Here's my attempt at assisting some of you with choosing the right pieces parts for the job. I'll attempt to explain things very basically here as many of these topics can get very technical. If you're looking for further explanations I'd recommend you check out HIDplanet
or Automotive Lighting FAQ's
as there's a wealth of endless knowledge available there for your viewing pleasure.
Please Note: I've quoted those who've simply worded things better then I could have, I've also placed links to other valuable resources for you to explore. Everything I say here is all stuff I learned from many others & appreciate them spending the time to break it down for me. As a result I'm returning the favor & doing the same for you. Enjoy!
What are HID's?
Stands for High Intensity Discharge. It's when Metal Halide Salts are juiced with 27,000 volts which causes the change in state from a salt to a gas producing the light we see. There's a misunderstanding that HID's run hotter then halogen. This is probably assumed because brighter usually means hotter. Not in this case, after the initial jolt, HID's don't use or produce much power/ heat... they usually run cooler! The light that HID's produce is much brighter & closer to the color/ temp of daylight thus making nighttime driving safer. This also makes upgrading to HID's desirable as well. Seriously, if you need a better summary, just Google it.
OEM vs Aftermarket
Many people praise the reliability, quality, & consistancy of products made by Original Equipment Manufactures (OEM). This means that fenders made by Dodge probably fit better then fenders made by Certafit. The same goes for HID's as well. Ballast made by Phillips Or Mitsubishi (Germany & Japan) are generally better quality then ballast's made in China.
Now, there are aftermarket products that can be pretty good & OEM stuff that's just average so this is where research plays a role. In general it's a good guide to start with.
Ballasts are basically used to send 27,000 volts to the bulbs upon start up. All OEM ballast's put out 35 Watts while some aftermarket ballasts pust out 35, 50, or 55 Watts. Although more watts does produce more light, they also can cause a more yellow color/ tint, shorter bulb life, as well as running 10+ degree's hotter.
Here are a few common or popular OEM's.
Matsushita Gen 3 (found on many newer Nissan & Infinfity's) $175-200-ish
Mitsubishi Gen 4 (found on Honda, Acura, & some Mitsubishi's) $175-$200-ish
$80 - $100-ish
If you're going to get an aftermarket ballast then ensure 3 things
- They are digital & not analog
- They are "potted" or in other words waterproof. Some have waterproof cases you can get for them.
- They have a good warantee of 1+ years
Basically all aftermarket ballast's are made at a handfull of factories in China. They are then re-badged & sold to many middle men accross the world. This includes companies like McCullough, ProLumen, etc... The name doesn't ensure a better product, just more mark-up on the price. The quality can vary greatly so research the seller & look for example pics as well as reviews by people actually using their products. Also know that you may need an adaptor to used these in a retrofitted projector down the road (more info below under Wiring Harness).
Digital Slim 35w Ballast & Bulbs
I like these because they are very small in size so finding a place to stick them is easy. They come with a good warantee thus making the risk almost nothing for the price. The price includes bulbs but they aren't anything to get excited about quality-wise. Some kits will include extra's like a relay harness so factor that into your price comparisons.
Again, OEM is considered to be much better quality & consistantly produce athe same output & pattern. Phillips & Osram are considered the best & are used in 90% of all cars made with HID's from the factory.
D2R= for use in reflector headlights (think R= Reflector)
D2S= for use in projector headlights (these are what you'll need)
Here's a comparison of Aftermarket vs OEM Bulb
Aftermark bulbs (the kind that usually come with aftermarket HID Kits) are junk. If you must put HID's into the stock headlights then use a phillips or Osram bulb that's been "re-based" into a standard 9007 bulb socket.
Kelvin = Measure of Color Temperature
Lumens = Measure of Brightness
4300K is what most BMW's, Mercedes, Acura's, etc... use. This is also the Kelvin Temp that produces the most Lumens. The most popular OEM bulb is the Phillips 85122 (4100K). As bulbs get older their color temp "shifts" higher slightly. If you replace a burnt out bulb with a new one, you'll norice the difference. That's why Phillips has the 85122+
(4300K) bulbs. They come already color shifted to match your older bulb.
If you're looking for the absolute best lighting performance, 4300K this is your ticket.
The lower the Kelvin, the more Yellow the light will appear. The higher the Kelvin, the more Blue/ Purple they'll appear. Either higher or lower & you will loose Lumen's thus a reduction in lighting performance.
Here's is where many people will need to make a choice or a compromise. Looks vs Performance.
1500 k Candlelight
2700-2900 k Yellow painted fog halogen bulbs
3200 k Sunrise/sunset
3200 k Premium non painted halogen bulb <--- Close to stock
3400 k 1 hour from dusk/dawn
4300 k Philips/Osram OEM HID D2S <--- Most lumens available for performance
5500 k Bright sunny daylight around noon
5500-5600 k Electronic photo flash
6000 k Philips Ultinon HID D2S <--- Nice bulbs but $200, ouch!
6500-7500 k Overcast sky
9000-12000 k Blue sky
28000 Northern sky
12000-30000 k Ultra Violet light (black light)
Here's some OEM bulb parts numbers/ specs. Many of them can be has for much cheaper then the list prices below