Shedding Light on Headlamps

Shedding Light on Headlamps

The loss of a headlight makes nighttime driving hazardous, and may even attract the unwanted attention of the local police. A burned-out taillight, stoplight or turn indicator lamp creates a hazard for other motorists because these lamps signal a vehicle’s directional intentions to other drivers. Bulbs that provide illumination for instrumentation are also important because they allow the driver to monitor the speedometer and other gauges. Even something as simple as a failed trunk light or dome light can create an inconvenience when operating a vehicle after dark.

So your job as a technician or repair shop owner is to help customers “see the light” when they need a replacement lamp or bulb.

Light Years of Evolution
Years ago, all headlights were sealed beams. So if your customer needs a replacement headlight for a 1980s vintage or older vehicle, there are only a few basic sizes of round and rectangular beams: Those for two headlight applications (6014 round high/low sealed beam and 6052 rectangular high/low-beam) and those for four headlight systems (4000 round low-beam, 4001 round high-beam, 4652 rectangular low-beam and 4651 rectangular high-beam).

Most of these older style sealed beams were originally standard incandescent lamps. In 1978, the federal government revised its headlight regulations to allow the use of “halogen” sealed beams. Halogen lamps are brighter and last longer than regular lamps because the bulbs contain a small amount of bromine gas (one of five elements in the halogen chemical family). The bromine gas allows the use of a smaller, hotter tungsten filament because bromine redeposits the microscopic particles of tungsten that boil off the filament back onto the wire. This extends the life of the bulb and prevents the glass from darkening as the bulb ages. Today’s headlamps feature the following:


Halogen: Halogen lamps are a good upgrade for these older sealed beam applications because halogen lamps produce more light with the same or less current. Halogen sealed beams have an “H” prefix on their part numbers and are available in various sizes for round, rectangular and low-profile rectangular headlights. How much brighter are they? A conventional incandescent bulb generates 16 to 18 lumens of light per watt, compared to 20 to 22 or more lumens per watt for a standard halogen bulb (some high-output halogen bulbs produce as much as 28 to 33 lumens per watt!). The higher output of a halogen headlight throws more light on the road to improve nighttime visibility and extend the driver’s visual range. The light is also whiter than a regular incandescent bulb, which improves visibility too.


Some of the more popular replacement halogen bulbs include 9004, 9007, 9008 and H4 for two headlight systems; 9006, H1, H7 and H11 for low-beam quad headlight applications, and 9005 and H9 for the high-beam on quad lamp systems. For fog and auxiliary lamps, other popular halogen replacement lamp sizes include 9040, 9045, 9055, 9140, 9145, 9155, H3 and H8.


Xenon: In the late 1990s, two new types of “xenon” headlights were introduced. One type is the “High Intensity Discharge” or HID lighting system that uses a special high-voltage bulb that doesn’t contain a filament. Inside the HID bulb are two electrodes separated by a gap and a mixture of xenon gas, mercury and halide salts. A ballast unit steps up the base voltage supplied to the HID lamp to create an electrical arc between the electrodes. This produces a “plasma discharge” inside the bulb that gives off a very bright, bluish-colored light for better night vision and range.


HID lighting systems are much more efficient than standard halogen headlights, producing about 75 lumens per watt. And because an HID bulb has no filament to burn out, they last three to five times longer than a standard halogen bulb. But the required ballast electronics also make HID lighting systems very expensive so they are used primarily on high-end luxury cars and SUVs. HID replacement bulbs include D1S, D1R, D2s and D2R types. Aftermarket HID lighting kits are also available to upgrade a vehicle’s lighting system.

The second type of “xenon” headlight — and a more affordable upgrade alternative — is the blue xenon headlamp that can replace standard halogen bulbs. The blue bulbs have a tungsten filament like a standard halogen bulb, but also contain xenon gas that allows the bulb to burn hotter and brighter (up to 30% more light depending on the application). The special coating also gives the light a bluish cast that appears similar to that of a real HID lighting system.


