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Old 01-04-2009, 08:17 AM   #1
Handsdown
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Default HID: Handsdown Illuminating Dummies. A tutorial on reason and Xenon.

HID:
Handsdown Illuminating Dummies.


INTRODUCTION
I am on a mission. Please understand that while I am writing this tutorial and FAQ on HID with the intent to dissuade you from doing it wrong, 90% of what is already written or made is also trying to persuade you to buy or be impressed with certain things. Namely, HID kits and “white” or blue lights.

My mission is to illuminate the issue. I'm not saying HID is bad, because it's great when in the right hands, or optics. It's like the Crystal Skull in that ridiculous new Indiana Jones movie. Wait no... it's more like semiautomatics. Wait! I've got it! It's like political power. When it's done right it helps people have better quality of life, safety, and happiness. It's also expensive.

When it's done wrong it leaves people dead. I have no facts to back up that claim but with the number of automobile accidents and the number of HID kits on the roads, it's like believing there isn't life outside of our solar system. Sure, and no one's ever drowned in Jello Pudding.

I've written a lot here, but the information is there. More than just informative, I've tried to make parts of this relatively humorous. I hope you enjoy reading about HIDs in this thread...

--------------------------------------------------


I.
Materials Science: Lambda Core

(fundamental basics)

Components: The Entrails

HID systems are hard conglomerates of metal, salt, glass, clay, carbon, whatever they make electronics out of, and design; design pioneered by very smart engineers and physicists – big fancy science-types – who probably could have made things far more destructive and far more constructive than little bright lights that fit into your palm and light up a forest. They made these High Intensity Discharge lamps because little glowing sticks of metal aren't the pinnacle of lighting technology... and frankly we've reached the physical limitations of what is essentially an incandescent bulb can do. We fill it with halogen and trace amounts of other noble gasses to make it burn as bright and as long as possible. We reached the limit and wanted more... Well, we know enough about physics to get more light, more efficiently, so why on earth stick to cheap, functional, low CRI glowing springs? Well there's an answer to that, and it's a very scientific and amazingly complex answer. The answer?

Salt.


These HID's are really just salt getting electrified in a controlled environment, of something like 30 atmospheres of pressure.

They're really just fancy, high performance florescent lamps.

Why do we call them HIDs? Because someone thought “Metal Halide Lamp” or “Xenon Arc Lamp” wasn't sexy or alphanumeric enough. Who cares what we call them? They're bright, they're technologically advanced, and they're cheap as balls now that China has a ton of coal factories and Olympic precision.

If you speak Chinese, or even if you don't -- you can buy HID bulbs for six dollars a piece. They are the kind you don't want.

But enough of that... onto the tutorial:

There are three components to an HID system.

-bulb, technically a 'capsule'
-ignitor (ignitour, ignytaux, or igniter)
-ballast (or, for the severely braindead, 'controller')

Often, the ignitor is built into the ballast. This increases the convenience and the danger of the system. More on this later.

From here on out, if I say “capsule” you should think “glass piece that the light comes from” or “bulb” if you are a creature of habit. If you're a creature of hobbit, you can call it “precious.”
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Last edited by Handsdown; 05-07-2010 at 06:02 AM.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:17 AM   #2
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The Capsule :

a glass chamber that is pressurized and sealed with a wire running into it from the bottom, a vacuum with salts inside, and a separate wire coming out the top and running along the side.

It looks like this:


Many different manufacturers make them and there are a few different OE fitments on vehicles. These are designated as D1, D2, D3, and D4 capsules. There are R and S equivalents of most of these, 2 and 4 specifically. The only difference is a ceramic coating on the R capsules which blocks light from unwanted areas and vectors away from the capsule. 3 and 4 do not contain mercury, and as such are much better for the environment and humans, because mercury is so poisonous. They also have a lower operating pressure and sometimes have a higher kelvin rating.

HID bulbs were originally made for other types of lighting; movie theater projectors and other high power, high CRI applications.

There are smaller, less powerful versions that are equipped on bicycle lamps, scuba lamps, and portable lighting. There are larger, more powerful versions equipped in street lights, industrial lights, movie projectors, and other industrial and commercial lighting applications. These include sodium vapor lamps and for the most part, are all vastly different from car bulbs.

