As the nights grow longer, now is the time to check your headlamps. Even the best halogen car bulbs dim over time, as the filament burns. And it’s not just older cars that need looking at, as original equipment bulbs on new models are chosen more for their longevity and lack of warranty problems than brightness. Our test found an OE bulb’s beam rating to be around half of the best here. So which car bulbs should you rely on? We tried 12 performance lamps in Philips’ light tunnel in Aachen, Germany, to find out.
We looked at the single filament 55W H7 bulbs often found in dipped headlights. Our samples – we used two of each, all bought or selected from multiple samples to prevent filtering – were split at those with up to 60 per cent extra light and those offering more, usually around 100 per cent. Claims refer to the light 50-75 metres in front of the car, compared to standard bulbs. To rate the beam, we used a VW Golf MkV headlamp, and measured the output 50 metres ahead of the car in the centre and edge of the road, plus 75 metres on the kerb.
To get the beam rating we combined the 50-metre readings and added twice the one from the 75-metre mark. The result is an average of the two bulbs adjusted to give legal levels of glare for oncoming drivers. Prices are for a pair and what we paid online, although we bought the Halfords and Bosch in shops.
There's no stopping Philips. X-tremeVision took a clear victory in the top category, and its ‘Plus 60 per cent’ VisionPlus secured the second division win, albeit by a smaller margin. Ring takes second in both sections with the xenonmax and ultraxenon, while the podiums were rounded off by bulbs from Osram and GE.