Your Guide to Headlights

Headlights are the two main lights on the front of a vehicle and their primary purpose is to provide adequate light to see the road in dark or gloomy conditions. Headlights are required to drive in the dark and it's easy to see why as almost half of auto accident fatalities happen at night. This is even true despite the fact that only a quarter of all traffic travels at night. Headlights are an extremely important safety feature of your vehicle. Besides allowing you to see at night, they also make your vehicle more visible to other drivers, which can be especially important in the bad weather conditions common to Chicago. The frequency of Illinois snowstorms and thunderstorms make it even more crucial to keep headlights maintained and working properly.

Headlight Mechanics

The first halogen style headlight was introduced in 1962, but did not become common in the United States until 1979. These were sealed beam headlights, which was the main type available until 1983 when headlights with replaceable bulbs hit the market. Before that, the entire headlight assembly would need to be replaced when it stopped working. Headlight technology has increased greatly in the modern day and there are now several alternatives to halogen headlights, including xenon, LED and laser. The common operation of headlights is to have low beams and high beams. Low beams are the regular driving lights and high beams are used in extreme dark conditions such as streets without lights or other traffic. Round headlights were the early standard, but eventually rectangular headlights became more popular, as well as hidden headlights.

Headlight Requirements and Regulations

Headlights are required for vehicles to legally drive in the dark. The system needs to have a low and high beam, which can either be two bulbs within the assembly or one bulb that has multiple functions, similar to home lamps that have several phases of brightness. High beams create a straight stream of light that maximizes the seeing distance for the driver. However, they also produce considerable glare, which makes them unsafe to use in the presence of other vehicles. They can also cause back dazzle from precipitation such as fog, rain or snow, which is unsafe for the driver of the vehicle as well. Low beams direct light mostly downwards and either right or left depending on the traffic flow in the country. This gives the driver the ability to see the road, but without the extreme glare of high beams.

Low beams are meant to be used when in traffic situations and can be used in dim conditions, not just full darkness. High beams are only for use in isolated traffic conditions and full darkness. They are not good to use in heavy precipitation because of the back dazzle effect previously mentioned.

Headlights are manufactured to go with traffic direction in a particular country, which is why it's not a good idea to buy Japanese or British headlights if you are driving in the United States. The beams will not be pointed in the right direction, which makes them both illegal and hazardous. Headlights need to be properly aligned or aimed in order to keep the vehicle safe on the road and enable the driver to see. Headlights are required to shine white light, but there is a range of tones to what is considered white light. That's why you might see headlights with cold white light, giving a blue or purple hue, or warm white, which gives an amber or yellow hue.

Headlight Technology

Headlight technology has come a long way since the sealed beam halogen lights that were common until the 1980s. New headlight technology includes:

Adaptive headlights

High-intensity discharge headlights (HID)

LED headlights

Laser headlights

LED adaptive headlights

Night vision

These high-tech headlights usually promise brighter lighting and therefore better visibility, however, they do not necessarily shine the bright light further down the road than regular halogen headlights. They can also be extremely expensive to replace.

Adaptive headlights work by aiming the light beam in the direction the steering wheel is turning. HID headlights use gas instead of a heated filament. This makes them operate at a lower temperature and gives them a longer lifespan. When they do wear out though, they can cost hundreds to replace. LED headlights have a similar benefit and negative profile. Laser headlights promise to double the light reach of normal high beams, but they are currently not legal in the United States. Night vision headlights use infrared to detect obstacles in the distance and show them on a center screen as you get closer.

Common Types of Headlights Explained

1. Halogen headlights are still the most common and popular headlight system and it's easy to see why. They're simple, replaceable and cost effective. Halogen headlights typically last around 1,000 hours with normal use. Replacement costs are typically low, with $30 being an average cost for a decent set. However, car makers are starting to trend towards other headlight types because halogen represents a lot of wasted energy. Here are some pros and cons of halogen headlights:

Pros:

Simple replacement

Cost effective

Basic design

Different sizes

Cons:

Wasted energy

Extra care

2. HID headlights, which are also called xenon headlights, are looked at as a more efficient solution, mostly because of their cooler temperature. HID headlights are similar to the neon tube lights you sometimes see in basements, and like those lights, they need some extra seconds to reach their full brilliance. Here are some pros and cons of xenon or HID lights:

Pros:

Longer lifespan than halogen

Less energy consumption

Provide better visibility

Cons:

Create too much glare

High cost of replacement

Complex construction

Contains harmful materials

Extra time for full brightness

3. LED headlights are another low power type of headlight with a brightness between halogen and xenon lights. LED lights don't create heat when lighting up, but the chip tends to get quite hot and requires a fan or heat sink to prevent them from melting. Some pros and cons:

Pros:

Low energy consumption

Brighter than halogen

Small size

Cons:

Expensive to produce

High temperature around nearby equipment

Hard to design

Headlight FAQ

Q: How long do headlights last?

A: HID lights last about 2,000 hours and LED lights are said to last longer than that, but no official estimate is given. Halogen headlights can last between 450 and 1,000 hours.

Q: How do you replace headlights?

A: Assuming you have halogen headlights with replaceable bulbs, you need to remove the old bulb and replace it. Be careful not to touch the glass part of the bulb as oil from your fingers will cause it to heat unevenly.

Q: Do headlights give any warning signs of failure?

A: Typically halogen headlights simply burn out, though they may be dimmer before quitting completely. Often one burns out before the other, but the second one will typically burn out not long after, which is why it's recommended that both be changed when one has burned out.

Mopar Monster, located in Chicago, Illinois, can help you with all your OEM Dodge headlights needs. We offer a range of headlights for competitive prices and all you need for an accurate search is a VIN. Our Dodge parts experts can answer any questions you may have or help you find the right part.