See Further, Be Safer with New Headlights

by Rich Ellis

Headlights are a critically important vehicle safety feature. In the dark, you literally can’t drive without them. But like many vehicle parts and systems, they may not get a driver’s attention or even consideration until there’s a problem – namely a burned-out bulb, misaligned headlight, or difficulty seeing the road at night. 


Whether it’s a headlight, flashlight, or desk lamp, there’s science behind light bulbs specifying just how much light they emit. It’s a measurement called lumens. The more lumens a bulb has to throw at an object, the brighter it’s going to appear to the human eye.


Any discussion about modern headlights focuses solely on the removable bulbs inside the headlight housing – unlike the vehicles of yesteryear that required replacement of the entire round or rectangular glass headlight when one burned out. Today, there are three main headlight types. 




These are the most common headlights now found in vehicles. They’re the least expensive, the most popular, and easy to replace. They burn hot, and shine a focused beam of yellowish-white light on the road ahead. Halogen gets the job done, even though it offers the least amount of lumens. 




Instead of filaments or gas, light emitting diodes produce the illumination in these headlights found increasingly on today’s newest vehicles. Compared to halogen, LED’s provide a wide pool of bright, white light. They’re small, allowing vehicle manufacturers to design them in a variety of configurations and point them in exactly the direction light is needed, but they burn hot, forcing heat dissipation to become part of the equation.  



Xenon or High-Intensity Discharge (HID) 

These Xenon-gas-filled bulbs light up the night by claiming the top stop for brightest lights. Easily recognizable because of their distinct blue-white light, they burn cool, have a long life, and can be retrofitted into virtually any type of vehicle after installing an appropriate conversion kit. 


As you consider the type of light that’s right for your vehicle and driving style, keep these general headlight tips in mind. 


  • New bulbs won’t make any difference if the vehicle’s once clear plastic headlight assemblies or lenses are cloudy from age and environmental exposure. The same applies if your headlights are misaligned – pointing at the sky instead of the road.


  • Replace headlights in pairs – when one burns out, the other isn’t far behind. 


  • If you opt to attempt a change on your own, don’t touch the glass on a new xenon bulb with bare hands. Oil on your skin can transfer to the bulb, creating a hot spot that shortens the bulb’s life significantly. Use a cotton glove or clean rag instead or have the job done by a trusted professional. 



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