HID Technology Defined
The simple way to understand HID headlights is by cross examining the function of ordinary lights found in most cars that are Halogen Lamps. The common mechanism of a Halogen Lamp has gas inside it and a filament which emits light when ignited by an electric current. On the other hand a HID bulb does not contain a filament but has metal halide salts and the inside is filled with Xenon gas. When electricity is applied the Xenon gas is ignited producing an arc of light which glows much more brightly than a conventional Halogen light. HID lights also use a component called ‘ballast’ that supply a very high voltage to produce bright fluorescent glow.
Purpose of HID
These lights are commonly associated with luxurious cars that come with built in HID lamps. However due to the popularity and demand, these lights are now being sold in the form of conversion kits that can be used to upgrade the halogen lamps of most cars to HID. Besides them being an expression of taste and style – practically speaking – HID lights do produce a brighter light and gives the driver a clearer field of vision at night.
Contents of an HID Kit
The basic and commonly used components of a conversion kit has the following:
2 units of HID bulbs
2 units of ballasts
A wiring harnesses
As explained in the opening section the bulb’s perform the lighting part. Whereas what confused most people is the ballast boxes that come with an kit. These boxes are designed to convert the DC (direct current) from your car’s wiring to AC (alternate current) as the high voltage AC current is required to make the Xenon gas work inside an HID bulb. These ballast boxes also come with igniters that kick start the illumination process. A wiring harness is required to neatly connect your car’s wiring with the new bulbs and ballasts without having to mess with the existing setup of wires. The relays are optional accessories are they are sometimes needed based on the bulb you are supplied with.
The final process explained
Since, you now know the basics, its time to move and see how the whole mechanism actually works using a technical drawing. When the headlights are turned on, the current flows towards the relay coils. The relay coil then shuts the contacts and let the current pass on to the ballasts that kick start the illumination igniting the HID bulb.
What are 5400K, 6500K and 8000K bulbs?
You must have seen these lights being sold with the above descriptions that simply depict the color temperature of the light produced by a bulb. To understand common standards – 4100K is the brightest kind of while colour. Whereas, other colour temperatures have been introduced to produce different colour shades such as purple and blue and to offer colour choices to customers.
Does it mean the higher the temperature number – the better?
This is not true. You shouldn’t go looking for the higher numbers. The lights that are sold by any good brand with a temperature rang of 4100K to 5400K are good enough to produce that elegant touch. However some doggy sellers are now selling lights that say 8000K and upwards to grad the attention of the buyers who do not understand the technology. These dodgy bulbs never measure up to their claimed temperature levels.
What brands to look for?
There is obviously a huge difference between cheap stuff being flooded on the online websites and brands that supply quality products. Fortunately there are some good brands like Philips, Orsam and also some specialised brands like DDM and VVME that supply decent quality bulbs. You may want to buy some cheaper substitute brands if you have a budget constraint. However, the cheaper bulbs don’t impose any serious threat but may not last for long and you might find yourself stranded on the road in a worst case scenario.
Are HID Lights legal?
From a technical perspective, installing HID lights without knowing what problems it may cause it is supposed to be illegal. However, if you educate yourself properly and choose the right set of lights that go well with your vehicle and do not impose any danger to other drivers on the road, then you are okay to use them in most countries. The problems arise when the incorrect lights are fitted that are not aligned well or produce a strong glare that may distract oncoming traffic – then you are surely calling for trouble with traffic cops.