Replacing or Upgrading Headlights: What You Need to Know
Are you having trouble driving at night because your headlights aren’t illuminating your way as brightly as they used to? If so, it might be time to remove your stock bulbs and upgrade to the latest technology.
In the past several years, bulb technology has advanced significantly, and you can now find headlights that are more powerful and efficient than ever before. However, before you set out to buy new aftermarket headlights for your vehicle, ask yourself why are you replacing them in the first place. Do you need better visibility, or are your lights worn down or blown out? Headlights do require replacing every now and then, but that should be done for the right reasons.
For instance, if your headlights have dimmed, you shouldn’t just start looking at replacement bulbs. Sometimes the solution is to give them a good cleaning. Then again, the problem might actually lie within the lens cover, which can get discoloured by sunlight. They might become cloudy and yellowish from the constant exposure to the sun’s rays, and you’ll need to replace the lens covers, not the light bulbs.
Your vehicle’s user manual will probably have a section on proper headlight care, and it may give you an idea about how often you’ll need to replace the headlights.
Some people, however, want to upgrade headlights. Replacing and upgrading your headlights are two different things. You can replace your old headlights with a pair of new OEM headlights, or you can get aftermarket upgrade headlights that will improve your visibility on the road. Most old vehicles feature halogen headlights, which dish out a yellowish light that many people find inadequate. Those people will be best off with getting LED or HID headlights, which provide a cooler light, helping you see further ahead than conventional halogen bulbs.
You can find LED and HID headlights that match the halogen capsules on your vehicle, allowing you to install them easily without having to replace the capsules.
Regardless, if you’ve decided you need new headlights, there are 3 important things you need to pay attention to when looking at all the different options, including compatibility, brightness and beam strength. Obviously, you want your headlights to fit your specific vehicle’s model, make and year. Refer to your vehicle’s user manual for this information.
Then, you should consider the brightness. The brightness of LED bulbs is measured in lumens. The more lumens a bulb has, the brighter it will be. Lastly, consider the beam strength. This refers to the size and pattern of the lights, and it’s impacted by the reflector and lens. In some cases, the beam is created by a projector instead of a reflector.
Ideally, you want the beam pattern from the headlight to be as sharp as possible in order to illuminate the path in front of you with clarity. You can’t expect great visibility from a fuzzy beam. The beam pattern is crucial to illuminating the parts of the road you must see. The wrong pattern can blind oncoming drivers or obscure your visibility.
A lot of people confuse beam pattern and strength with bulb brightness. A brighter headlight doesn’t equal a sharper beam. Most headlights state the type of beam pattern the bulb generates, so pay attention to that factor when shopping.
As briefly aforementioned, there are three types of headlight bulbs available – halogen, LED and HID. Halogen bulbs were considered the standard until recently. Older vehicles featured halogen bulbs which are made from a halogen and tungsten mix. These provide a warm colour temperature, and they aren’t as bright as HID and LED.
HID lights are more durable and illuminate brighter than halogen lights. They also operate at lower temperatures. However, HID lights are expensive and difficult to install. LED bulbs are the most advanced type. They provide the most illumination, release the least heat and are the most durable and longest-lasting. You can expect to get over 50.000 hours of use from your LED headlights.
Besides brightness and beam strength, colour temperature is something you need to think about when shopping for headlights. The colour temperature refers to the colour of the light. “Warm” headlights emit a yellowish light, whereas cooler headlights emit a brighter, whiter light. LED and HID bulbs are usually cooler, whereas halogen are warmer.
There are HIX Xenon bulbs that emit a bluish-white that looks great and provides outstanding visibility at night. Typically, the cooler the light is, the more visibility it provides. Warm lights like halogens aren’t effective. However, personal preference, needs and road rules where you live can also impact your choice.
Lastly, consider whether you need fog headlights. Fog headlights are designed to illuminate the road in foggy conditions. Fog can reflect the headlight beam back to your eyes, which is why fog headlights are necessary if you frequently drive in foggy conditions, such as mountainous or misty areas. Other than this application, fog lights aren’t of much use.