Since the first car was invented, manufacturers have been looking for ways to make improvements from bumper to bumper and everywhere in between. You may have noticed, over the last few years, that headlights have changed in appearance. In fact, the automotive industry has started introducing LED and HID headlights to luxury vehicles and within the next few years, will likely be standard across the board. With the introduction of these advancements’ halogen lights will become a thing of the past. If automakers are leaving halogen lights behind and incorporating LED or HID headlights on vehicles, it begs the question, which is better – LED or HID headlights?
Most vehicles today are equipped with halogen headlights that use a filament that heats up and glows. Halogen lights contain a combination of argon and nitrogen, trapped inside the bulb with a filament made of tungsten. An electrical charge is sent to the filament which causes it to heat up to around 4500 degrees F, resulting in a glow inside the light. Eventually, tungsten filament reaches the end of its life cycle, around 800 hours, and the bulb will require replacement. Halogen light bulbs on vehicles are relatively inexpensive and can be replaced by you, on most vehicles, as a DIY project, if done properly. Just be sure not to get any fingerprints on the bulb as the oils from your fingers will cause the bulb to burn out prematurely.
Xenon HID Lights
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) functions like neon lights using xenon gas rather than neon. An electrical current passes through a tube equipped with electrodes on both ends. The current that passes between the two electrodes causes the xenon and halide salts to react. The xenon ionizes, keeping the current flowing, vaporizing the salts, decreasing the resistance between the two electrodes. Then, the light is maintained by the vehicle’s power supply. Perhaps the biggest drawback to HID lights is that this entire process can take a bit of time, which in an emergency when immediate light is needed, the HID falters. The cost of replacements can be quite pricey compared to the halogen light. The benefits of HIDs, however, may outweigh the downsides as they last longer, burn brighter, and use less power than the halogen light. While not applicable to all vehicles, many vehicles today can be upgraded from halogen to HID lights with a conversion kit.
HID headlights give off a very bright, very whitish bluish appearance, illuminating the darkness much better than its counterpart. HIDs last longer, burning at least 2,000 hours and up 8,000. If you spend a lot of time on the road after dark, HIDs are a much better option for your vehicle as they will last for a very long time and will be worth the cost for the upgrade. Conversely, if you don’t spend much time on the road after dark, it’s probably not worth the expense. The biggest complaint about HID headlights is that they are often considered too bright to other drivers. Some drivers may even mistake HIDs for hi-beams. If you’re considering an upgrade to HID, it’s important to note that HID headlights must be purchased from a reputable source and installed by a professional. In some areas, aftermarket HID kits are prohibited, check local laws before purchasing.
Very bright, LED headlights are seen most often today in high-end luxury vehicles. Negative electrons run against holes in a semiconductor, creating a light emitting diode (LED) and releasing a photon. This process is known as electroluminescence. This process happens thousands of times per second, creating light. LEDs are ideal as they are brighter but do not produce the same glare that HIDs are responsible for. LEDs are compact and energy efficient. Unlike the HID, LED headlights provide instant light when turned on. The disadvantage of LEDs, however, is although the light themselves do not get hot, they do cause heat in surrounding assemblies and wiring harnesses. A cooling system, as part of the LED assembly, is supposed to help alleviate the heat, but it is not as effective as it could be. Some halogen equipped vehicles can be upgraded to LED headlights, however, the cooling system must be installed in the engine compartment, an unfavorable area, as the engine is the hottest place within the vehicle. Like the HID headlight, they shine very brightly and are often mistaken as hi-beams as well.
It’s Up To You
Deciding which is better- halogen, HID, or LED depends on what kind of driver you are. If you’re a daytime commuter, a stay-at-home parent that drives to school and back to pick up and drop off kids, or an avoider of night-time driving, halogen lights are idealistic for you. For drivers who live in rural areas with limited street lights, night owls, and frequent nighttime drivers, HID or LED lights are a better option for you. Both HID and LED lights have their advantages and disadvantages; choosing which is best for your vehicle comes down to personal preference. Determine which type of headlight fits your lifestyle to choose what’s best for you.