With such a wide range of headlamp bulbs available on the market, the choice can be overwhelming. What are the factors you need to take into account? Can you be sure of legal compliance? Here’s a quick guide to choosing the right replacement bulb for your needs.

With such a wide range of headlamp bulbs available on the market, the choice can be overwhelming. What are the factors you need to take into account? Can you be sure of legal compliance? Here’s a quick guide to choosing the right replacement bulb for your needs. 

The first thing to know is that automotive lighting is a safety feature and therefore strictly controlled under ECE regulations, an agreement by 60+ countries (including the whole of Europe, Russia, Japan, South Africa. Australia and more) that guarantees certain standards as well as interchangeability. This means that if you buy a new lamp in any of these countries, its performance in combination with the reflector will meet the required standards for that particular application.

All applications are regulated and only ECE approved lamps can be used, so you can rest assured that an approved lamp will offer a level of performance equal to or above predetermined standards. 

The approval process is comprehensive, covering parameters such as power consumption and ‘luminous flux’: the amount of light emitted by the lamp. Standardisation of cap type and internal geometry are also checked, ensuring that the light-emitting element is correctly positioned in relation to mirrors and lenses.

And how do you know if a lamp is approved? Look for the letter E followed by a one or two digit number as pictured here. The number that follows this is the approval code.

 

 

(Example from UNECE R37 Rev. 8)

 

Fitting a lamp without the E mark is both illegal and potentially dangerous: inadequate visibility or driver glare can dramatically increase the risk of accidents. Here at Tungsram, all our lamps meet E1 standards, a German type approval widely regarded as the benchmark for automotive lighting.

 

So what performance do you need?

Given this strict regulation, it might seem strange to see so many choices on the market but leeway exists for performance enhancement. This has enabled the development of bulbs with specific advantages such as longer life, higher performance, higher colour temperature, etc. while still meeting the core requirements of the standards.  

The chart below shows a selection of specialised ‘GE Premium’ lamps available from Tungsram, together with a summary of their applications and benefits, ranging from longer life and better road visibility to light quality and robustness. 

 

 

The important thing in terms of choosing a lamp is deciding what’s important to you. If you do a significant amount of nighttime driving, would more light on the road make you feel safer? If you’re an older driver, it’s likely that a blue/white light will have a positive impact on your driving experience. And if you’re bus or truck driver, a longer life will mean better value for money

Whatever you’re looking for, remember that not all so-called premium products are the same: check for the E mark because there are non-approved lamps out there. Alternatively, make life easy and choose high quality ‘guaranteed road legal’ brands like GE and Tungsram, manufactured in Europe by Tungsram Operations Kft., Hungary.

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