High intensity headlights are headaches for drivers

Dave Yochum

Driving around Kent in his Ford F-150, Joe Mozer doesn’t get his truck mistaken for a Lexus or Mercedes.

But his headlights give him the look of luxury.


• HID headlights differ from traditional halogen lights by powering an arc of light between two electrodes instead of heating a filament used for light.

Whereas standard light bulbs give off a yellow light, HID lighting emits a white hue that moves to a blue appearance as the temperature of the light color is increased.

• Vehicles that are factory equipped with HID headlights come with a leveling system used to prevent HID beams from being aimed at inappropriate heights. Because after-market HID kits do not come with these systems, drivers fitting HID headlights to older vehicles are advised to check state laws regarding HID lights before installing them.

Source: Sylvania.com, Consumer Reports

Mozer, who works for Summit Racing in Tallmadge, installed the newest rage in the automotive after-market on his truck – High Intensity Discharge headlights.

HID headlights are the bright, blue-tinted headlights found mostly on expensive car brands such as Acura, BMW or Cadillac. Emitting a more intense beam of light than standard halogen headlights, HID lights (commonly referred to as Xenon) have been the topic of debate between drivers who love the unique benefits of HID and those who find the bright lights an unnecessary annoyance.

Cars equipped with HID lights tend to stand out in traffic, making the vehicle appear more attractive and futuristic. Advertisements say they increase safety for night-time driving and save energy by requiring less power to operate. However, HID lights are being slammed for temporarily blinding oncoming drivers and causing thousands of dollars in car damage. They have even warranted a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“They look good on black cars, but they’re annoying when I’m driving towards somebody who has them,” junior marketing major Masami Kameda said. “It looks like they’re driving with their high beams on.”

The NHTSA surveyed 4,600 drivers about the glare caused by HID headlights, with 30 percent of respondents, most between the ages of 35 to 54, agreeing that they found the bright lights disturbing.

According to police and newspaper reports, car thieves in the New York, New Jersey and Boston area have begun stealing entire HID headlight assemblies – particularly from Audi S4s and Nissan Maximas. In turn, thieves retrofit the lights to their older vehicles or sell them for $250 on the black market.

Police have been quoted in the New York Daily News as saying HID lights have become a status symbol on the streets. Mozer agrees.

“I just feel cooler with them,” he admits. “They’re pretty expensive, but I was lucky enough to get them on clearance.”

Mozer’s co-workers at Summit Racing say they like the benefits of HID lights as well but aren’t ready to drop $600 on a pair of HID bulbs. Summit Racing stopped selling the lights at their Tallmadge store because customers couldn’t afford them.

“Kids would come in here asking for a big muffler, air intake and HID lights for their Honda Civic,” Summit Racing sales associate David Millings said. “After they get in a frontal crash, they’re going to be coming in asking if we have regular headlights – they can’t afford HID.”

Other employees at Summit Racing said they highly recommend the lights, but warn if an HID filament blows, it costs more than $100 each to replace. Still, Mozer hasn’t experienced any problems with his pair of HID lights, he just gets positive comments about their intriguing look.

“I’d buy them again if I had another car,” Mozer said.

Contact transportation reporter Dave Yochum at [email protected]