RAC Cars News


Car Lights: The Bright Buyer’s Guide

By raccars Published

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Car headlights are car headlights, right? Ah, if only things were so simple. Headlight technology used to be straightforward in the olden days, but not anymore. Now, we have xenon lights, LED lights, even fully automatic lights. Here’s a quick guide that may be illuminating…

Winter's rapidly approaching and, now the clocks have gone back, we're suddenly finding ourselves commuting in the dark.

That shouldn't be a problem – cars have lights for a reason, but driving in the dark reveals just how many people forget to check their lights.

Minor issues like failed bulbs account for around 1.5 million MOT failures so not only could checking your bulbs prevent a potential accident, it could also save you money.

When shopping for a new car there it's amazing how complicated something like headlights can be. Here we help you see the light by answering a couple of the most common questions. Firstly…

What's the difference between HID and LED?

HIDs, more commonly known as xenons, shine with more intensity normal halogen lights. They're distinctive by having a slight bluey tinge and are often available as an optional extra on a new car. They generally last longer than conventional bulbs and, because of their vivid glare, are considered a desirable feature that’s worth paying a bit extra for.

LEDs, are usually found alongside normal headlights as daytime running lights (DRLs). EU rules introduced in 2011 mean all new cars must have DRLs, and the majority come in the form as LEDs. LEDs use very little power and a very small, which is why car manufacturers are increasingly use them for aesthetic reasons.

Increasingly though, some brands are rolling out full LED headlights. Why? Because they use less power than HID lights and allow designers to style more shapely front ends. They’re reserved for very high end cars for now but start to look out for them on the used market in coming years.

Are automatic headlights a good thing?

It's becoming increasingly common for car manufacturers to make driving easier, often by including automatic wipers and headlights as standard. But what happens if you leave your car to decide whether the lights need to be on or not? Well, there are numerous disadvantages. Here are a couple:

Flashing lights – if you drive under a bridge, or even through a shady spot, your lights might briefly switch on. That might be a good thing, but could another driver misinterpret your flashing lights? Someone could mistakenly pull out in front of you, or assume you're being aggressive.

Rain – automatic headlights can detect it being dark, but won't recognise that it's raining. Driving on the motorway in heavy rain with your headlights off could result in an accident if another motorist doesn't see you.

Yes, automatic headlights can make our lives easier. But be careful – they're not to be relied on.

There's just a few things about lights to consider. Next time you buy a new car, you'll be able to do so with your eyes open.

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