Xenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) Tech Guide

In the world of automobiles, there are three main types of lighting used today; Halogen, Xenon (HID), and LED. Halogen is the most common and also the oldest and most tried technology available. Halogen bulbs are used in every aspect of daily life, not just on your car. Most household bulbs are Halogen, they are cheap to make and have been in use since the early 1900′s. Halogen bulbs consist of a metal filament that glows when electrical current is sent through it, and Halogen gas inside the bulb is used to help promote long life and durability.

Xenon High Intensity Discharge, or HID, is a newer technology with many benefits over a standard Halogen type bulb. Instead of using a metal filament that is prone to failure over long term use due to high heat, Xenon bulbs use Xenon gas to create light instead. A steady electrical current is sent through the gas causing it to ignite which gives you the brilliant white light we have come to love from Xenon. There are a few advantages to using Xenon over Halogen, one being the significantly longer life, another being a brighter white color vs. Halogen’s yellowish light. Xenon technology also uses less wattage than a Halogen bulb and therefore Xenon runs significantly cooler than it’s Halogen counterpart. This lower temperature reduces risk of fire and premature failure. The white light emitted by Xenon bulbs also better represent daylight and make nighttime driving easier on the eyes.

LED technology, or Light Emitting Diode, is the newest technology available to the automotive lighting world. These tiny bulbs come in many colors, sizes, and shapes. They use the least amount of power out of the three technologies and run cool by comparison. They also have the longest life of all the bulb types because there is no heat to cause component failure. The downside to LEDs is their brightness, they are rather dim by comparison, and in order to create a similar amount of light to that of a Xenon bulb, you would need dozens of the smaller LEDs.

So now that we know how they work and what the benefits are, it’s pretty easy to see why HID technology has really dominated the automotive market when it comes to headlamps. You get the brightest whitest light available in a package that outlasts Halogen and runs cooler. Another advantage to Xenon technology is the ability to offer different “Color Temperatures” with different kits for different applications to fine tune the perfect look for each and every customer.

Typically HID color temps range from 4300k all the way to 12,000k. Although you may assume a higher number means the light is brighter, it’s actually the exact opposite. A 12,000k HID bulb emits a blue almost purple light, however this blue light isn’t as effective when it comes to illuminating a night road. Many people assume that the higher the number, the brighter the light…this is incorrect. The higher the color temperature the less usable light you have to use. A 4300k tempurature will create a pure white light that peirces through the night, and is by far the best at lighting up a night road. The kelvin rating is for color, the output is measured in lumens. A 35W HID bulb outputs 3x the lumens that a 55W Halogen bulb would output. The image below shows the differences in color temps from 4300k to 12,000k.

If you are looking for an HID package that will not stand out too much and will offer better visibility without the blue tint, 4300k is the perfect temperature for you. This is a pure white light that is the closest to a Halogen bulb’s color output. 6000k is our most popular temperature as is adds a bit of stylish blue tint without reducing visibility. There is almost no difference in visibility between a 4300k HID and a 6000k HID. Once you get to 8000k and above you start losing a small amount usable light, but you get the stylish blue tint that many enthusiasts demand from their HID kits. No matter what you choose in terms of color temperature, it will almost certainly be an improvement over your stock Halogens. Not just in terms of light output, but in longevity as well.

Now that we’ve covered the technology and color temps, what about the hardware? Included with every HID kit are ballasts. The job of the ballasts is to regulate electric current through the Xenon gas within the HID bulb. Without the ballast, the current would vary and the light would flicker. Ballasts come in many shapes and sizes, and depending on the quality of the kit their materials will vary. Cheap kits use plastic ballasts that are prone to overheating and pose a fire risk. Quality ballasts are constructed of metal materials and will last significantly longer in the harsh environment of your engine bay.

Below are some customer images showing different color temperatures:

4300K

6000k

8000k

10,000k

For more information on StangMods HID kits, visit our store and view our HID selection at: http://www.stangmods.com/Mustang-HID-Lighting-s/61.htm – Here you will find kits for late model Mustangs as well as kits for Non-Mustang applications.

Author: stangmods

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