One common misconception is that there are automotive 55w bulbs. There are not. There are ballasts that are made to run 35w bulbs at 55w, but they were originally designed for industrial applications like movie theaters and then reverse engineered by modifiers who opened up their automotive ballasts. If someone sells you '55w' bulbs they are liars. Reputable bulbs made by companies that care about lighting safety DO NOT MAKE 55w BULBS.

So, how do they work?

The capsule works by running an arc of electricity through a highly pressurized gas mixture of xenon and other gasses. when the arc is not running through these gasses, there is no where near as much heat or energy, and the gasses become solid metal halides, commonly called salts. There is no table salt in HID capusles, however there are Sodium halides, which usually burn very yellow when excited in a gaseous state. If you find yourself under a bright street light which is very yellow, it's a sodium halide lamp. Xenon gas is very blue when excited, so other metal halides are included which makes the salt mixture more stable, predictable, whiter when emitting, and increases longevity of the capsule.

The arc itself is simply a beam of alternating current and runs from a cathode at the bottom of the capsule, through the gasses occupying the vacuum chamber of the capsule, and to a cathode at the top. The electricity then returns through the return wire, which is shielded by ceramics to prevent the arc from shorting and running through the glass of the capsule. If this happens, the vacuum will break and the capsule will not function, slash, explode. Hope that there is nothing flammable immediately outside of the glass in the event of this happening. Do not break, paint, cover, or modify your ceramic return wire sheath. It could be fine; it probably will not be fine. It will probably cause a fire.


THE CAPSULES SERVE ONE SPECIFIC SAFETY FUNCTION:

The functional importance of your capsules is to produce light consistently with high CRI so that you can see what's in front of you. If your capsules cannot do this, they are either broken or flawed in design or construction.

Cheaper capsules generally do not warm up as quickly, provide output that is as even as OEM capsules, and have a lower CRI resultant from a gas mixture which is unsophisticated or cheaper to produce, giving a bluer or generally 'less white' light.

To simplify:

A capsule is a house. It has a front door and a rear door, and a bunch of party animals inside. When the front and rear door open, beer comes in and starts a party. The beer can exit through the back door, but if it goes out through any of the windows or walls because of lax law enforcement, the party is over. While the party is raging, the party animals glow and let you see where you're going.

Your house is made of glass and the party animals are made of salt and the beer is electricity. Oh, and the cops are a hard, solid ceramic compound, and the law is physics.

You can't see the beer, you can only see the party animals once they're drunk. People don't always understand this. When you see lighting, you aren't seeing electricity, you're seeing electricity's effects on air and metals when the electron's potential is too great. An HID arc is really just a little lighting bolt that is very controlled and very, very small. This is why it has to be sustained with alternating current. There's no way the electrons are going to power a lightning bolt with direct current for long enough to do anything.

So what gets the party started?

Last edited by Handsdown; 05-07-2010 at 05:10 AM.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:18 AM   #3
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The Ignitor:

You can skip over this if you want, but you should know that there are two types of ignitors, internal and external to the ballast. Some companies include them in the ballast for simplicity of the system. D1 capsules include the ignitor in the base of the capsule. D3 may be the same way. Others have an external ignitor.

The ignitor takes the electrical current and discharges it in a manner that will cause a spark inbetween the capsule's cathode and anode. It does this usually using a transformer, spark gap, and capacitors similar to an ignition coil. Different ignitors probably function differently, but the type and duration of ignition will affect the capsule longevity and warm-up period. A poorly designed ignitor, especially when paired with a poorly designed ballast, will do any capsule no favors. Capsule ignition is by far the most traumatic period of operation for the capsule, as well as the electrical system. A capsule will often change color and flash after and during ignition, but this is a sign of strain, rather than a cool and amusing effect. If you see people flashing their lights on and off, you should know that they are either stupid or dumb or completely both.

One should not attempt to modify or change ignitors unless one has an advanced degree in physics and electrical engineering. These ignitors are part of a system, and it's better to replace the whole system with OEM components than to take a disfunctioning system and try to change out something as powerful and potentially destructive as an ignitor.

