Keep Your Hand on Your Wallet

Headlight GlareSylvania's full page ad for Silverstar Ultra headlight bulbs caught my attention. See farther, see wider, see better read the banner. Up to 50% brighter light, 50% increased peripheral visibility, 40% increased downroad visibility and as much as 50 - 100 feet more visibility at night was promised. That sounds pretty good to me, maybe I should buy a set! Spending $30 each instead of $10 each for standard replacements might be worth it.

Reading more carefully, I saw that all of these promises were made based on a comparison to a worn standard halogen bulb. Wait a moment, we're comparing a new bulb to an old one? We should at least compare new bulbs, so I went to Sylvania's web site, found an e-mail address for automotive lighting and asked. One month later, no response had appeared in my inbox.

I read the ad again and found the Facebook logo. I used the DriveSmartBC Facebook account to direct message them. "These are not OEM bulbs, they aren't meant to be replacement bulbs for your standard bulbs." Say what? The ad speaks of making a safe choice for me and my family, but you know, it never once mentions the word highway. Are these off road lights? No Facebook response to that question yet.

Consumer Reports is a trusted source of information for me and they have a full article regarding headlight bulbs like this on their web site. The bottom line? "Don’t expect big changes in the distance you can see compared with standard or new OE bulbs." Keep your hand on your wallet, the 300% premium on the standard price may not be worth the up to 19% greater light output.

Reference Links:

... I think it's impressive to see how much OEM headlights have improved in recent years.

My main vehicle is a 2012 Econoline E350, and that's pretty much as mainstream as it gets; I would guess that the lights are shared with every other Ford Truck and Van from the same model year, at a minimum.  And they work, brilliantly; highway driving at night is way easier than in most vehicles I've driven over the years.  My wife's 2008 Honda Accord has very good headlights too, but not up to the same standard; possibly the flatter beam angle from the lower vehicle is a factor.

Whether to purchase OEM replacement bulbs, or aftermarket, is a determination I think I would make on cost; dealerships demand so much for what appears to be the same product as an automotive parts store can provide.  Is there any evidence that 'regular' Sylvania (or other aftermarket) bulbs are of any lesser performance standard than the ones with the manufacturer's name on them?

If you have 55w bulbs, you won't get much more output from other 55w bulbs.  I've found the 65w bulbs to be considerably brighter (but not as bright as HIDs) and they are (generally) safe for use on stock wiring. 



I don't like these high intensity light bulbs for cars.  Even on regular beam, they all but blind me on the roads.  I look to the right but even that sometimes does not save my eyes.  I personally think they should be banned.


You could be looking at a vehicle where the owner has put HID light capsules in lenses designed for filament bulbs. A retrofit like this needs both capsules and lens assemblies or you will cause glare for others and incorrect lighting for yourself.

I get e-mails from Chinese businesses trying to sell me these illegal conversion kits on an almost daily basis now.

I find that even OEM HID headlamps are too bright.  The lumen output is simply too much to not cause difficulty for oncoming drivers.  While the optics cut off the light to avoid blinding oncoming drivers on flat roads, coming over the crest of a hill or even driving over bumps can expose oncoming drivers directly to the light below the cutoff.  Many cars with HIDs have an electronic leveling feature because even some passengers in the back seat can angle the light up enough to be a problem.



I'm glad to see others have piped up about the excessive brightnesss problem ... I have faced other vehicles across a large intersection while waiting at a red light (ie. on the scale of something like 52nd Street and Hwy. 17 in South Delta) and, on occasion, some of the cars across from me have lights so bluishly brilliant that they literally hurt my eyes.

The wattage is the most important factor.  However, you can't just change your 50W bulb with a 100W replacement.  Light from these halogen bulbs is really inefficient, power-wise, so you effectively have 100W of heat.  The wiring is the least of your problems.  While really high wattage bulbs can melt your wires, so to speak, you need to worry more about the headlight assembly, which can cost around $2000 to replace for some cars.  Not to mention risk of fire or loosing light while driving in the night.

Usually there is some safety factor.  If, as baxter said, you replace 55W OEM lights with 65W lights, you should be OK.  The fact that your stock lights are 55W means that the car manufacturer has designed the headlight assembly and wires to handle 55W light bulbs.  The 55W to 65W change is an 18% increase in power.  Personally I wouldn't go higher than 10-15%, so this is pushing it a bit.  Lights might "seem" brighter based on their colours, a more white or blue coloured lamp will seem brighter than an ambient colour lamp, and technically more light could be reflected with a higher light temperature, usually it takes a higher equivalent power to increase the temperature of the light, so that means either you run at higher wattage, or the light is dimmer.

The "better" way to improve the light is to change to high intensity discharge (HID), or light emitting diaodes (LEDs).  I think even Xenon light bulbs are more efficient than halogen, but they are very expensive - although they last a long time.  LEDs are the most efficient, but can be the priciest.  In order to output about 50W of halogen-equivalent brightness you'd need an 8W LED assembly.  This means that you could go to 16W and get REALLY bright lights, double than what a 100W halogen assembly would do, and roughly only 16W of heat would be emitted.  HID is about half as efficient as LED, so you'd need a 16W bulb for 8W of LED for 50W halogen.  So a really bright light would be 32W, and you'd still be fine.

