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What Are HID Headlights? How Do They Work?


HID stands for “high-intensity discharge”, meaning that the bulb is brighter than the standard bulb. HID bulbs are designed to be slightly different than regular bulbs, allowing them to give off more light. They consist of two rods inside a glass container, which is then completed with metal salts and xenon gas.

These bulbs provide several benefits, which is why they have become more popular in recent years.

car and road divider

How Do They Work?

HID headlights are brighter because of how they work. They do work similarly to other light bulbs, with some minor differences. They work with an electric arc between two tungsten electrodes, which provides light. Usually, this is housed in a tube that is made out of quartz.

To improve the longevity and performance of the bulb, the tube is filled with xenon gas.

In this way, the HID headlights are more like a neon sign than a regular lightbulb. They do not have a filament, for instance. Therefore, they are very efficient and use less energy to make the same kind of light. They also last a lot longer, since they don’t have any filament to burn through. In fact, they last ten times as long as many other headlight bulbs out there.

To make this light, an HID headlight does need more energy than the average headlight system provides. Therefore, you can’t simply change out the bulb and expect the same effect. A special wide harness is necessary.

LED headlight
Image By: Oleksiy Mark, Shutterstock

What are the Different Types of HID Headlights?

  • Standard HID headlights are featured in most vehicles. These bulbs are best for cars that need one light for high beams and another one for low beams. Therefore, this arrangement is branded as a single beam. Usually, halogen light is used for the primary beam, while an HID light is used for the low beam.
  • Bi-Xenon headlights are used in cars that are compatible with a dual-beam headlight structure. This arrangement utilizes one bulb to make both kinds of light. It does this in a variety of ways. Sometimes, the headlights use reflectors, but other times they use shields. These headlights often have a lot of moving parts. Therefore, they are more expensive and need more maintenance. Also, they do not work in every vehicle. It depends on how the car was designed.

Advantages of HID Headlights

HID headlights are much more efficient than halogen lights, allowing them to use less energy to produce the same result. This factor may help you conserve a bit of fuel, though the amount is likely to be very low. With HID lights are praised in other areas because they are efficient, this is not necessarily the case.

To allow for better visibility, HID headlights also produce more light. They’ll allow you to see further than other bulbs and will allow for other cars to see you easier as well.

These bulbs are extremely durable. They do not have filaments, which are very fragile and break easily. Therefore, they tend to last much longer than halogen bulbs.

Sometimes, consumers prefer HID bulbs simply because they produce very white light, while halogen bulbs produce yellow light. It is a cleaner light compared to other options, and some may prefer this aesthetically speaking.

HID lights are usually quite easy to install. You can purchase installation kits that are not terribly expensive, and you can often perform this job yourself. However, some cars are a bit more complicated than others.

Cars with HID lights may have a higher value than other lights. Therefore, you may get a small amount of extra resale value if you upgrade to HID bulbs.

HID headlights
Image Credit: BokehStore, Shutterstock

Disadvantages of HID Headlights

One of the major disadvantages of HID headlights is that they can be a bit too bright. They can seem extremely bright in rearview mirrors, which can be a problem for other drivers. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they impair other drivers—they can just seem a bit brighter.

Therefore, be very aware of your following distance if you install these headlights.

Also, many users report problems when utilizing these headlights in foggy weather. Often, the headlights can scatter more water droplets than other lights out there. Therefore, they may be a bit harder to use in these situations.

car and road divider

Frequently Asked Questions

What is better: HID or LED headlights?

LED lights are another popular choice. HID lights generally provide more coverage than other options out there. However, they can reflect glare from traffic if not installed correctly. Led lights are more compact, so you’ll often need a special kit to install them. You can simply plug most HID headlights into halogen sockets, though. Therefore, LED lights are a bit more difficult to install.

LED lights are usually longer lasting than HID options. They are much more durable in some cases, proving to be one of the longest-lasting options out there. However, LED lights are more expensive, so it does depend on the amount of money you have to spend.

car headlight
Image Credit: Piqsels

Can HID Headlights Be Replaced with LED?

Yes and no. You can’t simply plug an LED bulb into the same slot that the HID bulb was plugged into. Often, this doesn’t work. The size difference won’t let you do it. However, there are installation kits that make switching bulbs pretty easy. Usually, you simply remove the ballast and replace it with the LED driver. Then, you can add the light bulb.

You may have to do some extra steps to switch from an HID to an LED bulb. However, it won’t be too complicated or expensive.

Related Read: Are LED Headlights Legal In Texas? What Colors Are Legal?

car and road divider


HID headlights are becoming more and more popular. They provide a very clean light and illuminate more area than HID bulbs do. However, they also have their own problems. They are often more expensive than halogen bulbs, for instance. They can also be a bit too bright in some cases, and they do not do good in foggy weather.

However, they are much more durable than other options out there. They last much longer, which will save you money in the long run. Plus, they aren’t terribly difficult to install or upgrade to. In fact, whole kits are sold that provide you with everything you need to add these headlights to your car.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels


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