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How Long Should Headlights Last For? (Bulb Lifespans)

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Last Updated on: 7th September 2023, 12:42 am

Headlights are not all made the same, so there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to lifespan. Some headlights use halogen bulbs, some use HID or xenon, while others use LED technology.

It also depends greatly on the environment and other factors, some humid, wet, and cold climates may speed up the degradation of the bulbs, while dry and warm climates, even halogens may last for a lot longer than seems possible.

In this article, I’ll explain how long you should expect each headlight type to last, along with reasons why they may fail prematurely.

Below is a table containing the average lifespans of each headlight type.

Headlight TypeHalogenHIDXenonLED
Avg. Lifespan500-1,000 hours~2,000 hours~10,000 hours30,000+ hours
Comparison of headlight types by average lifespan in hours.

Halogen Bulb Lifespan

A halogen bulb consists of a tiny tungsten filament encased in a glass filament capsule that is particularly resistant to high temperatures and surrounded by a halogen gas.

An inert gas and a little quantity of a halogen such as iodine or bromine is used in the bulb.

Electrical current flows through the bulb, producing light. They are typically less efficient, not as bright, but inexpensive to buy.

Usually they last for between 500 and 1,000 hours of use, sometimes halogens can burn out sooner or last longer, depending on the climate.

HID Bulb Lifespan

High-intensity discharge (HID) are bulbs that are brighter than ordinary headlights. The HID light bulb of a HID headlight is made up of two electrodes enclosed in a glass enclosure.

Xenon gas and metal salts are present in this container. Sending an electrical discharge between two electrodes and through a plasma, or ionised gas, produces light.

They are much brighter than halogen headlights, often being classed as the brightest type of headlight on the market, but they are usually pricier.

HIDs usually last for around 2,000 hours of run time.

Xenon Bulb Lifespan

Xenon headlights are becoming more widespread, especially on higher-end and luxury vehicles. They produce a whitish-blue light that illuminates a larger area of the road than standard halogen lights.

Instead of a filament, they create light by creating an electric arc between two electrodes. Xenon and HID are comparable in light output and brightness, usually xenon are slightly less bright.

The lifespan of a xenon headlight is typically around 10,000 hours of usage.

LED Bulb Lifespan

Light-emitting diode (LED) headlights are common among the modified car scene and as an aftermarket part. In comparison to halogen headlights, LED headlights are much brighter.

They are also much more energy efficient and can last much longer than halogen bulbs.

One of the most significant drawbacks of LED headlights is the glare they produce. The glare may get so intense that it affects other drivers on the road.

Experts are also concerned that it might result in long-term retina damage. LED headlights are also more costly than halogen lights.

LED headlights typically last upwards of 30,000 hours of run time, sometimes outliving the car they’re installed on.

Factors Affecting How Long Headlights Last For

Manufacturers may often cite an estimate of “anticipated hours” or “run time,” but these should be regarded with a grain of salt.

The longevity of a car bulb is determined by a number of variables, which include the following.

  1. Climate
  2. Usage
  3. Debris
  4. Power

1. Climate

A vehicle bulb might be subjected to a variety of factors that affect how long it lasts.

  • Hot and cold temperatures, as well as intense sunshine, may prematurely erode or damage the components inside a bulb.
  • UV rays from the sun may pass through your headlights, causing any plastic or silicone to become brittle, shortening the bulb’s lifetime.

However, extreme weather isn’t the only factor that causes bulbs to deteriorate. Over time, potholes, speed bumps, and vibrations may all harm halogen lights.

2. Usage

You may not realise how much energy your lights use.

Daytime running lights or dipped beam headlights that turn on automatically when it’s cloudy are now standard on many vehicles.

This increases the amount of time your bulbs are used and may cause them to burn out far quicker than you would anticipate.

This is something we see a lot with taxi drivers who only work the day shift. When it rains or is overcast, their bulbs are always in use, and they have no idea how much use they are getting out of them.

People who drive mostly at night will notice a substantial difference compared to those who drive during the day. HGV and taxi drivers who work on night shifts burn out bulbs 4x quicker than normal.

3. Debris

Halogen lights’ glass should never be handled with your bare hands.

Natural greases and oils may persist on the glass for a long time and heat up in one location when the bulb is turned on, causing the bulb to overheat and burst the glass.

Always avoid touching the glass bulb while installing car bulbs, and if feasible, use clean gloves.

Other debris includes dust, small pieces of debris, and moisture that may have seeped through the seal of the headlight assembly.

4. Power

The power output of a bulb rises when the wattage is increased, resulting in more light being emitted.

When compared to a bulb with a lower wattage, a bulb with a higher wattage will have a much shorter lifetime.

The brightest lights usually burn out first, but as technology advances and adapts, we find innovative strategies to extend the life of these bulbs.

This may include things like enhancing the filament within the bulb, using LED technology, or employing higher-quality gases inside the bulb.

Therefore, even bright bulbs now have a longer lifespan than normal bulbs.

Disclaimer: We don’t recommend installing non-standard headlights into your car as it may be illegal to do so in some areas. We are not responsible if you decide to install a non-OEM headlight unit or bulb. It can also cause a CAN-bus error and possibly cause glare for other road users.

  • Andy Lewin

    Andy Lewin is a senior mechanic, ASE qualified master technician, and an experienced automotive engineer.He's passionate about serving the automotive community with the highest-quality and trustworthy information on all things automotive. He loves to write about car repairs, maintenance, car modifications and tuning, faults, and much more.

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