Why should I replace my headlights?
Whether your headlight got busted in a collision or the bulb’s gone out, headlights are a must-fix item you should take care of right away to safely light the way at night or in bad weather, and to avoid getting pulled over by one of your friendly neighborhood ticket-writing officers.
Even if your headlights are functioning properly, you might want to go ahead and replace them if you notice yellowing or fading, or if moisture’s gotten inside. Having clean, clear headlights makes a world of difference driving at night.
What exactly do I need to replace? Should I replace one or both headlights?
In some cases, you may be able to just switch out your headlight bulb, which is a fairly simple, low-cost fix. If your headlight housing is damaged, you may only need to switch that out (which can get a little trickier than switching out a bulb), but if you have an older model with sealed beam headlights, you may need to replace the entire headlight assembly. Find out what parts need replacing and research your options going from there.
If you just need to switch out your bulb and don’t know what model you need (e.g. 9006, H1, etc.), check your owner’s manual or the base of your factory bulb or housing, look it up on the Internet according to your vehicle’s year, make, and model, or consult a professional.
Finally, you may have heard that it’s better to replace both headlights even if only one of them is broken. We highly recommend replacing both headlights to ensure even, equally improved lighting. In cases where only one headlight has gone out, chances are the other will go out sooner rather than later, too, so to remove the hassle of having to pop your hood twice, it’s best to just go ahead and replace both at the same time. If only one’s damaged but the other is yellowed with age, replacing both will restore the looks and performance of your vehicle.
If you decide to repair only one headlight (e.g. if you only need to replace the housing for one), make sure you get the correct side (i.e. driver or passenger side).
What are the differences between OE replacement and performance headlights?
OE (or original equipment) replacement headlights are designed to the same specifications as your factory lights to provide an exact fit for plug-and-play installation and fully restored, OE-style performance. These are geared towards customers who are looking for a cost-efficient, straightforward replacement with the best value. Dorman, for example, is renowned as a value line that offers good quality and a direct fit. If you’re looking for affordable brands, Hella is another great option—they specialize in headlights that deliver premium performance at a fraction of the cost of going to the dealership. If you own a Jeep, Crown’s a good go-to brand for top-notch Jeep replacement headlights.
Performance headlights offer the latest in advanced lighting technologies along with the sleekest, most fashionable designs. If you’re looking for an upgrade in terms of both style and lighting performance, Anzo, Spyder, and StyleLine are all excellent choices.
What are the differences between halogen, HID and LED headlights?
Halogen headlights are the most common in the aftermarket, and are generally regarded as a standard replacement. They yield good output, are energy-efficient, and offer long life. Word of caution: halogen bulbs utilize filaments, which can be vulnerable to water damage and dust. If you need to get halogen headlights, we recommend getting some with dust covers.
HID (or high-intensity discharge) headlights incorporate xenon gas, which burns two times brighter, illuminates greater distances, and lasts longer than halogen. HID bulbs also do away with filaments, which reduces the risk of dirt and water damage, but they tend to be more expensive than halogen bulbs.
LED (or light-emitting diode) headlights offer an ultimate energy-saving solution and are amongst the most technologically advanced in the market. They deliver outstanding lumen output for superior beaming power, along with a prolonged lifespan, durable weather protection, and distinct style. While LED headlights are on the more expensive side of the spectrum, they provide maximum visibility and ultra-cool, ultra-smart performance.
What should I keep in mind when shopping for headlights?
Looking over these options, you may be eyeing halogen replacements if you have a tight budget, or the HIDs or LEDs for their upgraded performance. You may have even heard of special headlight conversion kits, like an HID or LED conversion kit. Here we must stress that application by far is the most important factor you need to consider when buying new headlights. Check what your vehicle’s equipped with so you can make sure you’re getting the correct replacement. For example, both halogen and HID headlights are offered for Mercedes E350s. If you were to get halogen replacements to save money, you may find they don’t work if your ride’s equipped with HID headlights. So what about an HID conversion kit for a Mercedes E350 originally equipped with halogen headlights? Again, before you make any purchases, just make sure that whatever you buy will work for your specific application. If ever you’re in doubt, we highly recommend that you consult a professional or get in touch with us—we’re available via phone, chat, or e-mail, and are more than happy to help.
When shopping for the right headlights for your application, make sure you pay attention to your vehicle’s year, make, model, submodel, and body type. Some vehicles have different headlights based on body type (e.g. Honda Accord coupe vs. sedan) and even submodel (e.g. Chevrolet Malibu LT vs. LTZ).
Another thing you need to make sure of is that your new headlights include everything you need. Headlight assemblies can come with or without bulbs, and even one that’s distinguished as a “headlight assembly with bulb” may not include every single bulb you need. For example, a headlight assembly may include the main bulb but not the turn signal bulb.
Some of the options you come across may not work for your ride or may not be legal, so as with all replacement parts, make sure your new headlights are:
(1) DOT/SAE compliant (meets the requirements of the US Department of Transportation and SAE International, or the Society of Automotive Engineers) and
(2) the right fit for your application, with everything you need included.
Look out for headlights that are CAPA-certified, too. The Certified Automotive Parts Association (or CAPA) is an independent, auto-industry-recognized authority that assesses the fit, quality, and safety of replacement parts to stringent standards. CAPA-certified headlights tend to be pricier, but the extra quality controls that go into their production and that CAPA seal of approval ensure you’re getting the best headlights available.
What should I keep in mind when installing new headlights?
• Handle new bulbs with a clean tissue to avoid touching them with your bare hands. Your skin’s natural oils can heat up on the glass, leading to premature failure.
• If you’re replacing the housing or entire assembly, be sure to only loosen the screws around the perimeter of the housing that fix it to the brackets. Do not touch the smaller adjusting screws—those adjust the beam’s direction.
• After you’re done installing, have someone test the lights (including the low beam lights and brights) so you can make sure everything’s in order.
• If you’re uncomfortable doing it yourself, you could have a professional perform the replacement for you.