Got Kick A** Lights?
By Dwayne Letcher-Healy


What is the story with all these damn light bulbs? HIDs? H4s? 9006s? Plasma bulbs? Itís enough to drive one crazy. Recently, a few of Team SC3ís members decided to host a meeting relative to lighting options for Camrys/Solaras, and to test a few of these bulbs hands-on. Unfortunately, there is a flooding of companies marketing lighting upgrades for just about every import car on the market, so we decided to test a small sample of the more reputable manufacturers.

So where do we begin? We had no idea. Fortunately enough, Team SC3 has a lighting guru as a member. Jen Liu is a regular Bill Gates of the lighting industry. He has worked for a major lighting manufacturer and currently owns his own lighting business (www.suvlights.com).

We opened the meeting discussing bulbs and power. Jen shared with us some no-frills, inexpensive methods to having some quality lighting. "Not everyone wants to drop $500 on HIDs," Jen stated, "There are some clever methods to producing more intensive lights without hacking up your OEM set-up." To start, the factory wiring (if you want to call it wiring, lamp cord is probably more appropriate) has got to go. For about $45, you boost the power going to the bulbs by swapping out the OEM wires for heavier gauge, higher quality lines. This conversion will produce some rather dramatic effects at night, even on the factory bulbs (but who the hell wants those?). Lets segue into the bulbs. First of all, nobody wants those crummy OEM bulbs. Quite frankly, they look like junk. Believe it or not, you can purchase higher wattage, higher quality bulbs for cheaper, in some instances, than purchasing OME replacements. So what is the point? Buy better bulbs guys and gals. It makes more sense. The problem is sifting through all the options. "I recommend sticking with name brands," opined the light god Jen Liu. With this in mind, we tested a few. First up to bat were the Narva French Yellow H4s. These bulbs are out of control and we have the pictures to prove it! These bulbs looked great, even in daylight, and no, not just because they were on that Solara with the sick custom body kit. As we wiped the drool from our mouths, we were shocked to hear the price tag. These Narva (a German Phillips Company for all of you keeping score at home) bulbs were a mere $30 a pair. Where do we sign we asked? Additionally, Narva has these babies for all our rides: from old school Generation 1 Camrys; to 2001 Solaras; to headlights; to fog lamps. Only downside to these beauties is that they are not DOT approved (Damn Yankees!). Of course, Team SC3 would never suggest using these on Public Highways or Roadways. I know, I know. Weíre laughing too.

Next up were the Optilux white bulbs. For the purist, these lights are a must. Commonly referred to as "fake HIDs" or "hyper bulbs", these types are probably the most popular applications on the market today. You would think they are an OEM part. But we had to admit, they do, sure as hell, look good. These lights will have either a purple or blue tint to them and range from about 55 watts to 85 watts. Simply put, the higher the wattage the more youíre going to piss off the person in front of you. We liked the 85-watt set-up best. The two clear advantages to swapping out you factory bulbs and wiring are one, the price; and two, the easy installation. For around $80 and a half hour of your time, you can make one of the most dramatic changes to your ride. Chicks dig it too guys!

Alright already, enough of this OEM replacement talk. For all of you ballers and shot callers with the candy cars, whatís $500? Hell, all some of you have to do is ask mom for the American Express card and youíre in. For you guys that refuse to compromise, there are real HIDs (thatís High Intensity Discharge for anyone without a clue) lighting set-ups. Nothing can match the power or look of these applications. There is a reason all of the high-end cars come equipped with these babies - they work, and pretty damn good at that. HID lamps light up the road something fierce. Itís no wonder their look is copied by so many companies. So how do you know what to buy? Why do some seem to work better than others? Jen Liu enlightened (no pun intended) us once again. "You want a quality ballast (pictured above) to start. The ballast is the heart of the entire system", Jen told us. We used the Phillips Ballast for our test. Installation is fairly simple. Finding a location to mount the ballast, around the size of a pack of cigarettes, is about the only tricky part. Once the ballast is mounted, pop in the HID bulb (some bulbs will require modifying the locking pin in the housing). Fire up the lights, the ballast will charge up, and boom - you got yourself a pair of HIDs. No need to spend $65K on the Lexus GS430. However, if you have that kind of money, what the hell are you doing reading this you cheap bastard!

As with all of the bulbs we have discussed, it is imperative that you do not come in contact with the glass. Oils and residue from your grimy, grubby fingers can collect on the bulb, and they will shatter once they heat up, period.

Hope this is helpful to all of you out there trying to navigate the light bulb phase. If you have any questions or need clarifications, post something on the forum.


DLH


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