LEDs: The trend in lighting functions on automobiles is moving to LEDs — Light-Emitting Diodes — that convert electrical energy directly into light. With their small size and low energy requirement, combined with powerful light emissions, product longevity and amazing reliability, LEDs are the technology of the future for automotive lighting.


LED lamps on cars have been around for more than 20 years — first appearing in the mid-1980s for use in hi-mount stop lamps on the rear of vehicles.

But only recently have LEDs been featured as a technology used for front lamps. Anyone who has attended a new vehicle auto show has probably seen LED headlamp designs on various concept vehicles. But that’s about to change, as LED headlamps are ready to hit the streets. (See “Hella to Supply First Full-LED Headlamps for GM” below.)

Since LEDs consume very little power, only about 1/10th as much current as a comparable incandescent light for the same amount of light that’s produced, that allows them to last longer — a real benefit to OEMs. This benefit is increasingly important for hybrid or electric vehicles in order to conserve battery power. And according to Scott Burgess of the The Detroit News, the OEMs are finding additional “glowing appeal” in car design using LEDs.

“Once a beacon for the plush interiors of Lexus, Mercedes and Cadillac, LEDs have made their way into daily drivers such as the Ford Focus and Chevy Malibu, and certainly will make their way into more,” Burgess said. “Interior and exterior designers love the little light bulbs and are finding new ways to use them.

“Recent advances in LED technology and continued price drops mean LEDs will play a more important role in future designs. Consumers will reap the benefits, finding more extravagant ‘light shows’ inside future vehicles and flashier exteriors as the luxury lighting source goes mainstream.”

While Lexus claimed to offer the world’s first night-time LED low-beams on its LS 600h L hybrid sedan, Cadillac said in January that it would begin using the first headlight with LED high- and low-beams on the Escalade Platinum.

John Manoogian, General Motors Corp.’s design director for Cadillac who has been at GM for more than 30 years, said when he started, there were only 6” round, 8” round, small rectangular and large rectangular headlamps. “You designed the front end around that, Manoogian said. “Now, we don’t face those limitations.” While costs for LEDs have come down, some say there is still a big disadvantage to this headlamp technology — heat issues. Compared with daytime running lamps or rear lamps, a dipped beam or main headlamp is much brighter and generates far more heat. To address this issue, lamp suppliers have been devising complex systems to remove the heat, such as fans, using cooled cabin air and other ventilation designs. So for now, as with most automotive technology, expect to see LED headlamps primarily only on luxury vehicles.

Lamp Replacement
With all types of lighting applications, finding the right replacement bulb is essential. Small bulbs, in particular, can be difficult to match. Always refer to a lighting catalog or database for the vehicle application. Comparing bulbs and referring to the number on the old bulb is also a good idea, but keep in mind that the old bulb may not be the correct one for the application if it has been replaced before (maybe that’s why it burned out!). Two bulbs that appear to be the same may have different wattage and resistance ratings. Using the wrong bulb may cause premature bulb failure, circuit overloads or other problems.

On some newer vehicles, “light out” modules are used to sense failed bulbs and alert the driver when a lamp fails. If a replacement bulb does not have the same resistance and wattage rating as the original, it can sometimes cause the module to illuminate the “light out” warning lamp even though the bulb is working.

With halogen and xenon headlights, the lamp receptacle in the headlight housing and wiring connectors are configured differently to eliminate the risk of installing the wrong replacement bulb. Techs should be warned, though, not to touch the bulb itself because fingerprints can cause a high-temperature bulb to fail prematurely.

