Headlight Information Guide
by Jon Levi of Jlevi StreetWerks
The spectrum of lighting enhancement ranges between changing the color of your halogen bulbs to hyperwhite, all the way up to replacing your headlights with units that enhanced aesthetic appeal, improve light output, and decrease scatter. Table of Contents:
1. General Guidelines
2. Halogen to Hyperwhite Halogen
i. Projector Housing
ii. Non-Projector Housing
2. Full headlight
3. Changing OEM Xenon Color
4. Angel Eyes/Demon Eyes
1. LED – Gen I
2. Fiber optic – Gen II - GenV
3. DDE Lightning/Phosphyre Halos
This guide will provide the information you need to make the right choice for your lighting upgrades. 1. General Guidelines
· Same-Wattage hyper white bulbs decrease output
· Higher-Wattage bulbs burn out faster
· High-Wattage bulbs may require updated wiring
· No Halogen bulb is a substitute for a true Xenon in terms of output
· Higher Kelvin=Lower Lumen output 2. Halogen “Xenon-Look” / “Hyper white” bulbs
Halogen “Xenon Look” bulbs are designed to feign xenon color. These may include SPP Superwhites, Umnitza Vizus, Bimmian Xenisis, PIAA, Nokya, etc. These bulbs slightly alter the color for a minimal price (usually from $15 all the way up to $50), but often have very little positive gain on light output. Most bulbs actually REDUCE light output. Some exceptions are higher wattage bulbs, but these may require upgraded wiring.
These solutions do not "match" true Xenon/HID capsules. In effect, they are burning a Tungsten filament, and not Xenon gas. For high beams and interior Xenons, however, they may be the perfect easy-solution – you hardly need a real Xenon bulb in either application, and only halogen bulbs are suitable to be flickered quickly on and off. Summary: Halogen “Xenon-Look” / “Hyper white” bulbs Pros
-Color may seem slightly improved when compared to Halogen bulbs
-Often have decreased light output
-Do not match real HID systems 3. High Intensity Discharge (HID) or “Xenon” Lighting
It’s a proven fact that OEM Xenons from auto manufacturers have superior light output as compared to Halogen headlights. “Xenon” is a commonly used term, referring to for High Intensity (HID) lighting. An HID lamp produces light by putting xenon gas and metal halide salts into the light emitting capsule within the HID bulb. The electrons inside the light emitting tube collide with metal atoms, using 20,000 volts generated from the control system (ballast) to produce light. HIDs actually put out about 3 times as much light as halogen bulbs, using 20 watts less power! The reduced wattage equates to a 50% reduction in power usage over a halogen system, as well as decreased heat. Another important factor of HID lighting is the life of the bulb. Unlike Halogen bulbs, which create light by burning a tungsten filament, there is no need to replace a filament in your HID bulbs. HID bulbs have an average life span of up to 3000 hours; this is compared to an average of 250-300 hour in halogen bulbs.
The diagram below shows the different illumination patterns of an HID bulb vs. a halogen bulb.
The color of an HID bulb is measured in Kelvin (K). The light output is measured in Lumens. It is important to note that while Kelvin is a scientific unit of temperature, it does NOT denote the amount of head generated by HIDs. It is simply a way of classifying their color. HIDs come in many different colors; OEM Xenons are usually 4100-4300K, whereas you can purchase kits all the way up to 12000K. The visual color of the HID is also dependent on the housing it is in, and how that housing reflects and directs the light. One example of this is that the same set of HID fogs may look bluer in an M3 than in a 330Ci, simply because the housing is built differently. Each bulb type has its own unique color. 4300K is a sharp white with hints of yellow. 5000K is also white, without the yellow. 6000K heads more towards blue/purple. 7000K is a deep blue/purple. 8000K is bordering on green and blue.
What color HID is best, you might ask? There is a general trade-off with HIDs – form vs. function. While the best light output comes from about the 4300K light range – the 10,000K light range is the most visually appealing. Generally, the rule is that the higher up in the color spectrum you go, the less Lumens (and more colorful glare) you get – which explains why 4100K - 4300K is the DOT approved and OEM selected color range. Usually, 5000K-6000K is the “happy medium” range where customers see benefits in both color and light output over a halogen bulb application. However, it is important to note that as you go up in Kelvin, most of the bulbs used do not last as long as their stock/OEM counterparts (rated at 4100-4300K)
Another commonly forgotten point is that as HIDs age, they lose output gradually, and go up in Kelvin. For example, a stock OEM 4300K bulb used for more than 500 hours will likely produce about 2800 lumens and display a color shift to around 5000K.
