Light bulbs may not be one of the most glamorous parts of your truck, but the function they serve is vital to night time driving. Lighting technology has improved significantly over the last several years and while your stock headlight and foglight bulbs provide good illumination, you can dramatically improve your field of vision by upgrading them. One of the most popular upgrades to stock headlight and foglight bulbs is an HID retrofit kit. HID light bulbs present several advantages over older bulb styles as well as some potential difficulties. Let’s take a look at these pros and cons in detail.
An F150 equipped with HID lights
What is a HID Bulb?
HID (high-intensity discharge) light bulbs use an electric arc traveling between tungsten electrodes in a bulb filled with xenon gas to produce a much brighter light than that made by traditional halogen bulbs. Used as original equipment on some modern vehicles, they’ve become a popular aftermarket enhancement for older vehicles as well.
Advantages of HID Bulbs
HID lights provide substantially improved illumination
The obvious benefit of upgrading to an HID light bulb is improved visibility. HID light bulbs produce a field of illumination up to 3x larger than a comparable halogen bulb and the improvements don’t stop there. HID light bulbs are more energy efficient than older stock automotive light bulbs, capable of lasting up to 4x longer before requiring replacement. The wider field of illumination along with greater efficiency adds up to increased safety during night driving. The color and brightness of an HID light bulb is dependent on its operating temperature. This means that by engineering bulbs with a variety of operating temperatures, HID bulbs can be offered in a number of colors. Take a look at the chart below to see what options are available and what applications they’re most suitable for.
3000K -Emits a yellow light that's good for lighting up the road in adverse conditions such as fog. Most commonly used to upgrade fog lights
4300K - Emits an off white colored light. Standard color and temp for factory HID systems. Provides the most light output and best performance
5000K -Emits a pure white light. Provides a good balance of a nice crisp white color and good performance.
6000K - Emits a crystal white light with a subtle hint of blue. The most popular HID color choice and temp for aftermarket HID installs. Used as a premium factory upgrade option for some vehicles.
8000K - Emits a more blue light than 6000K. Still contains a tinge of white and is not classified as true blue.
10,000K - Emits a dark blue, almost violet light. Significant visibility reduction.
12,000K - Emits a violet/purple light. Not suitable for night time driving.
Possible Drawbacks of HID Bulbs
A blue HID light
When considering an upgrade to HID automotive light bulbs, there are some potential difficulties to take into account. HID light bulbs require a ballast to regulate power. This ballast must be externally mounted and requires minor wiring customization to install. Another issue is that on older vehicles HID bulbs can be too large to fit without modification to the headlight housing. HID bulbs also require a few second to warm up before achieving full illumination compared to a halogen bulb’s instant on/off effect. The biggest drawback to HID bulbs is that if your vehicle is installed with a regular reflector headlight housing or halogen projector style assembly, and HID bulbs are installed, they can produce a large amount of glare. Because these housings are designed for halogen bulbs, which usually shine at a lesser intensity than HID bulbs, installing a HID bulb into them will cause a lot of glare and excess light, potentially hindering the vision of oncoming drivers. For this reason, some areas have laws against using HID bulbs in stock reflector housings. Fortunately, most aftermarket headlight assemblies include HID compatible projectors so when you’re thinking about upgrading always make sure to check and see if your existing or new headlight assemblies are rated to handle HID bulbs.
Is an HID Retrofit Kit Right for Me?
The components of an HID retrofit kit
If you want to change up the color of your headlight and fog lights while achieving maximum available illumination, an HID retrofit kit is worth your consideration. Nothing else can illuminate long, dark stretches of highway or country back roads quite as well as an HID bulb. With that being said, they do require some rudimentary mechanic ability to install thanks to the external ballast and extra wiring included in the kit. For drivers who want a substantial light upgrade without the extra work, LED light bulbs
may be a great alternative.