An Introduction to HID (High Intensity Discharge) Lights

An Introduction to HID (High Intensity Discharge) Lights

A popular modification for the
R1200GS / R1200GSA
HID headlamp conversions &
HID auxiliary lamps / spotlights

Information courtesy of – visit their website for lots more information and prices on HID lighting kits.

See: HID Lighting – Installation Guide

See also: BTBR Light Fitting Service

Definition of HID
High intensity Discharge lighting is light from a plasma discharge rather than a filament. The system involves a combined igniter and ballast to start the light and maintain the current, and certain gases and metal salts to create the light. Overall the system uses less energy than halogen lighting, while producing 4 times more light per watt. HID lights are sometimes referred to as Xenon bulbs, due to the presence of Xenon gas between the electrodes. Note that some halogen bulbs contain small amounts of Xenon (up to 5%) and accordingly brand themselves as “Xenon lights”, but they are not High Intensity Discharge lamps and do not put out greater light than standard halogen bulbs.

How HID lights work
High Intensity Discharge Lights do not have a filament. Instead light is created from an electrical discharge between two electrodes in a micro-environment of xenon gas and metal halide salts. The light is emitted by an electrically energized gas — a plasma discharge — formed and sustained between the two electrodes. For more information go to the page below “Light Power and Colour.”

What bulb types are suitable for conversion?
Unlike other HID outfits, we don’t say that all bulbs are equally suitable. In fact some are more suitable than others and twin filament bulbs are of questionable suitability at all. In general, single filament bulbs, such as H1, H3, H7, H11 (typical motorcycle separate main and dip beam units) etc are appropriate to convert to HID. Dipped or Low beams that operate behind a projector work remarkably well when converted to HID, similarly Main or High beams that operate in front of a reflector work particularly well.

H7 Bulbs – the most common bulb
H7 halogen bulbs have a black tip, a tip that shields some of the light from going directly forwards from the bulb. As HID conversion H7s do not have this black light shield, marginally more glare can be expected from a H7 conversions in reflector lamps, that operate without a bulb shield. Fortunately most H7 halogen low (dipped) beam lights do not operate directly, but instead operate behind a projector lens or behind a bulb shield, as per the two images below: In these cases, increased glare is unlikely to be an issue.

H1 and H3 bulbs
The older style H1 and H3 bulbs are good candidates to HID-ify. H1 HID units are normally a straight swap with no issues for the H1 halogen bulb. In a few cases, I have heard of H1 conversions needing to file down slightly the HID base slightly to get a perfect fit, but I stress this is in rare cases only. The main issue to be aware of in fitting H3 HID fitments is that H3 bulbs typically exists in spot lights or driving lights. If those driving lights are small then you need to be aware of space constraints both behind the HID bulb and in front of it. While the light source is in the same place as the halogen bulb, the H3 HID unit is longer overall and very small spot lights may not fit the H3 HID bulb. Also make sure there is sufficient space behind the bulb to fit the HID connections. Some H3 spot / fog lights may require minor modification to fit the H3 HID units. Also note that the H3 halogen bulb features a “transverse” filament, running across the axis of the bulb. This is not possible to duplicate with the HID conversion, and so a H3 HID may have a very slightly different beam pattern than the halogen it replaces. This is only minor and only affects the H3 fitment. 

H1 and H3 halogen bulbs are good candidates to upgrade to HID have just started doing single H4 kits (specifically for motorcycles) as we have found a high quality unit that is as close as we have seen to worthy of replicating a halogen H4 bulb’s beam patterns. It does this by having the telescopic bulb at a slight angle, this getting much closer to the correct positions of the high and low beam light sources. As with all H4 kits, it is only available in 35 watt HID. If you are prepared to accept the limitations of any H4 conversion kit, then this is as good as it gets for H4.

50watt vs 35 watt
Over 99% of HID kits for sale in the marketplace are the lower power 35 watt HID kits. But specialise in the hard to find, ultra high performance 50 watt HIDs. We pair together heavy duty waterproof, dustproof, vibration proof E – approved 50 watt ballast / igniters with 50 watt HID bulbs, for whatever purpose you deem appropriate. 50 watt HIDs have been used for diving (underwater illumination) and search lighting (ultra high performance portable lighting) and as lighting for film and television for some time. Now, we are able to supply the same technology in the more widely used convenient fitments (the H series bulbs).

See: HID Lighting – Installation Guide