When it comes to vehicle lighting, there are more than just the headlights to consider. You can find them on the exterior and throughout the cabin. However, not all lightbulbs are created equal. Some are specific to particular models and even trim levels. That’s why our team here at Kings Ford Quick Lane created a quick but enlightening guide to lamps and bulbs. From fog lamps to taillights and illuminated mirrors to ambient cabin lighting, we are going to cover it all. Whether the fixture is for exterior visibility, to light up the interior, or to simply fix your hair before walking into work, each one is important to keep intact. Let’s shed some light on your vehicle’s lamps and bulbs!
Thinking about car lighting, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the headlights. However, as we briefly mentioned before, there are so many other types of lamps and bulbs that come with different vehicles. On the outside, you have front lights, parking lights, side signals, warning lights, and sometimes even foglamps on the face of the vehicle. Certain models may also include integrated turn signal lights on the side mirrors. On the back of the vehicle, you will commonly see reverse lights, parking lights, stop lights, side signals, warning lights, and perhaps even a trunk light, a license plate light, and fog lamps. Not only are these mostly all different by make and model, but they also vary depending on the production year. The most common types of exterior lamps you will find on today’s vehicles are halogen, HID, and LED.
Whether you know it or not, you are already familiar with halogen lamps. You most likely use them in your own home. These traditional-style lamps are incandescent and house a tungsten filament that has been sealed inside a tiny see-through envelope. This minuscule compartment also contains an inert gas called halogen. The chemical reaction between the tungsten and the gas is known as the halogen cycle. This creates an illumination effect that we see inside the bulb. Although the halogen lamp is the most common type of lightbulb, it is highly inefficient compared to LED lights. That’s why many countries across Europe have begun to phase-out these antiquated luminaries.
High-intensity discharge (HID) lamps are similar to halogen lights in that they incorporate the use of tungsten for the desired effect. These bulbs are much more powerful, though. A transparent arc tube made out of fused quartz or fused alumina houses a pair of tungsten electrodes, metal salts, and a noble gas. Again, the reaction between the gas and the tungsten is what causes the extremely powerful illumination effect. Fun fact: Those blinding xenon lights that make the car look like a spaceship are a type of HID lamp. Other variances of HID lights include sodium-vapor, ceramic MH, metal-halide, and Mercury-vapor. By now you’re probably wondering why we need all these different types of HID lamps. Well, each one produces a different type of light that varies in color and intensity. For example, Mercury-vapor lamps produce a bluish-green light. They were also the first HID lights to be approved for commercial use. Metal-halide and ceramic MH lamps give an off-white, neutral glow that is commonly used in film and television production as well as cars. Meanwhile, sodium-vapor lights produce an orange-yellow glow.
Light-emitting diodes (LED) lamps are probably the most popular type of bulbs at the moment. It seems like everywhere you turn, some company is replacing the older halogen style bulbs with an LED version. You can see this happening across several industries, including the automotive market. So, what makes LED bulbs so special? The answer is actually pretty simple. They have a much longer lifespan than other types of bulbs, especially halogen lamps. They run on direct current and contain SMD modules that emit a crisp, white light. This type of bulb is much more directional than others due to its narrow beam. LED chips can be added for a color-changing effect.
Now that we have covered the types of lamps and bulbs that you may find on the exterior of your vehicle, it’s time to slip behind the wheel to see what’s inside. Throughout the cabin, you will see lights inside the dash, overhead, and perhaps even attached to mirrored sun visors. There may also be a lighting fixture inside the trunk and another towards the rear of larger vehicles such as SUVs. Ambient lighting is another possibility for higher trim levels. You won’t see HID lamps inside the cabin of any vehicle. These bulbs are far too bright. However, you will see halogen (incandescent) and LED lighting throughout the cabin. Let’s break down the ones you will definitely see.
These overhead lamps are located in the center of the roof inside your vehicle. There is typically one dome light mounted inside sedans. SUVs may have another one further to the back of the vehicle. The dome lights turn on when you open the door. They can also be used by backseat passengers to read.
These are the lights that your parents yelled at you for turning on at night while they were driving. Contrary to what they may have told you, it is not illegal to turn on map lights inside your car! They are a set of small lights mounted on the ceiling of the vehicle at the front. One is on the driver's side, and the other is on the passenger's side. These lights are meant to make it easier to look at maps at night. They also come on when the doors are opened, just like the dome light.
Typically positioned at the bottom of each door, door lights come on automatically when you open the doors. They are meant to allow you and your passengers to see better while exiting the vehicle at night. No one wants to step out into a muddy puddle.
Glowing light sets are sometimes included on vehicles with higher trim levels. This type of ambient lighting is meant to help set a mood inside the cabin. It can be a comforting feature for folks who drive a lot, especially since these are often LED style bulbs that can change colors. This can make those long road trips a bit more relaxing for you and your passengers.
Visit Kings Ford Quick Lane
If you have a question about the lighting on your vehicle, give our team of experts at Kings Ford Quick Lane a call. Our certified technicians can assist you with all of your lighting needs. If your taillight is out, we can replace it. If you had an accident and need to replace the headlight fixture, we can do that for you. If you simply want to upgrade your vehicle with compatible LED style lamps, we’ve got you covered there too! For all of your vehicle lighting and other maintenance needs, stop by Kings Ford Quick Lane in Cincinnati, OH.