Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Replacement Factory Headlamp

Like many car parts, headlamps malfunction after prolonged use. The most common sign that you should replace your headlights is an increasingly dim appearance.

Not only is it dangerous to drive around with dimmed lights, but they can also go out suddenly, leaving you at risk for a ticket or car crash. It’s best to replace them when you first notice diminished effectiveness.

Today, we will discuss how to choose a replacement factory headlamp and tips for the buying process.

Signs that You Should Replace Your Headlights

If you notice any of the following problems, it’s time to replace your headlights:

  • Increasingly dim light or beams
  • One malfunctioning headlight
  • Flickering headlamps
  • Cracked outer shell

Any of these issues can indicate that your car’s headlamps are close to failure. Though you can bring it to the mechanic for a professional to fix the problem, replacing the lights yourself is easy and affordable if you know what to look for.

Types of Headlights to Consider

The headlamp you should buy depends on the make and model of your car. Most cars only have two lamps that contain the bulbs for both regular beams and brights. Some older cars, however, may have four lights, meaning that you should buy four separate bulbs and casings.

It’s also best to replace headlights in pairs, because if one malfunction, it’s likely that the other will fail soon after. Always check your user manual to make sure that you choose the correct style and type of headlights for your car.

Housing: Projector and Reflector Headlamps

There are two different types of headlight “housing,” which is essentially the design and shape of the entire lamp (not just the bulbs). You can opt for either a projector or reflector headlight.

Projector headlights have a magnifying lens that helps project the light beam and increase the projected brightness of the bulbs. Their shape aids in angling the light beam down toward the road rather than fuzzily illuminating all objects in front of it.

Reflector headlights do not have these special features. They are the standard housing for older or basic cars. There is a steel bowl that encases each bulb to help reflect the light onto the street. You do not have to replace the housing unless your car’s headlight has cracks or damage.


Configuration: Capsules Vs. Sealed Beams

The configuration of the headlight refers to whether you can disassemble it or if you have to replace the whole thing when there’s a problem. You can disassemble a capsule headlight, whereas you must replace an entire sealed beam headlight if any part malfunctions.

Capsule headlights allow you to replace the bulb if it blows. Most of them have plastic lenses and are not as weather-proof as sealed beams (though they are still extremely durable). Most newer models of cars have capsule headlights that fit directly into the car’s body.

Manufacturers often mount sealed beam headlamps on the hood of the car. Everything is connected (the lens, housing, and bulb) meaning you must replace the entire part when it breaks. Most cars that are 10 years or older and some large trucks have sealed capsule lights.

Halogen, HID or LED

There are three types of bulbs for headlights that produce different levels of light and last for different amounts of time. Halogen lights are the most common. They use halogen gas and filaments that emit white or blue light after heating.

HID bulbs, aka High-Intensity Discharge, run on xenon gas and are much brighter than halogen lights. They also tend to function for longer. If your car originally came with halogen bulbs, however, it will be incompatible with HID bulbs and vice versa.

Nearly all new car models come with LEDs, which are by far the brightest and most long-lasting. They don’t need as much power and have very few problems compared to the other bulbs.

Always make sure to check which bulb your car takes, as electric connections are typically not interchangeable. If you decide to opt for HID bulbs, which give cars a more luxurious appearance, you will have to fork out the money for a Xenon conversion kit.


Extra Replacement Tips

You can also buy two categories of factory replacement headlights; aftermarket or Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Though OEM headlights are more expensive, car manufacturers make them. Thus, they include a quality guarantee.

Aftermarket headlights are cheaper but may not come with a warranty. They come in many styles and shapes to give your car a unique look, meaning that they are sometimes the nicer option stylistically.

To check the quality of the headlights you want, look for CAPA or NSF certification. These two unbiased organizations review headlights for the quality of the manufacturing process, durability of the light, and minimal glitches/defects. If the headlight has either of these certifications, it is reliable and of good quality.

You can also check with the U.S. Department of Transportation or the Society of Automotive Engineers to see if the headlights you plan to buy meet their safety and quality guidelines.

Any lights that do not have either a certification from the aforementioned organizations or fail to complete safety and quality guidelines are not worth the money.

If you replace your headlight bulbs and don’t notice any improvement, you either need to clean or replace the headlight housing. It is perfectly normal for headlamps to become dirty over time, so you can easily Google some DIY tutorials on how to clean headlights.

The Bottom Line

If you want to enhance your car’s style, you should buy HID or LED lights. Be sure to check for headlight certifications to make sure that you are buying a product that will last for several years. Headlights are normally easy to replace, so don’t waste your money on a mechanic unless you can’t DIY the project. Finally, always make sure to check your user manual before buying new headlights.