Car engineers are constantly testing and improving headlights systems.
So far there are numerous types and shapes of headlights with different improvements.  Although the general point of view is that “newer is better”, which is most often the true, it’s not always like that. Some older systems can have their advantages. There are 4 types of  headlights and they all have good and bad sides.

1. Halogen headlights

This type of headlights are the most popular. The reason is quite clear and logical: they are simple and cheap. Halogen headlights have a “life cycle” of about 1,000 working hours under normal circumstances, and its replacement doesn’t cost much. However, halogen units aren’t always synonym for efficiency.

When the halogen headlights come to its end, it’s usually because the tungsten in the vapor evaporates, creating layers on the glass, which leads to tearing of fibers and becomes dysfunctional.

Another reason for their failure is a high temperature – unused energy.

If You want to extend life of halogen headlights bulbs, here is a TIP for You! When You are replaceing it, You must avoid touching the glass. The grease and dirt from Your fingers will stick to the quartz glass, which can lead to uneven warming and drastically shorten the life of the bulb. If You do touch it, try to clean the place with a clean cloth and alcohol-based substance.

Halogen lights have many advantages: good lighting for low price; they come in different sizes, which means they can be installed on most car models. They can be gradually dimmed, allowing manufacturers to create different versions in relation to the type of bodywork and dimensions.

Advantages:

  •  Easy to replace
  •  simple construction
  •  different dimensions
  •  low price

Disadvantages:

  • wast of energy
  •  additional maintenance is inevitable
LED or halogen headlights
Halogen or xenon headlights

2. HID headlights (Xenon headlights)

xenon headlights
Xenon headlights
xenon headlights

This type of headlights is known for High Intensity Discharge (HID). They are usually a more efficient solution, mostly because of the color temperature and the amount of light they produce. First xenon headlights appeared on the BMW 7 Series, in 1991, and gradually became the main option for several automotive companies.

Advantages? Xenon headlights are much more efficient. Of course, this can easily be a major flaw, especially for the drivers from the opposite direction. If the angle is not well adjusted, the intensity of the headlights can disturb other drivers on the road.

Of course, xenon bulbs are available in different sizes and versions, which makes them good for use in different types of cars. Another great advantage is a rather long lifetime that exceeds halogen bulbs. It’s estimated it to about 2,000 hours in normal conditions.

HID uses more energy to start the lightning process, but after reaching the operating temperature, it consumes less power than the standard bulbs do. However, You will hardly notice the difference in the fuel consumption.

Disadvantages? Replacement and maintenance cost more than halogen light. HID lamps are complex, and they require device called “ballast” to regulates the level of voltage.

You should know that HID lights need few seconds to reach full capacity and for this reason they are not very good for separate “long” headlights. Some cars use HID “short” lights and standard bulbs for a high beam. On premium car models, the same HID unit works in both ways.

The most important, some xenon headlights may have a negative impact on health as certain versions may contain toxic substances such as mercury. In some countries, special regulations prohibit use of them if such a substance have been applied.

Advantages:

  •  Longer life comparing to halogen bulbs.   
  • Better efficiency because it requires less energy.  
  • Better visibility for the driver

Disadvantages:

  •  Intensity of light that can interrupt-disturb others drivers
  •   High price
  •   More complex system than halogen bulbs
  •   Possible presence of harmful substances
  •   It takes a few seconds to reach full capacity

3. LED headlights

Led headlight
Led headlight

The automotive industry has made great progress in recent years, and car manufacturers are turning more and more to LED technology. On paper, this solution is a great for mass production, but it still has several drawbacks.

The most important aspect of LED headlights is that they need very low power compared to the classic halogen. The first serial application was to Audi R8 in 2004.

In general, LED headlights are somewhere between halogen and xenon lights in terms of lighting, although provide a more focused beam. Also, thanks to the small dimensions, LED diodes allow design of all possible shapes that perfectly fit the car’s lines.

There are a numbers of problems that need to be clarified. For example, diodes create a certain amount of heat at the bottom of the transmitter (chip). So, when electricity passes through it, there is a potential risk for components and cables. This is why LED headlights require a cooling system in the form of air flow or heat dissipation, otherwise melting will happen.