Just make sure you adjust the angle of your lights properly (or profesionally)!!!  I see so many cars with upgraded lights that just blind me whenever they go past me or are behind me.  I need sunglasses sometimes.  I had a rental car one time with badly adjusted lights and every 2nd car would flash their high beams to blind me because they thought I was driving with high beams on.

Also, one more thing.  LEDs will drop to about 70% of their brightness after a year, while HID lights will drop to about 90% in a year.

I'm not sure what is or isn't being advocated here, but I'm going to insert the caveat that any changes to lighting systems have to be done in compliance with standards. One bad example is sticking an HID capsule in a lens designed for filament bulbs.

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

This is an important point I forgot to mention.  If you plan to change to a different light type (e.g. HID or LED) when your OEM system is designed for filament bulbs, you need to take in acount the WHOLE lighting system, including the lens that is made for the OEM light.  Many HID kits include a replacement for this lens, however it is often poor quality and might not even be legal to use.  Unless you know that the kit is compliant with regulations, I would not recommend installing it, as most like it would be a downgrade, not an upgrade.

For non-headlamp bulbs (turn signal, reverse light, license plate illuminator, etc) this is not big a big deal since there is no lens to deal with, the lights are not for projection.  Just make sure you use the same kind of bulb.  If the original is H3 for example, you can get an H3 LED or HID (if it exists) replacement.  Be sure to test out the light and compare it side by side if possible.  Otherwise use a camera with manual settings and take a picture of both with the aperture, shutter speed and ISO locked to the same values.  They need to be at least as bright and the correct colour as definied in the Motor Vehicle Act.  I usually only upgrade lights like this on my cars, the DRL (daytime running lights), the corner assist lights, and sometimes brake, turn signal or other lights.  I don't touch the actual headlamps and highbeams.

If you do want to convert to HID or LED, do your research and pick a reputable brand, and ensure that the lens is of good quality, compliant AND made for your specific car.  And of course, please adjust the headlamp and highbeam levels after doing any sort of changes, even just taking out the bulb can affect the level.  Some people only adjust the headlamp but leave the highbeams.  Do the highbeams also, it's just two extra steps, but depending on the bulb orientation and lighting system, the level could be quite different from the headlamps.

All of the bulbs mentioned must comply with standards. The last time I checked, there were no LED direct replacement for filament bulbs approved for on highway use. You would not put HID in brake/tail/marker positions.

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

Are you saying the "filament standard" applies to non-headlamp lights also?  I thought the issue with, especially HID lights, was because of their beam pattern and being improperly aimed that could potentially create more glare than improperly aimed normal halogen headlamps.  Therefore, you can exceed the maximum light that is emitted outside of the beam pattern quite easily, so you really have to make sure the kit is standard compliant.

Regarding the other lights, however, I wasn't aware of a specific beam pattern that should be followed.  I haven't read all of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations documents, only excerpts (if someone has a link to the doc(s) that would be great), but it seems the light intensity of the non-headlamp lights is the biggest factor.  You can't exceed the allowed brightness.  I would assume there is some beam pattern to follow that's generally in the direction the light is pointing, but since there is no lens, it is likely directed by the light assembly itself.  Halogen lights are quite uniform in their light output (if you don't magnify it, like in the headlamps), so fitting another uniform light type would not make a big difference.  Isn't that true?  Of course, unless you are able to test the compliance yourself or with the help of local authorities, you should still buy one that says on the box it is standard compliant.  The problem with tiny lights like the license plate illuminator, is that even the halogen replacements don't have a word on them except for the product ID and bulb type, unlike headlamps.  So how do I know that the halogen replacement brake lights I buy are compliant?

Like you said, you wouldn't use HID for other lights.  But about LEDs, does that mean all those LED replacements out there (for non-headlamps) are "illegal"?  Because there are a ton of them in stores and especially online, and so many younger folk using them.  I'm very interested to see what the standards really say about this.  Surely they don't specify halogen or filament light bulbs explicitly since many auto manufacturers are using LEDs as OEM lights now.  Maybe they don't say anything about compliance, but are the standards really that strict?  It's obvious the colour and light intensity are important, but what else is there that would make these lights comply with standards?  Do they have to go through some kind of endurance, wear & tear testing or something?

I own a set of Sylvania Silverstar Brights in my Escape SUV. I purchased them about 1 year ago. After becoming dissatisfied with my OEM halogen lights I decided to purchase a set of Ultrabrights from Amazon. Granted they were about $60 for the pair. A small price to pay for an experiment in my opinion. I must say after trying them they are somewhat brighter vs the stock OEM yellow halogens. I wouldn't say they change the world and I wouldn't recommend spending the money if you are looking for surprising results. They aren't quite up to the manufactures claims bit I guess that is marketing right?

Comparing them on the highway to the stock lights they are a whiter light and are a bit brighter. They may shine a bit farther down the highway then the OEM lights its hard to say. From reading the reviews a common complaint is they burn out faster than OEM lights. My assumption would be that is right if it is a brighter and hotter lightbulb. I put the OEM lights in the glove box so I can change them back if need be.

Bottom line for me for $60 bucks its a small price to pay to get a bit better and brighter light then the OEM units. And I would spend the money again. Just my two cents.