A Deer In Headlights

MySpin: Australian cars community Aaron 2 years ago

Not to long ago, cars came equiped with only one set of headlights. Halogen. And that was it.
But now, thanks to increasingly advanced technological innovations, the market has become flooded with all new types of headlights, from High Intensity Discharge lamps, otherwise known as HID, to LED headlights, and now Laser lights, as seen on the very newest Audi’s, BMW’s and even Mercedes.

Let’s walk you through each of the three lights, outlining their pro’s and con’s.

Ah, the good old fashioned, trusty Halogen headlight. It’s been a familiar sight on a lot of cars, both old an new. I can list ten makes and models that still use halogens in their vehicles, just off the top of my head. And there’s a good reason why it’s still sued, even in this day and age of high tech lighting sources. It’s cheap. Halogens on average cost less than 5 times the cost of a HID bulb to replace. They also provide some of the best high beam length of any other light source, making them a preferred bulb for those who live out in the country.
Now, the cons. Halogens may have great high beam ability, but their low beams are particularly poor, especially when compared to newer types of headlights. The lighting pattern of halogens are all scattered, and are sometimes rarely focused onto the road, meaning they often loose focus on what they are supposed to be illuminating. The low beams also have incredibly low illumination range, making them a real trouble in dark areas of the state.

Now don’t get us wrong. We love all headlights equally. We pick no favourites… with that said however, if we had to pick a favourite, it would be HID headlights. It might not be your favourite (we think you’re wrong, but hey, free country) but we definetly love HID’s. These recently developed headlights were once the stuff of uber-high end german vehicles. As an example, the very first HID headlights fitted to a mainstream vehicle was the BMW 750il, and even then it was an optional extra!. Soon, these headlights started to fall down into more mainstream, affordable cars, such as the Toyota Camry. Many manufacturers hold preference for HID lights as they often take up less space than normal halogens, provide better range and visibility at night, and focuses the light source onto the road, without excessive interference or light scatter. This lights are also praised by other drivers, who find that the more road focused beam means that they have less people blinding them at night. HID’s are not without their issues though. Firstly, they are pricey to repair. Despite being more energy efficient and drawing less power, they are typically more expensive and difficult to replace or undertake a bulb change. Secondly, they are known for their less than perfect high beam quality, with the light being somewhat dulled and restricted.

Just like Uber high end luxo-barges of the nineties, LED headlights have been seen as only a feature on the very highest end german vehicles. The first vehicle to offer it was the Lexus LS600hL, before being introduced on the flagship Audi A8 and the Audi R8, and now, it’s made it’s way down to even the most affordable cars, such as the Honda Civic, Subaru Liberty and Toyota CH-R. LED headlights, while having fantastic range, for both low and high beam, are undoubtedly expensive to replace and repair. However, with the market becoming more and more diluted with LED light manufacturers, it will soon become a standard feature on many cars.

It’s Got Frickin’ Lasers!
Unfortunately, if you were hoping to live out your James Bond super villain fantasy, you’ll have to keep looking elsewhere. These are not lasers that can shoot and destroy the idiot driving in the outside lane but is doing 10 km’s under the limit.
Laser technology has been developed for headlight use to provide greater, brighter and longer reach. While they are a relatively new development in the car industry, they are already available on the highest specced Audi’s, BMW’s, Mercedes Benz’s and other high end luxury car manufacturers. It isn’t hard to see why laser headlights are becoming popular. Their range helps extend visibility by up to 600 metres, and have shown to increase braking time by up to 5 seconds, which is an incredible amount.
While these frickin’ lasers are gaining popularity, it is worth mentioning that they are incredibly complex pieces of technology, requiring vast amounts of time and effort to be put into the manufacturing of them. Laser headlights are different from LED’s, HID’s and Halogens, as they generate more heat, meaning they require special cooling fans to keep them at optimal temperature. All this sounds fantastic, but when something goes wrong, you’ll be sure to expect a hefty repair bill.

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