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Thursday, January 24, 2008


Not sure if I made the right call with headlights...

I think I'm going to officially nickname the Corvette "Winky" because the way the left headlight's been giving me so much trouble. It's been refusing to pop up, had screws come loose making it not go all the way down, and on Tuesday, the bulb burned out. So I went to get a new set of headlights. I'd heard that "Silver Stars" were a good brand to get, so I went to AutoZone and paid $42 for a pair of them.

Then I did a bit of poking around and found I'd bought the wrong Silver Stars! You may be wondering how a major corporation could let people get away with taking their trademark. Well, as it turns out, the same company makes Sylvania and Osram lights. And for some reason, each of them make a type of light called the Silver Star... and they're not the same lights. The Osram Silver Stars are the good ones; they're a plain high output bulb with no gimmicks, just good quality.

What I have are the Sylvania version of the Silver Stars. These combine a 55 watt low beam (regular Sylvania lights have a 35 watt low beam) with a slightly bluish filter. I don't like filters; they cut down on the output, because they change the color of the light by absorbing part of the light. Lighting expert Daniel Stern (you may have noted I've linked to his blog at the left) has a very informative article on the troubles with legal bulbs with blue filters. Sylvania's cranked up the wattage to make them brighter than normal lights, at least on low beam, but that puts more wear and tear on the bulbs too from the extra heat. With their version of the Silver Stars, Sylvania appears to be selling a very well known cliche: the candle that burns twice as bright but half as long.

I went and installed them anyway. While these do have a blue filter, the light output isn't blue; it actually is a rather nice shade of white. And unlike some filtered lights, the color looks to be about the same in all directions. Back in the heyday of illegal "HID-look" bulbs, I'd often see bulbs that would turn from blue to purple to green depending on what angle you viewed them from. It remains to be seen how they work in the rain - a lot of people on some forums with owners who installed blue lights but were mature enough to look at them objectively reported they're a nightmare to drive behind in the rain. Since the Sylvania SilverStars are more of a pointless effort to make the bulb whiter than white, I'm not sure they will have that problem.

I'll probably leave them in for a couple years, then do what I should have done had I not been pressed for time: Give Daniel Stern a call and get some serious, safe, and powerful headlights.


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