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Old 11-14-2010, 03:02 PM
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FAQs: Halogens v HIDs

Here's a little write-up in response to several requests. This should be a one-swing kind of deal to help noobs know the real truths and myths about new automotive lighting. Let's start with some terms you will see throughout this guide, then we will examine the basics of a headlight. A headlight is a pair of light-emitting devices on a motor vehicle. By law, a passenger vehicle needs to have two separate light mounts, and two separate beams, a high and low.

Watt- Measure of electrical power (w)
Volt- Measure of electrical charge (v)
Kelvin- Measure of color temperature (K)
Lumen- Measure of light brightness (lu)
Capsule- technically correct term for a HID "bulb".
Candela- Measure of light intensity (cd)
Ampere- Measure of electrical current
SAE- Society of Automotive Engineers. The Society is a standards development organization for the engineering of powered vehicles of all kinds, including cars, trucks, boats, aircraft, and others.
Cut off- A distinctive line of light produced by the shield in a headlight that blocks light above a certain height in order to prevent blinding of other motorists.
FMVSS- Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. A subsection of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They set the laws on all vehicles intended for use in the USA
ECE- Economic Commission for Europe. they set the safety standards for all things intended to be sold and used in the United Kingdom.
Beam Pattern- The pattern of light that is projected onto the ground which includes angle of lateral dispersion, width and depth of illumination.
Capsule- Another term for an HID bulb. Some refer to HID bulbs as gas discharge capsules.
Optics- The lighting control assembly structured around the bulb, which effects the dispersion of light and it's characteristics to a great degree.
HID (High Intensity Discharge)= Gas Discharge

Overview

Low Beam

Low beam headlights provide a distribution of light designed to provide adequate forward and lateral illumination with limits on light directed towards the eyes of other road users, to control glare. This beam is intended for use whenever other vehicles are present ahead. North American SAE beam standard contained in FMVSS states that the low beam must illuminate objects up to 150 ft in front of the vehicle without causing glare to oncoming headlights.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

High Beam

High beam headlamps provide a bright, center-weighted distribution of light with no particular control of light directed towards other road users' eyes. As such, they are only suitable for use when alone on the road, as the glare they produce will dazzle other drivers. FMVSS states high beams must illuminate objects up to 400 feet in front of the vehicle with no regard to glare since they should only be used when no oncoming traffic is present.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

Fog Lamps

Front fog lamps provide a wide, bar-shaped beam of light with a sharp cutoff at the top, and are generally aimed and mounted low. They may be either white or selective yellow. They are intended for use at low speed to increase the illumination directed towards the road surface and verges in conditions of poor visibility due to rain, fog, dust or snow. As such, they are often most effectively used in place of dipped-beam headlamps, reducing the reflected glare from fog or falling snow, although the legality varies by jurisdiction of using front fog lamps without low beam headlamps. Use of fog lamps and high-beams is illegal and disable on most vehicles since foglights can cause your eyes to focus on the foreground rather than down the road.

Use of the front fog lamps when visibility is not seriously reduced is often prohibited, as they can cause increased glare to other drivers, particularly in wet pavement conditions, as well as harming the driver's own vision due to excessive foreground illumination.

The respective purposes of front fog lamps and driving lamps are often confused, due in part to the misconception that fog lamps are necessarily selective yellow, while any auxiliary lamp that makes white light is a driving lamp. Automakers and aftermarket parts and accessories suppliers frequently refer interchangeably to "fog lamps" and "driving lamps" (or "fog/driving lamps"). In most countries, weather conditions rarely necessitate the use of fog lamps, and there is no legal requirement for them, so their primary purpose is frequently cosmetic. They are often available as optional extras or only on higher trim levels of many cars. Studies have shown that in North America more people inappropriately use their fog lamps in dry weather than use them properly in poor weather.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

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Optics

Today, there are two main ways of providing nighttime illumination. Reflector are the most common and projector are the newest. They both can utilize either a halogen or arc-xenon light source (see below).

Reflectors

Reflector headlights have been around for a long time, and they have a proven track record. They're design is simple: take a small light source and magnify it into a powerful beam with an array of mirrors. The housing is curved and covered with a reflective material. A bulb is mounted right in the center, and when it's on, the light strikes the reflective surface and is bounced back as a stronger, brighter and larger beam. The downside to this type of lamp, though, is that some of the light will inevitably scatter away and be lost. Almost 95% of all headlights on the roads use this design.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

Projectors

The latest and greatest in automotive lighting technology is projector headlight technology. They work much like the traditional reflector optics, but with an added step. After the light bounces off the reflective surface, it travels through a lens, which focuses the light into an incredibly wide, powerful beam. Hardly any light is scattered away, so you're left with brilliant illumination. Along with this focused beam, projectors also feature a cutoff that prevents blindness from oncoming drivers. They can use halogen bulbs or arc-xenon capsules.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

Projectors also have a low and high function. A projector that does both is called a bi-projector (bi- being the prefix for two). Usually the prefix is used in front of the lamp source. For instance, a dual-beam projector using a H11 bulb would be a "bi-halogen" projector. A dual-beam projector using a D2S arc-xenon capsule would be "bi-xenon". When used as a dual-beam, a magnetic solenoid attached to the cutoff shield is lowered out of the way of the light source, as to reveal the rest of the beam (below, left). Coincidentally, single-beam projectors that do not have a moveable cutoff shield must have a separate high-beam lamp (whether reflector or projector) in which case is very common in some vehicles as to preserve the flash-to-pass function required by law. (below, right).

