xenon headlights

What Are Xenon Headlights?

If you’re an enthusiastic car owner, I believe you’ve observed major changes with the different levels of headlight brightness that illuminate the roads. While some vehicles rely on the traditional halogen headlights, some newer models tend to have more advanced headlights that deliver a white/bluish glow with a more distinct brightness. In case you’re wondering what type of lights these are, then they’re generally xenon headlights.

Now, if your car uses the factory-fitted halogen headlights, you will notice that over time, you can no longer see the road clearly, especially when driving at night. So, to upgrade your car’s integrity with brighter, clearer, and more energy-efficient lighting, you’ll definitely need to fit the HID conversion kit to your car’s headlights to support the xenon bulbs. Since these headlights have been the trending topic among most motorists, all thanks to their advanced headlights technology, this short guide will delve into what these headlights are, as well as discuss their benefits and drawbacks over their halogen counterparts.


Xenon Headlights: A Comprehensive Guide

But First, are Xenon Headlight Kits Legal?

Moving back to history, xenon headlights were first evidenced around 1990 – 91 where they were used by the 1991 BMW 7-Series sedans. Ever since this lighting technology has grown in popularity where major car manufacturers utilize them to increase the level of premium in their newest car models.

But, regardless of their authenticity, not forgetting their stylish shapes and bright white/blue glow, one burning question in most people’s minds is whether xenon HID kits are road legal. In a nutshell, they’re not road legal as they’re classified as aftermarket modifications.

What are HID Conversion Kits?

You see, for you to enjoy the superior benefits xenon headlights offer, you don’t need to break the bank to buy a newer car model. However, you can simply upgrade your former halogen headlights by using xenon conversion kits. By doing some modifications, these xenon kits can allow xenon bulbs to fit on your halogen headlights.

How Can You Avoid this Illegality?

One way you can avoid friction with the law is by ensuring that you buy the HID kits from reputable brands. They should also be manufactured from high-quality factories that comply with the OEM standards.

Your car’s headlights should also be issued an ECE R99 certification. To achieve this, your car’s entire headlight system should be replaced with a new kit specifically designed for Xenon bulbs. Otherwise, if you’re planning to modify your former halogen headlights (using HID conversion kit), then the headlights must be reassessed for compliance and then assigned an ‘E’ mark.

Now, although these options are costly and time-consuming, they’re usually worth it if you’re not looking to void your car’s warranty and insurance.


Understanding Xenon Headlights

Now, for you to understand xenon headlights, you’ll first need to understand what exactly xenon is. Briefly, Xenon is an element in the periodic table that has the symbol Xe and an atomic no. 54. It exists as a gas, most specifically, a noble gas with distinct characteristics.

Although it’s odorless, colorless, tasteless, and non-reactive, this gas can expel short wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation, in the form of white/bluish intense light when it’s subjected to electrical discharge. Although this noble gas has so many uses, which, of course, range from illumination, lasers, anesthetics, to sports doping, one of its major uses is in the roads where it’s used inside xenon headlights.

So, if you’ve been wondering how these bulbs work, then I believe you’re now aware that they use xenon gas to glow whenever electric current is passed through them. Now, unlike halogen headlights, xenon headlights come with several different components that allow them to work in a completely different manner.

  • Gas Discharge Lamp:

At the core of the headlight, there’s the xenon bulb itself. The bulb is what traps the xenon gas inside. It also contains two electrodes on each side that are responsible for passing electric current to charge xenon gas.

  • Xenon Ballast:

This device is the ignition point. When the headlights are switched on, this device is the one responsible for generating the voltage required to power and ignite xenon gas inside the bulb. Once the ballast is ignited, it generates a voltage. This electric current (which flows through the electrodes) ionizes xenon gas causing it to power up and increase the temperatures inside the bulb at a rapid pace.

Since there are other gases inside the bulb, once they collide and mix, they elevate the temperatures, inside the bulb, which is enough to illuminate the bulbs at full functionality for a longer time. In most cases, these gases take some time to get ionized. This is hence the main reason why xenon headlights take a few seconds to fully illuminate when they’re switched on.

  • Ignition:

Just as its name suggests, this component is the one responsible for triggering the spark when you switch on the headlights. It has a metal shielding and it’s the one that bridges the connection between the two electrodes.


Why are Xenon Headlights Far Much Superior?

