Start your Volkswagen after dark and it's easy to tell if you've got a headlight out. But just because a bulb is lit, doesn't mean it is lighting. Or that it is giving you enough light to see what's in front of you in the dark to keep you out of danger.

Car headlights, halogen or xenon HID, lose their light output over time. In just 500 to 1,000 hours of use, or after around five years for most drivers, light output can drop considerably. That can cause you big problems on the road at night, leaving you unable to see vehicles, pedestrians, animals, and other obstacles in the roadway.

Not sure if your lights aren't their brightest? Park next to a newer vehicle, turn on your lights, and you'll quickly spot the difference.

Need new lights? Here are the best headlight bulbs for your Volkswagen, as chosen by you our forum readers and by our team of automotive experts.

Sylvania Silverstar Ultra

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Sylvania Silverstar Ultra light bulbs advertise themselves as the brightest you can get. Throwing more and whiter light down the road to boost your nighttime visibility and safety. The bulbs, as recommended by @Radec Aksarben and @rkelsey1, use a proprietary mix of halogen gases and a special coil design to boost their light output. Sylvania has been supplying automotive lighting for more than 100 years, and the company knows its stuff. One trade-off of the brighter light is that the bulbs may burn out more quickly than some others. If you need peak night light, that's probably an acceptable deal. Silverstar Ultra bulbs have a one-year warranty, helping reduce some of that risk.


Sylvania zXe

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Sylvania's zXe bulbs are a halogen bulb designed to give you the look of a xenon high-intensity discharge light. They're not quite as bright as the Ultra model, but they do offer longer bulb life. The special gas mix and a cobalt blue coating give these bulbs an ultra-white light output. It's light that looks almost blue, just like factory HID bulbs. If you don't want to make the upgrade to full HID housings and new bulbs and ballasts, this is a great way to modernize the appearance of your Volkswagen while helping improve nighttime visibility.


Fire Hawk LED

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User @patlew recommends drop-in LED replacement bulbs from Fire Hawk. This style of LED light is designed to fit into the same housing as your halogen bulb, and uses the extra efficiency of an LED to give light output a massive boost. They're popular upgrades and should give you a long and bright life, but we do have to mention one thing: Putting LED lights into a housing not designed for them can actually make things worse. The beam pattern can be wrong, the housings can overheat, and you may blind other drivers.


Hella High Performance 2.0

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Hella is another company that has been supplying automotive lighting for decades. The company's High Performance 2.0 light bulbs give your Volkswagen up to double the light output of new stock bulbs thanks to an optimised filament design and a special mix of gases. The bulbs offer a bright white light as well, making it easier on your eyes in the dark. Importantly, they offer more light while meeting North American and European lighting standards.


Philips NightGuide Platinum

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Philips says its NightGuide Platinum bulbs can illuminate up to 130 percent of what you can see with standard headlight bulbs. Like other bulbs on this list, they do it by using a special mixture of gases and a proprietary light filament that performs better than standard parts. These lights are a 3400k color output, making them a lot more like your factory headlight color and not a super bright white. Some people prefer that, especially in rain and fog situations. Again the trade-off is bulb life, Philips rates these are just 200 hours of life.


Osram Xenarc HID

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When it comes time to replace dimming HID bulbs, finding a quality replacement can be tougher. Osram is a leader in these bulbs, and the company's Xenarc series are some of the best. These Cool Blue lights give you a slightly more blue light at night, which some users like better than a standard warm yellow. They also offer 20 percent more light than a standard HID bulb, letting you see even more of what's down the road ahead.


Bulb Replacement Tips

Never touch the glass of a replacement headlight bulb. The oils from your fingers get on the bulb and can cause it to burn out in just a few minutes of use. It's an expensive mistake to make.

Always replace in pairs. If your left light has burned out, chances are your right bulb is nearing the end of its life too. That means it is putting out less light than it should be. Replace both bulbs to maximize light output and to make sure you aren't driving home on one headlight again in the near future.

If your light housings are yellowed or faded, think about a headlight restoration kit. These kits let you buff away that oxidation and bring back the clear plastic that allows the most light to go down the road instead of bouncing around the housing. Along with new headlight bulbs in your VW, this can make your nighttime driving like new again.

Lead photo by Ulianenko Dmitrii/

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