Car Bulb Buyers Guide

If any of your car lights aren't working, then you aren't going anywhere once the sun sets! Car bulbs are crucial bits of kit and you'll fail your MOT or risk being stopped by the police if even one bulb isn't working.

So, to help keep your future bright, we’ve pulled together this buyer’s guide which will clue you up on important bulb-related knowledge and help you choose the car bulb that’s right for your car.

How do Car Bulbs work?

Despite being smaller than the bulbs you'll find in your lampshades at home, car bulbs are much brighter and longer-lasting than the bulbs used to light up your living room. They can use some of the same technology though, as the filaments within incandescent car light bulbs heat up to project light onto the road ahead of you.

Halogen car light bulbs work in a similar way, however there are other types of bulb on the market that work differently- such as LED bulbs which emit virtually no heat at all.

The primary function of any bulb is to beam light out onto the road directly ahead of it, while the intensity of that light is amplified by super-reflective materials that surround the bulb within the headlight itself. Not too complicated.

If you take your rear lights, for example, the red effect they create is typically achieved through having a red-coloured plastic cover over the bulb itself, unless you have a specific LED emitting red light. Similarly, orange plastic films help other drivers see that you’re indicating.

What are full beam headlights?

Every car has two main headlight settings, commonly known as 'low beam' and 'full beam'. Low beam is the standard setting, and using a low beam will see light projected forward and down onto the road, lighting it up without impacting the visibility of other road users too heavily. The low beam setting is used on busy and lit roads and is the 'standard' setting when you switch your headlights on.

The full beam setting points light upward and outward, allowing drivers to see potential hazards both further down and at the sides of an unlit road. You don't need to worry about finding headlights that are compatible with both settings - all car headlight bulbs have two filaments or sometimes even two bulbs at different settings that point light in different directions depending on whether you're using full beams or low beams.

Which bulb do I need for my car?

If you’re thinking ‘Yes, but what bulbs fit my car?’ – it’s time to start doing some research and finding the bulb you need. The easiest way to do this is to use our handy online tool, which will allow you to input registration number and postcode, then tell you exactly which bulbs you need.

Of course, if you have an issue with your bulbs that leaves you in need of further support, nip into your local Halfords store where our car bulb experts can help you select the right bulb in-store.

Which car bulb is best?

So, we’ve outlined a couple of the different types of car bulb and how they work, but which is the best car bulb for your car?

Filament car bulbs / Halogen car bulbs

These are the 'factory standard' bulbs you'll usually find on most cars. They offer good value for money, are relatively easy to replace and last a long time. Some of our bulb upgrades provide brighter and more intense light, useful for winter driving or drivers who do most of their travelling when it's dark.

Xenon HID car bulbs

If you've ever spotted a pair of blue-tinged headlights on the road, then they were likely High Intensity Discharge lights. Filled with Xenon gas, these bulbs can't just be slotted into your average car headlights and will need an additional box that is either fitted by the manufacturer or as part of an aftermarket kit.

LED car bulbs

LED bulbs are highly efficient and last a long time, but you'll only be able to benefit from them if your car's manufacturer has installed them - it's currently illegal to add LED bulbs to your car as an aftermarket installation.

Choosing the 'best' light bulb really comes down to personal preference and what kind of bulbs your car uses. If you want brighter, whiter headlights, then opt for one of our upgrades - we offer bulbs that range from a 25% brightness increase to a 150% brightness increase, so check out our Halfords Advanced bulbs if you'd like bulbs that offer brighter light.

What car bulb legalities do I need to be aware of?

Essentially, you’ll need to ensure that your car bulb is of sufficient brightness, wattage (how much power it uses) and design in compliance with UN legislation. Make sure that you don’t drive at night if any of your bulbs aren’t working, and for a deeper dive into car bulb law read our article just here.

How to change a car light bulb

Messing around with your car's vital components can cause damage if you don't know what you're doing, so we always recommend letting Halfords do the hard work for you! Just ask at the till or bring your car and new bulb to your local Halfords store and we'll happily fit it for a small charge.

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