Automotive bulbs – the most common types and types

Automotive bulbs – the most common types and types
It takes approx. 4 minutes to read this article

Vehicle lighting has a huge impact on the safety and comfort of driving – not only at night, but also during the day when visibility is poor. What is worth knowing about the most popular types of bulbs?

Several years ago most cars on Polish roads were illuminated by halogen bulbs. This is a classic solution, used since the 60s of the last century, which above all was cheap. However, technology has evolved a lot and for some time the choice is much greater. Cars now offer xenon and bi-xenon lights, LED lighting, and the future belongs to laser technology, which at this point is still only used in the most expensive vehicles.

Halogen bulbs

Traditional halogen bulbs do not impress with luminous parameters or durability, but their undeniable advantage is a simple structure, easy replacement and low price. Once the only available, today they are a compromise that can be safely accepted, for example, when most of the time you drive during the day, and if at night, then mostly in well-lit urban areas.

Xenon filaments

Xenon filaments differ from halogen bulbs both in construction and characteristics. They are distinguished by a stronger and usually whiter light (although this depends largely on the specific filament). So-called xenons use less electricity, last much longer and when they reach the end of their life, it manifests itself as a gradual dimming and change of color. There is no burnout moment known from the classic bulbs. Unfortunately, xenon bulbs are much more expensive than halogen bulbs and should be replaced in pairs. Moreover, it is recommended that you do not do this yourself.

It is worth knowing that in the case of xenon and bi-xenon lamps, the filaments are identical. The difference comes down to the design of the lamp itself, which allows the same filament to be used for both low and high beam.

LED lighting

LED headlights – another milestone in the development of automotive lighting – are characterized by their striking appearance. Using dozens of separate diodes, they allow better control of the illuminated area (especially in the case of the so-called matrix lighting). LEDs are more energy efficient than xenon and even more long-lasting, but they have their drawbacks. Unlike halogens or xenons, they heat up the backside – so you need special plate cooling. In turn, in winter, it becomes necessary to heat the lamp shades. Whether LED lights are better than xenon or halogen depends on the manufacturer. Well-designed LED lighting has its advantages – but from the one made “at cost” sometimes shine better even the old halogen.

The most common types of bulbs in cars

Different bulbs are mounted in the front headlights of cars, others in the rear, and still others are used in turn signals or license plate lighting. Here are the most popular ones:

  • H1 and H7 are typical bulbs for passing or driving lights equipped with one filament, H4 differs from them by the presence of two filaments (a single bulb is then responsible for both passing and driving lights),
  • D1R, D2R, D2S and D5S are the most common filament designations used in xenon lamps,
  • H3, H4, H11, H15 are the most common bulbs used in fog lamps,
  • P21W, PY21W, P21/5W are used in rear lamps and are responsible for position lights, stop lights, reversing lights and direction indicators,
  • W5W bulbs are used in side turn signals as well as in license plate lights.

This is a general classification, so when choosing bulbs for a specific car, it is best to check – in the owner’s manual or on the Internet – the exact type you need. You can also dismantle the used bulb and ask for a matching bulb in the automotive store. It’s always a good idea to choose high quality bulbs – not only do they shine better, but they also last longer. It is not a bad idea to carry a small supply with you at all times, although Polish regulations do not currently require this.

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