Car headlights play a critical role on the road as they help ensure that drivers travel safely at night. Without them, it’d be impossible to travel when the night starts to set in. Knowing the different types of car headlights in the market is critical especially since you’ll have to replace damaged bulbs at some point.
In the majority of headlight sealing (housings), you’ll likely spot a high or low-beam headlight, cornering light, parking light, turn sign, or blinker. You may also have daytime running lights or DRLs, which light on every time the car engine is running.
Knowing all car headlights types available is important if you want to find the best LED headlights, Xenon bulbs or traditional filament bulbs for your car. But you might want to ask yourself first, what kind of headlights do I have?
At the end of the day, your headlights may stop working and you may be forced to replace the bulbs that blew out. In short, there are three types of headlight bulbs you’ll find in most car headlights and in some cases these bulbs can be used together.
Alongside different types of headlights, there are also many different types of headlight fittings which is essential you know before you buy. We’ve written a guide for people asking what headlight bulbs do I need?.
What Are The Different Types of Headlights?
There are three main different types of headlights. These car headlights types are Halogen, Xenon & LED headlights. Each work quite differently in the way they produce light and therefore produce different types of light on the road.
Halogen or filament headlights have ruled the market for a very long time. It’s only recently that people have become aware of other robust alternatives. These headlights work like normal household bulbs in the sense that they shine brightly when a very thin metal filament is heated by an electrical current.
The good news about halogen bulbs is that they are compatible with most applications. They are also cost-effective, last long, and are dimmable. Also, they are easy to replace, unlike sealed beams which are integrated with reflectors and lenses.
What’s more, these bulbs are filled with halogen gases which make the bulbs hotter and brighter. But you’ll also find bulbs (headlights) that use Xenon gas instead of halogen. Xenon gas produces white and bright color than halogen.
In old fleet truck models, halogen bulbs are enclosed in a headlight lens, Therefore, they have to be changed as one (unit) and that’s why they are referred to as sealed beams.
Parking lights, taillights, reverse lights, and turn signals use halogen or filament bulbs, though more and more people are switching to LED headlights.
One disadvantage is that halogen bulbs produce a faint yellow glow, so the light isn’t ineffective on the road. But these lights work well when there’s fog because white light tends to bounce back in these conditions. All in all, halogen bulbs can be a great solution if you’re driving under foggy weather conditions.
HID or High-Intensity Discharge bulbs employ a totally different technology. In principle, they don’t use filament bulbs. Instead, they work differently as the light is produced when an arc of electric power jumps across a pair of electrodes trapped inside a glass tube full of xenon gas.
These lights use a ballast, which is an electric circuit responsible for starting and controlling the light output. The ballast is critical as it increases the voltage and creates an arc that dials back. HID lights shine brighter and last longer than filament bulbs.
The main advantage of HID bulbs is that they produce lots of blue-white light. The lights have longer wavelengths which travel faster and tend to scatter less yellow glow (halogen). In summary, these bulbs produce brighter light and can enhance safety when driving on the road at night.
But these car headlights types also have a few disadvantages. First off, they take several seconds before they spark, warm up and burn in full brightness. In short, they come on quite slowly and don’t flash on and off quickly. And since they produce large amounts of blue-white light, they can irritate other drivers on the road.
These bulbs are a bit costlier than standard halogen bulbs and replacing them is quite complex. The good thing is that cars using HID lights can also use Halogen bulbs, especially for the passing light or high beam. Sometimes a car can have a combination of both HID and Halogen lights.
LED Headlight Bulbs
For starters, LED simply means Light Emitting Diode. Headlights using LED bulbs are increasingly becoming popular among car users for a number of reasons. Firstly, LED bulbs consume much less power than HID or Halogen bulbs and last longer. For this reason, LED technology is gaining acceptance among the masses and it’s being used in headlights, indicators, and taillights.
But it’s important to note that LED technology is relatively new compared to the aforementioned alternatives. For instance, low or high beam LED headlights are currently being used on hybrid and high-end cars. However, as LED technology becomes widely popular, there’s no reason why most cars won’t be using this technology.
Some of the common uses of LED technology include brake lights, blinkers, fog lights, etc. The good thing about LED bulbs is that they last for a very long time so you won’t have to replace them frequently.
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While you can retrofit or convert your regular filament bulbs to work with LED technology, there’s one major problem. Since LED lights have low power consumption, they can set off warning lights on the dash and may cause a false alarm that your car isn’t working.
One solution for this problem is to get CANbus LED headlights fitted with tiny resistors that increase power usage in regular bulbs. In old car models, LED headlights may not flash the way they should without the added resistor or blink relay/state flasher installation.
All in all, LED headlights offer much better lighting than the other two alternatives above. However, although we think they are the best type of headlights around, they’re a little bit more expensive.
When shopping for the best type of headlights, it’s essential to know the different headlight types out there. Ultimately, the type of car you own will have a major influence on what headlights you use. So now when you ask yourself, what kind of headlights do I have, we would like you to say LED headlights!