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What Is a Projector Beam Headlight?

by Richard Rowe

Projector beam headlights can give any vehicle a sleek, modern look, and are standard equipment on many sports and high-end luxury cars. Their benefits and functionality have been argued for decades, but projector beams remain a popular retrofit for many older cars.


The first projector beam lighting system was designed for already-outdated acetylene headlights in 1911. The first modern projector headlights were used by Chrysler in 1969.


Projector beams use a concave lens surrounding the bulb to focus its light into a single point about an inch ahead of the lightbulb. This concentrated light is then dispersed by a lens into a tight beam focused on the road ahead.


The tightly controlled light pattern of projector beam headlight increases the lamp's range and brightness, and reduces glare for oncoming vehicles.


When on high-beam, projector beam lights tend to blind oncoming drivers, and their reduced dispersion pattern (reducing illumination of areas to the side of he car) can make tight night-time parking maneuvers a harrowing affair.


Many believe that projector beam headlights can be recognized by their intense blue-white color. This color is actually a result of the type of bulb used, and not the projector arrangement itself.

About the Author

Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.

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