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Old 07-28-2008, 01:27 PM   #1
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Hid Faq

I see a lot of misinformation floating around these days about HIDs and (fill-in-the-blank)K lights, etc; so I thought it everyone might benifit from an article I found online written by Jason M. Neal.

1. What are HID's?
The best way to describe an HID headlight is to compare it to a more conventional halogen headlight. A halogen bulb consists of a wire filament surrounded by an inert gas. When electrical current is applied to the filament, it glows brightly to produce light. Contrast that with an HID bulb which has no filament, but instead consists of xenon gas, mercury, and metal halide salts. The xenon gas is ignited by an arc of high-voltage current and glows brightly. Also, the high voltage is supplied by a ballast, so in these respects it is like a fluorescent light. HID's are original equipment generally found on luxury and exotic cars but are progressively finding their way into the mainstream. For example, the 2004 Mazda 3s at ~$17k will include HID's.

2. Why install HID's?
If chosen properly, the improved light output of HID's will give you a better field of vision and thus improved safety. Plus, let's admit it, they look cool.

3. What is meant by color temperature?
The Kelvin (K) is the unit of color temperature. 4100K is the brightest, most natural white light similar to that of daytime sunlight, and therefore the HID color temperature used most in the OEM automotive industry. When you look at the light coming directly out of an HID headlight, it possesses a bit of a blue or purple hue which most people recognize as the expensive, elegant look characteristic of HID's. For this reason, some HID kit manufacturers produce 5400K, 6500K, 8000K, etc. bulbs that give an even more distinct blue hue but at the expense of overall light output. For comparison, most halogen headlights have a color temperature around 3200K which gives them a "dingy" yellowish appearance compared to HID's.

Blue light is more fatiguing to the eyes, both to oncoming traffic and to the driver. Oncoming cars will see your lights for only a brief time, but as the driver, you must deal with it for the duration of your drive. The bluer the tint cast on the road and surrounding area, the more quickly your eyes become tired. It's a personal choice and I recognize and respect that some install HID's mostly for the look. However, very blue headlights might get you the wrong kind of attention from law enforcement. Personally, I'd like to benefit from my investment in the way of increased visibility and safety. Be aware that most of the 6500K and higher bulbs are produced by inferior manufacturers to capitalize on the maketability of "the bigger number must be better". Their 8000K bulbs may not measure 8000K. Don't be fooled.

4. What are some good quality brands to look for?
Generally speaking, Philips or Osram (division of Sylvania) kits are recommended because they are the brands used by the major automotive OEM's. They count on quality components because dependability is critical to auto manufacturers. Other brands may use bulbs or ballasts of inferior manufacture that are prone to early failure. Perhaps even more sinister, some kits tout their use of Philips or Osram ballasts while they covertly use cheap bulbs of unknown origin that burn out quickly. So it is a good idea to check the brands you buy. They likely won't be branded by Philips or Osram directly, rather they are usually rebranded by another company. If the seller doesn't specify who makes their components, it is a gamble. A low price is very tempting (believe me, I'm the same way), so my best advice is to solicit opinions and do your research before buying.

5. What is included with a HID conversion kit?
A typical HID conversion kit includes:

(2)two bulbs
(2)two ballasts (with built-in igniter)

wiring harnesses
(2)two relays

The bulbs don't really need any more explanation. The ballasts are small boxes (usually one per bulb) that convert the car's 12VDC into high voltage AC required to illuminate the xenon gas. Usually built into the ballast is the igniter initially required to start the bulb. The wiring harnesses allow you to plug directly into your exiting car wiring with a minimum of splicing wires. Relays are sometimes included as well, one per ballast. They use the 12V from the original bulbs to switch in a lower resistance path to 12V to power the ballasts. They aren't always needed.

7. Should I replace both my high and low beams with HID's?
Most of us spend the majority of the time driving with our low beams on. Compared to the high beams, the lows usually leave the most to be desired. And HID headlight conversion kits aren't cheap. As of this writing (Jan 2004), quality kits typically cost $350-$500. For these reasons, most people opt for low-beam conversion kits only.

8. Wow, HID kits are expensive. Can't I get the same look and light output from the "HID-look" bulbs?
Yeah, they don't exactly give them away, do they? You'll get a lot of strong opinions with this question. From what I've read, those who've taken the inexpensive route seem to prefer Naxos or Sylvania Silverstar bulbs. They are direct replacements for factory halogens, meaning they operate on direct 12V and therefore do not require a ballast/igniter. However, many argue that these produce a light that, while better than typical halogens, is not a true white compared to HID's. They are a lot less expensive, though. You can find them for around $30 a pair online.

These HID-look bulbs achieve their light output by drawing more power from the vehicle's electrical system. Some pull as much as 100W while most stock halogens draw around 50W (typical HID's draw 35W). Also, while I haven't seen any reports of quality problems from the Naxos or Sylvania bulbs, some of the other bulbs have a nasty reputation for burning out quickly. Logically, it is probably because of the increased heat due to higher power consumption. Some users have also experienced damage to their light housings as a combination of cold weather and the increased heat from the bulbs (small bulb housings such as those used with some fog lights, in which the heat is concentrated within a small area).

9. Are HID's legal?
Installing HID's into a vehicle not originally equipped with them from the factory is technically illegal. Practically speaking, you stand little chance of being cited for them provided you educate yourself on the requirements of HID lighting and take the necessary steps to ensure you have the right equipment and adjustments to keep it safe. That is, make sure your vehicle's headlight assembly uses an appropriately designed projector lense (as opposed to a reflector), and of course that your headlights are properly aligned after installation. Many newer vehicles use projector lenses because stock halogen bulbs also benefit from the "light shaping", but having just any old projector lense does not necessarily ensure that the beam pattern will be correct. It is absolutely essential for HID's to give the light output a sharp cutoff line to prevent blinding oncoming traffic. As HID's become more popular, aftermarket projector housings are being produced for some vehicles.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) states that improperly-installed HID's are getting a lot of complaints. Vendors will usually include a disclaimer that they are intended for offroad use only, but it's no secret that people don't follow this rule. Now, there are a lot of aftermarket automotive parts that qualify as illegal but aren't strictly enforced. Logically, the safety implications of blinding oncoming drivers are more serious than, say, an exhaust that exceeds the legal noise level. So the DOT has actively gone after vendors of HID conversion kits, threatening monetary fines if they continue selling them, and consequently there are now fewer places to buy them.

In case your interested, the original article can be found here: http://www.cs.usm.edu/~jmneal/tiburon/hids.htm

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Old 07-28-2008, 01:32 PM   #2
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good info i stumbled upon this a while ago too
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Old 07-28-2008, 02:09 PM   #3
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Old 07-28-2008, 02:42 PM   #4
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yay ! i finally know what a ballast actually does !!! (serious)
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