For most drivers, few things are more irritating than driving at night with inadequate headlights … or realizing how woefully underpowered your portable spotlight is the moment you desperately need it roadside.
A lighting deficit is the last thing you want on a poorly lit road or highway. Weak headlights restrict your forward vision and all but rob you of your peripheral vision, leaving you perfectly unaware of any small – or possibly not so small – the creature’s dogged determination to cross the road at the precise moment you’re driving by. Likewise, trying to change a tyre or performing an urgent quick check under the bonnet in the dark isn’t anything to write home about either.
A strong pairing of headlights and driving lights are worth their weight in salt any day of the week; and in a clench, a powerful handheld light is worth its weight in gold. It’s possible, however, to have all the necessary lighting – it’s all about the globes, after all – so let’s see what’s available to shine a light on the topic.
The Right Light
Regardless of whether you’re talking about headlights, driving lights or the 20w -100w handhelds you keep with your emergency gear, you want as much forward-facing illumination as possible. That means, for all your handhelds or external headlights for cars, you want globes that provide the right amount of lighting, are long-lasting, don’t cause eye fatigue, and when necessary, are upgradeable.
What’s often avoided in discussions about globes – and lights in general – is what’re the “real-world” differences between them? What distinguishes a halogen from an LED, is one demonstrably better than the other, and what does it all ultimately mean when you hit the switch?
Halogen globes have been the standard for automotive and handheld applications for almost half a century because they reliably produce a broad spectrum of light in hues and colour temperatures (measured in degrees Kelvin) whose beam can even be directed by the shape of their sealed filaments. LEDs, boasting longer life, lower current draw, and no filament, are broadly accepted as the de facto replacements for halogens … and are most distinctive because they rely on electronic diodes to produce narrower, higher intensity outputs. It’s only after you begin to look at the specific applications, however, that some clarity emerges about which is may be better.
Lighting the Way
It’s no secret – at some point, all globes need to be replaced – but let’s be perfectly honest and acknowledge that the choice to replace (or upgrade) will invariably come down to how the light is used.
An LED Headlight Upgrade
Of every light on or in your car, your headlights are the most critical – and H-category halogen headlights have been in automotive use for decades – but halogens do inevitably degrade over time due to:
- temperature extremes
- voltage fluctuations
This gradual “dimming” effect – combined with their natural inclination to disperse light aurally – makes converting headlights from halogen to LED an overwhelming preference. You’ll immediately notice what a difference in illuminance their higher, cooler colour temperature and wider beam make when driving at night; and fortunately, upgrade kits are available that make transitioning your car to LED as effortless as it would be replacing a blown halogen globe for a good one.
Driving Light Globes
Driving lights, either in 12v or 24v variations, are imperative for off-roaders; and make no mistake, halogens still very much hold sway in this domain. It’s understandable though. The ability to recognize nighttime obstacles means everything; and massive improvements in driving light reflectors, construction, and even the availability of spread and colour light filters make an almost ironclad case for halogen globes over significantly costlier options.
At the end of the day, drivers who’ve been served faithfully by their halogen driving lights aren’t compelled to change them … which is why it never hurts to be prepared. With top quality halogen globes being engineered that can produce either circular or oval-shaped beams, it behooves off-roaders who love their halogen driving lights to always be sure to have an ample stock of durable, maximum performance halogen globes available.
Handhelds and Portables
For handhelds and portables that are powered from accessory receptacles – whether they’re intended for use strictly during emergencies, for sporting, or what have you – globes that give the broadest possible spectrum of light in hues that allow for superior retention and differentiation are the preference. Again, you’re in the realm of halogens.
When you’re hunting at night, or trying to replace the locking hub on a 4×4 in the dark, an LED’s hard intense beam of light simply won’t provide the depth, that a halogen is capable of doing. It’s why keeping a supply of spare halogen globes for situations like these is so important. Knowing that you have a few in your vehicle means you’re able to shine a spotlight on any contingency, planned or unplanned.
Ultimately, anyone who gets behind a wheel needs to ensure they have a few extra globes with them every time they hit the road, regardless of where they’re headed. They’re small, but they’re essential, and it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about handhelds or external headlights, for cars there really isn’t a more vital bit of gear to always have in a glove box or spare kit.
Regardless of the type of lighting you have, though, you only want to look to the most innovative and reputable suppliers to meet your needs. Australian manufacturers know the extremes that automotive lighting inevitably has to face day in and day out, and you can trust them to make sure your decision-making path is always well lit.