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Low beam vs high beam-- Better ways to use your headlights


Headlights are an integral part of automotive lighting, and more and more people are choosing to replace the halogen bulbs in the original headlights with LED bulbs. In this article, you will learn in detail the definition and differentiate between high beam and low beam. Also, the usage of low and high beam and some related issues that people are more concerned about will be answered in the article. By the way, if you are picking up LED headlights, AUXITO welcomes you to shop around.

Overview of What the Article Will Cover

Before explaining the low and high beams, let's briefly understand what is headlights.

A headlight is the term for the beam of light produced and distributed by the device, it mainly used to illuminate the road ahead. The headlamp system is required to produce a low and a high beam and the modern headlamps are usually electrically operated, positioned in pairs, one or two on each side of the front of a vehicle. Headlights can be divided into many different types, such as low beams, high beams, turn signals, daytime running lights, fog lights, etc. And the low and high beam is the most basic headlight.

(Please note: The relevant knowledge explained involved in the following articles are applicable to most models, but the specific situation still needs to be identified according to your own car model and brand. And the specific lighting distance of low beam and high beam may vary by model and brand.)



Low beams are the "normal" lights that you see a car using when you turn on the headlights. They are face-down beams of light that illuminates the driver below and in front of them, and generally effective distance of lighting is 30m-40m. It's an icon that resembles the letter ‘D’ with slanting lines to the left on the correct lever of your steering wheel. Then when you point the switch towards this icon, it will appear on your vehicle's dashboard to let you know the low beams are on.

Working principle

The low beam is mainly composed of a light source and a reflector. The reflector is designed in the shape of a flat convex mirror, which can be scattered and amplified into a wider angle of light after the light passes through the spotlight mirror. At the same time, a shutter is installed inside the lamp to prevent the light from spreading upward or too much.

Advantages and applications

  • Safeguard driving safety. Because the light from the low beam is softer, it does not cause too much interference for pedestrians, other vehicles and other traffic participants driving at night, so it is suitable for cities, dense roads and other traffic congestion, which can ensure the safety of the vehicles in front and passing pedestrians and reduce the accident rate.
  • The best choice in inclement weather. Due to its characteristics, the low beam is suitable for use in low light conditions or visibility less than 150 meters, which also includes any low light weather conditions such as stormy days, foggy days, snowy days and other bad weather. This is because water molecules reflect the light, and the low beam, with its limited intensity, is less affected by the reflection and allows the driver to clearly see the road within 150 meters. But if high beam is used, the strong light emitted will be reflected to the driver's eyes, making it difficult for himself and other motorists to see the road.
  • A civilized way to travel. The soft light from the low beam will not harm the eyes of motorists and other passers-by.



High beams are a vehicle headlight beam with a long-range focus. They are also a type of headlight setup that emits a high beam of light that shines forward. Generally, their light intensity is high and the effective distance of lighting is around 100 meters, which makes them suitable for use in dark places. It's an icon that resembles the letter "D" on the right stalk of the steering wheel, with straight lines to the left. Then when you point the switch to this icon, it will appear on your vehicle's dashboard to let you know that your high beams are on.

Working principle

The high beam is mainly composed of a high intensity light source and a reflector, which makes the light produce a farther and more focused beam forward. When the driver turns on the high beams, the shutter remains open, allowing the light to fully reflect forward, diffuse up and down, and increase the surrounding lighting range.

Advantages and applications

  • High visibility. Due to the high intensity of the light emitted by the high beam. It is suitable for open areas such as the countryside and highways. The powerful light effect can expand the field of vision and improve the safety level of night driving.
  • With the role of signaling device. Because of the high light intensity of high beam, it is not easy to be ignored by people. Therefore, flashing high beams can sometimes be used to alert people the presence of vehicles and signal them. (Please note: In some states and countries, it is illegal to signal by flashing your high beams and you will be ticketed. Therefore, please check your state or country's regulations before continuing to use high beams as a signal.)
  • Reduce noise pollution. While driving at night, we can use flashing high beams to warn vehicles and passersby in front of us instead of honking the horn, thus reducing noise pollution.

In general, low beam is suitable for city driving with street lights; high beam is suitable for dark roads. However, special attention should be paid to the fact that when using the car lighting system, drivers need to choose according to the actual situation. When the view outside the car is good, you can use high beam, but you need to switch back to low beam when there are other vehicles driving in time to avoid affecting the safety driving of other vehicle drivers.


  • Light direction: low beam is a downward beam, high beam is a forward high beam.
  • Lighting distance: low beam is relatively short, generally within 40 meters; high beam can illuminate a much longer distance, generally up to about 100 meters.
  • Usage environment: low beam is suitable for urban and dense traffic areas, while high beam is suitable for rural areas with good road conditions and open view.
  • Brightness: The brightness of the high beam is greater than that of the low beam.
  • Field of view: The beam of the low beam is downward, and the angle of illumination is wider than that of the high beam, which can illuminate the periphery of the road. The high beam is upward, illuminating the road for a long distance, but with less illumination around it.

  • Symmetrical illumination: The high beam can provides symmetrical illumination, illuminating both sides of the road and the distance ahead. The low beam provides asymmetrical illumination, where one side of the road is less illuminated byoncoming traffic.


    Low Beam: The low beam is mainly used in urban or dense traffic areas, where beam direction is relatively straight and the irradiation distance is relatively close, usually within 40 meters. The low beam illuminates the road ahead, enabling the driver to see obstacles and other vehicles on the road, thus improving driving safety.

