Although the technology has only been until relatively recently and came even later to cars, Light-Emitting Diodes—better known as LEDs—have been around since 1962. They were invented by Nick Holonyak Jr., who was a scientist at General Electric. His name for the LED was “the magic one.”
Since then the use of LEDs has grown. You can find them in remotes, big screen and jumbo screen TVs, traffic lights and digital clocks. In 2007 the first LED headlights were included in a car model sold in the U.S. It was the Lexus LS 600h and this started a new trend for luxury cars. Now LED headlights are about as common as halogen and HID headlights. But are there advantages to LED headlights? Read on to find out.
The Differences Between LED, HID, and Halogen
When fixing or replacing headlight set-ups or bulbs, an auto body technician should know how the various bulbs work.
- Halogens have a filament which is heated up to create light. They usually cast a yellowish light.
- HID (High Intensity Discharge) bulbs—also called xenon lights—have a small container of gas, usually xenon, and electricity is passed through the metal vapour to create light. These lights usually have a blue or white glow, and they are usually found in luxury vehicles.
- LEDs work by passing a charge through a semiconductor. The positive and negative electrons are attracted to one another and when they collide photons are emitted.
The way LEDs create light means their bulbs consume less energy, last longer and strings of them can be made into various shapes for unique looking headlights.
Your Career in Auto Body Repair Will Outlast a Halogen
As noted above, LED lights have lasting power and your career in auto body repair will likely be a lot longer than the life of a halogen bulb. Similar to the price differences for household lamps, halogens for headlights cost less than LEDs, but it is unlikely you will have to replace an LED headlight bulb in a car’s lifetime.
The cost of an LED bulb may also be absorbed by the fact that they are more efficient in general. Because LEDs drain less from the electrical system than other types of bulbs, you may even get better fuel efficiency.
It is true that in general, LEDs are more efficient, longer lasting, and brighter than halogen bulbs, but it is important to ask how they actually function as headlights. There are two ways that headlights work. One way is with reflectors behind the bulb, throwing light forward. The other is through projection where there is a lens that focuses and directs the light. Beyond that, the alignment of the lights is key to making sure there is enough visibility without too much glare for oncoming traffic.
The truth is that the headlight set up will vary from car to car whether it has LED bulbs or not. In terms of safety and visibility, halogen and LEDs are about equal, although how they are configured in individual models can make a big difference. It’s also worth pointing out that halogen set ups have never received the highest safety rating, whereas LEDs have. Ultimately, you will want to check any headlamp’s rating before you make a decision.
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