Car headlight bulbs guide

There are several different types of car headlight bulbs on the market these days – incandescent, halogen, xenon and LED. Choosing the right bulb for your car depends on personal preference as there are lots of differences between each bulb. This brief guide will help explain the choices available and let you choose what you feel is right.

Incandescent car headlights

Incandescent bulbs are the standard type of bulb you would find on many cars, although halogen is becoming more popular. It is a filament bulb (using a tungsten alloy for the filament) which will glow brightly when an electric current flows through it. It typically uses more energy to power than led bulbs but the brightness of the bulb is perfectly adequate for all driving conditions. You can expect this type of bulb to be cheaper than any of the alternatives, since the lifetime is less than other bulbs due to the tungsten filament eventually evaporating after many uses. It also has another benefit in that it produces more heat so that in freezing conditions it can defrost the lens of the light, enabling better visibility in winter.

Halogen car headlights

Many cars on the road today use halogen headlight bulbs. It is based on the incandescent bulb design with similar benefits but the filament is enclosed in halogen gas. Halogen produces a chemical reaction to help redeposit evaporated tungsten particles back on the filament. This produces a long-lasting filament compared to incandescent and a brighter for longer bulb. However, it doesn’t mean that this bulb will last forever. The halogen gas doesn’t redeposit the tungsten to the exact same point on the filament and therefore leads to weak spots and eventually breaks. Halogen bulbs are more expensive than incandescent because of their increased lifetime.

Xenon car headlights

Xenon car bulbs are usually a factory-fitted option and can be fairly expensive. It is possible to buy the lights separately as a complete unit (with self-levelling and cleaning systems) as long as you can get a garage to fit them. However the xenon conversion kits are illegal in the UK and you will fail your MOT, so make sure you get the complete unit. Xenon lights, also known as high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs, use two electrodes and a combination of xenon gas. The electrons jump between each electrode producing a light which is then amplified by the ionised xenon gas. They are known to give a blue light tinge thanks to this process. Compared with halogen bulbs they pretty much double the brightness and lifetime. They also draw less energy than conventional halogen light bulbs. Replacement and fitting is not a cheap or easy process due to the necessary self-levelling and cleaning systems involved, so weigh this up before deciding.

LED car headlights

LEDs (light-emitting diode) bulbs are becoming more popular on the roads due to the manufacturing improvement in brightness and high energy efficiency. Instead of using a filament which breaks down over time, LED bulbs are attached to a semiconductor; electrons move along the semiconductor which illuminates the bulb. Therefore, most bulbs will last the lifetime of the car. The light emitted is closer to daylight colour, brightness can vary between manufacturers but there is a reduction in glare compared with other types of bulbs. These benefits do mean that the cost is high. Plus the lack of heat produced by the energy efficient lights means you can be prone to icy headlamps in winter, potentially reducing their brightness.

Fitting headlights to your car

Whichever light you decide to fit on your car, make sure you know how to fit it correctly by referring to the cars user manual, or visit your local garage for help. Here at MCM Garage we can help fit and supply all types of car lights to your vehicle. Just give us a call today on 01761 415 501 or contact us via our online form and we can set-up a quick appointment.

Car light