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

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Light Source

Halogens

A halogen lamp is an incandescent lamp with a tungsten filament. Inside the enclosed capsule is an inert halogen gas such as iodine or bromine. When electricity is passed through the filament, resistance is build up to a point where it glows. 20% of its energy is given off as light, as its intended use. However, 80% of its energy is given off as heat, making halogens a very inefficient light source. Despite their inefficiency, they are very (somewhat) cheap to produce and power approximately 95% of the world's vehicles today. There are two manufacturing methods: dual filament and single filament (see below).

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

Dual Filament

In a dual filament bulb, the high beam filament is located at the focal point of the reflector. The other filament is shifted axially and radially away from the focal point so that when it is energized, the beam is widened and shifted slightly downward and rightward of the headlamp axis as to avoid blinding oncoming motorists.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

Single Filament

A dual-headlamp housing is more efficient, in that it has two separate extreme beam patterns. The low beam, like states above has a single-filament bulb striking its own low-beam reflectors. When the high-beams are engaged, the low beam bulb extinguished and the high-beam bulb lights up its set of reflectors.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

Xenon Gas

HID stands for high-intensity discharge, a term referring to the electric arc that produces the light. The high intensity of the arc comes from metallic salts that are vaporized within the arc chamber. These lamps are formally known as gas-discharge burners, and produce more light for a given level of power consumption than ordinary tungsten and tungsten-halogen bulbs. Because of the increased amounts of light available from HID burners relative to halogen bulbs, HID headlamps producing a given beam pattern can be made smaller than halogen headlamps producing a comparable beam pattern. Alternatively, the larger size can be retained, in which case the xenon headlamp can produce a more robust beam pattern. They are very efficient in the amount of energy converted into light, as HID headlamp burners produce between 2,800 and 3,500 lumens from between 35 and 38 watts of electrical power, while halogen filament headlamp bulbs produce between 700 and 2,100 lumens from between 40 and 72 watts at 12.8 vDC. The average service life of an HID lamp is 2000 hours, compared to between 450 and 1000 hours for a halogen lamp. The arc light source in an HID headlamp is fundamentally different in size, shape, orientation, and luminosity distribution compared to the filament light source used in tungsten-halogen headlamps. For that reason, HID-specific optics are used to collect and distribute the light. HIDs are used as single-capsules only. The optical system used by the vehicle will determine whether it is low beam or both low and high beam. HID burners cannot effectively or safely be installed in optics designed to take filament bulbs; doing so results in improperly-focused beam patterns and excessive glare, and is therefore illegal in almost all countries. They are more commonly seen in projector headlamps.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

LED

Light Emitting Diodes are without a doubt, a very popular contender in the lighting industry. In the past three years, bounds of information has been collected and the development process of LEDs has begun in production vehicles. They are more commonly seen on vehicles used as turn lamps, brake lamps, and daytime running lights. They can be used in low-power situations safely. But when used in high-power situations, LEDs produce an excessive amount of heat. Because of this drawback, the first vehicles to use LEDs has low beams (Lexus LS600h, Toyota Prius, Cadillac Escalade) had to have rather large housings to house heat sinks and power devices. Compared to HIDs, LED headlamps produce the same amount of light, but at a cost of almost twice the heat signature. Power consumption is also equal at about 38 watts. Compared to halogens, LEDs are still somewhat more economical. In the past year, more cars (Audi R8, Lexus GS-series, BMW 7-series) have begun using LED headlamps as more technology is unveiled for newer cooling techniques and better power consumption. They are seen in a unique reflector/projector/projector layout (below, right) to take control of the very-directional light beam LEDs emit to get an overall beam spread (below, left)

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

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Color:

Color is very important when it comes to nighttime lighting. In the case of light, color is referred to as a Kelvin. When it comes to nighttime driving, most people believe the whiter light is better. This is false. Selective yellow is the best color for nighttime driving (this same principal also applies to a yellow chalk on a blackboard). That is why halogens were among the first choice when they were developed- they naturally produced the best nighttime driving color (~3700K). This is also true for HIDs on the same scale. For their systems, the most light you can extract from a 35W xenon system is around 3200 lumens @ 4300K. As you go higher (into the blues) light output drops significantly. Since an HID bulb can emit different colors by using different salts, they are preferred for their color crispness. However, halogens naturally emit a yellowish color and some manufacturers can up the color output to a whiter color (marketing ploy) but at a price of losing light by putting a filter over the bulb.

All figures are based on a 35W Philips D2S bulb:

Color Temp vs. Light Output
3000k = 3040lm
4300k = 3300lm (brightest)
5000k = 2900lm
6000k = 2360lm
7000k = 1790lm
7000k = 1390lm
8000k = 1180lm
10000k = 760lm

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.




