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How to Find the Right Headlight Bulb For Your Car or Truck

Lighting - by Bryan Veldboom - updated on 4/20/2021

Replacing a headline on a white car

Auto headlights are one of those things that are easy to take for granted; as long as they switch on at night there’s no real reason to think about them. But what do you do when one of your bulbs burns out? Keep reading for answers to your headlight bulb questions, including details on your replacement options and how to determine which size bulb is right for your car or truck.

Headlight Bulb Types

Headlights use different bulbs than those found in your vehicle’s interior and brake lights. The three basic types of headlight bulbs are: halogen/filament, xenon/HID and LED bulbs. Each one differs in terms of brightness, color, life expectancy and cost. Most modern vehicles are compatible with all of the bulb types discussed below, although, if your vehicle comes with HID or LED bulbs, it’s not a good idea to downgrade to a halogen replacement.

Halogen/Filament Bulbs

Halogens offer the lowest cost replacement option, although they’re not as bright as Xenon or LED bulbs. Halogen bulbs can be recognized by the yellowish light that they give off. An average halogen bulb has a brightness of around 700 lumens in low beam mode and round 1,200 lumens for high beams. They’re also the least energy-efficient of the three bulb types and generate a lot of heat. An average halogen headlight bulb tends to last between 450 and 1000 hours of use.

Xenon/HID Bulbs

HID (short for High-Intensity Discharge) bulbs use xenon gas and a ballast to create a cool white light with a bluish tinge. This makes them brighter than halogen bulbs, however, they experience a short delay before they reach their full power. This can last anywhere from a few seconds to a full minute.

An average HID bulb is rated for around 3000 lumens, though they can be as bright as 5,000 lumens. They also consume less power than halogen bulbs, making them more energy-efficient. These improvements do come at an increased cost, meaning you’ll pay more for an HID bulb than you will a halogen one. In terms of life expectancy, an HID bulb should last you roughly 2000 to 3000 hours.

LED Bulbs

LEDs are the longest lasting, most energy-efficient headlight bulbs on the market. They operate with very little wasted heat and, unlike HIDs, they activate right away with no ramp up time. In terms of brightness, LEDs do fall slightly short of HID bulbs. An average LED bulb falls into the 2,000 to 4,000 lumen range, although this will depend upon the number of LEDs contained in each bulb. LED bulbs give off an intense white light that is visible both day and night.

LEDs far outperform the other bulb options in life expectancy. You can expect to get an impressive 30,000 hours of life out of an LED bulb and, in some cases, your bulbs may last the entire life of your vehicle. On the downside, they are the most expensive of the three bulb types, although their long lives tend to even out this cost over time.

How Do I Know What Bulb is Right for My Car?

Much like with auto batteries, headlight bulbs are grouped into specific sizes. These sizes are then matched up to a part of the vehicle (headlight, signal, interior). Consult your owner’s manual for the correct bulb replacement info for your car or truck. Most of the time, your manual will give you a chart featuring the proper sizes for each of the vehicle’s different parts.

Find LED bulbs at Batteries Plus, along with halogen and HID bulb options by shopping online. Simply enter your vehicle’s brand, model and year and you’ll be given a list of compatible bulb options. Select the bulbs you’d like, then pick them up at your nearest location using our convenient Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store service.

One final thing to keep in mind. When replacing your headlight bulbs, you should always replace them in pairs. Headlight bulbs tend to put out less light as they age. If you only replace one bulb, the older one will give off less light, making you less visible than you would be with two new bulbs.

Batteries Plus is Your One-Stop Auto Center

Looking for additional products and services for your vehicle? Visit our automotive site for auto batteries, auto fuses, windshield wiper blades and more. We also offer a number of convenient services, including car battery testing, car battery installation and key fob replacement. Or, visit our blog for car battery maintenance tips or to learn about our top car battery brands.

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