The most important factor to consider when driving at night is how far your headlight beams reach. Most professionals suggest that 300 feet (the size of a football field) is ideal. However, the government safety ratings for headlights only consider the power of the beam, not its distance. No standards exist concerning the distance the beam of light reaches.
Conventional lights typically reach 150 – 200 feet when properly aimed. The Sylvania® SilverStar® Ultra headlights can easily reach 300 feet. Depending on the car, Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists charge $100 – $120 for the headlight and installation.
Consumer Reports did a study on lights and learned that newer lights don’t mean greater reach, but it does typically cost much more to replace. Here is a list of the newer technologies.
Adaptive headlights. The headlights illuminate around corners by changing its aim as the steering wheel turns. These new electronic lights give mixed results. The mechanical predecessors from the previous century never took off beyond a limited audience. The questionable results require a nighttime test drive before purchase and a few questions about the large replacement costs.
HID. High-intensity discharge headlights replace the heated filament of ordinary bulbs with gas. This reduces the operating temperature and extends the life of the light. However, they do require a transformer that runs about $500, so when a bulb goes out it’s typically replaced as a set including the bulb, igniter and transformer. They produce no additional benefits in comparison to the basic halogen light.
LED. Light-emitting diode headlights provide several benefits over conventional bulbs including its compact size, reduced energy consumption, and longer life. Designers like the affect the string like lights provide, but again the replacement costs can run from $500 to thousands.
Laser. The latest trend provides a focused long-range up to 2,000 feet, but is not yet legal in the U.S.
LED adaptive. Adaptive systems use a matrix of individual LEDs that automatically turn on and off based on where the car is headed. That provides optimum illumination while not blinding oncoming traffic. This system seems to surpass other lights, but it cost as an option on a new car comes in around $2,500 – again, not yet legal in the U.S.
Night vision. Other systems are being tested. Audi and BMW use infrared cameras and sensors to detect pedestrians and animals in the far distance. Images appear on the console video screen. The systems also place a little extra light on the images.
Until the new technologies work out all the kinks, the number one thing for drivers to focus on is making sure their beams are properly aimed to get as close to the 300-foot mark as possible. Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists perform headlight adjustments when requested.