Xenon headlights are high intensity discharge (HID) lighting systems. These HIDs incorporate a xenon headlight bulb that uses xenon gas to create light. More or less gas inside the bulb will dictate the color temperature of the bulb and could range in a wide variety of colors, depending on the technology of the manufacturer. Many new model cars have HID lighting systems as standard equipment and are a better alternative to the once-standard halogen lamps. While it is true that xenon bulbs have a longer service life than conventional halogen lamps, variances in the quality of each part or improper installation could cause a xenon bulb to fail.
Buying a Xenon Bulb
Before you purhase a bulb for a xenon headlight, check your vehicle warranty for appropriate coverage of the damaged or faulty part. Conversion kits also offer a limited warranty on HID products and should be consulted if the xenon bulb fails within the warranty period.
Determine the color temperature of the old bulb when buying new xenon bulbs. This would also be an appropriate time to upgrade to a different color bulb, because it is better to replace two bulbs at the same time. Have the entire system checked for proper wiring and polarity procedures before installing new bulbs, because faulty sockets, wiring and ballasts could contribute to shorter bulb life. Remember to order the same kind of bulb as your existing xenon bulb.
When deciding to upgrade to a different colored bulb in your purchase, take into account the various laws in your state and check whether the color of the bulb conforms to safety rules and regulations. Driving environment should also be considered, as a yellowish beam yields better results in foggy and rainy conditions. White and bluish white bulbs are best reserved for off road conditions but are appropriate to use in normal driving as well. Be aware that white beams (5,000 to 6,000K color temperature) present visibility problems on asphalt roads, especially in the rain.
There are a variety of colors you can choose from. The lights are given Kelvin ratings.
- 3000K: A yellow tint which is generally used as fog lights
- 4300K: The OEM color you find on most vehicles that have factory made HID
- 6000K: This is similar to the OEM color, but it has a far whiter tint
- 8000K: A little bit of a blue tint
- 10000K: A lot like the 8000K, but is just a little bit darker blue
- 12000K: A deep blue tint
- 30000K: An exotic purple tint
Changing a Xenon Bulb
Always handle bulbs with care. Never touch the glass part of the bulb with your bare hands, because oil from fingerprints might cause the glass to explode when heated or might cause unsightly condensation in your headlights. Clean the glass surface of the bulb with alcohol in the event of an oil stain.
Only remove the protective casing of the bulb when it is ready to be installed. The protective casing is there for a purpose, as severe vibration or shock might be harmful or destructive to the performance of the xenon bulb. It also prevents contamination of the glass that may also be detrimental to performance.
Changing a xenon bulb is a simple procedure but when in doubt, consult with a knowledgeable friend or expert mechanic for advice on proper installation. Do not forget to aim the beam after changing the xenon bulb, because mild differences may have occurred in the process of installation. A few degrees may mean the difference between proper distribution of light and blinding other drivers on the road. As an exercise of courtesy among other road users, have your headlights angled and adjusted to proper specifications as indicated in the preventive maintenance schedule of your vehicle.