We all care about safety on the roads. While people can communicate with words and gestures, cars only have their lighting system for this purpose. There is no doubt that you rely on the brake, turn, or reverse signals of the car in front of you and fully operational headlights of the vehicle going towards you. And, of course, you need to have your car visible at night and predictable to other road users. Moreover, US rules concerning headlights being on at low visibility are strict, and the motoring fine can be around $200.
Consequently, properly functioning vehicle lights are essential, just as fully operational brakes or oil level. If even one of your bulbs does not work, you need to replace it immediately. Professionals advise changing two bulbs in paired lights of your car because the other will soon also burn out. We recommend you the installation of HID conversion kits and upgrading your halogen bulbs for brighter and energy-saving light.
High-density discharge lights use another gas (xenon) to warm up the bulbs, so the HID lights are much brighter (and even brighter than the LED ones). The color of xenon light is white and blue in contrast to the yellow halogen spectrum. Also, halogen lamps possess a filament, while the HID ones don’t. Unlike halogen bulbs, xenon lights need a high-voltage current discharge to start working. Moreover, HID lights are officially required to reach 80% of their capacity within only four seconds after you switch them on. But after you turn them on, xenon bulbs use much less energy for staying bright. This is because the gas starts the arc, and metal salts maintain it alight.
If you do not have a xenon headlight car, you will need an HID conversion kit - a system that would ‘convert’ the xenon light into your halogen-fitted headlights. The kit consists of a xenon bulb, a ballast (looking like a box), and a wiring harness. The ballast is used to ignite the gas in the bulb and wires - for correct plugging. HID conversion kits usually include two ballasts and two bulbs.
Aftermarket HID kits will serve your car much longer than traditional halogen bulbs, but you will still notice how they get dim with time and become unusable at night. Though it depends on weather conditions, sunrise and sunset time, local requirements to keep your beams on, and other factors, manufacturers expect that xenon lights will operate for around 10,000 hours and advise replacing them once in three years.
Xenon bulbs may vary with size and are marked with letters and numbers: H1, H3, H4, H7, H11, H13, 9003, 9004, 9005, 9006, or 5202.
Xenon HID kits have accessories that are essential for their correct operation; however, they are not included in the conversion kit pack. These items are HID relay harness and HID canceler. HID relay harness connects your vehicle’s battery to the HID lighting system. This helps to control the energy flow to your xenon headlights, preventing both your HID lights and the car from damage. HID Warning Canceller (or HID Error Message Canceller), HID Decoder, and HID Anti Flicker Capacitor will eliminate strobe effects and error messages about bulb failure.
Before replacing your halogen bulb with a xenon one, you need to know that legal issues may apply. Firstly, though bulbs may look alike, the halogen headlight capsule has a reflector assembly, and the xenon one has a projector assembly. So, if you use an HID bulb in a headlight with the reflector (halogen) principle, the light beans will be bright and unfocused. Such headlights can blind other drivers. Some HID headlights shine eight times brighter than the replaced halogen bulb’s maximum candlepower is. This light pattern casts even less light on the road than the halogen bulb, as it spreads more glare out of your headlight right into the eyes of the oncoming drivers. You will have even worse visibility with your xenon kit once it is not installed correctly after replacing the halogen lamp. And above that, you can be sued. If the glare of your headlights causes an accident with your headlights being non-compliant, you will be responsible.
Secondly, all US states demand that your headlight must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 108 requirements. This standard states that the replaced headlight capsule’s electrical specifications and dimensions must conform to the factory specifications. That’s confusing as xenon bulbs operate with ballast, which is not utilized for halogen bulbs.
The US DOT (Department of Transportation) sets federal requirements for US transport, but it does not actually certify any product. So, when you see an HID conversion kit with a DOT logo on its top, this means the manufacturer made such a ‘certification’ himself. You should disregard any DOT mark on your HID kit and double-check all the characteristics before you buy it.
So, there are only two legal ways to use xenon bulbs. The first option is to simply change the xenon bulb (or the whole conversion kit) in your factory HID headlight capsule. The second possibility is to change the entire halogen capsule with an HID capsule, then properly aim the light and have the installation done professionally. In such cases, your beams will not blind other drivers. However, how safe this upgrade will be is not 100% clear, as laws’ wording may vary across the states, as well as the local priorities. It’s even possible to get a ticket if your halogen bulbs look similar to HID lights due to their blue coating.
However, please note that if you want to buy a factory HID lamp from a crashed car outside the US, their light pattern and other indicators may not be in line with the DOT standards and, thus, illegal in America.