The functional importance of an ignitor – beyond making the lamp work to begin with – is nothing that will affect the performance of the lamp... it simply converts the salts to gas. It must do this while providing reliability and longevity as part of the lighting system. If your ignitor is busted or improperly connected, it could easily start a fire and blow up your car. This has actually happened to more than a few people.

To simplify:

Your ignitor is a Keg Tap. It starts the flow of alcohol to the party animals. It's a little more dangerous than that though, because it uses over 24,000 volts at at time.

----------------------------------------

Ballast:

The ignitor is controlled by the ballast, as is the capsule.

The ballast is usually the most expensive component of the system, and it should last the longest. Its function is to convert DC current from the car's battery to AC current to power the capsule. It must send the electricity to the ignitor on startup, control the output on warm-up to allow the gasses to adjust to operating temperature, and sustain the current at a constant rate during operation. Doing this is not difficult, but doing it well with longevity, reliability, and fortitude is difficult. A good ballast can withstand weather, shock, electrical input variation, and temperature extremes without damage; all while providing consistent, accurate output.

If a ballast isn't perfectly matched to the capsule it controls, or if it fails to function properly due to any of the above or other challenges, the capsule will either fail or change output drastically. It's not uncommon that a ballast does not control the capsule well and either causes damage or fails to operate, resulting in flickering and dim or aberrant coloration and output. A capsule exhibiting these characteristics usually will not function properly without another ballast, and usually is damaged permanently, regardless of ballast replacement. Cheap ballasts cause expensive replacement costs throughout the entire lighting system.

A ballast is a fancy transformer and inductor circuit. It works the same way as it does in a florescent lamp, except a xenon lamp uses metal halides that burn brighter and require more energy. The ballast has to be faster and more accurate, though the same problems can arise. There is basically a transformer that changes the current and makes it alternate, and an inductor that slows down the current change. This controlls and balances the flow of electricity so the lamp will operate without blowing itself up. The circuitry to control these electronics can be very simple or very, very complex.

You know how florescent lights sometimes buzz and flicker at an astronomical frequency? They even sometimes cause seizures? Chances are your HID ballast will shut off or die before it does either of these things, but instead of seizures, you risk driving into a ditch and off a cliff.

The functional importance of the ballast is to make the capsules function using your car's DC electrical system. They require very, very substantial and technically correct wiring. A functional, quality ballast will keep your lights working properly over time. If your ballast is busted, your capsules probably are too – or will be soon.

To simplify: The ballast is the beer delivery system. It keeps your party animals from dying of alcohol poisoning, and keeps them inebriated enough to party.

Last edited by Handsdown; 05-07-2010 at 05:21 AM.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:18 AM   #4
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Housing: The only thing that really matters.

The surrounding structure of the lamp system, including the optics of the lamp, are paramount.
You can put the hugest turbo and air/fuel delivery system in the world into your car, but without a block, pistons, rods, crank, heads, valves, seals, bolts, and rings that are up to the task of containing that power- you're going to be smoking on the side of the road, lucky to limp home.

Special Editor's Note:
Lighting equipment is safety equipment. Too many people are far too quick to forget this. If it fails, you're boned. If it works improperly, you're creating hazards to other motorists AND yourself.

There are several structures that are designed around a light source. You probably can guess this, but the fancy pants scientists that design the lamps have designed the housings to match the light source... you wouldn't put a motherboard in a pizza box if the computer is guiding a 3000lbs box of steel less than 3 feet from grandma and Fido in the crosswalk.

Let's reflect on what these housings and optic structures do, and why they must be designed and manufactured so specifically and exactly.

We'll work from the capsule itself out.
-----------------------------

Capsule Base:

The capsule has a base fitted for, we'll assume, d2s lamps. OEM bulbs are attached to the base in a solid, precise manner that allows for proper cooling and electrical function. The construction should include no glues that fume and change shape, just precise welds and insulating plastics and ceramics. The base of an OEM bulb is made to both seal the lamp and seat the bulb to extremely close tolerances. squishy plastics that seal but don't seat are unacceptable cost cutting materials that are insufficient for on road use... if your bulbs feel like gummi bears, they're crap.


