When it comes time to replace parts of your car, you need to know which parts actually work with your vehicle, and this includes car headlights. The good news is that car headlights are universal, in a manner of speaking.
There is a caveat that we will talk about, but there are nonot specific headlights for certain cars. There’s no Honda or Toyota specific headlights, for example.
Are All Car Headlights the Same?
Even though there are universal headlights in a manner of speaking, this does not mean that all car headlights are the same. There’s different brightness levels, colors, shapes, and more importantly, fitting sizes. We’ll cover all of this.
What are H1, H4, H7 Bulbs?
So, are car headlights universal? Well, car headlight bulbs have different designations, such as H1, H4, and H7. There are other designations, but these three are the main ones that are relevant to most cars out there. These designations simply denote the size of the bulbs.
Your car is designed to fit certain bulbs. For instance, it may be designed to fit H4 bulbs, which are very common because they have both low and high beams. That means you can purchase any type of bulb with an H4 designation, and it will fit your car.
This is what we meant when we said that headlight bulbs are universal in a sense: no, not all bulbs fit all cars, but all bulbs of the right designation fit the car that has an equivalent designation for those bulbs. All H1 bulbs fit cars that need H1, and the same goes for H4, H7, and any other designation.
What are the Different Types of Bulbs?
There are a number of different types of bulbs. The four you will encounter the most are halogen, HID, LED and laser headlights. We’ll cover all of these in greater detail.
These are the most common types of headlights used in cars today. Halogen bulbs are a direct upgrade to an old schoololdschool bulb model called a sealed beam headlight. Halogen bulbs use gasses and a filament to burn brighter and create a much brighter light.
- They are one of the cheapest bulb types
- The beams are very bright
- The bulbs last a very long time
- They are small and don’t take much space
- They are very easy to replace when the time comes
- The light is slightly yellowish and does not reach extremely far in the darkness
HID is an acronym that stands for High Intensity Discharge, though they are sometimes referred to as xenon headlightshaedlights as well. They use electrodes and electric current to produce light instead of filaments, as well as xenon gas, hence the alternate name.
We won’t get into the science of the lightbulb, but basically it creates plasma within the bulb that is a whitish blue color. The light is extremely intense and can be adjusted to a narrow, piercing beam with great range or a wide beam that provides a greater field of view.
- Very bright blue-white light
- Long lasting
- Potential for deep penetration through the darkness
- Takes a few seconds to reach maximum brightness
- They can blind oncoming drivers if you do not dim them
- The color and brightness actually reduces your natural night visionnightvision
LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes. They use semiconductors to create a bright white light that can be turned on and off instantly. They are very efficient, yet compact. LED headlights are somewhat newer technology, so not every car has them.
- Can be turned on and off instantly
- They do not blind drivers or reduce nightvision
- They can be any color of the spectrum
- Provides direct vision in the beam, but also peripheral vision
- They are more expensive than other bulbs
These lights are pretty complicated in how they work: suffice to say, they use lasers to heat chemicals and make an extremely bright reaction. Of course, they are very expensive, but also a thousand times more powerful than LEDs.
- Can provide vision up to 2000 feet
- Hundreds of times more powerful than LEDs
- Extremely expensive, in the range of thousands of dollars
- They create a lot of heat and need significant cooling
How Do You Know What Kind of Headlights You Have?
You have to know the headlights you have to know what they need to be replaced with. You can usually find this information in the vehicle manual provided to you when you purchase the car. If you can’t find that, there are many sites online that allow you to look up this info.
If that doesn’t work, most auto parts will be able to tell you which type of headlight you need. Some big box stores like Walmart carry headlights. While they don’t have a person there to help you, the store usually provides a catalog for you to reference.
Perhaps the easiest thing to do is go to a site like Amazon, enter your vehicle information, and they should provide you a selection of headlights that fit your car.
Do you own a truck, like my faithful old Tacoma? Check out the headlight selection from RealTruck.com. They have an awesome selection of headlights for nearly every truck.
Are LED Headlights Universal?
Like we said before, headlight bulbs have size designations, such as H1, H4, etc. So long as you buy an LED light with the designation designed for your vehicle, it will fit.
Can You Upgrade Your Headlights?
You can upgrade your headlights in the sense that there are levels of quality just like in all products. You can buy higher quality or lower quality headlights of all types, with higher performance at higher qualities.