HID and LED Headlight Buying Guide
Purpose of this buying guide
We decided to put this buying guide up as a helpful resource for everyone who is considering an upgrade to HID headlights, LED headlights, projector retrofits, or upgrading their interior and exterior lights to LED lighting. This guide will go over all the pros and cons to each option and try and help you make the best decision for your vehicle. This guide is here to inform the consumer about HID and LED upgrades.
HID Headlight Upgrades
HID Headlights have become a very popular modification to many vehicles the past 7 years. Not only is HID or Xenon a popular upgrade but many more manufacturers are either offering HID as an upgrade or even making them standard on many different vehicles.
There are some things that you want to consider first before upgrading your vehicle to HID or Xenon headlights, we are here to help inform the consumer if this option is the best for them and will list all the pros and cons of upgrading. Here are the most important things we came up with that you should consider before buying
- Aftermarket HID kits are not DOT (department of transportation) approved in the US or Canada. The same can be said in many other countries, we just do not have an official list of other countries with similar DOT laws.
- Even after mentioning that aftermarket HID Kits are not DOT approved, police in most states do not care as long as you do not go with the really blue or other odd colors for your HID Lights. Police can still issue you a ticket even if you went with white HID lights, but most police officers in many states do not care. We recommend you stick with either 4200k/4300k or 6000k
- HID bulbs can cause quite a bit of glare in some halogen reflector type housings. HID bulbs have a different design compared to halogen bulbs and have different focal points which can cause glare to oncoming drivers. It is imperative to make sure your headlights are correctly aimed before using them at night.
- Aftermarket HID kits do have trouble with automatic headlights. This is only true at startup though and will work perfectly fine if the vehicle is already running. If your vehicle is equipped with auto on headlights it is best to stop using that feature and turn the lights on manually after the vehicle has started.
- Aftermarket HID kits do not function well with DRL's (Daytime Running Lights). Now this is only an issue if you are running an HID kit on the bulb that is being used as the DRL bulb. If your DRL's use a separate bulb then it won't affect the HID kit. If you are running an HID kit off the DRL bulb there are a few fixes that can be performed to make them run okay in DRL mode. Please send us a message for details on the fixes you can do.
Benefits of Aftermarket HID Kits
- Can be up to 3 times brighter compared to a typical halogen headlight bulb. 35W HID bulbs that are 4300k can produce up to 3000 lumens of lights compared to 1000 lumens of light for a 55W comparable halogen headlight bulb.
- The HID Ballasts and HID Bulbs have a lifespan up to 2500-3000 hours if used properly. Most halogen bulbs have a lifespan of 800-1200 hours.
- HID bulbs and ballasts are much more durable compared to halogen lighting. halogen bulbs are a filament style bulb which can be affected by very cold weather and constant bumps from the road and are prone to break the filament. HID bulbs and ballasts hold up much better to temperature fluctuations and constant bumps and jarring from driving.
- High quality HID bulbs do actually run cooler than a typical halogen bulb. Now this is only true if the HID kit uses and true AC style ballast. Now the temperature in the housing can vary for different vehicles but typically you will see a reading of close to 300 degrees on a halogen bulb compared to about 260-270 degrees with an HID bulb. As long as you buy a quality kit, the temps will be a little lower with an HID bulb.
Questions and Answers
Q - Are halogen projectors the same as HID projectors?
A - No they are not. The focal points in a halogen projector are different than an HID Projector. Some HID bulbs that are installed in a halogen projector will actually produce less light output compared to the halogen bulb. We recommend that you use our RSI glare resistant bulbs if you will be installing the HID kit in a halogen projector.
Q - What is the difference between an AC HID Ballast and a DC HID Ballast and which one is better?
- AC is an alternating current (the amount of electrons) that flows in
both directions and DC is direct current that flows in only one
direction; the product that is flowing being electrons.
DC electrode wear is from one electrode due to one-way current flow whereas in AC, electrode wear is more even due to two-way flow.
Now why are DC HID kits worse, well, with the direct current running up the HID bulb they tend to get hot spots and burn out much quicker compared to an AC style kit. With most DC kits you see hot spots in the light output and you will also get inaccurate colors. Using the same 4300k bulb with a DC ballast and AC Ballast you will see that the DC version will appear to have more blue even though the bulb is the same. DC style kits because of their heat problems will usually only last up 800 hours if that at all and will always appear dull compared to an AC style HID Kit. Always choose an AC style HID kit. DC style kits are also prone to flicker as well.
Q - Why are some Bi-Xenon HID kits different than others?