The capsule is one unit, but part of the capsule is the base. Let's assume it's a d2 base, which doesn't include an ignitor. What you have is a structure that, while comparatively low-tech and simple, has a profound impact on the output and function of the system.

The plastic base must be properly sized for placement and to seal the lamp at its insertion point. All replaceable lamps have a big hole where the light source goes, and that hole has to be sealed (reasonably) for weather to not muck up the optics or cause failure to the components.

The plastic base also includes some metal structures, which place the bulb in the exact location for the designed optical focus and insulate the capsule thermally from the housing. This has to be perfect, because even a nanometer will have a large effect on output over a large distance. Any fault or inaccuracy in the capsule's orientation is multiplied with distance as the lamp's beam expands and projects over a distance.

The reason I'm talking about this is that aftermarket capsules – especially rebased capsules – aren't always precise... they're usually quite flimsy. A large number of rebased HIDs are actually glued into other bulb base sizes with epoxies and gels. Some of these fume and deform with heat. Some are placed approximately close to the original bulb focus; some aren't even close. All are substandard. This is a criminally stupid design flaw for something in a lamp that sees the amount of current that HIDs do.

Other bulb bases are also less purpose-built to seal out moisture and dirt, so a seal is never quite as sure as with purpose built and designed systems. I won't get into what moisture and dirt can do right now, but at best you'll have to buy new lighting components.

The functional importance of the capsule base is huge: it has to allow the capsule to cool, seal the lamp, and position the capsule. It also has to not present any optical abnormalities. A failed capsule base can result in a severely misaligned or unfocused beam, as well as cause a separation or bad connection that can cause fire... at any time. Just because a lamp system has been "working" for 3 days, or 4 months, or 5 years, doesn't mean the design and materials are safe and won't cause an electrical fire... tomorrow.






Capacitors in the ballast or ignitor store electricity even when the vehicle ignition is off. Because of this, connections, especially to stupidly designed bases, should be checked routinely and often- the cheaper the components, the more often they need to be checked if in operation or hooked up to a battery. If you can ensure that no one will be harmed in the event of a ballast/ignitor fire, and no extensive property damage will occur, this could be a great way to have less unsafe mismatched HID kit systems operating on our public roadways. (I'm just kidding, better informed law enforcement and consumers are the way to achieve this. but seriously, if every hid kit in halogen lamps exploded tomorrow and burned the vehicle to the ground, i'd be overjoyed.)

Last edited by Handsdown; 05-07-2010 at 05:34 AM.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:19 AM   #5
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Optics: Handsdown's favorite Point of Contention.

The Optics Make the Lamp.

I can't stress this enough. The optics are what make the lamp function well. if you throw a chocolate milkshake into your headlights, they won't light the road for Cherry Garcia. Unless you're dealing with a light source about the intensity of the Sun, at about the distance from the Sun- you need optics to direct light to see by.

The moon serves as an optical structure during some nights. If it's in the right place, and the conditions are clear enough, it reflects enough of the Sun's light to see pretty damn well by. You must let your eyes adjust to it, but you can actually read a book by Moonlight if the conditions are right. If the moon isn't full, and it's waning to a half, odds are your eyes are going to fall out before you finish Gravity's Rainbow.

The optics make ALL the difference.

But if someone like me just said that the moon is an optic, let's try to define this a little more down to earth before we continue.

There are two main types of automotive optic: a reflector system and a projector system. Older cars had parabolic reflectors and fluted glass lenses. Glass lenses direct light very well but it's very hard to change the direction of the light a great deal with fluting.

Reflectors, or more specifically multi-reflectors- are parabolic reflectors with many different surfaces that are specifically shaped to put light from a particular source into a particular area, creating a specific beam.

We call this output the beam pattern.

DOT and ECE are institutions that evaluate and test beam patterns to certain standards. Because they have a set of standards that holds across manufacturers for certain beams like low-beams, high beams, and other types of beams or marker lamps, a lamp is usually called a DOT lowbeam, or an ECE highbeam, or vice-versa.

