Mercedes-Benz Headlights 101: A Quick Introduction to the Essentials
If you're like most proud Mercedes-Benz owners, you take basic maintenance and upkeep quite seriously. The problem is that most Mercedes-Benz repairs require a skilled technician and a lot of custom tools to get the job done. Fortunately, there are some parts that anyone can replace or upgrade without a lot of technical savvy. Headlights are one such component. This brief guide will bring you up to speed on basic Mercedes-Benz headlight knowledge.
Headlights in a Nutshell
When most drivers and mechanics refer to headlights, they're usually talking about the whole assembly that houses the headlight bulbs. They're typically constructed from hardened plastic or glass shields, rubber seals and metal frames. Headlights are carefully engineered to precisely fit specific models so that water, dirt and debris can't enter the enclosed space and damage internal components. The bulbs themselves receive power from a cable that plugs into a socket on the rear of the headlight assembly.
Why Headlights Are So Important
Properly functioning headlights are crucial safety devices that can make the difference between getting home safe and winding up in a ditch. That's why they need to be correctly aligned and produce the right amount of brightness. Great headlights also make any nighttime excursion in your Mercedes far more enjoyable. If you don't take care of your headlights, you'll encounter reduced performance and may have to deal with expensive electrical repairs at some point in the future.
Common Headlight Types
For the most part, there are three types of headlights that you'll encounter in any Mercedes-Benz: halogen, HID and LED. Here's a quick breakdown of each variant:
By far the most popular type of headlight bulb on the market, halogens have been around since the 1960s. They're basically just incandescent bulbs featuring a tungsten filament that's surrounded by halogen gas. A typical halogen bulb draws about 55 amps and can last up to 1000 hours. The best thing about halogens is their ability to produce consistent white light for years without a steep decline in performance.
HID or high-intensity discharge lights use a variety of fairly rare gases and metals to produce dazzlingly bright beams. Many models draw less than 35 watts while shining twice as brightly as halogen lamps. Often referred to as xenon headlights, HIDs are a popular upgrade for Mercedes-Benz drivers with older vehicles. The primary drawback of HID lights is their greater cost due to the materials used in their construction.
LED or light-emitting diode headlights are arguably the wave of the future for a number of reasons. For starters, they use a fraction of the energy required to power halogen bulbs while matching HIDs in terms of overall performance. What's more, they can last up to 10,000 hours if you buy high-quality units. Another benefit of LEDs is their ability to achieve peak brightness far more quickly than halogens and HIDs. This quick response time improves driver safety.
When to Replace Your Headlights
Most Mercedes drivers replace their headlights for two basic reasons: they're broken or they're not delivering the desired performance. If the polycarbonate exterior of your headlights are cracked or shattered, you can simply swap out the affected part for new hardware. If there's more serious damage to the interior of the headlamp, the whole unit will have to be replaced. If you'd like to trade up from halogens to HIDs, you'll need all-new hardware since the assemblies are designed to work with specific bulbs.
What to Look for in a Quality Headlight
When shopping for new Mercedes-Benz bulbs and headlight assemblies, it's important to look for the official OEM stamp of approval. While some aftermarket parts manufacturers may claim that their hardware is compatible, this isn't always the case. Furthermore, you need to pay attention to the color and intensity of the bulbs that your headlights are designed for to get the best results. Lastly, make sure that any prospective headlight assemblies match the exterior aesthetic of your Benz.
How to Replace Headlights
If you'd like to simply replace a headlight bulb, you can do so by accessing the engine bay and pulling it out from the rear. While HID bulbs won't fit in other sockets, you can easily install LED bulbs in halogen fixtures. To replace an entire headlight assembly, you'll probably need to remove the grille and front bumper to remove the unit. Headlights are held in place by screws and bolts that anyone can remove with a ratchet.
Getting the Most from Your Lights
Correctly installing your headlights is the best way to ensure a satisfactory ownership experience. Make sure that your headlight assemblies fit your vehicle's body tightly to prevent leaks. If you don't know what you're doing, have a specialist install them for you. Furthermore, it's important to correctly align the beams so that you're getting the best illumination possible. If you live in a hot climate, opt for LEDs whenever possible to reduce stress on the bulbs due to heat.
Long-Term Headlight Maintenance Tips
Once a year, it's a good idea to wash the polycarbonate outer shields and use a restoration kit to counteract the effects of UV radiation. When you need to change bulbs, make sure that they're properly seated to avoid unnecessary vibration. A bulb that's bouncing around on rough roads is far more likely to fail prematurely. Finally, avoid touching the surface of your bulbs with your bare hands as the grease from your skin can damage them.
Tracking Down the Best Headlights for Your Mercedes-Benz
If you want to enjoy owning your Mercedes, using the right parts for repairs is critical. While you could roll the dice on non-OEM parts and save a few bucks, you probably won't be happy with the results. At MBDirectParts.com, dealing in the finest genuine Mercedes-Benz parts in existence is our bread and butter. When you need a replacement part for your trusty Benz, our diversified inventory has got you covered.