What constitutes the best headlight bulbs? Are we talking purely about the brightness, longevity, pattern or something else? Many people don’t give much thought to what bulbs they use in their auto, providing it meets with minimum legal requirements, or lights the pavement enough to see where they’re going, they simply aren’t that fussed. However, choosing a great HID kit, LED headlight bulb or halogen bulb can make a big difference to your driving.
Depending on your geographic location, you may be restricted to a certain Wattage – usually around 55W for regular lights, or 65W for brights, and while there are other (much brighter headlight bulbs) available, the old 55/65W does the job well.
So just what makes a headlight bulb the best headlight bulb? Is one manufacturer better than another? These are my top five.
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Best Headlight Bulbs For White Light 2018
1. SYLVANIA 9004 SilverStar Ultra
Sylvania offer a wide range of bulbs, and the SilverStar Ultra is their top of the line super bright bulb, but it still conforms to all NHTSA requirements. The bulb uses a combination of tech and engineering – nano coating technology, proprietary mixture of gas and an engineered and specifically designed filament.
Sylvania claim that this bulb gives superior down-the-road lighting, along with giving better side illumination, but doesn’t increase glare, so you won’t be blinding oncoming motorists. This halogen bulb comes as a 45/65W output, and for me, I’d like to see the lower output for regular driving upgraded slightly – perhaps 50W or even 55W, but 45W is sufficient, especially when you take into account the whiter light.
The SilverStar Ultra ranks high as one of the brightest headlight bulbs for every day use purely because it works well and gives added length to illumination.
2. SYLVANIA 9006 XtraVision
Sylvania are an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) supplier to a number of auto makers, so their bulbs have all gone through a strict quality process, and that shows – these bright halogen bulbs are well manufactured, in fact the XtraVision range is designed for durability over light output.
The XtraVisions offer an extended range over standard headlight bulbs, but not quite as far as their sister bulbs, the SilverStar. That’s because the Xtras have been made with a proprietary filament that’s been made to last – whereas some users of the SilverStar range are surprised at how long their bulbs are lasting, these will go on and on.
Just a single filament for this fitment, and that’s rated at 55W, so there is no increase in glare, but the whiter light does spread its pattern well – giving exceptional side road lighting. The XtraVision bulbs are the number one headlight bulb for longevity and durability.
3. Philips X-treme Vision
Philips have been in the tech industry for decades, and supply a number of auto makers as standard equipment, but the X-treme headlight bulbs are a class above.
Made with a high quality UV-Quartz glass, with a high performance coating. These really are some of the best headlight bulbs that you can buy – they offer up to 130% more light than a regular bulb, even though they’re still rated at just 55W.
That 130% improvement can bring an improvement of around 147 feet further length in the beam, which could add as much as two seconds to any reaction time. They have an official lifespan of around 450 hours, so if your car uses the regular headlights as DRLs (Daytime Running Lights), then these may not be the ultimate choice, but if you’re doing a lot of night driving, the added performance is worth it.
Luckily, I created some additional guides for safe night driving. The most popular option are night vision glasses.
4. PIAA 17655 H7 Xtreme
PIAA are perhaps the most well known for their driving lamps, and if you follow any rallying championship, you’ll see the PIAA name just about everywhere – these guys know headlight bulbs and lighting.
Although they’re rated at 55W, PIAA claim to have an output of around 110W, and thanks to the engineering and materials used like the heat resistant glass and aerospace alloy filaments, they’re safe to use in plastic lensed headlights – no headlight restoration kits needed here!
The alloy filaments help to dissipate heat, which is why these headlamp bulbs don’t need any extra cooling, but these filaments are also very durable – meaning that light output doesn’t come at the cost of reliability.
5. Philips H11 CrystalVision Ultra
These CrystalVision bulbs are all about the looks – giving your auto the look of a full HID kit, but still remaining with the halogen bulbs, they also have a blue ‘cap’ on the bulb to give you that cool blue-effect during the daytime.
Philips say that these CrystalVision bulbs are unmatched by anything else that’s fully DOT compliant and road-legal, although there are a number of manufacturers that offer 5000K light, but as with all things, certain conditions can change the specs.
Fully road-legal, and made with OEM technology means that these bulbs are great for durability and should last for a good amount of time before needing replacement. The CrystalVisions are the most powerful headlight bulbs for giving your ride that cool blue look of expensive headlight upgrades.
Things to Know
Not all cars are the same – there are a number of different fitments for headlight bulbs – H7, H4 and H11 (among others), so you can’t just go and pick any bulb you fancy – it needs to be the right style – if you’re not sure, there are plenty of places that will either check compatibility, or tell you what you need – the owners manual would be the first choice.
If you’ve bought one of the expensive halogen headlight bulbs, be aware that the natural oil from the skin can damage it – creating a hotspot which will lead to premature failure, so you should always try and avoid touching the glass segment of any halogen bulb with your bare hands, and if you do, a wipe with some sort of towel would be advisable.
Typically, a number of these expensive headlight bulbs will only fit one-way, but there are some fitments that could effectively sit upside down, meaning your headlight pattern will be … everywhere. And yes, some autos are extremely difficult to see what you’re doing when fitting a bulb, some may even require that you have to move something to just get to the headlight cover – as modern cars become more compact and fuel-efficient, designers and engineers give less thought to being able to carry out routine maintenance (besides, they’d much prefer you to take it to their workshop).
Some bulbs are dual element – meaning they have the dipped/main filament on the one bulb, while others are single filament, again, this gets back to fitment – check yours if you’re unsure.
Finally, you should think about heat – upgrading your headlight bulbs to something with more Wattage could create more heat, and if you have plastic headlamp covers, there’s a good chance that you can damage them due to the extra heat. It’s not normally a problem for the super bright LED headlight bulbs.
Despite being a simple thing, with just one connector, fitting a bright headlamp bulb can sometimes be difficult. On some cars, you may find the air cleaner housing in the way, or battery, or any of the incidental systems, but assuming that you can get to the rear of the headlight, it’s relatively straightforward.
You’ll need to remove the rubber or plastic cover that seals the rear of the headlight, (always make sure you put it back – it keeps all manner of debris from entering the headlight unit), and you should be able to see the back of the bulb/wiring connector and typically, a metal spring clip which holds it all together.
Remove the wiring connector before the spring clip (the clip helps to hold the bulb firm while you’re pulling the wiring off), then undo the spring clip. Once the clip is undone, you should be able to move the bulb easily. Just swap the new brighter headlight bulb with the old, making sure to note how the bulb fits – which orientation.
It’s always worth checking that the lights are working correctly before placing all the covers back on, and if you’re changing the bulb for something different (brighter light, blue or white for example), you’ll need to do both bulbs at the same time.
And Finally …
While it could be construed as a ‘marketing’ thing, all the manufacturers will tell you to replace bulbs in pairs, and there is a degree of sense to that – after all, if one bulb has blown, how long will the other last? Surely it’s better to replace the bulb while you can see what you’re doing, rather than by the roadside?
There are hundreds of different bulbs, both halogen and LED headlight bulbs, but as with a number of upgrades for your car, deciding on what you want to achieve by swapping parts out first is sensible – you want the look of an HID headlight kit? Or just an improvement in night time vision?
Choosing the right headlight bulbs for you can make a difference to your safety and style – choose wisely!