There are 2 options to putting HIDs into your own car: a. HID Retrofit Kits
Recent price reductions in retrofit HID kits have allowed some people to simply swap in an H7 HID bulb into a halogen housing. After all, HIDs come in applications such as 9006, H1, H4, H7, H9, and many more. At first glance, the customer may believe that they have significantly improved their light output. This is both true and false.
While the previous application does produce more lumens, you should know the many drawbacks. The reason being that Halogen reflectors are designed to make the maximum of a dull set of halogen bulbs. They are very efficient in reflecting and amplifying light. Combine this with an HID bulb touting 3 times the lumens of your average halogen bulb, and you have a very dangerous road hazard. Not only will you blind oncoming traffic, you’ll be bombarded with high beam flickers until you are eventually pulled over, ticketed, and possibly fined. Not only that, but in order to fit an HID kit into your existing halogen housing, you’d have to cut or drill the mother socket to run the connectors out, and figure out your own way to attach the bulbs. You could probably be able to get away with doing it correctly, but it requires a steady hand, and most people are unwilling to drill to make such modifications. Those of you who plan to only upgrade your fog lights can worry less. There is no other way to upgrade your fogs, and since they are directed at the ground, it is less of a safety hazard. Also note that 9006 bulbs are a direct plug and play setup with BMW fog lights. Check out how nice a set of HID fogs can look in your properly aimed
fog light housing. Summary: HID Conversion Kits Pros
-Gives you a true xenon color
-Increased light output
-Less power and heat
-Requires difficult retrofitting
-Scattered light is a road hazard
-Undefined light pattern
How does one properly upgrade to HIDs? Projectors are the OEM and DOT approved solution b. Projector headlights
A projector is a glass ball that focuses the intense light of an HID bulb directly onto the road and away from the easily irritated eyes of other drivers. Projectors have a cutoff shield that creates a crisp line of light on the road. Projectors can also automatically level themselves to adjust – driving up a hill, they will adjust. HIDs with projectors are the real answer. But it’s not that simple. Within the world of Projector headlights, you have 2 major options:
a. OEM Projectors
Get OEM projectors from your dealership, eBay, or Bekkers. Cost: $500-1200.
-Buying OEM from a trusted source generally eliminates much of the risk of low quality support and parts. The manufacturing quality is top notch, and you know it will work and fit properly
-The cons are a long search, a long wait, and a high price for the feature content.
-Also note that they will be devoid of features or goodies like Demon Eyes, and that the light output will always be 4300K.
b. Aftermarket alternatives
Another option is to get Umnitza Projector46 w/ Demon Eyes and 5000-6000K HIDs. Cost: $569 and up
In this instance, the Projector46 is a great option as well. It works with your OEM beauty trim and front cover, and works on both sedans and coupes (non-facelift at this time). There are a few reasons why many would agree Projector46 is a better bang for your buck:
-It comes with Phosphyre Halos already integrated into the headlight, like on the 5 series. Note that customers who have already bought halos can put them into the DDE slots in the Projector46 lights, and save themselves $200.
-You can also order Projector46 with 5000K or 6000K HIDs behind the projectors, for those who like the higher-Kelvin bulb look.
-They are also capable of auto leveling, if you're willing to retrofit it onto a non-xenon car.
-They have an excellent build quality, second only to OEM
- They also come with FREE clear corners in most cases
-Even with all these features, Projector46 is more affordable than OEM Xenons from most dealerships.
Here’s a picture of how the Enhanced Phosphyre Halos are actually integrated into the headlights to reduce glare and increase the “OEM” look. Summary: Projector Headlights Pros
-Superior light output
-More visually appealing color
-Gives the car “projector” look
-May come with Demon Eyes
-Often an expensive alternative 4. Changing your OEM Xenon color
If you are looking to change your OEM Xenons to a more attractive color (despite the slightly decreased light output and life span), you can do so with a D2S bulb. This is a bulb that will connect to your OEM HID ballast, and fit into your OEM Xenon headlights. Options include Philips Ultinon, Osram Bulbs, or Jlevi StreetWerks. You can buy these bulbs in 5000K, 6000K, or even 8000K. See below for a comparison. Summary: Changing the color of your OEM Xenons
-More attractive color
-Decreased light output [/color] 5. Angel Eyes
The History of DDEs
In 2001 MY, BMW introduced "eyes to the soul". These were dubbed "angel eyes" by the automotive press. This concept was labeled as "luminous rings" and subsequently patented by Hella and Schott Glass.
