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3 Ways To Make Your High Beams Brighter

The headlights on your car have two settings: low beam and high beam. The former is the regular setting you often use for night time driving, and allows you to see around 200 feet ahead. Meanwhile, the high beam provides visibility of up to 400 feet ahead. This much longer range of visibility allows you to drive safely in unlit roads or poor inclement weather conditions, where your view of the road is severely restricted. In short, high beam headlights are an important safety feature of every vehicle, and you would want these beams to function properly to keep yourself as well as other drivers safe. 

If you notice that your high beam is losing its brightness, troubleshoot right away and repair or replace your headlights. Read on to learn 3 effective and easy methods to make your high beams at least 5x brighter. This is one of the basic car maintenance that you must master.

How To Make Your High Beams Brighter

Restore faded lense with a headlight restoration kit

As your car ages, the headlights are also subject to natural wear and tear. Headlight lens covers are made of plastic, thus are prone to getting thousands of tiny scratches, which distorts and blocks the light from shining through. Plastic lenses can also yellow, or become dull and cloudy from long-term UV damage and road debris. On top of that, over time, they can also become foggy or hazy due to moisture slowly creeping into the housing, thus further dulling the light coming out of your headlamps

Worry not, as you can easily restore your high beams by cleaning them with a headlight restoration kit, which is an affordable and increasingly popular DIY car maintenance tool. When you want to improve your vehicle’s light emission, this is the first step you should try.

clean car headlight
No matter whether you upgrade your headlights or not, you need to regularly clean them. Photo Credit: Cleaning-LoveToKnow

Cleaning your headlights will not only improve your car’s light emission and restore the brightness of your high beams but will also make your car look newer and cleaner. But of course, if your vehicle is an old model, it mostly comes with the old halogen-based headlights, which is by far less bright than the later inventions. And a thorough cleaning can only restore the original brightness of these halogen bulbs. 

So if you need brighter high beams for safe night time driving in poor visibility conditions, on top of getting a restoration kit, you should also upgrade your bulbs, which would have a much bigger impact on brightness. Different types of later-generation headlights will be discussed further below.

Adjust the aim

No matter what you do to your headlights, you should get a restoration kit first. Then, check if the alignment of your headlights has been distorted due to physical impacts from driving on  bumpy roads and potholes. If the aim of your headlights is too low, this will cause your high beams to appear dimmer.

To check the alignment of your headlights, just shine them on a closed garage door or a wall, and see if the two sides are uneven or too low. If you’re not sure how low is lower than should be, it’s best to take your vehicle to the repair shop to have your headlights realigned for you. If you fancy yourself an advanced handyman, look for Youtube tutorial videos on DIY headlights alignment at home. 

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Retrofit your headlights & fog lights

As said above, if your old-model car comes with the dated and not-so-bright halogen headlights, restoring them might not be enough if you have to constantly drive in very poor visibility conditions. Then, the only way to get much brighter high beams is to completely replace your existing halogen headlight and fog light assembly for premium-quality halogen bulbs, or better yet, either an ultra-bright LED or HID assembly. A headlights upgrades to either LED or HID assemblies are called a “retrofit”. 

The LED and HID options are superior and can improve your lighting by up to 500%, but more expensive and can cost upwards of $2,000. That’s for the bulbs alone, and you will need a professional to do the retrofit, so add on top a few hundred dollars more. 

But do note that not every car is eligible for headlight upgrades. Plus, a retrofit may void your vehicle’s warranty, so make sure you check your owner’s manual for the info.

Premium-quality Halogen bulbs upgrade

If you don’t need substantially brighter headlights, you can replace your stock halogen bulbs with premium-quality halogen bulbs to achieve something between 25% and 50% additional brightness.

Compared to a retrofit, getting premium-quality halogens headlights is extremely simple, since you’re still using halogen bulbs, and this type of headlights is by far the most common. They can be found in at least 80% of cars on the road today. As they are common, they are the most easy and cheap type to make. So depending on your needs, a premium halogen bulb upgrade plus a headlight restoration kit can be an economical yet effective solution.

Similar to traditional incandescent lights, halogen lights work by heating up a filament, which is a slender thread or wire made of materials that have a very high melting point.  

Halogen bulbs draw electrical power from the source, run it through the filament to heat it up to a very high temperature, making it illuminate. Compared to traditional incandescent lights, the filament in halogen bulbs glow brighter thanks to the use of halogen gas instead of the normal-air environment inside the bulb. 

