CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Replacement headlight bulbs

What is a good replacement headlight bulb. Bought a 2004 Pontiac Sunfire for my daughter, and the headlights are not that bright. There is alot to choose from online. She drives home from work at night on back roads, no street lights and lots of deer. We live in Minnesota so snow makes it hard to see also.

Most of what you will find online are illegal high wattage “off the road use only” bulbs. They will overload your cars wiring and fry that expensive dimmer switch or its relay. FORGET the so-called HID “blue bulbs”, blue light just makes vision worse, not better. Sylvania makes some good, legal replacement bulbs. Also, cleaning up the plastic lens covers can make a big difference…

Check those lenses too. As most cars these days have plastic lenses, you may need to clean or even polish them to acceptable clearity. A plastic polishing kit is available at parts stores. If they are horribly fogged and scratched, replace them.

As for the bulbs , I prefer the o.e. halogen over those silly blue things.( But lighting color is often a personal preference. ) I had silverstars once but took them out and replaced with o.e.
Any parts store can sell you o.e. bulbs.

I’ve been using Sylvania XtraVision bulbs in my cars for several years, and have found them to be the best legal bulbs available.

I tried the illegal high-wattage bulbs and the blue tinted bulbs, etc. The illegal bulbs produce lots of light, but they don’t last very long. The tinted bulbs have less light output, and for me they made it more difficult to see in rain or snow.

Try the XtraVision bulbs and see if you like them. I do.

For all sorts of information about automotive lighting and bulbs visit DanielSternLighting.com

Also check for proper aim/alignment of the headlight beam. It is a used car after all, and even with new bulbs and clear lenses the aim will affect your visibility.

Thanks for the ideas, will check the alignment and lens before I spend money on bulbs.

Does the car have fog lights ? Using these in super dark conditions can help . ( I do )

Besides the Corvair, Ralph Nader wrote in “Unsafe at Any Speed” about how sloppy carmakers were about aiming headlights. Things have improved but I’ve had to re-aim the headlights on every car I’ve bought.