Operating a vehicle in the dark with a failed headlamp is both dangerous and potentially very expensive. In fact, a ticket for an inoperable headlamp could cost $75 or more in many areas.
The good news is that replacement headlamps are widely available for virtually any common vehicle model. Identifying the right replacement lamp is simply a matter of knowing the exact year, make and model of the vehicle; with this information, you can find a replacement that's either an exact match of the original or, if desired, an improved design that provides increased performance and/or longer life. Here are the headlight basics.
When to Replace Headlamps
Many motorists don't know there's a problem with their headlamps until someone points it out to them. A better approach is to check all vehicle lamps (headlamps, parking lamps, brake lamps, turn signal lamps, side/marker lamps and so on.) with every oil change.
Obviously, any failed headlamp should be immediately replaced. But it's important to remember that the failure of one lamp can closely precede the failure of the other. So it's best to replace headlamps in pairs.
Types of Headlamps
Most vehicles have either sealed beam or capsule/bulb headlights:
- A sealed beam unit is a self-contained lamp that includes the exterior lens and fits within a lamp bezel at the front of the vehicle. These lamps often need to be adjusted following installation to make sure the light beam is correctly aimed. See the vehicle owner's manual for detailed instructions on installing and aiming sealed beam lamps.
- A capsule or bulb style lamp features a one-piece bulb and base assembly, which is mounted into the rear of the vehicle's fixed headlamp housing. Touching the bulb glass on the replacement capsule/bulb can damage the specially treated glass and impair bulb performance. See your owner's manual for detailed instructions on capsule/bulb replacement.
Many motorists prefer a truer, whiter light than is available through conventional factory-style and replacement headlamps. You can buy replacement headlamps with a filter that removes green-yellow from the lamp's color spectrum to produce a much truer white light that provides better visibility than standard halogen type lamps.
Thanks to Federal-Mogul Corporation for providing information for this article.