If you're needing to replace the headlights of your car - this guide is for you! We know that it's a stressful enough time when your car is out of action, so we want to make it as easy as possible for you to get back on the road (and lighting it up!).
- Types of headlights
- Which type of headlight do I need?
- Who makes headlights? Aftermarket vs. OEM
- Can I upgrade my headlights?
- Can I get Xenon-look headlights?
- How can I save money replacing my headlights?
- How do I buy headlights and get them fitted?
Types of Headlights
As automotive lighting technology has evolved, it has become a little more complicated than it used to be to know which type of headlight you might need. There are three main different types of headlight: Halogen, LED, and Xenon.
Halogen lights are the traditional bulb type used in cars. With a thin filament made of tungsten, a glass filament containing halogen gas routes the gas back to the tungsten, to create the light source.
Price is often the biggest plus point to halogen lights. The downside to halogen is that the bulbs are very energy inefficient and, at the end of the day, halogen is a dangerous and reactive substance.
LED stands for ‘Light Emitting Diode’, a popular type of lighting technology used in everything from tiny stand-by lights on gadgets to – surprisingly – car headlights!
LED headlights need a lot less power to produce light than halogen-based bulbs, and they can be smaller (but shining just as bright). However, they generate a lot of heat and need more cooling than halogen or xenon-based headlamp systems.
Xenon is the latest lighting technology installed in cars and other road vehicles. It is a gas that is far safer and less reactive than halogen, and emits a very clean and white light that is unmistakable on the road.
HID bulbs also use Xenon, but do not have a filament. Instead, they generate light from an arc of electricity between two electrodes.
Xenon lights are often just Xenon for their low beam (or dipped beam) lights, with the high beam being halogen. Bi-Xenon means that both bulbs – your full beam and dipped beam, are Xenon-based.
Which headlight type do I need?
If your vehicle came with halogen-based headlights, it needs to be replaced with halogen too. The same is true with LED or Xenon systems.
You can often tell which headlamp system you have already by the appearance – a Xenon lamp will have a lens covering the bulb, whereas a halogen headlight will tend to have the bulb on view.
If in doubt, check your handbook, or give the dealer a call.
Who makes headlights – and does it matter?
There are three ‘categories’ of manufactured headlights. These are Genuine, Original Manufacturer/OEM and aftermarket.
Genuine means the part was made by whomever made the original part, and is branded with the car maker’s logo.
Original Manufacturer or OEM means the part was made by the same people, but does not come with the car maker’s branding.
Aftermarket means the part has nearly always been made by a third-party, but may have additional features.
For a more complete guide on the differences, see our article on Genuine vs. OEM vs. Aftermarket parts.
Can I upgrade my headlights?
Some people are looking to upgrade from halogen to xenon, which while possible is an expensive undertaking. You’ll need to replace nearly everything (headlight-wise), and depending on the design of your car, you’ll need bumpers or (in rare circumstances) the engine removed to make way for installation. For more on this, see our post on upgrading from halogen to xenon headlights.
One option is Xenon-look headlights, which give you the same look and feel as a Xenon installation, but still utilise halogen bulbs.
Can I get Xenon-look Headlights?
We currently provide such a kit for the BMW 3 Series (F30), and plan on offering many more in the future. These sets look exactly the same as Xenon installations, but still run a halogen light source, with its yellow-ish light.
How can I save money when I need to replace headlights?
One way to save money when replacing your headlights is - and of course we’re slightly biased here! - to buy your headlights from anyone but the dealer, and have a trusted mechanic install it for you.
It isn’t unknown for us to be up to 2/3 cheaper than like-for-like quotes from dealerships, which can save hundreds of pounds.
See our article on how much headlights cost to be installed by a mechanic to get more of an idea on pricing.
How do I find the exact headlights I need?
Visit our homepage, and select your vehicle in the main menu. After you select your make, select your model and then the year range that your car was produced in. So, for example, if you’re car was made in 2010 you might be looking for something that looks like 09-13.