HID Xenon Headlights no longer a luxury
HID headlights were once a luxury only afforded by those wealthy enough to purchase a high end imported vehicle, but in recent years local manufactures such as Ford, Dodge, Chevy and Toyota have been offering HID headlights as an option for new car buyers.
HID (high intensity discharge) headlights bulbs work by producing light with an electric arc, rather than a glowing filament like traditional bulbs. They’re also more durable, offering a service life of as much as four times the number of hours of a halogen bulb.
HID bulbs are color temperature rated by a system know as Kelvin (K). Yellow is 3000K, the most natural white light is rated at 4300K and more extreme colors like deep blue and purple are rated at 10,000 and 12,000K respectively.
BMW was the first to introduce HID headlights into the US market way back in 1993 as an option on the 7 series. The ballasts, which power the HID bulbs were at the time about the size of a building brick, where modern slim ballasts are now the size of cell phone. The first American made vehicle released with HIDs was the Lincoln Mark VIII back in 1996. It used a DC voltage system which proved inferior to the current AC systems used in all other vehicles today.
Most vehicles with halogen headlights can be converted to HID using an aftermarket HID headlight kit. They are available for a wide range of vehicles and in many different bulb sizes. The conversion kits include the ballasts and wiring and they’re also plug and play, meaning they come with connector clips to join into your existing wiring. They can be easily installed by the average car enthusiast with a few basic tools.
CANBUS ballasts are the newest addition to the HID product range. These are suited to vehicles with electronic computer controlled headlight systems including daytime running lights.
Safe driving studies have proven HID headlights offer drivers safer night time vision by providing clearer vision of obstacles because the light omitted is closer to natural sunlight. Some however, argue that the glare of these super bright lights are in fact a hazard for other road users.
Some US states have laws governing the use of HID headlights. The laws require vehicles to have headlamp lens cleaning systems and automatic beam leveling control, though these requirements are mostly ignored by performance car enthusiasts in favor of the bright colored lights which tend to offer a unique look to any vehicle they’re fitted to.