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Upselling: Halogen bulbs

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In a new series, Rob Marshall looks at how you can offer added-value services to your customer, while exceeding their expectations, driving loyalty and enhancing your margins.

Bulbs are always a hot topic at this time of year. While they tend to be distress purchases, there are opportunities to upsell your services, provided that your customer is not bamboozled with information overload. 

WHAT TO RECOMMEND 

As some cars require extensive dismantling to replace a simple exterior halogen bulb, you might be faced justifying a relatively high labour charge to renew a comparably inexpensive component. Recommending a long-life replacement may help disperse any suspicions that may have arisen to reassure the customer that you have their best interests at heart. Examples of extended life halogen bulbs include Osram’s Ultra Life, Philip’s LongLifeEcoVision and Ring Automotive’s Long Life ranges. 

While an alignment check might address a complaint that the headlamps are ineffective, be wary that older beam testers are incompatible with the latest OEM technologies, such as LED matrix. Deteriorated reflectors might condemn older halogen lamps but, provided that a pattern is still evident, you could advise that an upgraded bulb is installed that uses a white, or bluer output to replace yellow light, coupled with a brighter glowing filament. These tend to offer superior reflection from road surfaces and signage but do not dazzle oncoming drivers, which is an offence, while staying within the colour and brightness limits that are specified by Type Approval. Yet, the range of halogen upgrade bulbs is quite bewildering, so request marketing support literature from your parts wholesaler, or chosen lighting supplier. Examples include the Nightbreaker silver/Nightbreaker laser ranges from Osram, Xenon5000/Xenon150/Xenon130/Xenonmax/Ultraxenon/ Xenonstar+/Xtremeblue/Iceblue from Ring Automotive, RacingVision/WhiteVision/X-Treme from Philips and the upgraded bulb set from Neolux, sold by Euro Car Parts. 

As with all engineering, there are compromises. