Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Replace a headlight bulb

Which headlight bulb is the best for you?

replace a headlightCar makers use the cheapest headlight bulb that meets Department of Transportation minimum standards. These bulbs output 1,000 lumens and consume about 55-watts. When it’s time to replace a headlight bulb, if you don’t ask for a better headlight bulb, the shop will use the same basic bulb. Shops can buy those bulbs for as little as $2.00 each. But there are better headlight bulbs that project farther down the road, appear brighter, whiter and illuminate more shoulder area. Shops don’t stock those kinds of upgraded bulbs because they cost more and most customers think a bulb is just a bulb.

Start by looking up the bulb number in your owner’s manual

Pull out your owners manual and find bulbs in the index. Depending on your vehicle it may list a bulb number for the low beams and a different bulb for the high beams. If your car doesn’t have separate high beams, it’ll list a bulb that has two filaments. If your car also has fog light, it’ll list a different number for those. Don’t confuse the different types—a high beam bulb won’t fit in the low beam bulb socket. The same applies to fog lights.

Next, consider your vision needs

(OEM) bulbs have a yellowish tinge and a color temperature around 3,100°K with around an 800-hour lifespan. As a reference, daylight is around 5,500°K and your brain see this as a “whiter light.” The higher the bulb’s color temperature, the whiter the light. White light makes it easier to see objects at night. That’s why luxury car makers often use HID bulb headlights with a color temperature around 4,800°K.

It makes sense to buy the brightest whitest headlight bulbs you can find, but there’s a catch. Brighter bulbs that use a higher wattage (more than 55-watts) will burn out faster—there’s no free lunch. To get a whiter light, some bulb manufacturers use a blue coating that filters out the yellow light band. Unfortunately that coating also filters out some of the bulb’s light output, so they actually cast fewer lumens (unless they also draw a higher wattage). The whiter light helps you see and the bulbs “appear” to be brighter when they might actually be casting fewer lumens on the road. However, since those bulbs do help you see better at night, you shouldn’t get caught up in the lumens comparison. If better night vision is important to you, spend the money and upgrade.

Shop for a better headlight bulb

Since most shops don’t stock upgrade headlight bulbs, you’ll have to buy your own and bring it to the shop. The three most popular and well respected headlight bulb brands are Sylvania, Philips and GE. You can find the best headlight bulbs online, in auto parts stores and at big box stores like WalMart. I don’t recommend buying any brand other than these. Upgrade headlight bulbs are expensive, why spend good money buying a brand that isn’t well known?

sylvania headlightSylvania Basic ($20.00/2) – an OEM type bulb. Bulb color

sylvania xtravisiionSylvania XtraVision ($27.00/2) – Up to 30% brighter than OEM bulb. Projects up to 25% farther down road.

sylvania silverstarSylvania SilverStar ($38.00/2) – Up to 35% brighter than OEM bulb. Projects up to 30% farther down road and up to 35% wider side road visibility.






sylvania silverstar ultraSylvania SilverStar ULTRA ($53.00/2) – Up to 50%brighter than OEM bulb. Projects up to 40% farther down road and up to 50% wider side road visibility. Bulb color temperature 4,100°K






sylvania silverstar ZXESylvania zXe ($60.00/2) – The whitest light of all Sylvania bulbs. Bulb color temperature 4,200°K







philips vision plusPhilips Standard ($20.00/2) – Bulb color temperature 3,000°K

Philips Vision Plus ($25.00/2) – Up to 60% brighter than OEMbulb. Projects up to 80 feet farther down road. Bulb color temperature 3,300°K.





philips x-treme visionPhilips X-treme Vision ($34.00/2) – Up to 100% brighter than OEM bulb. Bulb color temperature 3,400°K.








philips crystal visionPhilips CrystalVision Ultra ($35.00/2) – Bulb color temperature 4,000°K.

GE Standard ($11.00/2)

GE NIGHTHAWK ($15.00/2) – Up to 50% brighter than OEM bulb.

GE NIGHTHAWK™ PLATINUM ($33.00/2) – Up to 90% brighter than OEM bulb.

©, 2016 Rick Muscoplat


Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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