Sankul Nagpal
Dec 6, 2022
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7 min read
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Informative

The Game of Beams: Different Types Of Car Lights

Types Of Car Lights

The sheer pleasure we get every time we take our car out for a spin is the end result of several components working together in the most beautiful way. Be it comfort, performance or safety, different parts cater to different needs, creating a wholesome driving experience. And when it comes to safety, Car headlights are one of the most crucial components, that enable us to cruise through the darkness at night, even in places where there aren't any lights at all. This is why you need to ensure that you have the best headlight system in place. So in this article, we will explain the different types of car lights and headlight systems so that you can make the right choice.


Different Types of Car Lights

When it comes to choosing the correct car headlight, it is crucial to know the two most fundamental types of car headlight systems. These include the Reflector Type and the Projector Type. 


The Reflector System

Equipped as standard fitment across millions of vehicles in India and across the globe, the Reflector System is a type of car headlight system, that has been prevalent since the invention of electric headlights. In terms of basic structure, a Reflector System comprising of a bulb that is encased in a bowl-like structure infused with mirrors within it to reflect light onto the road ahead.

While in the old school sealed-beam casing, the lens type fitted in front of the reflector casing determined the shape of the beam, in the present time, there are mirrors infused within the housing itself, that can help guide the beam as per requirement. This means, that the lens casing no longer needs to be sealed, allowing users to easily replace or remove burnt bulbs. 

A system that was and continues to be one of the most used headlight systems, the reflector headlight system has two major advantages:

  • They are cost-effective and cheaper to make; a reason why reflector systems are widely equipped as standard fitment.
  • When compared to the projector system, the reflector system takes up less space and it isn't placed deep inside the headlight housing. 

Also read Which Mirror Is Used in the Headlights of a Car?


The Projector System

A headlight system that is rather new, the projector technology was first used in the 1980s when it was reserved only for high-end luxury cars. Fast forward to 2022, the projector headlight system has made its way into the mass market automobile offerings and is one of the most wanted features that users look for in modern-day cars.

Much like the reflector system, projectors also contain a bulb encased in a steel bowl equipped with multiple mirrors to reflect the light, the biggest distinctive feature is that in a projector headlight set-up, there is also a lens that itself acts like a magnifying glass, increasing the beam’s brightness by many folds.

To ensure the magnified beam of light is thrown at the correct angle, the projector headlight system also has a cutoff shield that helps to direct the throw of light towards the road ahead. Ever since projector headlights have made their way into the industry, they have been constantly growing in terms of popularity and rightly so because of the several advantages they offer:

  • Projector systems are substantially brighter than their reflector counterparts. 
  • The Projector system has a very sharp cutoff angle and does not tend to blind the ongoing traffic as the beam is directed downwards towards the road rather than shining wide ahead.
  • Projector headlights have no dark spots and can spread an even beam of light.
  • Projector headlights allow users to safely choose HID bulbs that can blind the oncoming traffic when fitted in a reflector setup.

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Which One To Pick?

While the headlight system is pre-fitted onboard every car, most users who desire to change their existing headlight setup do so to have a brighter beam without creating vision problems for other drivers. This makes the projector headlight system more suited since it offers a brighter output without blinding others. The projector system also allows users to switch from halogens/LEDs to Xenon HIDs.

Also Read How to Adjust a Car Headlight?


Types of Car Lights 

Now that you know about the two major headlight systems, it's time for you to know the different types of car bulbs currently prevalent in the market.


Halogen Lights

The most commonly used light bulb onboard modern-day cars, the halogen bulb contains a single or a pair of filaments that fulfils both high and low headlamp functions along with pressurized gas within the bulb.

A halogen bulb works when electricity is sent through the tungsten filament/filaments that are placed inside a glass enclosure that is filled with inert gases along with a  small amount of chemically reactive halogen gas. Since the halogen inside the glass casing is highly heat resistant, the filament once supplied with electricity, starts to heat up and glow. This is the reason why halogen light is bright yellow in colour.

Also read How to Replace the Turn Signal Bulbs


Pros of Halogen Bulbs

  • The first and foremost advantage of halogen bulbs is the fact that they are cheap and cost-effective. 
  • Secondly, halogen bulbs are the easiest to replace

Cons of Halogen Bulbs

The biggest con of a halogen bulb is the fact that it has a shorter lifespan of around 450 to 1,000 hours when compared to other kinds of lights since halogen lights glow brighter and burns out faster.