Now, when you compare them with halogen headlights, xenon headlights are far much superior in so many ways. Although most cars you’ll see on the road use the standard halogen bulbs, the light they illuminate is nothing when compared to what HID headlights can do. In that regard, let’s discuss some factors that make xenon headlights the very best.

  • Brighter and Whiter Light:

Perhaps one of the major reasons why xenon bulbs are far much superior is due to their great brightness. The bright white light they produce is a huge advantage that allows motorists to see the road clearly when driving at night. This way, you can easily spot obstacles such as potholes and bumps and avoid them as much as possible.

Taking an example of 35 watts xenon bulb, this bulb can produce about 3000 lumens and a color temperature of 4000 – 6000 Kelvin. This is enough to mimic natural daylight and is different from a35 watts halogen bulb that only affords 1400 lumens and a warmer color temperature of 3200 – 5000 Kelvin.

  • Broader Coverage:

Apart from being bright, xenon headlights offer illumination to a broader coverage as compared to halogen headlights. Their bright white light travels further and wider down the road allowing you to spot obstacles even on the sides. This is a huge advantage when driving at night near parks as you can clearly spot wild animals crossing the road or simply obstacles on the edges of the road.

  • Lasts Longer:

When it comes to longevity, xenon bulbs are hailed for their long-lasting characteristics. This is all thanks to the xenon gas inside the bulbs that don’t get insufficient any sooner. This allows xenon bulbs to go a long way, from about 2000 – 5000 hours before begging for a replacement. This is quite the contrary with halogen bulbs that only take between 400 – 600 hours before they’re replaced.

  • Energy Efficiency:

Now, halogen bulbs depend on a glowing filament that heats the tungsten to glow. On the other hand, xenon bulbs depend on xenon gas that is ionized by two electrically charged electrodes to produce light. Charging xenon gas requires a little bit of electric current. Due to this reason, these bulbs end up saving your car’s battery a huge chunk of power that enough to power other electrical components within the car.


Downsides of Xenon Headlights

  • Strong Glare:

Although their white brightness will appear fascinating to a driver, they’re more of a nightmare to pedestrians and oncoming motorists as they tend to blind them by reflecting light in their mirrors. This is quite dangerous to oncoming traffic as the strong glare can cause accidents.

To solve this problem, most car-makers prefer to mix both xenon and halogen bulbs to specifically use halogen bulbs to represent the high beam lights. Now, the downside to this is that you’ll need to keep replacing the halogen bulbs more regularly.

  • Costly:

Although they’re bright, energy-efficient and long-lasting, xenon headlights are very expensive to install. The reason why they’re costly is that you’ll need to replace the former halogen system with an HID conversion kit to let you customize your car with any xenon bulbs of your choice. Secondly, installation requires a professional meaning you have to dig deeper into your wallet to pay for the installation.


Future of Xenon Headlights

Before we conclude, I would like to mention that the future of xenon headlights has since been sealed thanks to the introduction of bi-Xenon headlights. Now, the reason why these headlights were developed was specifically to solve the problem related to strong glare.

Although the bulbs are still the same, the headlights have totally been modified to allow xenon bulbs to take care of both high and low beams as opposed to using halogen bulbs. Now, this has been achieved in two ways.

First, it has been achieved by using a mechanical system to tilt the bulbs upwards and downwards depending on the scenario. Secondly, a reflector has been used to reflect the light on any direction of your choice including sideways when making a turn. So, with the bi-Xenon technology already underway, it’s now clear that xenon headlights will continue to impress enthusiastic motorists for quite a long time.

However, though, this technology has one major flaw. It has totally over-relied on mechanical systems, which is quite risky following their untimely failure over time.



Although the bi-Xenon technology is being criticized for its overreliance on mechanical systems, we can’t ignore the efficiency and reliability of its young predecessor, the xenon headlights. These headlights are extremely bright and are considered the very best thus explaining the reason why they’re mostly installed in new high-standard vehicles such as BMWs, Mercedes, Audi, and Land Rovers among others.

Finally, if you’re planning to upgrade your auto’s headlights from halogen to xenon, don’t forget to buy xenon conversion kits from reputable dealers. Remember, the only road-legal xenon headlights are the ones that are already factory-fitted. Anything less than that will need to be recessed thoroughly to guarantee its authenticity.

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