Poor headlights are a factor in roughly 50% of nighttime accidents.
This notwithstanding, headlights are among the least thought of safety features in a car.
The type of headlights you choose will impact on the aesthetics of your car and your ability to drive in the dark among other things.
Fortunately, you do not have to be an automotive engineer to know what to settle for. Here is an in-depth look at the types of headlights available and the best choice for your car.
Types of Headlights
As with any other car part, picking the best one requires an understanding of what the market has to offer.
And this decision is not only necessary after your lights are broken. Changing your headlights is one of the best ways of modifying a car.
Here are common types of headlights and their main advantages and disadvantages.
These feature a forward facing bulb cased in a reflective box. Early models were incandescent. These are merely an upgrade version of your home light bulb.
They are rare to find nowadays, unless on classic cars.
Standard headlights get very hot, give a muted light and are easily damaged by heat and vibrations.
Initially, they used a tungsten filament suspended in a vacuum. Electricity would pass through the wire, causing it to light and glow. The vacuum in the bulb would prevent it from oxidizing and breaking.
Halogen bulbs improved on standard headlights. These bulbs use halogen gas instead of a vacuum. They provide a more uniform forward facing beam and are among the most common lights on the roads today.
Projector Beam Headlights
These are similar to the standard headlights. However, they feature a special rear facing bulb.
This bulb provides a more focused, brighter light by illuminating the reflective case of the headlight.
When it comes to aesthetics, halo headlights are among the best there is.
Halo headlights are arranged around a projector beam with a halo of light; this gives the illusion of big bright eyes.
In theory, they add very little light. Their value lies in their stylish, sophisticated appearance.
These are also known as Xenon headlights. This name comes from the Xenon gas used in the bulb that allows it to glow.
These headlights provide the furthest visibility in a headlight.
As opposed to the warm hue of light projected by standard and projector beam headlights, HID lights offer a cooler bluish hue.
They also tend to last longer because they do not use filaments.
The downside of these headlights is that while everything right in front of you will be bright as day, anything outside the beam will be pitch dark.
This creates a safety problem while checking mirrors, road intersections blind spots and navigating parking spots.
These came into the market much later on and are some of the most energy efficient headlights available.
Aside from efficiency, they are also among the most aesthetically pleasing.
Besides, LEDs are extremely versatile and can be shaped into many beautiful headlight and taillight designs.
Also, they are compact and switch on and off instantaneously.
Another important feature of LEDs is their ability to remain cool. They can remain cooler than all other bulb types, which also makes them outlast other bulb types.
However, the high resistance inside the light can make the emitter chip very hot.
If you want versatility, these are the lights to go for. LEDs can project light in any spectrum, and without relying solely on the blue, white hues. This makes them capable of illuminating the way ahead, without blinding anyone.
LED also allows reasonable illumination at the back of the car and the sides. This is a great safety feature more so when driving in a foggy environment.
Read more here on how to find the best-LED headlights in the market.
These are the newest in headlight technology.
These headlights use laser technology instead of electricity to stimulate a gas that produces photons, just like HID lights.
When it comes to versatility, laser lights are more versatile than LED lights. This quality allows for even more shapes and designs.
They also deploy over 1000 times the energy output of LED bulbs, at a fraction of the energy cost.
At 6,500 Kelvin range, these lights burn close to LEDs and natural daylight.
They can flash on and off as quickly as LEDs as well. This notwithstanding, they are unlikely to replace LEDs in ancillary applications such as brake signals and turn lights.
Their light allowances are either off or extremely bright, which is their common disadvantage. This means they work best with more traditional lighting systems in place that offer more options.
Their cost is even higher than that of LEDs. They also heat up even more, requiring more cooling technology.
LED headlights take the cake on all levels: brightness, versatility, efficiency, aesthetics and most importantly, safety.
While they might be costly, their longevity and stellar performance make them more than worth it in the end.
Irrespective of which types of headlights you pick, they will set you back a tidy sum. However, proper care and maintenance can give you longer service and better value for money.
Here are three tips to ensure you get the best out of your headlights:
1. Pay more attention to the headlights when washing your car to avoid buildup of dirt and debris.
2. Ensure to have the bulb changed by a professional. If you want to DIY, then consult and follow the instruction on the car’s manual.
3. Apply UV sealant regularly.
It is also important to find safe ways of removing the cloudy yellowish cover. Using chemicals that are too harsh could cause more damage to the headlights. This is a common problem with all types of headlights.
To Let Go or Not
If despite your best efforts your headlights still perform below par, then it’s probably time for a larger conversation beyond types of headlights.
To trade in or to fix it up? Find out the best option on our blog here.