February 14, 2008
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By Glen Konoroski
It’s a well known fact that new vehicles today have much better headlights than their older counterparts of just ten years ago. Most new cars use a composite headlight, with halogen bulb, which basically allows the headlight to conform to the curves of the vehicle for better aerodynamics. Unfortunately, some of these composite designs don’t always project the light as well as they should due to their design within the vehicle’s shape.
For the past few years, many original equipment bulb manufacturers and aftermarket companies have been offering brighter bulbs to improve the intensity of vehicle lighting. These include better-designed bulbs, special coatings on the glass to enhance the colour or just better filaments in the bulbs to enhance light output. All this technology comes with a higher price, so I decided to find out what you get for your money.
The first bulbs I tested were from PIAA, a company that specializes in top quality aftermarket lighting for all types of vehicles. I used a Jeep Liberty for the testing as it has bulbs that are fairly easy to reach and install. The bulbs were PIAA Extreme White Plus series. Compared to the factory bulbs there was a noticeable difference in illumination (white/blue light). On the road on a clear night using low beams, I could see well to about 100 metres. On high beams, that distance increased about another 30 to 40 metres of clean white light. PIAA claims that their bulbs put out almost double the light that a standard bulb produces. Most of the people who drove the Liberty before and after the bulb replacement had to admit there was a significant improvement in the visibility at night.
The next set of bulbs we tested were the Silver Star Ultra from Sylvania. Like the Extreme White Plus, the Silver Stars projected a nice real white/blue light that gave a good 100 metre view on a clear night. On high beams, we found a gain of another 20 to 30 metres as well as some sidelight as well. The Sylvania bulbs also had the blue coating on the bulb to enhance the real white light. All of us that used the Silver Stars agreed that they were much better than stock bulbs, but just not as bright as the PIAA bulbs.
GE Nighthawk headlight.
The last set we tested was GE’s new Night Hawk bulbs. Unlike the other two, the Night Hawks do not have the blue coating on the bulbs. This makes the light coming from these bulbs just white and more like your original stock bulb. At night we found that the bulb worked well up until the 100-metre mark on low beams, but only marginally better visibility on high beams. One thing about these bulbs is that they provide slightly less glare in wet and misty conditions which, depending on where you live, can be a benefit.
One thing I found a little perplexing is that these High Output bulbs don’t last as long as the standard bulbs that came with the vehicle. I found that on average, they only lasted two years, and generally burned out within weeks of each other.
It goes without saying that these improved bulbs will give you better light at night especially if you drive on country or cottage roads. All the bulbs tested are approved for road use and will not harm your vehicles wiring.
Prices for the PIAA bulbs start at abound $75 a pair and up, while the Silver Stars and Night Hawks start at around $45 and go up from there.
PIAA bulbs are generally found at automotive specialty shops while the other two can be found at most automotive parts stores.