Sometimes car companies outdo themselves to sell cars. Xenon bulbs comes to mind. I think it is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. We all do need to see better at night, but the small contribution xenon bulbs give are not worth the cost or the safety concerns.

The old square sealed beam that got us into the seventies was replaced by the radical new halogen bulbs. They were brighter but at double the cost. Of course that cost was about 15 dollars as opposed to 6 dollars, but you did see better at night.

Since progress never stands still, we have a new solution. Xenon headlamps.. or high intensity discharge lamps (HID). They are brighter, and do allow you to see better (somewhat). They also put out more light per watt. But the complexity required is amazing, and there is the problem of oncoming drivers.

To get those HID lights to light up you need several things. You need a transformer that can generate about 30,000 volts to get it started… Then you need a ballast that can generate about 85 volts to keep it lit. All this stuff is pretty high energy and can hurt you if you get yourself crossed up in it. Finally, to keep from blinding oncoming drivers, you need a system for beam leveling, that usually includes suspension sensors and a control unit to keep it all together.

When your halogen headlight blinks out, the usual reason is the bulb. No problem, you go down to Autozone and get one for fifteen bucks and away you go. At your worst case scenario, the wiring has failed at the bulb or the relay quit. If you have to get someone to fix it the most it could cost you is a hundred bucks.

When your xenon headlight blinks out, it’s usually the bulb. That alone is a couple of hundred bucks for the part. If anything else goes wrong your in for an expensive fight. And to add to the headlight problem, is something goes wrong with the leveling system, and it does a lot, your headlights can be as bright to other drivers as airplane landing lights!

So, in conclusion, I like to live by the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid!). I’m just getting around to accepting power windows and power seats, mainly because you can hardly find a car without them anymore. Plus I like to save a buck when I can and I like cars that are easy to service. That kind of thing is getting increasingly hard to find.