Headlights Buyer's Guide
- Headlights are installed in front of your vehicle to illuminate the road ahead when it is dark.
- Types of headlights: halogen, lead, and xenon.
- Types of headlights based on construction: sealed beam and composite.
- When one light bulb fades, the other one usually follows. It is advisable to replace both at the same time.
- Usually, bulbs cost around $20-$100.
- Although some types of headlights are easy to install, it is best to contact your trusted mechanic to do it for you.
- It's important to keep your headlights in great shape.
Driving at night can be very stressful and dangerous, especially when there are no lamp posts in your area. Thankfully, automotive lightings are installed in vehicles to help illuminate the road ahead. One of the most crucial automotive lightings are called headlights or headlamps.
What are headlights?
Headlights are the lights installed in front of your vehicle. Its main purpose is to make the road visible even when it is dark by casting a light beam upfront. It also helps other drivers see oncoming traffic. There are two modes of car headlights that a driver can switch to and these are low beam and high beam. These two modes are a standard feature in most vehicles.
High beam headlights are very bright and are used for long range illumination. Since it is brighter than a normal beam, it may be stressful to the human eye. Drivers are advised to switch to low beam when at least 150 meters away from an oncoming vehicle. Usually, high beam headlights can be used on country or rural roads where there are fewer vehicles. Low beam lights, on the other hand, gives short range illumination. It can provide enough lighting without blinding other drivers on the road with its glare.
The history of headlights and automotive lighting goes a long way. Did you know that in the early 1900s, car lamps were lit with kerosene oil? These were lamps attached on the top frontal corners of horse carriages. These kerosene lit lamps were soon replaced by Acetylene lights. This technology saw little development because oils such as acetylene and kerosene could freeze during the cold months, making it inefficient. It was not long when electric based lights were already introduced to the automotive industry.
There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to the kind of bulb and aesthetic style. Apart from being a safety feature, some car owners choose to upgrade their headlights to give their vehicle a new look.
What are the types of headlights and which is the best fit for my car?
The three common types of headlights are Halogen, LED and HID. In choosing new headlights, car owners should consider factors such as the brightness and color temperature. These factors can greatly affect how well your headlights work.
This type is the most popular among the three because of its low cost. Halogen bulbs are cheaper compared to other variants such as LED and Xenon. Halogen headlights use halogen gas mixed with tungsten-halogen filaments to generate light.
Although halogen headlights are widely used, it has its drawbacks. Compared to LED and Xenon, Halogen lights have a shorter lifespan.
LED lights are popular among newer car models. It is more expensive than halogen headlights but it is energy efficient. High-quality LED headlights can last years without replacing it. Another advantage of LED headlights is that it is easy to retrofit and upgrade. Because it makes use of a newer technology, LED headlights only take an average of 30 minutes to replace.
What makes Xenon or high-density discharge (HID) lights different is that is does not use a metal filament to produce light. HID lights are filled with Xenon gas which ignites to produce white or bluish shade of light.
What are the types of headlights based on construction?
Car headlights usually fall under two types based on construction: the sealed beam headlight and the composite headlight.
The sealed beam has the filament, reflector, and lens integrated in one airtight unit. A disadvantage of this kind of construction is that, if one component malfunctions, you must replace the whole headlight assembly instead of just that malfunctioning component.
A composite headlight, on the other hand, has the lens and the bulb as separate units. Headlight replacements can be done individually in this case.
When should you change your headlights?
Apart from getting a ticket from local police, having a faulty headlight is a recipe for danger. Even if it is not completely burned out, dimming headlights can already make it difficult to see the road and other vehicles around. Usually, when one light bulb fades, the other one follows. It is advisable to replace both at the same time. Although some types of headlights are easy to install, it is advisable to contact your trusted mechanic to do it for you.
How much does a headlight cost?
The cost of replacing a car headlight can vary depending on your car and the type of bulb you want to use. Usually, bulbs cost around $20 to $100. Replacement headlights are usually sold individually. You can choose from low and high beam lights, and from shades of white and yellow.
How to maintain car headlights
Because headlights are crucial when you're driving on the road, it's important to keep them in great shape. Unfortunately, since headlights are positioned in front of a vehicle, they tend to get dirty or damaged easily. Here are some of the things that you can do to maintain your car headlights and how to repair minor damage.
Because headlights are exposed to different elements, their lenses become cloudy over time and when that happens. This diminishes their light. Resolve this issue by cleaning the headlight lenses with either a glass cleaner or plastic safe degreaser.
For glass lenses, you can use toothpaste or various lens-safe rubbing compounds. For plastic headlight lenses, use only a non-abrasive acrylic solution that comes from a proven brand.
For minor damage, there may not be a need to look for a headlight replacement because there's a good chance that the bulb is still intact. This means the entire assembly is still functional.
Seal the headlight assembly immediately to prevent moisture from getting in. If a real seal isn't available, you can improvise by using a clear plastic tape to hold the assembly together until you get access to a quality sealant.
Though minor problems like this can be solved by using a clear adhesive tape, it's not meant to hold the entire assembly for a long time. That being said, replacing the entire headlight assembly is a must.