The function of your bike’s headlight is simple – you turn it on, and voila – there’s light.

But the types of headlight bulbs is anything but simple – you’ve got both the tried-and-true quartz halogen bulbs to more cutting-edge LEDs types.

In this blog post, you’ll discover:

  • Characteristics of halogen vs. LED headlights – the most common motorcycle headlight bulb types 
  • The pros and cons of each type

But first, there’s a question that needs to be answered:

What is a filament?

Why does this question need to be answered? Because (nearly) every time you deal with lightbulbs, odds are good that you’ll encounter the term “filament,” as in:

“This bulb has a twin filament”

In layman’s terms, a filament is a thin wire that glows when a heavy current flows through it – this is what makes the lightbulb glow.

Therefore, if a bulb has a “twin filament”, it has two of these glowing wires inside of it.

Halogen vs. LED Headlights

Quartz halogen lightbulb

The quartz halogen lightbulb has been around since the 1970s and contain the following chemicals, among other things:

  • Tungsten
  • Iodine

Since iodine belongs to the halogen group, that’s why this type of bulb is called the “halogen lightbulb.”

The most significant advantage of a quartz halogen bulb is its’ longevity.

If halogens are sealed within a glass bulb, they prevent the filament from bursting – a common problem with the previous tungsten bulb. 

A quartz halogen bulb also has a stronger glow – assuming that you don’t put your greasy fingers all over it.

And I do mean that literally – if you fit a quartz halogen lightbulb, remember to avoid touching the glass with your bare fingers.

If you do this, a tiny amount of oil and acids from your finger will attach itself to the bulb, which then turns to steam once the bulb gets warm.

As a result, its lifespan will be shortened. 

To get the point across, I’ll repeat it – if you fit a halogen bulb to your bike, make sure you avoid touching the glass with your bare fingers. 

If you should touch the glass anyway, wipe it off carefully with a rag soaking in methylated alcohol before you fit it.

Want to get better at motorcycle mechanics?

Fill out the form to your right to receive the My 8 Tips to Become a Better Motorcycle Mechanic guide straight to your inbox.
    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    LED lights

    image of motorcycle led headlight
    Photo by Rachel Claire from Pexels
    They’re not just used to turn your bike into a mobile two-wheeled light show – LED lights are becoming more commonly used for headlights.

    For example, the Super Socco TSX uses an LED headlight. 

    Light Emitting Diodes (or “LEDs”) consists of a small chain of small diodes with a small bulb on them. When a current passes through them, this bulb lights up.

    What’s a diode?

    Diodes (pictured to the right) are electrical components that force the electrical current to travel in one direction.

    Think of them as a directional sign for electricity.

    image of diodes
    The biggest advantage of LED lights is that they use about 50% less energy and have a longer lifespan than conventional lightbulbs – some can last as long as 20,000 hours.

    To put this into context, that’s 20 times the longevity of a quartz halogen lightbulb. 

    LED lights also light up faster than both tungsten and halogen lights. And if you’re concerned about design, LED lights are easier to change the look and function of.

    The only real downside is that LEDs can be expensive – at least when compared to quartz halogen bulbs. 

    The silver lining however is that LEDs aren’t as expensive as they used to be – and with the added benefits above, it’s worth the extra money.