Why Aftermarket Projector Headlights Can't Compete Against A Retrofit
Aftermarket projector headlights are available all over the internet but what makes these projectors different from projectors used in a headlight retrofit? We're going to go over the output, quality and versatility of the 2 different types.
How bright are these projectors?
Aftermarket headlights for Lexus GS300 98-05
Aftermarket projector and retrofit projector
First, we removed the projector from these aftermarket headlights that were made for a 98-05 Lexus GS. For this comparison we paired the aftermarket projector with a standard halogen bulb and the retrofit projector with a 35 watt HID kit by Morimoto.
Aftermarket projector with halogen bulb at 344 lux
We took readings with our light meter and the aftermarket with a halogen bulb came in at 344 lux, which is dimmer than an OEM headlight.
The beam pattern had a lot of shadows and a hot spot that was not directly in the center. Based on how oddly shaped the pattern is, this will not properly light the road ahead of you. This beam will be patchy and most of the light will be going off to the right side.
An ideal beam pattern is one that has light evenly spread across and a hot spot that is perfectly in the center.
Retrofit projector with 35 watt HID kit at 1920 lux
The projector we use in our Standard Retrofit Package is the Morimoto Mini H1 8.0. For our higher retrofit packages, like the Elite Retrofit Package, we use projectors that are even brighter.
Looking at the readings on the light meter, this retrofit projector came in at 1920 lux which is 6 times brighter than the aftermarket projector.
The beam pattern was very sharp and the light was evenly spread throughout. The hotspot was perfectly positioned in the center which is exactly where you want it to be.
Aftermarket projector with 35 watt HID kit at 850 lux
Now for demonstration purposes we also tested the aftermarket projector with the same 35 watt HID kit we used with the retrofit projector.
Looking at the readings on the light meter this aftermarket projector came in at 850 lux, which is almost 3 times brighter than with the halogen bulb. However, these projectors are not designed to handle an HID or LED bulb. (We will talk more about this in the later sections.)
The beam pattern became sharper but the imperfections of this projector have also become more prominent. There is a dark spot over on the right side and the overall light spread still appeared to be very uneven.
How good are the materials?
When we were testing the output of the aftermarket projector you were probably wondering why we used a halogen bulb instead of an HID kit. As I mentioned earlier, these projectors are not designed to be used with any other bulb beside a halogen because of the materials that they are made out of.
Aftermarket projector disassembled
The aftermarket projector is mainly made out of plastic, including the projector lens itself. There are a couple pieces, such as the cutoff shield and the strange reflector band, that are made out of thin aluminum.
The materials that are used can not handle the brightness or heat generated from a brighter bulb, such as an HID. This is something that the manufacturers are also aware of because there are warning labels on most aftermarket lights that states any usage of any other bulb than a halogen will void the warranty. Using brighter bulbs in these types of headlights will cause premature failure and damage to the projectors.
Close up of aftermarket projector bowl
Take a close look at the clarity of the chrome on the bowl of the projector. The aftermarket is very spotty with imperfections and a lack of reflection in the chrome.
This is a very important factor when it comes to brightness since the bowl is where the bulb sits and reflects the light out towards the lens.
Retrofit projector disassembled
The Morimoto projector we use in our headlight retrofits is mainly made out of high grade aluminum and the projector lens is a special AR (anti-reflective) coated glass.
The thick aluminum makes these projectors capable of properly handling the heat and brightness from HID or LED bulbs; while the AR coated glass reduces glare to oncoming traffic and helps focus the light onto the road.
Close up of retrofit projector bowl
This is the perfect example of what you want the bowl of a projector to look like. High reflection in the chrome and a smooth surface to properly reflect the light.
What are these projectors capable of?
The aftermarket projectors are very limited in terms of features. They can only safely use a standard halogen bulb and does not provide an increase in light output when compared to a stock headlight. These projectors in particular are also only capable of being a low beam light.
Aftermarket projector turned on
The retrofit projector is capable of utilizing either an HID or LED bulb while still maintaining a perfect beam pattern. It can also be used for both a low beam and high beam light. There is a solenoid in the projector that allows more light to shine through the cutoff shield which gives it the ability to be a dual beam.
Retrofit projector high beam shutter
Now as a disclaimer, not every aftermarket headlight manufacturer uses the same projectors in their headlights, but most of them do. There are projectors that are being used that are of better quality and may have more features but they are still not comparable to projectors used in a headlight retrofit. Only top tier manufacturers, such as Morimoto, and a couple others have aftermarket headlight assemblies that can even be on par with our retrofits.
What do you think about this comparison?
Are you ready to get your headlights retrofitted?
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