Car Bulb Buyer’s Guide

Not only is night-time driving with faulty bulbs dangerous, it’s also illegal. 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 you safe and road-legal when driving in the dark, we’ve pulled together this buyer’s guide to help you choose the bulbs that are 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, however, use the same technology; just like household bulbs, the filament within car light bulbs heats up when an electric current passes through it, and then produces light to project onto the road ahead of you. Halogen car light bulbs work in a similar way, but there are other types of bulbs 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.

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/dipped beam' and 'full beam'. Low beam is the standard setting, and using this 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?

Every car is different, and there are a variety of bulbs to fit each make and model. The easiest way to find the right bulbs for your car is to use our handy online tool, where you can input your registration number and find the exact bulbs you need. Of course, if you have an issue with your bulbs that leaves you in need of further support, pop 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 best 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.

Shop filament bulbs

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.

Shop Xenon HID bulbs

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.

Shop LED bulbs

Choosing the 'best' car 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 100% to 200% brightness, 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, to both comply with the law and to keep you and other road users safe.

Also, it’s important to be aware that LED bulbs are currently only suitable for off-road use, unless they’ve been fitted by the manufacturer. For a deeper dive into car bulb law, have a read of our article here.

How to change a car light bulb

Making changes to your car's vital components could 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.

Why we recommend changing your bulbs in pairs

We’d always recommend changing your bulbs in pairs to help make your journeys as safe as possible. Equal light distribution on the road provides increased and even visibility for both you and oncoming drivers, especially when you’re upgrading to a brighter bulb.

Getting two bulbs changed at once also saves you time as you don’t need to take individual trips for each fitting.

Shop all car bulbs

Halfords Motoring Club

Did you know that with the Halfords Motoring Club you can get discounts on a range of products including car bulbs? Join the Halfords Motoring Club today to access a range of amazing benefits and discounts that are designed to keep you moving, keep you safe and keep you saving.

It’s free to join and you’ll receive money off your MOT, a free car health check and a welcome voucher that can be spent on any Halfords product or service.

Or choose our Premium membership for a small monthly fee (or a one-off payment) to unlock exclusive member pricing on all motoring products and services online and across our stores, garages and Halfords Mobile Experts, as well as a variety of other benefits that will help you to keep moving for less.

With so much to enjoy, this is too good an opportunity to miss!

Join the Halfords Motoring Club today at

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