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(John Lehmann/Globe and Mail)
(John Lehmann/Globe and Mail)

Rob's Garage

Are "white light" headlights safer? Add to ...

When your car's headlights burn out, is it better to get a premium “white light” bulb, or will a basic one work as well?

Thank you, Steve

Many people are jumping on the “bright white” bandwagon Steve, which is not totally a bad thing because any time you create better vision for the driving experience it improves safety on our roads.

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I say “not totally a bad thing,” because this movement over to white-light headlights does not come without some controversy. Most of the issues focus on the brilliance faced by on-coming traffic. Although this sounds contrary to benefits being published by the manufacturers of these bright bulbs, there is validity to the claims.

I can vouch for this particular claim, as my father-in-law had a tough time gazing headlong at nighttime traffic after he had laser surgery done to his eyes. The brilliance actually gave him pain – to the point where he had to give up nighttime driving altogether.

That’s a little of the downside to this conversion Steve but the obvious upside is that drivers can see further on the road. This becomes extremely beneficial if your travels take you down dark and stormy roads at night. I have taken advantage of this new headlamp technology – but not to the level of white lighting. I found a supplier – VisionX – that offers a brighter lamp replacement. Simply by increasing brilliance, the light beam is slightly whiter without the glare of white-light. My concern was the constant flashing of high beams from approaching vehicles at night. This is a phenomenon that I have witnessed and personally been involved in whenever I test drive a vehicle with these bright white or High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights.

As long as any headlamp replacement bulb or assembly meets or exceeds Transport Canada requirements, you can upgrade your headlights. However, the factory fitment or design will dictate what options will be available to you.

Case in point: If your vehicle comes from the factory with HID headlights, you will have no choice but to replace them with OEM parts, or parts that meet OEM specifications. In this case, you are stuck with the design – and the cost. These true white-light pieces can be expensive.

The good news is that if your car/truck can take advantage of simply a bulb replacement, you have many options. However, to answer your last question, a basic bulb will do just fine if you don’t find yourself driving on dark and stormy nights.

Send your auto maintenance and repair questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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