Headlight Buying Guide

If your headlights aren’t as bright as they used to be, it might be time for a replacement. Learn about the types of headlights in this headlight buying guide.

Headlights 101

Whether it’s a clear, starry night, or you’re stuck in the middle of a storm, your headlights will help guide you home. They’re one of the most important features on your car; after all, if you can’t see where you’re going, how are you going to get anywhere? If you’re feeling a little left in the dark, read on to learn more about headlights.
 
 

Types of Headlights

Halogen%20Headlights

Halogen Headlights

Between a low cost and a long life, halogen lights are the most common type of bulb on the road. This type of light is made of a tungsten filament encased in a bulb of halogen gas, which creates a bright, white light. As a testament to its popularity, this type of light bulb has been around since the mid-1960s, though more efficient types of bulbs are starting to make their way to the market.
 
Lifespan: Roughly 500-1000 hours
Pros: Bright light, inexpensive
Cons: Produces excess heat, not energy efficient
Xenon%20High-Intensity%20Discharge%20Headlights

Xenon High-Intensity Discharge Headlights

Xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) lights were introduced to the market in the mid-1990s, and are two to three times brighter than halogen lights. Unlike halogen bulbs, these lights don’t have a filament. Instead, they use xenon gas and a stabilized arc of electricity to generate a whiter light. Xenon-powered headlights can provide brighter and whiter illumination that can improve visibility. They’re distinguished by their cool white glow, with a blue tinge around the edges. They’re also energy-efficient; xenon lights provide about double the light output of an H7 halogen light, but only use two-thirds of the energy.
 
Lifespan: Roughly 2000 hours
Pros: Strong, white light, energy efficient
Cons: Pricier option, the glare can be strong for other drivers
 
LED%20Headlights

LED Headlights

LED headlights were first introduced in the early 2000s, and are still undergoing development. They’re typically used in higher-end vehicles, but they’re slowly making their way into the mainstream. This type of bulb emits a bright, white light, but they’re not quite as bright as HIDs. Some manufacturers claim a lifespan of up to 15,000 hours for their headlights.
 
Pros: Long life, energy efficient
Cons: Expensive, not available for many makes and models
 

Features

Brightness & Whiteness +

Generally speaking, the whiter and brighter the headlight, the better. Whiter lights can help you see more of the road in certain driving conditions, increasing your peripheral vision so you can see a wider area around you. Brightness, or “illumination”, helps you see further in the distance, so you can be better prepared for what’s down the road. These details make a big difference when you’re heading out on long trips down dark and winding roads.

The Kelvin Scale +

Different driving conditions need different light, which is where the Kelvin scale comes in. A Kelvin isa unit used to measure the hue of a light source which can help you figure out which type of lighting you need. Lights measuring lower on the Kelvin scale have amber- and orange-like hues, which provide contrast and highlight objects in a way that makes them ideal for rainy, foggy or snowy conditions. If you spend a lot of time driving at night or on dark roads, look for lights in the middle or high end of the scale, such as white lights (3200K to 3850K) or lights that are bluer than sunlight (4200K). These types of light help amplify dark objects and let you see more of the road ahead.

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When to replace your headlights

The rule of thumb is to change your headlights every year, but they might need replacing before the year is up. Headlights naturally dim over time, and it’s important to change them before they become too dull or burnt out. If you notice your beams aren’t as bright as they used to be, take a minute to check them out. First, give them a quick scrub to get rid of dirt and debris that might be covering the light. If they’re still not strong enough, then it’s time for a replacement. Tip: always replace both of your headlights at the same time for a balanced and even beam.
Legal
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.

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