During the early 90's car makers switched to plastic based, polycarbonate or polymethyl methacrylate composition in manufacturing headlight lenses from glass. This was done for a variety of reasons including lessening weight, cost and difficulty in manufacturing. The disadvantage is that the material is sensitive to abrasion from sand and dust and must be coated with a silicone hardcoat from the factory which eventually chips off when hit by road debris while driving and with weather and foreign contaminants completely comes off within a few years. This leaves the lenses unprotected and quickly deteriorates the transparency of the plastic which not only affects the overall appearance of the vehicle but also the light output.
Most old model vehicles' headlights had fluting or more commonly known as “lines” on the lenses to disperse the light output of the old fashioned halogen bulbs more effectively. Advancements of modern technology in lighting have completely moved on from manipulation of light rays through the fluting in the lenses and have switched to clear headlight lenses. The switch to clear headlight lenses not only provided better lighting performance but also gave newer vehicles a cleaner and more modern appearance.
Tail lights are mainly warning devices for other drivers you share the road with. Majority of vehicles depend on incandescent bulbs for light source. Though they are not really bright, they are a cheap light source and easy to replace if needed. However, being cheap always has a downside, as with incandescent bulbs, the instant they are put to use, their brightness start to wane. Incandescent bulbs draw a lot of power and are the least efficient light source, contributing to engine power drag.
Non-projector type headlights are designed with a reflector that refracts light from a light source towards the road. Manufacturers started using projector (polyellipsoidal) lamps in the early 80's. In this system, a filament is located at one focus of an ellipsoidal reflector and has a condenser lens or a hemispherical glass in front of the lamp. A shade located at the image plane, between the reflector and the lens, and the projection of the top edge of this shade provides the low-beam cutoff. The shape of the shade edge, and its exact position in the optical system, determines the shape and sharpness of the cutoff. Newer model vehicles have a far better glass composition and condenser lens shape that attributes to its light focus or projection.
Factory projector headlight equipped vehicles usually do not need a projector retrofit. Since most automotive parts are mass produced, most parts are not made with the same precision and detail as specialized aftermarket parts brands. Most factory projector lenses have a surface texture to diffuse a certain amount of light to conform with certain laws and regulations.
Halos, corona rings or also known as angel eyes are the distinctive arrangement of lights placed in a circular pattern. They are automotive front lighting units with luminous rings inside the headlight assembly introduced in 2000 by BMW. Halos were originally typical of this automaker's cars but soon became a popular customization option to enhance any vehicle's front end appearance to go with projector equipped headlights.
Running lights, required in many countries for decades, are headlights that run any time the car is on. Countries like Canada, Denmark and Sweden mandate these lights in an effort to prevent daytime accidents. Audi turned this safety feature as part of their design and styling by using LED bulbs arranged in a row, to lessen power draw and gas consumption, and soon after other companies caught up to it.
"Is re-chroming possible?" is probably one of the most asked question in our industry. Plastic bezels and fiber glass reinforced polyester are not suitable materials for electroplating. The process done from the factory is called vacuum deposition or mirror aluminizing. Although the process itself is not expensive, the machines used would not be feasible to do on-demand. The best solution we have found that has both real chrome appearance while being inexpensive is cosmichroming.
Although reflectors have very minimal effect on headlights with projector lenses, most are for aesthetic and traditional design purpose. The technology behind projector lamps has dramatically improved in the last couple of decades. With the right choice of H.I.D. (High Intensity Discharge) lighting system to pair it with, painted reflectors won't make the slightest difference in the light output of the system.
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