Also, cooling systems are located close to the engine, which is not a very cold environment, as many other systems produce higher temperatures. It turns out that LED headlights are more difficult to design and implement in the car, which at the same time makes them more expensive compared to halogen headlights.

Signal LEDs do not require cooling because they require less energy than the headlights, which prevents the risk of overheating.

Advantages:

  •   Small dimensions allow use of different shapes
  •   Very low power consumption
  •   More intense light compared to halogen bulbs
  • Cheaper than the xenon lights

 Disadvantages:

  • High production price
  •  High temperatures that endanger the surrounding components
  •  It’s harder to design and fight with already high temperatures in the engine.

4. Laser headlights

laser headlights
Laser headlights

 BMW and Audi are striving to introduce laser headlights into a series production, promising 1,000 times better performance than LEDs, with an even better shape. We all know that lasers can be dangerous. Also they light a very small area, let’s say the size of a coin. So, how can laser headlights be a good idea?

Just like in case of xenon headlights, this new technology uses lasers for a part of the overall lighting process. Of course, You will not have two sets of powerful lasers that burn everything they came across.

As BMW explained, their system uses three blue lasers to emit light on small mirrors, which focus their energy on a tiny lens with yellow phosphor gas. Basically, we look at the light created by phosphor, not the laser itself. This makes the system useful in traffic.

What happens if the focus is seriously damaged or lost? BMW says it’s simply automatically deactivated.

The light created in this process can be 1000 times more intense than the LEDs, using two thirds or even half power. Thanks to phosphor, the color temperature of the light is very close to the natural daylight. Given they are more powerful than LEDs, the laser headlights provide a double long beam. They are small enough to provide maximum flexibility regarding styling and convenience.

BMW laser headlights

BMW laser headlights
BMW laser headlights

The disadvantage of this system, as BMW says, is that only works for long beams and it comes with burning price. Six high-tech lasers in the headlamp (12 total), increase price of the car for 7,800 euros. The price includes automatic light intensity reduction technology, as it is safe for drivers who do not want to get blinded in the distance of 600 meters.

Audi’s laser technology works in a very similar way, using four lasers in headlamp.

Advantages:

  • High energy efficiency
  • Compact packaging
  • 1,000 times more intense light compared to LED headlights and twice longer beam

Disadvantages:

  •  Extremely expensive
  •  They can not currently be used for both “short” and “long” lights, so they have to work together with LED or HID systems
  •  They need cooling because they create a much higher temperature than the LED

Post-production Conversions Headlights

xenon headlights kit
Xenon headlights kit

Many drivers, with older models of cars, by nature are not equipped with the latest “screams” of automotive technology. Since not everyone has the opportunity to afford a new car, there is a market for replacement parts to solve the problem.

It is a general idea post-production conversions exist to “embitter life” for other drivers on the road. So in some countries it is illegal. However, on the other hand, some solutions are’n so bad.

The most common conversion sets are HID / Xenon type. Keep in mind that if they do not fit the projectors, they are not only illegal, but also dangerous, both for you and other traffic participants. The problem isn’t just high intensity of light, but also its dissipation on all sides. Some conversions are “on and drive”, but most of them need adjusting.

Lately, a large number of LED sets have appeared which have certain advantages over halogen and xenon lights. In the first place, it saves energy, which means that the car will consume less fuel (do not expect “crazy” savings). Second, LED lights usually last longer than any other type of headlights. However, better quality solution. In third place, the LED does not require a degree of maintenance as a standard bulb, but the installation must be done professionally, especially because of additional heat.

 For now there are no laser post-sales conversions for older models, but considering speed of technology progress, we would not be surprised to see them in few years.

Therefore, the purchase of post-sales components should be taken seriously and not be risked with some “Chinese” and similar products. On the other hand, if you remain in the “manufacturer” solution and do not want to experiment, also look for high-quality components, because in the end they will save money.

Advantages:

  • Cost much less than many manufacturers charge for the same thing in the first installation
  •  Significantly improve visibility
  •  There is no need to buy a new car to get better lights

Disadvantages:

  • If they are not installed correctly or if they are of poor quality, they aren’t only clean overspending, they can also endanger traffic safety.

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Your Automotive Fixing team