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Why Do HID Lights Flicker?

by David Dunning

Unlike traditional light bulbs, high intensity discharge, or HID, bulbs emit light from a filament rather than from an arc discharge between two electrodes sealed in an airtight capsule of gas. HID lights are very bright but can be prone to flickering for a variety of reasons.


HID lights are high-output, low-resistance devices. To operate correctly, they require ballasts to control their current and voltage. If your vehicle is not designed for HID lights, the resistance of its electrical system may result in fluctuating power being sent to the lights, causing them to flicker.

Daylight Running Lights

If your vehicle has daytime running lights, only 20 watts or so of power will be sent to the lights rather than the 35 watts required for them to operate correctly. This, too, will cause HID lights to flicker. You can solve this problem by disabling daytime running lights, which isn't difficult.

Headlight Fuse

If a vehicle's headlights are running on a 10 or 15 ampere fuse, the amount of power delivered to HID lights may be insufficient to prevent them from flickering. Replacing the fuse with a 20-amp version will reduce the resistance and increase the amount of power supplied to the headlights without overloading the wiring.

About the Author

A full-time writer since 2006, David Dunning is a professional freelancer specializing in creative non-fiction. His work has appeared in "Golf Monthly," "Celtic Heritage," "Best of British" and numerous other magazines, as well as in the book "Defining Moments in History." Dunning has a Master of Science in computer science from the University of Kent.

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