Skip to Content

How To Tell If You Have Projector Or Reflector Headlights

Your safety during nighttime is determined by the type of headlight your vehicle is equipped with. Having said that, it is important to know which kind of headlight your car uses. We've put together everything you need to know about projector and reflector headlights.

Projector headlights are easier to spot. When looking at them, you will see that the front resembles a crystal ball cut in half. Reflector headlights are also recognizable because of their dome-shaped interiors. The bulbs are encased inside a steel bowl.

Both projector and reflector headlights are significant components of every car. These lights are built having their own advantages. Let us find out more information about these headlights!

Before you continue reading, let us say we hope you find the links here useful. If you purchase something through a link on this page, we may get a commission, so thank you!

Photo showing a trucks headlight, How To Tell If You Have Projector Or Reflector Headlights

How to spot projector and reflector headlights

All cars are equipped with headlights; however, car owners do not have much choice in what type of headlights go with their car when buying it.

Nonetheless, if you wish to know or change the kind of headlights your vehicle has, you can always modify them to fit your needs. You have to first know the difference between these two before deciding which one is best for your car.

What are Projector Headlights?

Red colored car showing its headlights

If you prefer headlights that promote great vision in the darkness, then you can opt for projector headlights because they focus more light at a certain point. This gives the impression of a brighter light.

Projector headlights have a very distinct look. They consist of a headlight bulb that is inside of a cup with mirrors. These mirrors would then reflect the light within the surface.

These lights have extra lenses called condenser lens that acts as a magnifying glass. These lenses are responsible for increasing the brightness of your vehicle's light beams.

Projector headlights also use a cutoff shield that keeps light from shooting straight towards oncoming drivers' line of vision. Because of this, all light will go down and out straight to the road's surface.

Benefits of having projector headlights

  • These are considered the brightest headlight on the market.
  • Approaching vehicles also benefit from these headlights because the drivers' field of vision will less likely go blind.
  • As a car owner, you won't also have to worry about your vision during nighttime since projector headlights give off an even display of light across the light beam. Because of the magnifying lenses, the beam reaches the entirety of the headlights' edges.
  • Because projector headlights make use of a cutoff shield, you have a variety of lightbulbs you can choose from, such as Halogen, HID, and LED.

Disadvantages of using projector headlights

You should't have to worry about the disadvantages of using projector headlights because the drawbacks are quite minimal. They are actually more about the aesthetics of these headlights. Some people prefer the way they look.

There are situations where some LEDs do not work well when placed inside the projector headlights. If you have found yourself in this situation, the halogens lights may be brighter than the LED.

What are Reflector Headlights?

Black and white photo of a car showing its headlight

Reflector headlights have been around ever since the rise of automotive headlights. They are basically smaller than projector headlights and are cheaper to manufacture.

When trying to determine reflector headlights, look for a dome-shaped interior. The headlight bulb is placed in a cup or bowl-shaped exterior, the reflector bowl.

This kind of headlight comprises a bulb that is encased in a steel bowl. Mirrors are set within the bowl so that light reflects out onto the road's surface.

Benefits of reflector headlights

When it comes to advantages, reflector headlights do not compare much with projector headlights. The main benefits of having reflector headlights are they are less expensive because they are cheaper to produce, and they are not as deep as projector headlights when they are placed inside the steel bowl.

Another benefit of using reflector headlights is that they produce a bigger beam pattern which basically covers a much larger surface area in comparison to projector headlights.

Keep in mind that the bulbs must be aligned correctly because if not, it may blind oncoming road drivers. You can use Halogen and LED headlights.

Disadvantages of using reflector headlights

Unlike projector headlights, the beam of reflector lights is harder to control. The light source goes in all directions since the light bounces off the mirrored surface.

Your bulb's design is a factor that affects the beam of your headlights. The light will often have both weak and intense spots. A way to alleviate this problem is by using an LED headlight bulb.

Although installing this bulb requires a lot of work, the end game is quite satisfying because your car's light beam will cover the whole light spectrum. You would not have to worry about your headlights having weak or intense spots anymore.

Why are my headlights dim?

Blue colored car showing projector headlights

Nighttime driving is dangerous; that is why your cars are equipped with headlights. These lights are powered by the vehicle's battery. Once you start your car, the engine begins powering up all of your vehicle's electrical systems.

The wiring harness, which is grounded to the vehicle's chassis, connects the headlights to the engine. Any interference with this electrical flow will damage your headlights and will cause your lights to dim.

It is important to understand that headlight bulbs are either completely on or entirely off. It cannot be dimly lit. If you encounter poorly lit headlights, the internal system of your car may have problems.

Ground Wire Corrosion

The ground wire is an important component of every vehicle. It is part of the circuit that is responsible for allowing electricity to flow from the engine to the headlights.

If the ground wire has any damage or has experienced corrosion, then it will not work properly. The headlights receive less power and are also less bright because electricity does not flow freely.

If you did not fix this problem immediately, your headlights could shut off completely even though they are still in good condition.

In order to resolve this issue, you have to replace your vehicle's ground wire. This wire is not expensive; however, your local mechanic may take some time to replace it.

Damaged headlight lenses

Mechanic holding reflector headlights

Present-day headlights are built with a clear plastic cover over the bulbs in order to protect them from damage. Gradually, this cover can turn yellow because of sunlight exposure.

Dirt, rocks, specks of dust, and other road debris can scrape the plastic's surface, making it appear white or foggy. The headlights become dimly lit because the damaged plastic cover hinders the passing of light.

There are ways you can extend the life of the plastic by going to auto repair shops that offer headlight restoration services. If you do not wish to do this, using a DIY restoration kit is an alternative.

Keep in mind that restoration will only extend the life of the plastic, but it will not completely resolve the issue. Your headlights may need replacing in the long run.

Discolored Bulb

Most headlights use halogen bulbs. This kind of bulb is prone to having gas build-ups inside the casing.  Halogen bulbs gradually create a film inside the glass. If you notice that your headlights look dark, it is because of the build-up inside of the bulb.

Sadly enough, the only way you can fix this problem is by replacing your headlights.

Failing Alternator

Detailed photo of a car alternator

Your car's alternator is responsible for keeping your headlights as bright as you need them to be. The alternator receives energy from the engine and then transforms it into usable electric energy in order to power some components of the vehicle, including the headlights and battery.

If it fails to do its job, all parts are affected. The batteries will not be able to function. Because of this, you may encounter trouble with powering on your vehicle's headlights.

One way you can tell that your alternator is damaged is by following this step. You must turn the key in the ignition, and the lights should be bright. When your headlights are dimly lit when you switch over from power to alternator, then it is a sign that your alternator is not providing enough power.

You should have your alternator checked before deciding to fix the problem to ensure that this component is the source of the issue.

In Closing

Photo showing a trucks headlight

Headlights are one of the most important elements of every vehicle because it provides you safety during nighttime. It is important to use the kind of headlight that suits your needs so that your safety is guaranteed.

If you have found this topic helpful, check out these other informative articles:

"How To Remove Spray Paint Without Damaging Paint Underneath"

"How Much Frame Rust Is Too Much?"