Halogens, HIDs, and projectors demystified...
I've been contemplating aftermarket HIDs. Unlike many who just want to buy a HID kit and slap it into their truck I elected to do my homework, as I know that a lot of what's sold is a) junk and b) can nuke your electrical system. I learned quite a bit through this process and figured I'd share.
- The term 'projector' applied to halogens and HIDs is not universal. Halogen projectors and HID projectors are -very- different things. The fact that the same word is used confuses people (me, included, at first), so some clarification is in order.
- Halogen projectors are simply headlight assemblies that contain a reflector designed to project the light emitted from a halogen bulb into a tighter pattern than OEM headlight assemblies. That's it -- pretty simple -- standard headlight stuff.
- HID projectors are a projector housing, lens, and shroud designed to capture and focus -all- of the light emitted from a xenon bulb into a tight beam pattern. This projector housing resides within a headlight assembly and the shroud and lens are the chief components that set a HID projector apart from a halogen projector. Together, they are what ensures that no light bleeds from behind the xenon bulb and that it is all focused forward into an even beam pattern with acute cut-off.
- All currently-marketed, mass-produced aftermarket 'projector' headlights for GM trucks are halogen projectors as of this writing.
- Putting HID lamps into halogen projectors will NOT deliver the acute cut-off and beam evenness that real HID projectors deliver -- because the HID shroud and lens are not present to trap all of the light and focus it. Don't waste your money buying projector headlights thinking you'll 'fix' the glare associated with HID kits -- you won't.
- You are better off putting aftermarket halogen bulbs into stock lamps or halogen projectors -- as opposed to slapping a HID kit into stock lamps or halogen projectors. It's cheaper, safer for your electrical system, and safer for other drivers. It's also legal everywhere.
- Stick to the proper wattages for your high beam, low beam, and fog lamp harnesses if you implement aftermarket halogen bulbs, else you risk creating a fire hazard and also risk electrical problems. If you intend to exceed stock wattages, get a relay kit that uses your vehicle's wiring only for on/off functions and draws power striaght from your battery through appropriately-sized wires. (Example: http://www.suvlights.com/index.php?cPath=24_73)
- There's no such thing as a 'true' HID kit, no matter what some HID kit manufacturers may say. Real, street-legal (everywhere) HIDs all have/come with HID projectors that entail a bulb, lens, shroud, and projector housing. Some HID kit vendors try to differentiate themselves by saying they're a 'true' kit because they connect their ballasts to relay kits that draw from the battery. While that's an improvement over HID kit offerings that don't do it (because it means if you lose a ballast you don't risk frying some of your electrical system), it's NOT what makes a HID installation the real deal.
- If you must have HIDs and you want to do it properly you will need a retro-fit. This is pricey but you will get what you pay for, as nothing else compares to the real deal. (The wannabes with el-cheapo HID kits are obvious when driving down the road when compared with the real deal.)
- Here's one installer that does retro-fits (http://www.customlightz.com/?p=p_1&sName=home). There's very good reading here in the 'About Retrofitting' section of the web site. This is HID done properly for vehicles that don't get it from the factory. It's VERY expensive but also worth it if you are not fabrication-minded and you have the greenbacks to do it. Why? Well, you don't create glare for other drivers (i.e. you're not a safety hazard on the road), you don't create a fire hazard in your electrical system, you don't have ballasts that may burn out and take other parts of your electrical system with them, etc. It's also street legal -- everywhere -- and yields the kind of lighting results that have you thinking about HIDs in the first place.
- If you want to do a HID retro-fit, yourself, you need to choose and procure your bulb, lens, shroud, and projector housing. Fabrication is then required. The links that follow show a youth doing a HID retro-fit and the necessary fabrication, himself. Watching all 4 videos will help you see how HID projectors are different from halogens and why retro-fits are expensive (they're labor-intensive and the HID parts [lens, shroud, projector housing, etc.] are not cheap).
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imIiglkq7HA
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qExaAFgvquE
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg_C_jtonZw
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQ1repIX_UU
Note: The kid doing the work in these videos has some serious fabrication talent for his age and the tools he's using. It's no small project!
I've personally learned the following things from others' trials/tribulations:
- HID kits installed into stock lamps usually end up annoying others ... regularly... due to glare. That's a safety hazard for all on the road and is the reason jurisdictions are making aftermarket hid kits illegal. You're either part of the problem or part of the solution. Think about this...
- HID kits installed into halogen projectors usually make #1 worse, not better.
- Cheap HID kits seem to drop ballasts often. A failed ballast can (and frequently does) take other parts of the vehicle's electrical system with it. I know a guy who lost his truck's computer when a ballast croaked. Talk about an expensive fix for what that 'cheap' HID ballast 'saved' him...
- Putting 80 or 100W halogen bulbs (Nokya's lamps come to mind) into bulb sockets not designed for these wattages will eventually melt your harness's connection points unless you use a relay harness as noted, above.
- Color-coated halogen bulbs just produce more glare. Here's a really good article worth a quick read on the subject: http://www.danielsternlighting.com/t...uperwhite.html
No offense is intended to anyone running a HID kit without HID projectors. I like to do things 'right' instead of half-arsed, which is why I won't be putting HIDs into my own vehicle. If I were talented enough to do the necessary fabrication work OR if I could afford a retro-fit without sacrificing other things ... I'd absolutely do it. I will not, however, half-arse the install with wannabe HIDs. (Besides, who wants to be a wannabe???) Instead I'm going down the aftermarket bulb path to improve the light I get out of my 2004 Sierra's (OEM=55w) 9006 low beams and (OEM=65w) 9005 high beams. I am contemplating replacing my (OEM=37w) H10 fog light bulbs with 9005's, as well -- but am not liking the idea of adding a relay for it, so we'll see. :)
P.S. I hope this proves helpful to others and saves people research I had to do, myself. I nearly bought halogen projectors hoping to fix HID kit glare. Bleah...