We have a couple of Accords (2007 Honda Accord and 2006 Honda Accord) in our family and one of the characteristics that bothered me was the illumination provided by the headlights; low beams to be exact. While not exactly poor, it was mediocre at best.
I was going to buy some kind of a brighter bulb with shorter life, but while doing research stumbled upon a mention of a cool technology called something like halogen-infrared. The idea is to have a coating on the bulb that would reflect the infrared part of the spectrum back at the filament, causing it to heat up more. Originally developed by GE with the objective of providing 70% of brightness of HID at only 30% of the cost, these were made into an automotive application by Toshiba and by Philips.
The Toshiba bulbs had a strange spherical-like appearance and are no longer manufactured to my knowledge. Philips took over and now they have a third-generation bulb that fits my Accords with minimal modifications. It doesn’t have the strange shape of the Toshiba bulb. The bulb in question is the Philips HIR2 9012. It can be used in the 9006 (HB4) applications with two major caveats.
The Philips HIR2 9012 has the luminance of 1,870 lumens and rated life (from what I read online) of 1,400 hours. In contrast, the standard 9006 bulb is 1,000 lumens at anywhere between 800 and 1,000 hours. The “+30” 9006 bulb (a.k.a. “High Efficacy”) is 1,095 lumens and shorter life as a result.
If your car uses 9012 bulbs, just install it and off you go. But for 9006/HB4 bulb users, see below.
As you can see, replacing the 9006 bulb with the Philips HIR2 9012 would produce 87% more luminance and 40-75% longer life. The HIR2 uses same voltage and power as the 9006, fits the same wiring harness and is legal to use (but see below for important information). This is unlike some “offroad-only” bulbs or illegal HID conversion kits where the reflector is not replaced and the oncoming traffic is being blinded.
Caveats for Using In Place of 9006/HB
There are two important caveats.
Unlike The 9012 bulb doesn’t have coating on the tip. This means you can only use it in the 9006/HB4 application if your headlights have shields/reflectors in front of the bulb. Fortunately our Accords have it.The top tab on the housing of the 9012 bulb is longer and wider than that of the 9006 bulb. Fortunately it is super-easy to trim. You can find instructions how to do it all over the web. I was able to do it in less than a minute per bulb using my toolbox and strong nail clippers. And even if you make a mistake and trim too much, it won’t make any difference.
After I got the bulbs, I trimmed them (1 minute per bulb) and installed them (5 minutes per side). While driving, I saw a dramatic improvement in visibility with the low beams on. While the aiming and cutoff are still the same as with the previous bulbs, the brighter light results in me being able to see further and seeing more detail up close.
The illumination seems to be close to a midpoint between the stock 9006 light and the HID Xenon headlights in my 2004 Infiniti G35. The light seems to be somewhat whiter than stock, but doesn’t have the tint of fake “HID-like” bulbs.
Crystal Vision Version
There is a Philips "Crystal Vision" version of this bulb, which I ordered to try out but returned. While the brightness and color were ok, the package indicated a ridiculously low life of less than 300 hours. While they were somewhat cheaper per bulb than the HIR2 version I am mostly writing about here, they last 5 times less. For long life, go with the HIR2 I am referring to and linking to in this review.
As of 01/2018, I have used these bulbs for over 5 years so far. One of the cars I used them on was totaled, but the other still has them and they still work very well.
Pros: Excellent brightness, life, DOT-legal, sturdy, can be used in most cases instead of 9006/HB4.
Cons: Only use instead of 9006 if headlight has shields in front of bulb.
The improved illumination and longer life is achieved without modifying the housing, risking a fire or blinding oncoming traffic (or myself during the rain). And the cost of these bulbs is only $45 per pair.
While you can get 9006 bulbs that would produce light that looks bluer and might give someone who doesn’t know better an impression that you have true HID lights, those bulbs usually produce less light than stock. Some of those have a brighter center, fooling you into thinking that you got a brighter light. But this will make your distance vision worse. And most of those have very short lifespan; some as short as 200-350 hours. And they cost anywhere between $10 and $60 per pair (maybe more).
The Philips HIR2 9012 produce almost double the brightness and last several times longer (can be up to 7 times longer). Although my previous PIAA lights lasted 6 years and were still going when I replaced them, they produced less light at that age than the stock Sylvania lights and cost $30-55 at the time I bought them.
In conclusion: I highly recommend these bulbs to anyone with either 9012 housings or with housings that accept 9006 (HB4) bulbs. But in the latter case, make sure your headlights have the shields (see above).