When buying a headlight for your car, you have two options – go to your local motor parts retailer or dealer and ask for the standard bulb for your vehicle, otherwise, if you are wanting to upgrade to Xenon or LED headlights, there are some things you need to consider before making a purchase.
What type bulb do you want?
As already alluded to, there are three types of bulbs that are available – the halogen bulb, the Xenon (or HID) bulb, and the LED bulb. Each come with their own pros and cons.
Halogen bulbs, although not the greatest on performance in terms of illumination of the road ahead, or the longest lasting, have stood the test of time. If your car already has these fitted, you can be confident they will work without a hitch.
Xenon bulbs give great illumination of the road surface. They also have a longer life-span than halogen bulbs. There can, however, be issues with regulations and you may have to have some special features added to your car (such lens cleaning systems and automatic beam levelling control).
LED bulbs give excellent performance in terms of illumination and contrast of the beam, and also give the longest lifespan.
Does it fit your car?
The safest option is to replace the bulb with the standard bulb recommended by the manufacturer. You cannot go wrong here. If you are going for an upgrade, then there are a couple of things to consider.
Firstly, does your car have the correct housing for the bulb? There are generally two types of housing – the reflective type and the projector type. Halogen bulbs can be used in both, however, Xenon and LED bulbs will need projector type housings.
This is not to say that the components will not fit in a reflective type housing, but they are not designed to function properly in this setup. Because they emit a much brighter light, the nature of the housing will cause oncoming traffic to be blinded and you will end up with many an irate fellow traveler sharing the road with you. Not a nice situation to be in!
Secondly, does the new bulb fit into the space where it is meant to fit? Both the Xenon and LED type bulbs may have extra pieces added to the unit, such as power packs and cooling fans. These are either in an all-in-one arrangement, or as separate in line units. It would be useful to do some research before purchasing a bulb to ensure it fits your particular vehicle.
Furthermore, because of the electronics involved, there are sometimes incompatibility issues with some of the newer bulbs. Again, it would be useful to find out this information from reviews or the supplier before purchasing a bulb.
Lastly, you need to make sure you have ordered the correct size of bulb for your car. This is easy enough to find out from the car manufacturer or on an online bulb size register.
The next obvious thing to consider is price. Like most things in this technologically advanced age in which we live, the newer the technology, the higher the price.
The cheapest option is the halogen bulb. It has been used in headlights in various forms since the 1960s. Although this is an old technology, the fact that it has stood the test of time and is still being used in new cars today, does not mean that it is not suitable for use in your car.
If this is what is in your car already, there is no reason why you should not replace it with the same thing – your car has, after all, been designed that way.
The next option in terms of price (and age) is the Xenon bulb.
Lastly, the latest technology that has been incorporated into headlights is the LED bulb – which generally comes with a slightly higher price tag, but nevertheless, still doable for most modern car owners.
Once you have settled on which bulb type you are wanting to purchase, it is always good to have a look at some reviews about potential products. You will very quickly pick up what the quality of the product is like and what the customer service standard of the supplier is – both of which are important to consider when purchasing a bulb.