up to five times more light than a halogen bulb.
Adaptive Highbeam Assist is an optional feature available on many Mercedes-Benz models that automatically adjusts the high beam according to the speed of other vehicles ahead. This system can be particularly helpful when driving on winding roads.