What Is A Xenon Headlight

In this article, we’re going to explain what a xenon light headlight is, how it works, and also what it does better and worse than a standard halogen headlight.

Many motorists are upgrading the standard halogen headlights their vehicles came out with, to aftermarket xenon (or HID) conversions.

Generally, this is because Xenon bulbs tend to last as long as ten years, and their brightness is infinitely better.

However, there is a downside too. They’re more expensive than halogen bulbs and they’re not as energy efficient as LED units. So it’s a bit of swings and roundabouts.

Stay with us as we bring you the lowdown on the different types of bulbs, what they’re good for, and where they don’t perform as well as you may think.

Different Headlight Bulb Types Explained

Halogen bulbs are still the standard, especially with older, or cheaper vehicles. They’ve been around for more than 50 years, and they’re also the most cost effective and easiest to replace.

This bulb technology revolves around a tungsten filament – this is similar to the bulbs in your home – and the glass enclosure is filled with halogen gas that makes it glow brighter and gives it a longer lifespan.

You can typically expect a halogen bulb to last for around 2000 hours, and they’re between $10 and $20 to replace.

Xenon bulbs (HID) use an arc instead of a filament to glow, and the law says they have to work to at least 80% of their full capacity within four seconds of startup. To achieve this kind of performance, they need a high-voltage pulse to ignite the gas, and also a unit to keep the bulb burning.

The xenon gas starts the glow, but metal salts keep the bulb alight.

Xenon bulbs typically last for around 10,000 hours, and the replacement cost can run up to around $100.

LED headlights are the new kids on the block. They are much more efficient at using the available energy, they last longer than even Xenon lights, and they fit into smaller spaces, which means car designers have more freedom to play with headlight shapes.

LED bulbs have neither a filament nor an arc. They use light-emitting diodes to produce light instead. The brightness is close to that of a xenon bulb, but there’s absolutely no excess heat, so they’re cheaper and more energy efficient to run.

On the downside, if they do fail, you have to replace the entire unit. This is much more expensive than just changing a bulb, as is the case with xenon or halogen bulbs.

Should You Use A Xenon Headlight

Xenon lights are popular for several reasons. Have a look at the list and see if it resonates with you. If it does, a xenon upgrade may be something for you to consider.

  1. Whiter, more natural light
  2. Brighter headlights
  3. Shine further and wider
  4. Long-lasting bulbs
  5. Energy efficient
  6. Lower heat output than halogen bulbs

How To Install Xenon Headlights On Your Car

Installing a new Xenon headlight kit in your car is a simple enough process. You don’t need to be an auto techie, and following a few instructions should get you there. Also, remember to keep your car’s owner’s manual close at hand – there is bound to be information about headlight clips and similar instructions that may be useful.

  1. Open the hood
  2. Remove the back of the headlight assembly and remove the current bulb. (This is where your owner’s manual will be useful.) Make sure not to touch the glass with your hands – wear gloves, or use a cotton rag.
  3. Open the back cap on the headlight assembly and take out the stock bulb. Do not touch the bulb’s glass with your finger. You can wear gloves as protection.
  4. Now fit the xenon bulb into the headlight slot. Again, make sure not to touch the glass of the bulb with any part of your skin.
  5. The HID bulb can now be connected to the ballast.
  6. Test

We strongly recommend doing the conversion with a pre-configured kit. It makes it easier, and you know all the components are configured to work with each other.

Converting to HID headlights is an easy upgrade, even for beginners.

A parting shot

This is one of the easiest conversions you can do on your vehicle, and probably one of the best. It will improve your safety on the road, and make driving at night infinitely more comfortable. Out of everything you could do on your vehicle, this simple DIY conversion should be the first.

Check out our most popular pages to find the best headlight bulbs.

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Richard Nickleson is the author and owner behind Headlight Reviews. He first started the site as a hobby to share his insights on car parts and specifically headlight bulbs, but it soon ballooned and now he writes on all topics surrounding headlights bulbs. If you've got a bulb question, contact Richard here.