Also read How To Fix Headlights If Not Working On A Car


LED Bulbs

LED or Light-Emitting Diode is another type of car headlight that lightens up by a process called electroluminescence. In simple words, electroluminescence is a process in which electrons are fired towards positively charged holes in a semiconductor, which results in the release of energy as photons which are particles of light. 


Pros of LED Headlights

  • In the use of LED lights, there isn’t any warm-up time along with a negligible amount of heat is generated. Moreover, LED lighting is highly energy efficient and easy to retrofit. 
  • Since LED bulbs are essentially small semiconductors, LEDs can be arranged in any shape and size helping OEMs to make sleeker, smart and better-looking headlights.
  • LED light can be programmed to emit any colour on the spectrum making them highly versatile and practical.
  • LEDs can emit bright light without causing blinding issues for oncoming traffic.

Cons of LED Headlights

  • The biggest con of a LED headlight is that the cost and pricing of a LED headlight are comparatively higher than halogens since the built-in heat sink and other sophisticated components that LEDs come with.

Also read 2-seater EaS-E EV Is The Cheapest Electric Car In India


Xenon/HID Bulbs

HID (High-Intensity Discharge) or Xenon is a type of car bulb that is the most common offering onboard high-end luxury cars. An HID/Xenon bulb is a combination of Argon and Xenon gases mixed with vaporized metals that emit an extremely bright ray of light. An HID/Xenon bulb works in a way that is quite similar to CFLs in our homes.

Compared to other bulbs Xenon/HID bulbs require some time to heat up and reach their maximum brightness and are thus commonly used along with other types of bulbs for the high beam. But once on their max brightness, Xenon/HIDs can give a consistent bright throw of about 200 to 250 metres. While HID/Xenon lights come as an OEM fitting, there are aftermarket conversion kits available for those who wish to upgrade.


Pros of Xenon/HID Bulbs

  • The biggest advantage of Xenon lights is that they can emit a consistent ray of bluish-white hue that has one of the farthest reaches as compared to other lights.

Cons of Xenon/HID Bulbs

  • The biggest disadvantage of HIDs is the fact that they take up several seconds to reach their maximum output.
  • Another disadvantage is that once they reach their maximum brightness, HIDs can blind oncoming traffic.

Also read Demystifying the Myths Behind Left-hand Drive Vs Right-hand Drive Cars


Laser Lights

The latest innovation in the world of automobile lighting, Laser lights illuminate via a process dubbed chemiluminescence, meaning that they produce light by triggering a chemical reaction. Laser Lights consist of a chamber with phosphorous gas inside which glows when beams of lasers are shot onto it. What you see from outside the car is the light coming out of the phosphorous gas and not the actual beam of laser. To summarize, within the headlight unit itself, laser beams shine onto mirrors that reflect onto a lens chamber filled with a special gas to create a strong light beam.

Also read How To Restore Headlights At Home Professionally


Pros of Laser Lights

  • The biggest advantage of Laser Lights is the fact that they are highly energy efficient. They are capable of producing 1000 times the light produced by an LED by consuming half the amount of energy.
  • Laser Lights are about 10 times smaller than LEDs, which again gives OEMs their desired design flexibility.
  • Lasers are very far-reaching, easy to operate and can adapt well to the surroundings.

Cons of Laser Lights

  • While laser lights produce more light, they also end up generating more heat, which means that laser systems require cooling systems to be built in thereby increasing cost.
  • Lasers are currently only available in high beams, which means that they need to be used alongside other bulb types such as LEDs, halogens etc.
  • Also, they are only currently available for use in high beams, which means they must be paired with regular halogen, LED, or HID headlights.

Also read Foggy headlights? Learn how to remove moisture from headlights.


Conclusion

With an in-depth idea about the different types of lights in a car and the headlight system, you can now make an informed choice if you need to upgrade your OEM headlight. But whenever you do so, make sure not to install lights that are too bright and create an issue for oncoming traffic and other riders.

This article provide you the information about different types of car light. If you found this guide helpful, you may also like to read more about A Guide To Everything You Should Know About Light Bars and How To Clean Car Headlights – 100% Working Ways & Tips or visit Carorbis Blog for more like this.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Which light is best for headlights?

Ans: From a cost point of view halogens are the best for headlights, while for those who need more visibility and cost-effectiveness, LEDs are the best fit.


Q2: Where are headlights located?

Ans: Headlights are located in front of the cars near the front bumper.


Q3: What colour car lights are legal?

Ans: While the law may differ in each country generally white and amber lights are legal.


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Sankul Nagpal

Sankul Nagpal

Advocate | Creative and Legal Content and Copyright Specialist | Freelancer