Many improvements have been made in the past decade when it comes to automotive lighting. While for household lighting the developments have been mostly directed toward efficiency, vehicle headlights were improved to the point where they illuminate the road much better without causing blinding to other drivers and participants in traffic.
It all started with halogen headlights, which were successors to incandescent lights. Halogen bulbs, which are responsible for the beam of light you see from the headlights, were first presented in 1962, but really got going in the 80s’.
Compared to their predecessors, they shined with a whiter and brighter light, but most importantly, they had a much longer lifespan, which made them a more reliable solution.
Best Halogen Headlight Bulbs
|Sylvania SilverStar Ultra|
|Compatible with the following bulb types: 9003, 9004, 9005, 9006, 9007, 9012 H1, H7, H11, H13|
|Philips H7 X-tremeVision|
|Compatible with the following bulb types: 9003, 9004, 9005, 9006, 9007, 9008/H13, H1, H7, H11|
|Bosch Gigalight Plus|
|Increases the road illumination by up to 120 percent in comparison with conventional halogen bulbs.|
|Osram Ultra life|
|Ideal for frequent drivers and people who turn on daytime running lights|
Halogen bulbs are also cheap to make, especially when compared to modern solutions such as HID and LED bulbs. The best halogen headlights today offer good illumination on the road, reliable performance for several years, and they are cheap to buy.
Due to these improvements, halogen bulbs still remain one of the most popular options for less expensive vehicles. Most compact cars today come with halogen bulbs from the factory, with HID and LED headlights offered as a costly option.
With that said, even though most halogen headlights come with the same specifications imprinted on them, namely the strength of the light they produce in Lumens and the Wattage, there are still differences between them.
Also, not all halogen bulbs fit every vehicle – there are several different sizes and fitments available. Before we discuss those things, let’s first see how these bulbs work in the first place.
How do Halogen Headlights work?
Strictly speaking, halogen bulbs are mostly similar to incandescent bulbs in the way they produce the beam of light. In other words, a tungsten filament is heated to a high temperature of 4,500oF (2,500 oC), which produces light and heat.
However, while in incandescent bulbs the tungsten filament is encased in large glass casing and surrounded by inert gasses such as nitrogen and argon, the filament in halogen lights is placed in a much smaller enclosure made of quartz and surrounded by halogen gasses such as bromide and iodine.
The use of bromide and iodine makes all the difference here.
In incandescent lights, the inert gasses don’t react at all with the extremely hot tungsten, and because of that, the filament generates a lot of infrared light (heat), which in turn evaporates the tungsten. In halogen bulbs, bromide and iodine react with the evaporated tungsten atoms and bring them back to the filament.
In other words, the tungsten atoms are simply recycled and put back to work. Due to this chemical reaction, halogen bulbs shine brighter and have a longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs. Oh, and the quartz enclosure? It’s there because quartz has a higher melting point than glass. If the glass was used, then it would have melted that close to the filament.
How to Find the Right Halogen Bulb for Your Vehicle?
Through the years, bulb manufacturers presented several different halogen bulbs. Some of those bulbs work only for the low beam, some only for the high beam, and some have two filaments inside and produce both low beam and high beam.
There are also specially designed models for fog lights, stop lights, parking lights and turn signals, which further complicates the matter. Bulbs also differ in the way they’re attached to the headlamp and have distinctive designs for easier recognition.
With all the different options available, at first, it may seem hard to find one that will suit your particular car. Luckily, you can find the information on every bulb that’s installed in your car in the owners’ manual in the headlights section.
But what if you don’t have the owners’ manual at hand and you’re on the road? Then you can read the same information on the bulb that turned bad after you remove (i.e., 9005). Or you can use our automotive bulb finder by specifying the vehicle you have, and the year it was made.
Halogen Headlights Pros and Cons
Halogen headlight bulbs are still the most dominant form of lamps used in vehicles today, so they must have a lot of advantages then, right? Well, that’s only half true. The most significant advantage of halogen bulbs is that they are very inexpensive when compared to other bulbs.
They are also straightforward to replace – you can do that while on the road. They also produce bright white light which illuminates the road well and works both with projector and reflector headlights.
That said, when compared to HID and LED lights, halogen bulbs produce less light and consume more electricity. The beam from these bulbs cannot be as easily projected on the road and may be dispersed in other, unwanted areas, which can cause blinding in other drivers. In the end, while they last longer than incandescent bulbs, HID and LED lights last even longer.
How to Choose the Best Aftermarket Halogen Headlights?
Honestly, it is always recommended to go for companies you trust, such as Philips, Osram, Sylvania, GE, etc. These manufacturers are known for producing halogen bulbs that last a very long time, yet still, produce bright light.
You can also find some cheaper bulbs on the market, but they don’t last nearly as long as premium halogen bulbs from established manufacturers. That said, even some premium manufacturers offer lamps that are listed as maximum performance.
These bulbs produce a brighter light than the ones you have in your vehicle already but have a shorter lifespan. Long-life bulbs, on the other hand, last longer but have less bright light output.
How Long Do Halogen Headlights Last?
Premium halogen bulbs should last at least 1,000 hours or around four years of driving for the average vehicle owner. If you live in areas that require the use of headlights during the day, that may fall to two years. Cheaper models may last even less than that, or in the region of 500 to 800 hours.
What are Better Options to Upgrade Halogen Headlights?
The best option to upgrade the halogen bulbs in your vehicle is HID headlights, also known as Xenon bulbs due to their brighter output and lesser energy consumption. LED headlights are another exciting option, but they don’t play well with older headlight designs.