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Sucky-to-the-Max (tm) US Lights

Arryn said about lights:

>...for example to actually measure how much brighter they are?  
>Dad's giving me the 65w is 65w line, and why would DOT-spec be any 
>worse than E-spec, they're both government specifications.

Arryn, 65w is a measure of the electricity used  - but it means 
nothing about how that light is applied.

I work with lighting for video production - and lights rated at 65 
watts come in a number of configurations.  Know what makes the 
biggest differences in applying that light?  THE REFLECTOR USED 
AND THE LENS IN FRONT OF THE LIGHT.  (Awright, Eric and others, don't 
bug me about HMIs, quartz vs. fluorescent, and other ways to 
complicate this...lemme work here....)

The issue with Euro-lights is NOT the lamp which makes the light, it 
is primarily the design of the lens on front of it.  (The reflectors 
used in the light are also slightly different, which helps to focus 
the light properly.)

What it boils down to is this: for reasons I have never seen 
explained, the Hella lenses manufactured to meet US DOT standards in 
some year Audis do not focus the light down the road, they 
**diffuse** the light.  This means it scatters in a broad area 
immediately in front of the car and does not illuminate much distance 
in front of the vehicle.  These lights are not safe at 50+ MPH.  
Period.  On low beams, they're not that bad - a bit diffused, but 
range is not an issue.  Problem is that high beam only adds about 30% 
to their range because the lenses diffuse the lights SO much.

In contrast, the European lenses are designed to focus the light into 
a much tighter pattern, projecting it down the road where it actually 
does you some good.  The difference in illumination range has to be 
seen to be believed!

If you stand in front of a set of the US lights and Euro-lights and 
carefully examine the lenses, you will find the US lights have many 
small flutes all across the lens.   In contrast, the Euro-lights have 
fewer small flutes, and many larger ones.  You can easily see the 
difference in the focus they will bring to the light passing through 
them.  Lenses are not magic - you can look at them and see what they 

I honestly cannot explain why the US lights are so bad.  I can attest 
that until I changed the ones in my 1990 200, I **never** felt safe 
driving my family in the car at night.  If I had not been able to get 
Euro-lights, I would have added a carefully chosen set of driving 
lights with a minimum range of 4000+ feet to give me the required 
vision for night driving at highway speed.  This can be achieved for 
about $150.  It is unfortunate that Audi's pricing policies make it 
so hideously expensive to replace the headlights.

Arryn, if your dad knows anything about lighting, he will understand 
that the main problem here is not the light source, it's the lenses 
in front of it.  All it should take to convince him is to drive some 
other car with good lights down a dark road, then get into yours and 
drive the same route.  The difference should be evident.  If you 
can't afford the headlights, go for driving lights - not ornamental 
foo-foo ones like the rednecks use, but REAL lighting instruments 
properly mounted and aimed for driving at legal road speeds.

One other issue: the US laws often lag considerably behind other 
countries.  I began running non-sealed beam Hella headlights in 
1977, when it was illegal to use anything but sealed beams in the US. 
 Why? Because the Hellas were MUCH better at providing long range 
illumination than any sealed beams, even the (then-new) halogen ones. 
Laws in Europe allowed the use of quartz lights long before the US 
did.  The fact is that US laws are often passed MUCH more for reasons 
of politics than because of any basis in fact...and the lighting 
regulations were a great example.  (PS: I'm still using those Hella 
lamps today - in a 1985 Chevy pickup...and I still love 'em!)

Al Powell                        Voice:  409/845-2807
107 Reed McDonald Bldg.          Fax:    409/862-1202
College Station, TX 77843