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Drop-ins, swaps and retrofits: Shedding light on headlight upgrades


There are many ways to upgrade headlights. There are numerous companies offering new housing utilizing different light sources and all sorts of stuff. But its important to know what you're really getting into before you divulge yourself. In the general world of modifications, there are three things out there that dominate everything you can choose from. However, its impossible to have all three. A great way to decide is to choose two that appeal to you the most.

Low Price
Great Quality
Good Appearance

Let’s say you chose appearance and quality. Sounds like you know what you are doing. There is a modification called a retrofit. This is the process of taking the xenon projector and installing in into your own headlamps. This will be upwards of $500 (price being the one you didn’t choose), but you will have a headlight system that rivals BMW's and Mercedes'.

How about price and appearance? For a relatively low price, you can buy many different types of headlights online. Some have projectors, some have reflector, and some utilize both. Some even feature LEDs on the bottom or HIDs. There are many extenuating circumstances and you should learn each and every one of them before you buy. Several key points are: projector are really halogen projectors with a weak bulb. Putting HIDs in them will ruin them and you won't have good output. The fitment will not be comparable to your OEMs and the LEDs may burn out. The seal may leak moisture into them, and the lenses may yellow and fade over time. The lacking factor here is quality.

Lastly we have price and quality. For a low price (they can be had for $35 on eBay), drop-in HID kits and be inserted into your stock or aftermarket headlamps. Quality wise the bulbs may last a couple thousand hours and may emit the color you want. However, the appearance of them may be a lot lower than industry standards. Again putting HID into a housing that was designed for halogens is dangerous. Want to know if it a halogen housing or not? Easy. Halogens always use bases such as 9007, HB3, H13, 9145, or 9011. Headlamps that were designed for arc-xenon capsule only accept Dx(r/s) bulb. X referring to a number (1-4, in series of generation) and the R referring to reflector headlamp (such as 1995 Lincoln Mk.VIII using the D1R, 2005 Cadillac Escalade using the D2R, or 2006 Toyota Prius using the D4R) and "S" as projector (2006 Honda S2000 using a D2S or the 2010 Toyota Prius using the D4S).

------------------------------

I hope you enjoyed this thread and any information I have provided to you as much as I enjoying gathering it all together. Sources include Wikipedia, various Google images, and several threads from F150online.com. And please, if this thread has helped you or answered some of your questions, feel free to let me know by pointing a noob in this direction if you ever see a question asked

-Alex
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Last edited by Raptor05121; 08-27-2011 at 02:33 AM.
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  #2  
Old 11-14-2010, 03:18 PM
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Mods...PLEASE make this a sticky!!! Thanks again Raptor----DirtySCREW
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Old 11-14-2010, 03:47 PM
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Great information. Is there any concerns about off road and vibrations giving any types of bulbs a shorter life?
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Old 11-14-2010, 03:51 PM
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With their relatively low weight, there is not much momentum to swing the bulbs around. That, coupled with the rubber seal between the bulb and base prevent most vibration from transferring to the filament. Technically yes, but not enough to provide a drastic drop in service life (unless you are talking about a major jump in where the bulb dislodges and breaks inside the housing)
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Old 11-14-2010, 04:48 PM
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ok, so Xeons are HIDs? i always thought they were different types.
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:07 PM
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Great post Alex! Definitely need to have this seen by the "Blue Crew" of HID buyers...
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Old 11-14-2010, 11:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJF150 View Post
ok, so Xeons are HIDs? i always thought they were different types.
Yes. HIDs are called Xenon, because the gas used in the quartz is a xenon noble gas
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Old 11-15-2010, 12:03 AM
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Mods...PLEASE make this a sticky!!! Thanks again Raptor----DirtySCREW

X2
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04-08 FX-R PROJECTOR RETROFIT HOW TO: LINK BELOW:
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Old 11-15-2010, 12:33 AM
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powerz, I hope you dont mind that I linked your write-up and used a picture.

anyone have that demotivational that has the glarey headlights and says: "DDM HIDs" on the bottom? I think it was in someones signature.
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Old 11-15-2010, 01:37 AM
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Old 11-15-2010, 01:56 AM
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thanks!
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Old 11-15-2010, 01:58 AM
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powerz, I hope you dont mind that I linked your write-up and used a picture.
Not a problem! Thanks for taking your time to do such a great write up.
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Old 11-15-2010, 02:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by powerz69 View Post
Not a problem! Thanks for taking your time to do such a great write up.
you, watson, and NCSU are the calling cards. When HIDs were the crazy mod of 2008-2009, i think projector retrofits will be the crazy mod of 2010-2011. thanks for paving the way
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Old 11-15-2010, 06:56 AM
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you, watson, and NCSU are the calling cards. When HIDs were the crazy mod of 2008-2009, i think projector retrofits will be the crazy mod of 2010-2011. thanks for paving the way
lol! I am having sickhids.com retrofit a set for me as we speak! Brian at sick hids has great customer service and appears to make a great product!
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Old 11-15-2010, 07:27 AM
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