DOT highbeams allow more glare and wider spread, but the lights don't have to be as bright in any defined area. ECE, what most of the developed world requires, has stricter glare requirements and higher lumen rating standards in particular areas. A lamp that passes DOT standards will, more often than not, fail ECE standards. ECE is not necessarily better, but in many situations they are.

Multi-reflectors can have relatively sharp cutoff and defined beam, but they are actually less efficient at projecting light across distance than a projector system. This is because the small edges between areas of reflectors scatter light in unusable directions, and more energy is wasted. This lost light decreases the efficiency of the lamp. Some of the light energy is absorbed by the reflector as heat, and some is scattered. because of this, the lamp is usually larger to make up for the inefficiency. A larger lamp, quality held constant, is more thermally efficient. A common misnomer with multi-reflector lamps is when people refer to the reflector 'lens.' A multi-reflector lamp with no fluted glass in front of it HAS NO LENS. It has reflectors, no lens.

The other type is a projector, which uses a parabolic reflector to focus light into a glass lens. The lens is usually flat on one side and convex on that other, called a 'plano-convex' lens in optic terminology. This type of lens takes a beam of light and spreads it over a wider area as the distance increases. This requires the lamp to have a focal distance from light source to lens that depends solely on the lens shape and magnification index. a very, very small change in the shape of the lens will cause a different focal length. Similarly, a minute change in lens positioning will throw the focus of that focal length off. Side note: When people "color-mod" projectors, they're messing with the specified focus of the lens to change the color banding effect in the projected image... it is NOT a measure of how 'focused' the beam is... it's a measure of the prismatic quality of the lens, not the light it is projecting.

This is the reflector bowl end of a projector: don't underestimate the importance of this piece of equipment: it's the first thing the light hits after leaving the light source.

I don't have the equipment to measure or properly show the difference between this halogen projector's bowl and an HID bowl like the TSX ones in my car, but... they are vastly different.

The beam is formed by the shape and contours of the parabolic reflector, commonly called the reflector bowl, which reflects the light from the source into the lens. Often, the reflector bowl is shaped with multiple reflector surfaces and textures as well to give the beam certain characteristics. The other element that shapes the beam is commonly called a cutoff shield, which shields the lens from vectors of light that are unsafe or undesirable. Low-beams need to have a dead space of no light over much of the area so as to not blind and dazzle oncoming or leading drivers. The cutoff shield is flipped upside down from the desired cutoff so that once the light is flipped through the lens, it will be right side up. Think of looking in the concave side of a spoon... that's what the light sees when it goes through the lens.

Because optical glass and lens forming is expensive, many optic companies will make the same lens for halogen and HID based reflector systems. They then change the cutoff shield, focal length, and reflector bowl to shape the light coming into the lens differently. The desired output is a function of the vectors of light coming into the lens. Luckily, this makes some lenses serve double duty for halogen and Xenon lamp modification, as you can swap lenses for your desired output. Unluckily, this data is mostly never publically available and whether or not a lens from a halogen lamp can be used in a xenon lamp is complete speculation, and vice-versa.

Lenses in projectors are sometimes fluted, sometimes frosted(texturized), and sometimes fresnel. Fresnel lenses appear to have concentric circles like a tree trunk. These are all ways of changing the output, usually having the effect of a more diffuse, even, and uniform output. Some lenses are instead clear, with areas of fluting, frosting, or lines shaped into the glass for a desired amount or area or light throw or distortion. Sometimes a cutout on the very lip of the lens is enough to change the output. Many lenses are directional, in that they must be oriented to their intended rotation in order to put such features to use. If your fluting is in the wrong area or angle, it can throw glare to an undesired location of the beam pattern.

The lens end of a projector looks like this: You can see the Fresnel concentric circles in this 06 wrx projector lens easily:


A clear lens will be more intense, but less even and have a crisp, colorful cutoff at certain focal spacing. This is seen as desirable to some, as certain brands or models of cars are often associated with particular cutoff color. This is where the misconception of colored HIDs comes from. OEM HID is all very white; it's a prismatic effect of the projector lens that makes them flicker in particular colors... and with some systems, there is no colored cutoff at all. Cutoff color or flare is widely discussed in HID enthusiast communities, but it's even more widely misinterpreted by less knowledgeable HID purchasers. It serves NO purpose in lighting performance to the driver using it.