The low price of halogen bulbs stems from its simple mechanism and parts: if a bulb doesn’t work, the only reason is a damaged filament. Due to its working mechanism of heating the filament, halogen light bulbs have very low lighting efficiency. In fact, halogen light bulbs have a luminous efficiency of only 2% – 4%. Since a lot of energy is emitted as heat instead of light,they consume a lot of electricity but only produce a negligible amount of light.

LED bulbs upgrade

LED is short for “light-emitting diodes” and is the brightest type of headlight bulb. They are 3 times to 5 times brighter than their halogen counterparts, while consuming only about a third to a half of the amount of energy and lasting five to ten times longer. 

LED is also a much more efficient lighting source. In fact, its luminous efficiency ranges between 40% to 50%, compared to halogen’s 2% – 4% range. This is thanks to the superior working mechanism: instead of a filament, electrical energy runs through a small semiconductor called a diode, which warms up and emits light, hence the name “light-emitting diodes”. Only a small amount of energy is emitted as heat, but it’s negligible and unavoidable. 

Also, LED lights assembly features fans to dissipate extra heat to help keep the diode cool. Thanks to less heating and these fans, LED lights have a much longer lifespan than the halogen option. 

In addition, while halogen bulbs emit a dim yellowish light, LED bulbs emit a bright, pure white light, which is more natural looking and will significantly improve your visibility while driving at night or in inclement weather conditions. 

All in all, LED headlights are superior to their halogen counterparts in every aspect. To enjoy all these benefits, of course, you will need to pay more. While a halogen headlight assembly would cost around $30 per unit, you’ll have to pay around 5 to 10 times this amount to get a LED assembly, sometimes a lot more than 10x. 

That said, it’s important to note that an average LED unit would last for up to 20,000 hours, that is 20 times the lifespan of a halogen unit, which is only up to 1,000 hours. This means that you may never, ever have to replace your LED headlamps at all, unless they are damaged in an accident.

As a result of their excellent and well-rounded performance, makers of luxury vehicles such as BMWs, Audis, Bentleys and Rolls Royces now often equip their modern high-end models with LED headlights. You’ve probably seen some of these late model-year cars with their powerful white beams. And the good news is, you can make your high beams just as bright.

Stock halogen headlights can be converted to an LED assembly by using an LED conversion kit. The conversion process is actually very simple and is no different than simply replacing a halogen bulb. The new LED bulbs would typically fit right into your halogen housing and connect into your headlight power harness without any fuss. That said, if you’re not too sure, always consult your owner’s manual to check if your car allows for a retrofit.

If you’re on the fence about whether you should spend that much money for a new set of headlights, you might want to know that many drivers and professionals do not deem LED bulb’s advantages that important. Consumer Reports, an independent nonprofit organization, called LED headlights “a technology that shows little benefit in our tests” in one of their annual car evaluation.  

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HID bulbs upgrade

You probably have heard of the Xenon high-intensity discharge (HID), the most recent invention in the auto world. HID bulbs work by sending an electrical discharge between two electrodes and through an ionized gas. In terms of appearance, HID headlights are downright the coolest and lend a high-tech, futuristic sleek look to a vehicle. HID headlamps are arc lamps, like a neon sign, thus they can be bent and arranged in cool looking shapes. You will notice them right away. 

Not just shapes, HID bulbs also come in a variety of color temperatures ranging from yellow (3000K – 4300K) to white (5000K – 6000K) to purple (8000K – 12000K). HID bulbs with a white color temperature will provide bright and natural looking lights just like the more expensive LED headlights.

Although in comparison, LED lights seem to win by a mile, HID bulbs are a still major upgrade to halogen technology and will substantially improve the brightness of your car’s high beams. 

Compared to their halogen counterparts, HIDs are over three times brighter, are slightly more energy efficient and last up to 5 times longer. Compared to LED headlights, the light output of HID is also excellent. However, while LEDs produce an instant source of light, HIDs take a few seconds to get to full brightness and color. In addition, HID headlights have a shorter lifespan than LED. Yes, you probably have guessed that HID headlight assemblies would cost less than an LED unit.  

And just like LEDs, there are HID headlight conversion kits to replace your stock halogen unit. While HID kits are slightly cheaper than LED kits, the installation is slightly more complex and may require you to watch a few YouTube videos or blogs to guide you through the process.

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