What is HID exactly?
HID is a newer technology for illumination, which uses xenon gas discharge, rather than the typical halogen found in most cars. This produces a crisper, more natural light deployment unlike the yellow associated with halogen, and enables motorists to see much more distance without the dazzling glare to oncoming vehicles.
For the non-techies (and non-car enthusiasts) you may be asking “what’s the point?” As a friend of mine said, after driving a car with stock HID – “it’s like night and day, with HID you see so much more.”
So, I figured that since Scion’s are easily customized it won’t be hard to install aftermarket HID – right?….. wrong! After digging around on the Internet in the wee small hours this morning I found out some info about what goes into HID and why it is so expensive.
It’s no secret that HID is typically installed stock in more up market vehicles – BMW first introduced it in 1997, and since then Acura have added the technology to their TL and TSX, Honda added HID to their S2000, it’s pretty much a given on all Mercedes Benz, and Audi also come fitted with HID stock. Those of us with cheaper vehicles (ahem, me) have to settle for OEM and after market installation. So what’s involved?
After market HID installation comes in two flavors – drop in replacement units and retro fit. Like most proud car owners I’m loath to take a wrench and screw driver to my car unless the job is easy and involves little to no custom modification work, so the idea of drop in unit to replace the existing head lamp fitting sounded great to me. However, after reading up a little I understand that this is a half baked solution. First off, HID fitting is not just the fitting of a bulb and ballast (device that provides high voltage arc across the xenon gas) – sure this will work but without a projection unit the result is mediocre at best. To obtain 3x distance illumination a projection device, using optics, is required – this is where the cost comes in. Most non-HID lamp mounting units are not designed for projector mounting, and a bad installation can sometimes leading to case melting and a variety of other problems. So, custom retro fitting is the next best approach.
So how to go about retro fitting HID to a Scion TC?
http://hidretro.com is a site, which advertises a service that does all the work for you (not just for Scion vehicles), however the work “ain’t cheap.” Don’t expect much change out of $2000 (give or take, depending on the projector type, and bulb type). Of course, one can do a DIY job (instructions here http://www.scionlife.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=75144), which involves tools, spray paint, balls, and an oven (say what?). Like most things in life, if you want a good job for a cheap price then you need to do it yourself. Personally, I am not put off by the idea, but depending on whether I need to purchase expensive tools (blow torch), and if I can obtain some spare Scion TC head lamp fittings (incase I botch the job), is whether I go down that road.
A few particulars I found out whilst reading about HID -:
- HID bulbs come in a variety of sizes and color temperatures (specified in Kelvin) – this is not the temperature that the bulb operates, but the color output of the source determined by spectral output curve (whoosh).
- Higher color temperatures are not necessarily better, the lower the color temperature the more natural the light output appears. Higher color temperatures will give a more defined color, so if purple light is your thing then a 10000K or 12000K bulb will give you the desired result.
- The Department of Transport (DOT) defines laws on what constitutes as legal HID. 6000K or above is NOT LEGAL in the US and any is not available in any factory fitted HID. If you fit OEM at 6000K or above you run the risk of penalty, but that’s assuming that a beady eyed cop can spot the difference.
- Various OEM projection units exist – most of the ready available units in the US are similar or the same as those found in factory fitted HID vehicles.
- In projection mounted solutions try to use D2S size bulbs, and use D2R in reflection systems.
Conclusion – unless I fork out a lot of green, installation of HID in my TC is going to involve some open heart surgery. From the instructions (link above) it looks like I can get away withy most of the up front work – custom fitting HID parts to a stock lamp fixture – without taking my car apart, as long as I can acquire some extra lamp fittings on the cheap. So I may try that and see how well I do. Anyone out there who has done a similar job, and wants to offer some insight would be most welcome to do so.