The functional importance of lighting optics- whichever their design- is paramount. It puts the light where it needs to be, and keeps it from going where it shouldn't. It does this with great specificity and intense amounts of design and engineering, and must be done with a deep understanding of physical science, optics, and human vision. When you change anything in the lighting system, the optics determine the change in output that systematic change will affect. Sharper, brighter, or wider are NOT universally better characteristics of a lighting system. A problem in the optics directly affects the output of the lamp system and these effects are as wide ranging as there are possibilities to change the system. With optics, there's hardly any change that can make things better unless the optics are upgraded to focus on the change, speaking literally and figuratively.


To simplify:

The optics is the society, culture, and effects of partying- the context. If the party happens in a bad part of town, or a part of town where the party animals are not liked, nothing good is going to come from the party. Context can change a funny joke into a death threat. It can change a heartfelt thanks into a hateful condemnation. You need the party to be about the right thing, with the right action in mind.

------------------

The last part of the housing is the actual external housing, where the lamp is housed. Usually this is a polyurethane or ABS plastic rear housing and an acrylic or polycarbonate urethane front lens cover which is optically clear.

If the front surfaces are dirty, pitted(so pitted), hazy or warped, they will affect the beam pattern or lamp adversely. If the lamp is disassembled, say, to paint the housing cosmetic structures, it must be cleaned properly and allowed to breathe so fumes don't damage the optics inside of the housing. Just a small amount of haze from curing paint can have a large impact in the lamp efficiency and output.

The functional importance of this is a no-brainer; the front has to be clear and the rear has to be intact for the lamp to function properly and resist damage from weathering and contamination. Sometimes the best modification to a lamp system is to polish the front lens element properly and restore its optic characteristics. If these housing pieces fail, the lighting system can become damaged. If they are repaired improperly, they can become far worse than before repair.

To simplify:

The housing front and rear are like the sewage system and water quality of the party. If the water gives everyone ebola, the party's gonna suck. If the sewers can't handle everyone's piss, everyone's going to start smelling like piss.


up next:
Materials Science: Complex Dimensional Analysis

Last edited by Handsdown; 05-07-2010 at 05:58 AM.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:19 AM   #6
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post reserved.

Last edited by Handsdown; 01-04-2009 at 08:37 AM.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:20 AM   #7
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I know we have an HID faq but this is not just intended to be a faq. It's intended to be a directive educational tutorial on how to think reasonably about lighting systems. I intend to update this thread with tests I run on lighting equipment as I perform them. post reserved for more words, pictures, and links.

sources:
http://faqlight.carpassion.info/
http://www.danielsternlighting.com/tech/tech.html
http://www.film-tech.com/warehouse/ (Xenon Bulb Failure Analysis PDF file via google)
http://hidplanet.com/forums
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_rendering_index
http://www.offroaders.com/tech/High-...-discharge.htm

Last edited by Handsdown; 01-04-2009 at 09:26 PM.
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Old 01-04-2009, 02:17 PM   #8
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thank You.
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Old 01-04-2009, 03:14 PM   #9
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wow handsdown, you must have gotten really sick of explaining this to people haha
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Old 01-04-2009, 03:57 PM   #10
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i also just wanted to carve out a space where i can post cool stuff.

i'll be including things like a wiring diagram for a relay harness and whatnot later.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:41 PM   #11
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Thank you. That was exactly what I was talking about. If your post stops just one person from buying an HID kit it was well worth the effort.

ATTENTION MODS: This needs to be a sticky!!!!!!
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Old 01-04-2009, 09:02 PM   #12
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Quote:
if you throw a chocolate milkshake into your headlights, they won't light the road for Cherry Garcia.
Best quote EVAR!

Great posts Handsdown. You should have made a thread like this FOREVER ago. Now when people post problems about crapp HID kits, we can just give them a link to this thread and tell them to grab a Snickers and start reading.

