In our August, 2010 issue, we took a really in-depth look at halogen headlamp upgrades for Mopars with the current capsule-style bulbs (we had check out upgraded for classic Mopars a few years back in our Bold Beeper series). We wanted to include, as part of the newer article, a discussion of the other three headlamp technologies out there, but we simply ran out of room, so we hadda move that to the web ‚Äď i.e., right here. For the majority of us, the main article is what you need; however, there was lots of good info that was cut, so, as promised, here ya go:
Besides the now-common halogen-filled, quartz-bulb hi-temp incandescent lamps, there are at least three other technologies out there: HID, HIR, and LED. Let‚Äôs briefly examine them:
The basic high-intensity discharge lamp is nothing new, having been in common use (fixed, not mobile) for almost a century. The basic principle is that a high-voltage arc is drawn in a sealed quartz tube exciting a gas plasma. Starting in the early 1990s, some high-end cars have been equipped with them by the OEMs, with mixed results. Drivers of cars so equipped generally love them, but oncoming motorists often have a different opinion. A big plus is energy efficiency. Drawbacks include warmup time, price and complexity.
Retrofitting HIDs into our Mopars is iffy at best. Most OEM hi-lo beam HIDs use something on the order of a movable shutter to literally, physically ‚Äúmove‚ÄĚ the beam, a feature included in very few aftermarket products; typically, they are low-beam-only, although, with most of these conversions, there‚Äôs plenty of light, enough so that you may not even need high beams. The trouble is, at least in the ones we looked at, the light pattern is not well controlled, being more of a wide-swath floodlight. In addition to the oncoming motorist‚Äôs optical agony, try driving in snow or fog with all that light reflected back into your eyes. Ugh.
Halogen Infrared Reflecting are an interesting upgrade to standard halogen bulbs. Currently only made (for automotive use) by Toshiba and Osram (Sylvania‚Äôs their US name), these are a unique product, the only bulbs available that use the technology that General Electric patented in 2000 (patent number 6,087,775). It was GE’s goal to create a bulb that produced 75% of the light output of HID headlights at 25% of the cost. A GE engineered process deposits multiple, yet almost invisible, layers of semi-reflective coating on the surface of a specially shaped quartz bulb. This coating (a titania/silica, zinc oxide/silica, zirconia/silica, silicon nitride/silica, and titania/magnesium fluoride tantalum/silica multi-layer dielectric, according to the patent) reflects a portion of the infrared energy emitted by the filament back onto the filament, causing it to glow brighter and emit more light from the uncoated forward portion of the bulb. These bulbs produce white light, rated at 3600 Kelvin color temp, slightly whiter than the 3250K stock halogen bulbs.
Claimed to be OEM on Vipers, these bulbs are several variations, both single filament: Toshiba‚Äôs HIR 9012 can replace a stock 9006/HB4 bulb. The HIR 9011 can replace a stock 9005/HB3 bulb. They are DOT legal and consume the same power as standard halogens. If you have a ‚Äė90s or 00’s Mopar with 4 headlamps, these belong in your high beam sockets.
Toshiba only ever made true and genuine HIRs in the two types listed, and it’s only a happy accident that they are so similar to 9005 and 9006 bulbs that they can easily be retrofit to those housings. They stopped making them last year. Philips is making HIRs now, using what is essentially enhanced H7 capsules on HIR bases. Osram has a 65W “off-road” H7, and, having a Pacifica handy, we bought some of ‚Äėem from suvlights.com, the only Mopar we‚Äôre aware of that came from the factory with Hella headlamps; they use 2 pairs of H7 (Euro-style) bulbs, one pair dedicated for low beam, and one for high. Dead stock, they are great headlights, but the Osrams put them into a whole ‚Äėnother light! For a small wattage upgrade (55 to 65 watts, about 15% more power), we measured light output to be almost double, certainly proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the claim of the Schenectady wizards, and making these quite likely the most efficient incandescent lamps ever made.
Trashy copies are showing up from Asia and they’re unmitigated crap; don’t waste your money. Also, any dual-filament HIR is a contradiction in terms, since the technology relies on focusing infrared back on a “point” or single filament.
Much of the above info came from the primary US distributor of Toshiba HIRs, finemotoring.com, who‚Äôs web page has tons of great info (and the bulbs!) Despite the apparent contradiction, we wonder if GE has somehow quietly used some of this technology in their Nighthawk Platinum line of halogens, which excelled in our tests.
These clearly are the lighting system of the future, being extremely energy efficient, no special circuitry, generating little heat, and having extremely long life and vibration resistance. For now, at least, they usually aren‚Äôt bright enough, and are too difficult to focus, to be successful in anything other than DRLs, signal, running, and stop lamps. (We tested LED taillights a while back with great success, a video is – here –. J.C. Whitney does, however, carry a 7″ sealed beam drop-in conversion packed with LEDs behind a segmented fluted lens that just might work ‚Äď we never say never.