    High Beam: The high beam is mainly used in rural areas or areas with a wide field of vision. Its beam direction is more vertical than that of the low beam, usually illuminating about 100 meters. It provides a longer field of vision, allowing drivers to see possible obstacles more easily. However, it is easy to produce strong light stimulation to other vehicles and pedestrians, affecting their normal vision and safe driving. Therefore, it is necessary to be careful not to shine other vehicles or pedestrians, and switch back to low beam in time to avoid affecting their vision.

    (If you want to learn more about the beam pattern, please read our previous blog-IMPROVING AUTOMOTIVE LIGHTING: IMPORTANCE OF BEAM PATTERNS AND SOLUTIONS TO LED LIGHTING SCATTERING

    For the driver's vision, low beam can mainly illuminate the road ahead and the position of other vehicles, but it may not provide sufficient lighting effect in a very dark environment. While high beam can provide a longer lighting distance and a wider field of view, it is also easy to produce high light stimulation to other vehicles and pedestrians, affecting their normal vision and safe driving. Therefore, when using car lights, you need to choose flexibly according to the actual situation and adjust in time when you meet other vehicles or pedestrians.  


    To use low and high beam safely and effectively in night driving, drivers need to consider the following factors:

    • Vehicle speed and road conditions: When the vehicle is driving faster or the road conditions are more complicated, you should choose a brighter lighting mode.You can use a low beam to get a good view when driving on ordinary city roads.
    • Weather and visibility: In bad weather such as rain, snow and fog, visibility will be affected, when the high beam may not be effective, it is recommended to use low beam. When the weather is good, you can consider using high beam to enhance the lighting effect.
    • Road conditions: If the road conditions are poor, there are potholes and uneven road surface, it is easy to produce reflection and glare effect, it is recommended to use low beam to avoid too harsh and strong reflection.
    • Other vehicles and pedestrians: When meeting other vehicles and pedestrians, switch back to low beam in time. High beams may pose a sight threat to other drivers and pedestrians, potentially causing accidents or annoying others.

    In conclusion, when driving at night, drivers should choose low beam or high beam reasonably according to the prevailing road conditions, weather conditions and other vehicles or pedestrians in order to ensure driving safety. Also, remember not to use high beams for a long time as well as keep an eye on other drivers to improve traffic safety awareness and skills.


    Question: Are high and low beams using the same bulb?

    Answer: It depends on which mode of bulb you use for your car's headlights. Generally, there are two modes of LED bulbs, single beam headlight bulbs and dual beam headlight bulbs. If you choose to use a single-beam headlight bulb, you will need to install two bulbs for high beam and low beam respectively. The dual-beam headlight bulb produces a dual-beam pattern, requiring only one bulb to switch between high and low beam.

    (If you want to learn more about this, please read our previous Blog-KNOW ABOUT DUAL-BEAM AND SINGLE-BEAM HEADLIGHT BULBS FOR YOUR CAR)

    Question: Is there any way to adjust the height of the high beam?

    Answer: Yes. In most modern vehicles, the height of the high beam is adjustable. This can usually be done by turning a small knob or screw on the headlight assembly. The exact location and method for adjusting the high beam height may vary depending on the specific make and model of the vehicle. It is important to adjust the high beams properly to avoid dazzling other drivers on the road and ensure maximum visibility while driving at night. If you are unsure how to adjust the high beam height on your vehicle, consult the owner's manual or seek assistance from a professional mechanic. (And for more detailed operation process, please refer to our previous article -HEADLIGHT ADJUSTMENT AIMING WALL CHART)

    Question: Why don’t your low beam work but high beam work?

    Answer: When your low beam doesn't work but high beam works (and vice versa), there are many reasons, usually because the headlight bulb is burned out, the headlight switch is out of order, the fuse is blown, the wiring problem, the headlight relay is damaged, and so on. It needs to be checked and judged according to the condition of the car where the problem occurs.

    Question: Why do the low beams on a new car sometimes look as bright as the high beams?

    Answer: Several reasons. First of all, the light intensity from LED bulbs is stronger than halogen lights, and the light emitted is "whiter" than halogen lights, so it looks brighter. Secondly, it is a matter of position. There may be some overlap between the low beam and high beam in the installation position, which will make the low beam look brighter than usual at certain angles. Lastly, some lights are not properly aligned. The low beam should be pointing down the road, not straight ahead, but a truck or car with a lot of weight in the rear can tilt the vehicle and make the lights point higher. Adjustments need to be made to the position of the lights.

    Question: Can you use fog lights instead of headlights?

    Answer: No. fog lights are designed to assist you when you’re dealing with inclement weather, especially fog. They are not designed to illuminate a roadway with the distance that your headlights are designed for. And fog lights are usually located in the front bumper of a car or truck as a separate component. The low and high beams are located in the car's headlight assembly, usually at the top of the front bumper. The functions of the two are different.


    In order to enable readers to better understand low and high beams, this article describes the basic principles, definitions, advantages and applicable occasions of low and high beams respectively. In addition, for how to properly use high and low beams, this article also differentiates and compares high and low beams from the aspects of illumination direction, beam mode, and brightness. It also expounds the impact of the two light modes on the driver and other people, emphasizing that the driver should choose the low beam or high beam reasonably according to the current road conditions, weather conditions and other vehicles or pedestrians when driving at night. Finally, the questions that people generally doubt about the high and low beams are summarized and answered.

    All in all, how to correctly understand and use high and low beams is very important to us. If you are searching for this knowledge, or are interested in incorporating LED bulbs into your car headlights, hopefully this article will help you. After reading this article, you can use your low and high beams properly during driving to ensure safe driving.


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