You should throw all of your diagrams and pictures explaining HID optics up in here too, so it's all in one place.

Good jorb!
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Old 01-04-2009, 10:47 PM   #13
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someone make sure to post the pic of the HID kit that caught the guys car on fire.
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Old 01-04-2009, 11:10 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdubya301 View Post
someone make sure to post the pic of the HID kit that caught the guys car on fire.
http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show....php?t=1660625

The thread got closed but the pictures still work.
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Old 01-04-2009, 11:45 PM   #15
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here they are, rehosted
OP might want to add them in somewhere
if so, ill edit this post to remove clutter of a lot of photos





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Old 01-04-2009, 11:49 PM   #16
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Wow, I didn't see that. Not to sound unsympathetic, but it serves him right.
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Old 01-04-2009, 11:51 PM   #17
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dammmmm those pics are crazy ^^^^^^^
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:01 AM   #18
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preliminary report:

Differences in beam pattern

I'm attempting to show here how the different beam patterns are shaped and why.

The setup is my ceiling and it is anything but optimal: that's why this is preliminary.

Please keep in mind that the camera position changes slightly and the color and texture of the surface are reflecting glare over the entire image, so these are not comparable to each other; though they illustrate some commonalities in their particular beam patterns.

Please also keep in mind that a beam is a three dimensional pattern, and these are simply two dimensional images cast on a surface at a certain distance. Change that distance, and lots will change. Hot spots will even out, and even areas will show greater variation.

First let's start with a low beam:

This is an OEM lamp with OEM halogen lightsource. It is not the best quality lamp available but it's well above standards. it has been modified to decrease glare above cutoff, and this modification may not be performed properly, as evidenced in the glare just above cutoff.

You can see that the low beam has a very heavy center that overlaps the cutoff. This heavy center is to illuminate the road at a distance greater than the road closer to the vehicle. It is also a wide pattern, to illuminate as much of the sides as is safe, while keeping it less intense than what is farther ahead of the car. The pattern is also tall extending down to the foreground.
Centerweight, Width, and Foreground illumination are all very important in a low beam.

The centerweight is perhaps most important of all. It must be properly gradiated so that the beam is stronger where it travels the furthest. This is because light that travels farther away from the vehicle also has to travel back to the driver's eyes, and any intense light that is closer has a parabolic relationship to distance in terms of glare effect. If it's half as distant to the car, it loses a quarter as much intensity.

The width is also important, because it provides lighting in turns at a decreased range as well as peripheral vision on the side of the road while travelling straight ahead.

Forground lighting must illuminate the road surface and small hazards while not overwhelming the eyes or causing too much glare, which will throw off the eyes focus and exposure of more important situations and road/environment features further ahead.

All low beams must have these characteristics but more of any one is not better in all or most situations. More foreground light may be fine for travelling at very low speeds, but it will severely impair higher speed distance visibility. A lack of width or overly wide beam is problematic because it will glare or won't provide enough light in certain situations. Similarly, a centerweight that is too bright or too centerweighted will be problematic on corners, increasing grades or dips, heavy traffic, and inclement weather conditions. The extra light in these situations becomes glare for all drivers, even if it is below a well defined cutoff.

at particular distances, particular areas of the beam must be uniformly even. changing the light source to a substandard quality bulb or different light source than the lamp is designed for can throw any one or all of these pattern characteristics into very dangerous misalignment and ineffectiveness.

Let's move onto fog.

Fog beams differ in a few ways:

This is a low quality lamp that meets standards of a reputable company. There are many lamps that are better than this lamp, but it meets standards for safe and moderately effective operation.

It is dimmer than a lowbeam on purpose.
When you're in the fog, you don't want an intense beam in front of the car because it will always cause glare. When you're not in fog, the beam thrown by these lights does nothing to help your vision, no matter how intense their light is. They give the effect of more light, but it is a placebo and is actually decreasing lighting performance in clear conditions. But let's decipher the beam further:

A fog beam is wide, flat, and even.

