For the last several years, there’s been this trend — among people who are approximately as dim as their headlights apparently are — of installing aftermarket high-intensity or "xenon" headlights in vehicles that weren’t designed for them. I’m here today to tell you to stop doing this. Please. For the good of our society.
Here’s the situation with aftermarket HID headlights. They’ve recently become popular among a certain crowd — and I’m not going to name names here, because I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but it’s people who have lines from The Fast and the Furious tattooed on their forearms — who believe these lights make their cars look "cool." There are also people who believe the lights help them see better.
These people are wrong, and we’ll examine their wrongness today. We’ll start with the cool people.
The problem, people who think these lights make them look cool, is this: Your 1997 Civic was not designed for HID headlights, and it’s tremendously clear that your Civic was not designed for HID headlights the moment you turn them on. This is largely because they emit this strange blue glow, they jiggle around like they’re possessed by a hummingbird and they’re virtually always installed incorrectly.
The problem with that last thing is that your aftermarket HIDs are almost always either pointing directly on the ground, or pointing up in the sky, blinding those of us who have done nothing wrong in our lives except live in the kind of place where people have aftermarket HID headlights. We are the innocent victims of aftermarket HID headlights. We may start a GoFundMe.
So what happens is, you turn on your car, and you think you look cool "cuz I got zee-nawns," whereas the rest of us see a bulb that simply looks like a regular, normal halogen light, except it’s rimmed with a slight blue twinge, it’s jiggling around and it’s pointing directly in our face. This does not make you look cool. This makes you look like the kind of person who believes in chemtrails.
And then there are the people who actually think aftermarket xenon headlights help them see better. "Nah bro," these people say. "I put on my xenons ‘cuz I can see better." They are, of course, also wrong.
I’ve been in cars with aftermarket HID headlights, and what I’ve learned, from this experience, is the following: When you install these lights, you will not see anything better. However, you will see everything bluer. For example: Trees that were formerly green, in your past xenon-less life, will suddenly become blue. Same goes for telephone poles, other road users, dogs, houses and road signs. You want a blue iPhone? Go stand in front of a car that has aftermarket HID headlights.
So if you believe that "better" equates to "bluer," then yes, you are correct; you will see better. For the rest of us, who believe that seeing "better" equates to seeing "more," you will not see better. However, as an added bonus, you may see more jiggly.
Now, at this point, you might be wondering why people can’t install aftermarket HID headlights in their Civics and have them look as good as the ones that come factory-installed in Audis and such. Well, here’s the answer: I have no idea. I do not personally know anything about how headlights work, because I am not a Headlight Salesman, or a Headlight Installer, or an expert witness of the American Society of Headlights and Front Fog Lights.
Fortunately, there are many websites that explain the difference between an HID-ready car and a normal, halogen-equipped car, using phrases such as "arc crescent" and "cylindrical light source." And I, as a trained automotive journalist, will now tell you what they say, as I read each and every one of them during my prolonged research period for this column. They say, in sum: It just won’t work.
Of course, this will not stop people from installing these lights, and thinking these lights look cool, and aiming these lights squarely in your face so you’re blinded as you drive down the road. But at least now you know that you’re not alone in your hatred of these things. And while I’d suggest printing out this column and keeping it in a safe place in case you encounter some egregious aftermarket-HID violator, I think we all know what he’d say if you showed it to him: "Hey man, I don’t read nothin’ but my Fast and the Furious tattoo." Find a used car for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.