Road safety week: upgrading a car’s headlamp bulbs

Stay safe this road safety week: upgrade your car's headlamp bulbs

Improve road safety and upgrade your car’s headlamp bulbs (Picture © Ford)

This year’s national Road Safety Week promotes the message that drivers should use their car less and live more. It’s a heartfelt and honest sentiment, but not necessarily entirely practical for those who rely on their car to commute, get the children to school or carry out their job. So what simple but proven things can drivers do to make them and our roads safer?

Upgrading a car’s headlamp bulbs is an ideal starting point at this time of year. For one, it’s an affordable improvement that won’t deplete the Christmas present fund. A pair of the best-performing halogen headlamp bulbs costs around £20 or less, and even the least mechanically minded motorists should be able to fit them.

It’s also effective. If your car is the average seven years old and uses standard halogen bulbs, the chances are that aftermarket bulbs will greatly improve the brightness of the headlights, in some cases by more than 100 per cent. The difference is enough to ensure drivers see a pedestrian crossing the road in sufficient time to react safely.

And lastly, at this time of year, when the sun sets at around 4pm and rises again at about 7am, millions of drivers are on the road in darkness every day. According to bulb maker Philips, 82 per cent of road accidents happen in poor light or darkness, when reduced visibility is often a contributing factor. So powerful lights are even more important in the winter.

Changing headlamp bulbs is usually a straightforward job that is explained in a car’s handbook. The majority of cars use halogen bulbs, and unless the vehicle designers made the car as complex as the Large Hadron Collider, it should be easy to remove a pair of old bulbs and replace them with more powerful items.

However, if your car uses more modern Xenon (high intensity discharge) or LED (light-emitting diodes) lights, it’s likely to be a more complicated job that is often best left to the technicians at a garage or fitters at aftermarket car spare stores.

LED and Xenon bulbs are best changed by professional technicians

LED and Xenon bulbs are best changed by professional technicians (Picture © Mercedes)

Finding out which are the best halogen bulbs to upgrade to is easy enough. Both Which? and Auto Express have compared aftermarket bulbs, taking to special light laboratories to uncover their performance.

Auto Express preferred to divide bulbs into two groups: those that claim to give up to 60 per cent brighter light, and those that claim to offer more than 60 per cent brighter light. In the former category, the Osram Silverstar 2.0 put in the most dazzling performance, followed by the PowerBulbs PowerPlus and then the Philips Colour Vision.

Of the bulbs offering over 60 per cent more light, the Philips X-tremeVision pulled a blinder, finishing in top spot, followed by Osram’s Night Breaker Unlimited and the Halfords Advanced Extreme Brilliance.

When Which? compared upgraded bulbs to those fitted as standard in a Vauxhall family car, its testers rated the Bosch Pure Light bulbs the best performers, followed by the Osram Night Breaker and Philips X-treme Power.

Road Safety Week may run its course for 2015, but the improved performance of uprated headlamp bulbs could keep you safe for years to come.

Read more: Changing car light bulbs: How much does it cost you?


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