Hella to Supply First Full-LED Headlamps for GM in North America
In January, Hella KGaA Hueck & Co., a global supplier of automotive lighting and electronic equipment, began providing the first full light-emitting diode (LED) headlamps for General Motors in North America on the 2008-model Cadillac Escalade Platinum.
In this new, upscale sport utility vehicle, LED technology for low- and high-beam functions will be used for the very first time in North America. Production of the Cadillac Escalade Platinum is expected to begin this summer. Approval for usage of LEDs in low- and high-beam lighting in Europe is expected by 2008, as well.
“The Cadillac Escalade Platinum will be the first high-volume vehicle in the world to be equipped with Hella’s full-LED headlamps,” said Steve Widdett, executive vice president, Automotive Sales, Hella Corporate Center USA. “This marks a significant milestone in advanced automotive lighting applications.”
LED headlamps emit light considerably closer to daylight, improving perception when driving during twilight and darkness, as well as increasing overall driver comfort and safety. Hella’s full-LED headlamps are reported to last up to 20 times longer than traditional automotive lighting.
“Hella is using newly developed multi-chip LEDs as light sources for low- and high-beam,” said Widdett. “LED technology makes new lighting functions possible, opening up new, innovative styling and differentiation potential for vehicle manufacturers.”
Free-form glass projection lenses are being used for the very first time anywhere in the world. Thanks to their individual optical design, each area of the lens is responsible for a certain part of the light distribution on the road. Of the seven glass lenses used in a headlamp, only two are completely identical, all the others are of different shape.
A high-performance ventilator, developed especially for the particularly demanding requirements in the automotive sector, is responsible for the thermal management in the headlamp and takes over the active cooling and ventilation of the LED chips.
The low-beam light section of the headlamp is generated by five optical units arranged underneath one another and situated at the outer edge of the headlamp housing. The low-beam light is responsible for close-range illumination in front of the vehicle. The daytime running function is achieved by dimming the same five optical units of the low-beam.
The remaining two identical optical units in the headlamp are responsible for high-beam light and are situated at the inner edge of the headlamp housing. High-beam light illuminates upward and straight-ahead of the vehicle to maximize visibility.
Also utilizing LED-technology, position lights are placed vertically between the low-beam and the side marker, which is located on the very outer edge of the headlamp. In the 2008-model Cadillac Escalade Platinum, direction indicators and fog lamps are mounted in the lower area of the bumper. Within the United States, LED lighting technology for secondary lighting functions, such as the position lights and direction indicators, is becoming more common in automotive lighting, Widdett noted.

Reader Feedback
I was reading your February issue and in the front of the magazine was an ad that claimed oil can clean an engine. Is that right?
Name withheld at request of the reader.
To respond, here is Troy Chapman, brand director for Pennzoil:
Pennzoil has embarked upon a new brand strategy that makes strong claims about the oil’s ability to help keep a vehicle’s engine clean, and a clean engine’s connection to the driver. The bold new brand initiative is built around the theme of “Feel the Clean.”
This new focus on Pennzoil’s active cleansing agents highlights the product line’s advanced technology that emphasizes the active cleaning ability of all Pennzoil motor oils and the positive effect that this has on helping to maintain engine responsiveness and the overall driving experience. The most prominent products featured in this effort are Pennzoil
conventional motor oil and Pennzoil Platinum full synthetic motor oil with adaptive molecules.
We have developed strong technical claims about the active cleansing agents in Pennzoil motor oils that help prevent dirt and deposits from forming in the engine.
The fresh, new approach by the Pennzoil brand is led by two strong claims. First, Pennzoil Platinum full synthetic motor oil: Cleans three times better than the leading conventional oil based on a severe
sludging test using SAE 5W-30. Second, Pennzoil
conventional motor oil: No leading conventional oil helps keep engines cleaner than Pennzoil motor oil based on ASTM D 6593 sludge results using SAE 5W-30.

Troy Chapman
Brand Director

Standard Tech Team Program Unveiled
Long Island City, NY — Standard Engine Management announces its Standard Plus Club (SPC) technical assistance hotline has a new name and logo for 2008. Effective immediately, it is now known as the Standard Tech Team. The new name and logo reflects Standard’s commitment to delivering high-tech solutions to help professional installers diagnose and fix problem vehicles quickly and accurately.
Standard Tech Team members benefit from the expertise of Standard’s highly trained ASE technicians who have a minimum of five years experience in both OE and independent automotive shops supported by factory and in-house training, backed up by a comprehensive factory manual library and multiple electronic libraries, in addition to a database of previous phone calls with their solutions.
For more information on the Standard Tech Team, contact your local Standard territory manager or call 800-781-7587 and select option 5.

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