The quality of this lamp makes it less even than a better lamp. However, it is wide and flat enough to provide useful performance in fog.

The wide beam helps to illuminate roadsides and prevent driving into hazards or off of the course. These lamps are meant to be used in dense fog when the car is traveling at low speeds, when driving off the road is extremely avoidable.

The flatness, or low angle of height of the beam, helps to cut through fog cover without illuminating too much foreground and throwing glare up into the fog cover. These lamps must be mounted low enough to cut under fog on the plane of the driver's eyes, but not so low that they hit too much ground. Aiming on these is critical, but not as critical as lowbeams.

Again, these lamps must be dim, lest they increase glare. They are meant to penetrate weather, not distance and so have very little hotspotting and no centerweight. They will do nothing to increase visibility in clear conditions because they illuminate objects that are better lit in clear conditions by lowbeams, even at the sides of their width.

These particular lamps have yellow bulbs in order to provide more contrast and less dispersion and refraction than lamps that emit bluer light. IR light refracts less through water than UV, and since red light is extremely dangerous to have on the front of a car, yellow is a good weather color of light to see by. Think of yellow as "blue and purple absent light."


Finally, a driving beam:

Aiming is paramount with a driving beam. These lamps are very well respected for their lighting characteristics. They pack a huge punch for their size and have a better penetration of all lamps except pencil beams of their size.

Driving lights are meant to illuminate roadway at a great distance when no other traffic is present. They do not compromise their performance for other motorists and are extremely dangerous to use around other motorists-- fore, or aft.

The beam illuminates the center with most of the lamp's intensity to penetrate into the distance. This makes them most effective at higher speeds, where things need early cognition the most. Any lamp that has a poorly focused beam or a lot of intensity in the foreground or periphery of the beam is a poor and substandard driving beam. Unfortunately, lots of cheap lamps are marketed as 'driving beams' because they don't give good passing, fog, or cornering performance. Lamps that have unfocused beams or are very inefficient- such as exceedingly small reflectors(smaller than 3 inches in any dimension) or simply unfocused near half-hemisphere patterns are almost universally worthless for anything but blinding people.

If you aim a driving beam anywhere but exactly in the direction of travel on a straight trajectory, they will be very inefficient and sometimes dangerous. It's just as important as aiming lowbeams properly(which is also hugely important).

A driving beam differs from a pencil beam in that it projects a shape that helps see a road environment(trapezoid, rectangle, or oblong shape) instead of a circular or oval cone of light, like a pencil tip.

A cornering beam is usually more like a driving beam than a pencil beam, in that it's very even and geometrically shaped. Good cornering beams are wide, focused, and tall with a minimum centerweighting- more than fog, but less than lowbeams. obviously, they are mounted and aimed to illuminate corners, not in front of the car. they are sometimes designed to face forward, sometimes not.

A high beam should be almost exactly like a good driving beam, however it should be very significantly taller and wider, sacrificing distance penetration for a larger effective field of illumination.

A good set of driving beams can't substitute for highbeams, and are not safe to use for 'flash to pass' situations, but if you have a good set of driving lights you probably won't need to use highbeams for much other than illuminating an area for purpose of navigation, not driving while moving.

That's it for beam patterns.

If someone has another type of beam category, they've made it up or it's obsolete.

I'll try to get better pictures once I have more lamps to play with.
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Old 01-27-2009, 12:30 PM   #19
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....thanks for the effort on this.
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Old 01-27-2009, 04:21 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jncominco2 View Post
here they are, rehosted
OP might want to add them in somewhere
if so, ill edit this post to remove clutter of a lot of photos





I dont see the problem WOW that sucks, for him.
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:22 PM   #21
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How is this not a sticky yet?


Moderators: STICKY THIS THREAD
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:30 PM   #22
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great info thanks man!
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Old 01-27-2009, 06:05 PM   #23
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Great info... thanks Handsdown.
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Old 01-27-2009, 07:03 PM   #24
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Handsdaman!
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Old 01-27-2009, 07:34 PM   #25
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i'd actually prefer if it not be a sticky until i get it to a more complete state.

right now it's just TONS of words. i mean, how many of you honestly read all that?
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