The sun has set and you’re driving home on a 4-lane highway. Although your headlights are on, the road ahead appears dimly lit- so you’re playing it safe and rolling a little slower than normal. Frustrated by your lack of visibility, you can’t help but notice the piercing blue glow of another vehicle’s oncoming headlights. Then comes the idea… “Maybe I should make the switch from Halogen to HID Xenon.”
Better visibility seems like a practical idea, so you search online for a halogen to HID conversion kit and find all sorts of options ranging anywhere from $45 to $165 on eBay. You place your order and within a couple of weeks you’ve got night time visibility that has improved 200-300% over the old halogen bulbs. Pretty awesome deal right?
Pros and Cons of Converting to HID Xenon
The most obvious advantage for converting to the HID bulb is increased driver visibility. With greater road visibility, drivers should be able to identify hazards (like potholes or bigfoot crossing the road) earlier and avoid collision.
In addition, the HID Xenon bulbs can last anywhere from 2-3 times longer than traditional halogen based bulbs. How is that possible? Quite frankly, there are fewer breakable parts in the HID design.
Traditional halogen bulbs rely on a sensitive filament suspended at the center of the bulb. Hit a bump just right and that tiny little wire is likely to break, leaving you in the dark. With HID bulbs, electricity heats a chamber filled with xenon gas and metal halides which react by producing light.
Selling/using a “halogen to HID xenon conversion kit” is illegal. We’re not saying that the xenon bulbs themselves are illegal or that you won’t be seeing them on vehicles any more…but the conversion kits are, for a couple of reasons:
- According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) traditional filament headlamp housing units are “optimally designed for the volume of light and filament placement …that OEM filament bulbs have. The HID conversions result in two to three times the volume of light and potentially imprecise arc placement. Such conversions often result in beam patterns that behave nothing like the original filament beam pattern, cannot be precisely aimed and have many times the permitted glare intensity.
- The NHTSA has declared that HID conversion kits “are a potential hazard to those who share the road.” The logic behind this statement is largely based on the first reason given. While it is true that drivers using the HID xenon conversion kits will have increased road visibility, the resulting unpredictable beam patterns cause a more intense, longer lasting road-glare blindness to other people on the road.
To Buy or Not to Buy?
Like we said earlier, the HID Xenon bulbs themselves are not illegal. Neither is their use on motor vehicles. In fact, many new vehicles are coming straight from the factory with these newer, brighter, longer-lasting bulbs…so odds are that, at some point, the automotive industry as a whole will make a complete switch from halogen to xenon.
Whether you buy the halogen to xenon conversion kit or not is completely up to you, but we caution that these kits are illegal, they may have a negative impact on the driving ability of others on the road and their use in a non-OEM headlamp may result in civil penalties (traffic ticket) depending on local law enforcement.
If you have questions about alternative lighting options for your vehicle, give Axleboy a call at (636) 939-5337 or stop by.