Headlight Bulb Buyer’s Guide
- A headlight bulb is a critical component of a vehicle’s exterior lighting system. As part of the headlight assembly, it is responsible for producing a light beam to illuminate the road ahead.
- There are three common types of headlight bulbs: halogen, LED, and xenon light bulbs.
- The cost of a headlight bulb will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. OE replacement headlight bulbs generally cost between $20 and $350. They are sold individually, in sets of two, included in a headlight assembly, or as part of a kit.
- Signs of a failing headlight bulb include flickering, dimming, and busted headlights.
- Functioning headlights are critical to keeping your vehicle roadworthy. It is also illegal to drive with a busted headlight in most states.
What Is a Headlight Bulb?
A headlight bulb is a critical component of a vehicle’s exterior lighting system. As part of the headlight assembly, it is responsible for producing a light beam to illuminate the road ahead. The headlights are considered a safety feature because they help you spot road obstructions, debris, potholes, and even pedestrians during low visibility conditions.
How Does a Headlight Bulb Work?
Headlight bulbs are encased in a glass or plastic housing installed in the front of your vehicle. These lights can be switched on and off from inside the passenger cabin. Activating the headlight switch triggers the 12-volt power supply to send electricity to the headlight bulbs to power them up. The switch also allows the driver to toggle between high and low beam functions to accommodate different driving conditions.
What Are the Types of Headlight Bulbs?
There are three different types of headlights: halogen, LED, and xenon.
Halogen headlight bulbs
Halogen bulbs are incandescent bulbs that produce light through a tungsten filament that is heated by electricity until it emits yellow light. During this process, the tungsten evaporates but is quickly deposited back to the filament thanks to the halogen gas surrounding it.
This allows them to shine brighter and enjoy a longer life span than regular incandescent bulbs. You can expect your halogen bulbs to last anywhere between 450 to 1,000 hours. Most of today’s vehicles have halogen bulbs installed because of their simplicity and relatively low cost.
LED headlight bulbs
Light-emitting diode or LED headlights feature a bulb that transfers current to a semiconductor to emit photons that produce light. Compared to halogen bulbs, LEDs produce less heat, which allows them to burn longer, even lasting up to 20,000 operating hours.
LED bulbs can be made to produce a whiter light just by changing the physical properties of the semiconductor. One disadvantage of choosing this type of headlight bulb is that LED headlight assemblies are physically larger than their halogen counterparts because of the need for heat sinks, fans, and electronics. All these make it a more expensive option than halogen bulbs.
Xenon or HID headlight bulbs
Xenon or high-intensity discharge light bulbs are filled with xenon gas that produces a white and bluish light when ignited. Similar to LEDs, these bulbs do not produce as much heat as halogen bulbs. The light they produce is so bright that some countries have banned the use of this type of headlight bulbs. Among the three, xenon bulbs carry the heftiest price tag.
Signs of a Failing Headlight Bulb
Over time, you may notice that your headlights are flickering on and off. This is a common symptom among halogen bulbs with a damaged or worn filament. As soon as you notice your lights flickering, have it checked by a licensed mechanic in order to rule out the possibility of a bad electrical connection.
While some headlight bulbs are meant to last the full life span of your vehicle, others can get worn and produce a dimmer light over time. To check the brightness of your headlights, you may park in front of a blank wall and view the light’s reflection from inside your vehicle. You may also have a friend check your headlights from outside the parked vehicle.
Headlight bulbs that have burned out must be immediately replaced. If you are having one headlight bulb replaced, it is highly recommended to replace the other one as well. This is because there is a high likelihood that it is also at the end of its service life.
How Much Does a Headlight Bulb Replacement Cost?
The cost of a headlight bulb will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. OE replacement headlight bulbs generally cost between $20 to $350. These are sold individually, in sets of two, included in a headlight assembly, or as part of a kit.
Why Is Replacing a Bad Headlight Bulb Important?
Driving in low light conditions is extremely dangerous without fully functioning headlights. Not only do they allow you to clearly see the road ahead, but they also help you communicate with other vehicles. Headlights alert drivers ahead of you of your presence and it also allows other motorists to anticipate your vehicle when you make a turn. Due to its importance in keeping your vehicle roadworthy, it is illegal to drive with a busted headlight in most states.
Changing a Busted Headlight Bulb
To get started with your repairs, continue reading and you'll find basic steps on how to change a faulty bulb.
Difficulty level: Easy
What you need to prepare:
- New headlight bulb
Step 1: Before you purchase a replacement headlight bulb, take a look at your car's owner's manual and check what type of bulbs are installed in your ride. Once you know the type, purchase a new bulb that is completely compatible with your assembly. Depending on your preference, you can upgrade and buy other types of bulbs such as LED and Xenon bulbs.
Step 2: Once you've already bought the replacement bulb that you want, start your repairs by opening your hood and looking at the back side of you headlight to access the bulb holder. The bulb holder is easy to identify because it is shaped like a trapezoid and you will see three wires hanging out from it.
Step 3: To address the problems of your old and busted headlight bulb, remove the bulb cover that is usually secured by screws. You can remove it without any difficulty using a screwdriver. Aslo, you can just use your hands if the headlight cover is merely slotted in.
Step 4: Once you have successfully removed the cover, unplug the bulb by rotating it counterclockwise. (Note: turning direction may vary for every vehicle).
Step 5: When you've removed the old bulb, install the new one and attach its corresponding cable wires. Don't forget to reattach your headlight cover as well.
Step 6: After you've done these basic steps, test if your new headlight bulb works by starting the engine and checking it yourself.