Nowadays HID (Highly Intensive Discharge) lighting is standard fare on almost all high end luxury vehicles and is also becoming a popular upgrade for common autos. Before doing any upgrades, it is always important to know how an upgrade works and how it will affect the vehicle. HID Xenon Headlights are the next step forward to safe auto lighting. Just as halogen lighting improved driving safety thirty years ago, now HID is doing the same. Both these types of lighting are quite different: while halogen lamps rely on superheating a filament of wire in an inert gas, HID uses much higher voltages to create an arc in an oxygen-free environment. This not only provides much more light (up to four times as much) but it’s also more efficient. A standard halogen headlight bulb uses 55 watts at 12 volts and more of its energy goes to creating heat than light, but HID systems use only 35 watts, but uses superior technology to increase 12 volts to 20,000 volts. As it uses less energy it is cooler and is much more sparing to your car’s battery and electrical systems.  If we compare HID to higher than normal output halogen bulbs, the advantage is even more vivid.

Principle of action

The HID lighting technology starts with a capsule filled with gas usually xenon, activated using two electrons at either ends of the capsule. The electric current is used by electrons to create an arc of light. Don’t be fooled by halogen bulbs that claim to use xenon gas. The light output on a halogen bulb is still from the filament as opposed to the gas inside. The whiter light from such bulbs is usually due to a color coating which in turn also reduces the light output.

What is xenon light?

The xenon bulb supplied with the HID kit are micro discharged bulb filled with a mixture of primarily xenon gas and other inert gases, creating a superior, bright, white light so close to sunlight that it looks blue. This special bulb has no filament like a halogen bulb; the light created between the two electrodes in a xenon bulb is like no other.

Close to daylight

Another considerable advantage of HID lighting is that the light produced is much closer to daylight than conventional headlights. This property makes the night driving much safer, relaxed and generally less tiring and exhausted. Other drivers will see you sooner, and are less likely to pull out in front of you. The same happens to bicycles, motor cycles and all other vehicles in front ? they just spot your approach sooner. This also lessens the possibility of sudden hazardous maneuvers. The white light produced by HID bulbs are also beneficial to drivers as it is closer to natural daylight and allows for more focus on the road. One more argument for HID xenon lighting is reduced electrical usage. Lower electrical usage implies lower operating temperatures. This diminishes the risk of damaging headlight assemblies and electrical harnesses. The life of xenon bulb is much longer than that of a halogen bulb. The life period of halogen bulbs is only 500 hours as opposed to 3,500 hours with HID’s. Simple math shows that buying halogen bulbs will cost you approximately the same sum as a full HID system over the course of an HID bulb lifespan.

HID disadvantages

HID lighting on vehicles other than those that come to stock is now illegal in the USA. The reason is improper use of HID lighting systems and their unintentional blinding of drivers. A lot of inexperienced drivers put HID into halogen headlights, obviously not designed for such a system. Most halogen headlights use reflector type housing. Light from a halogen bulb is directed out to the reflective pieces of the headlight housing and than reflected onto the road, whereas the lighting from an HID bulb is focused directly onto the road. If the HID bulbs are put into a reflective type housing the light will be directed incorrectly and the focus of the HID bulbs are misdirected as well. In this case the light is being directed elsewhere and actually being directed onto other motorists. There is another technique to add HID lights to your vehicle called retro-fitting. In this case you use other vehicles HID headlight housing and systems and install them into your own vehicle’s headlight housing. If the work is done correctly, this can be a good and cheap way of adding HID to the vehicle, otherwise this can also lead to problems. If the bulbs are not positioned correctly and aren’t focused right, than you are not lighting the road properly and even worse, you may be blinding other motorists. Unfortunately nowadays the HID lighting is designed only for some car models and the methods mentioned above are the only ways to add xenon lighting to your vehicle. That’s why be very careful when fabricating housings yourself or having someone do it for you. Fabrication is very hard to do correctly and just as hard to determine if someone else will do it correctly.

Why would I need Bi-Xenon?

Some cars have a twin filament (H4) system. On these cars, instead of a single beam on dipped setting, and then two beams coming on when high beam is selected, there is a changeover, as the two filament system cannot cope with the heat from both filaments being lit at once. For these cars a twin-beam, high-low system should be used. An automatic solenoid unit automatically aims the beam to the correct angle whether low or high is selected.

Useful tips

If a cost of upgrading both high and low beams to HID Xenon is too high for you there is a good compromise to convert the most used (dipped) beam, and change the standard high beam bulbs for more powerful ?HID Look? halogen bulbs. They will help to keep your car looking smart and modern.