Auto Repair

The Different Types Of Car Lights On The Market

Posted on in Auto Repair

Over the years, headlights have become a functional fashion statement.  Their function is to illuminate the road, but they need to look good while doing this.  This is one of the reasons why there are a number of different types of car lights on the market.  If you are in the market for some new lights, you need to know which ones are no longer used, which ones you should consider, and which are still purely a fashion statement.

The Incandescent Headlight

Incandescent lights are common in our homes, but they are not as common in our cars. These headlights are not used by modern cars and you should only look at them if you are retrofitting a classic car.  This is due to the fact that these are the oldest light bulbs around and are effectively a heavy-duty version of the lights in your home.

Incandescent headlights use a tungsten filament within a vacuum to provide light.  When electricity passes through the filament, it will heat up and start to glow.  The vacuum will keep the wire from breaking and instantly oxidizing.

The reason why these lights are no longer used is the fact that they are always hot and inefficient.  The light they cast is also weak and a yellow color which only reaches the intermediate distance.  Newer types of light bulbs are recommended for newer cars.

The Halogen Headlight

Halogen headlights are an improvement on the standard incandescent.  Instead of a vacuum in the bulb, they will use halogen gas.  The filament of the halogen bulb is not actually bigger than that of the incandescent bulb.  However, it is the use of a smaller gas tube and the smaller volume of gas which makes them brighter.

Halogen headlights are actually the most commonly used in cars today and they work well in most situations.  They are also cheap to buy, fairly long lasting, bright and have the ability to be dimmed.  The bulbs are also small and easy to replace making them the best choice for most cars.

Of course, there are some issues with these headlights as well and it is important to know what they are.  The primary issue is that the light still has a yellow hue to it which means that it does not cast light as far as you would think based on the power and brightness of the bulb.  This is not an issue when you are driving in fog because white light will generally produce more glare and limit visibility further.

Halogen headlights are the go-to for most people.  Their lower price makes them more attractive and they are able to provide enough light for most situations.  However, if you are looking for something better in the vision department, there are other headlights that you can choose.

The Xenon Headlight

The BMW 7 Series debuted the Xenon headlights which are also known as HID or plasma headlights.  Unlike their predecessors, these headlights do not have a filament in the bulb.  These lights are metal halide lamps and these bulbs are commonly used as grow lights in greenhouses.  These lights are also a relation to the bulbs in streetlights.

To work, these headlights will pass a very high voltage electrical arc between 2 contacts.  The gas mixture inside the bulb will have metal vapors which are melted by the electricity.  These vapors turn into plasma which produced the light that you need.

The light from these bulbs will be a blue-white color and will use a reflector to shine onto the road.  The light from these headlights is bright and intense which offers drivers a lot in terms of focusing versatility.  The light beam can be focused to extend far in front of the car or broadened to fill the entire area ahead of the car.

If you are looking purely at function, these headlights will be the best.  They are able to light more of the road than halogen bulbs and they will last longer.  This is due to the fact that these headlights lack a filament which will burn out.

Of course, there are some issues that you need to be aware of.  The first is that these lights take a few seconds to spark, warm up and come to full brightness which means they cannot be turned on quickly.  The brightness of the light will also cause irritation for other drivers and the light can kill night vision for a time.

If you are only looking at raw performance power, Xenon headlights will be the best option.  However, this power comes with issues such as a slow start time and the ability to blind other drivers.  Your night vision will also be affected when you use these lights.

The LED Headlight

LED light bulbs will shoot electrons against positively charged holes within a semiconductor.  When an electron falls into a hole while in a low energy state, it will release energy in the form of a photon.  This will be emitted from the semiconductor through a process known as electroluminescence which will produce the light.

Most cars already have a lot of LED lights in their dashboards and control indicators.  LED bulbs are compact, energy efficient and can be turned on instantly.  This makes them ideal for use in cars.

While the best LED Demon Eyes does run very cool, these headlights will have a bit of a heating issue.  The base of the emitter chip can get very hot and this can lead to the diode melting if a heat sink is not used.  This will add complexity to the headlight setup and increase the costs.

LED headlights are also very small which means that massive headlight buckets are no longer necessary.  While this can be helpful as the lights can be incorporated into the bodywork, it is not good news for people who like the more traditional car styling.  LED headlights can be made to put out light in any color spectrum which means you do not have to worry about glare from white light.