A - There are essentially three different styles of Bi-Xenon HID Kits. The first will have an HID bulb for the low beam and an attached halogen bulb for the high beam. These are not a true Bi-Xenon kit but are often sold that way since they are cheaper to make and cheaper to sell. The second option is a magnetic HID bulb which shifts in and out to change the beam pattern when switched from low to high. The bulb will shift outward a couple mm to extend the beam pattern and essentially changing the focal point of the bulb. When switched to high the beam pattern will extend further and wider when compared to the low beam light. This is a true bi-xenon kit. The third option actually has two HID bulbs on the base and two separate ballasts to control each bulb. In low beam mode only one of the bulbs is lit, when the high beam is activated, the second bulb on the base is ignited so you are essentially running two HID bulbs in each housing (left and right side). This last kit is also considered a Bi-Xenon kit and will produce great light output in high beam mode but the problem you will see is that the second bulb when ignited will take a minute to reach 100% brightness. This is the main reason we do not sell that version as it takes to long for the high beam to become effective.
Q - Are HID Kits legal if installed by a professional, or if they are installed in a projector housing?
A - No they are not. If any person or any HID website or HID eBay listing claims their HID kits are DOT approved if installed by a professional are flat out lying to you. The only 100% legal HID systems are the ones that are installed by the manufacturer and come as an option for your specific vehicle. Even if you are using 100% OEM components but are installing them inside a halogen type housing, they are still not legal. Even if you install the HID kit into a projector housing, that does not make them DOT approved. Aftermarket projector retrofits are technically illegal as well since you are still modifying the headlight housing. Now we always recommend going the retrofit route if possible but it still does make them DOT approved. That being said it is up to your local police force to enforce those laws and from our experience, most states do not care as long as you stick with HID bulbs in the 4200k-6000k range.
Q - Where are HID Kits made?
A - 99% of HID Kits for the most part are made in Asia (China, Hong Kong) with the acception of some OEM companies like Philips, Osram, Matsushita, Denso, AL Bosch, Mitsubishi, Valeo, Sylvania etc. If anyone tries to list their own brand of HID kit being made in Germany or Japan, they are flat out lying to you. 100% of all eBay kits are made in Asia, even if they ship from the US or a different country they are still made in Asia. Now this isn't to discourage anyone from buying a kit made in Asia, there are still a few very good manufacturers in Asia and some of them do work with and have contracts with OEM HID manufacturers, the problem is there are more bad manufacturers than good and its hard to tell what you are getting at times. We personally work with a company called CN Light for all our RSI branded HID Kits, CN light is the same manufacturer that makes all the Morimoto HID kits and components and they also do a lot of work with Valeo and Hella, two OEM HID manufacturers.
Q - What is the best color bulb for my car and why?
A - We personally recommend anything between 4200k-6000k. This color range is the same standard as what OEM manufacturers follow. Most OEM HID applications will fall in the range of 4000k to 5500k. One of the reasons we recommend this range is because as the Kelvin temp gets higher, you actually loose light output. typically most 4300k HID kits will put out approximately 3000 lumens of light. If someone were to choose a 12000k kit, that light output could be around 1600 to 1900 lumens and the blue light will not provide adequate light output to drive safely.
Q - What is the purpose of a relay cable?
A - The relay cable is an added safety measure for the HID kit. Even though an HID kit runs at 35W they can still affect the fuses of your vehicles lighting system, especially if you are running more than one aftermarket HID kit on your vehicle. The relay cable will have its own heavy duty fuse which will protect your vehicles headlight fuses and it will also draw power from the battery as well just in case.
Q - What are the 50W resistors needed for and what vehicles need them?
A - The 50W resistors are used to trick the vehicles ECU into thinking the HID kit is 50W instead of 35W. The resistors will trick the ECU into thinking that the the HID kit is the same as a 55W halogen bulb. The main types of vehicles that need this extra cable are: BMW, Audi, VW, Volvo, Mercedes Benz, Dodge, Chrysler, Porsche, newer Ford vehicles 2010+, Jeeps and Land Rover. If you ever are not sure if you will need the extra cable, just send us a message and we will let you know for sure.
Q - Does Philips really still make HID Conversion Kits?
A - Yes they do in fact still make them. Now the common issue or question we get is, if they do make them, then why do they not show up on Philips website. Well the reason is because you are looking on the North American website, if you switch to a different region like, Australia, you will find that the HID kits are in fact listed on Philips website. The reason for this is because of the DOT laws in North America, because HID kits are not DOT approved, Philips will not sell directly to business in the US or Canada. The way we get around this is, we buy from authorized suppliers of Philips products in the countries they can sell the aftermarket HID kits. All our Philips kits come from an authorized Philips distributor in Hong Kong and are guaranteed to be a genuine kit.
Q - Will my HID kit void my factory warranty?
A - The answer is Yes and No actually. Now there is actually a law against dealers voiding your whole warranty for installing aftermarket parts or accessories. It is called the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act. What the law states is a dealer can not void your whole factory warranty if you say installed an aftermarket HID kit, unless that specific part caused the problem that needs to be fixed. Now even in this circumstance, the dealer still has to prove to you that the HID Kit cause the failure. They cannot deny warranty work on say, your transmission becuase you have an HID kit installed.