During the fall of 2001, Demon Eyes were released by Jim Powell. It was essentially an LED-based kit. Later, in early 2002, the Daylight Demon Eyes started to take shape. Those were then referred to as Generation II. They comprised a mounting system for E46 cars, fiber optics, and new light boxes. Shortly thereafter, Generation III was introduced. Generation III was only an inclusion of multiple colors of rings, all other parts of the product line remained the same.
Then, a few months later, Generation IV was introduced. This was another incremental improvement in the technology. The rings became a stronger harder to break poly carbonate, and the mounting clips became staggered to reflect both bi-xenon, xenon, and halogen applications.
Finally, the pinnacle of development for the fiber optics version of DDE (Daylight Demon Eyes) was the introduction of Generation V. Generation V brought about major wholesale changes to the kit.
Here are some of the key items of note for Generation V:
* New light boxes with higher capacity bulbs
* New mounting system for bulbs
* New fiber connectors eliminated installation errors that could lead to burning fibers
* New wiring harness eliminated multiple splice points, all wiring connections became plug and play.
* New relay was introduced with fused positive wire (15A).
* New mounting system for the rings for E46s eliminated the need to define if a customer car was bi-xenon, xenon, or standard.
* New ring technology improved not only the output of the ring but also the clarity.
* New documentation and support
Generation V, also known as LumenX, was introduced with great fanfare and remains the pinnacle of "angel eyes" development for those seeking the OEM look.
Discovered in October 2002, DDE Lightning™ development began in earnest in April 2003 after market demand encouraged the creation of this product. DDE Lightning™ uses a different technology. A bright lamp element encased in polycarbonate sheathing. Inevitably, comparisons began to take place. Below is a definitive break down of the technologies and how they compare.
There are kits on the market that will allow you to add angel eyes to your OEM Halogen, Xenon, or Bixenon housing.
a. Light Emitting Diodes
LED angel eyes usually utilize 10,000 MCD LEDs, and fiber optic rings. These Demon eyes are dim, and are usually poor quality. They are often found on eBay, and are most likely not worth your money. The following is a comparison between DDE Lightning (Left) and LED angel eyes (Right) Pros
-Rarely any install instructions or customer support
b. Fiberoptic (GenII-GenV)
Fiberoptic angel eyes are the “OEM” style. They utilize fiberoptic cables and lightboxes to create the OEM yellow xenon look. These kits can be had for fairly inexpensive, but require a lot of messy cables, and tend to get very hot. Pros
-Ability to change colors
-Bulbs burn out
c. DDE Lightning/Phosphyre Halos
The latest technology in DDEs offers rings that emit light themselves. They come in a Xenon white color 6500 or 8000K, and are much brighter than any previous technology at a rating of 33000mcd. With options such as Enhanced Upgrades, they can match OEM appearance, but double OEM output. The rings also last over 20,000 hours (2 1/3 years continuous use). Additional features that can be added include: remote turn on and off, dimming, and flashing. Below is a set of Phosphyre Halos with Enhanced Upgrades. Pros
-Easy to install
-Superior instructions and customer support on a widely used product
-Clean installation. No extra components in the engine bay.
-Only one color Headlight Information Guide: Cliff’s Notes:
-“Xenon-Look” bulbs are an upgrade, but for serious differences they don’t do the job. They may even decrease light output.
-HIDs have 3x more light, 5x more life, and require ½ the power of a Halogen bulb, with ½ the heat.
-Kelvin = Color, Lumen = Brightness. Higher Kelvin = Lower Lumen
- Xenon/HID retrofit inside halogen headlights are prone to excessive glare, poor aim, and are difficult to install
-Projectors are a safe and legal way to upgrade your headlights
-There are fine aftermarket alternatives that tout many cool features, such as demon eyes and HIDs already installed.
-To upgrade your OEM Xenons to 5000K, 6000K, or 8000K, you can buy a D2S bulb.
-LED angel eyes are a cheap alternative, and a waste of time
-Fiber optic angel eyes are a hassle, but are the only way to achieve the OEM look
-Phosphyre Halos are technologically superior, brighter, and will last the life of your car
Thanks for reading, and happy modding!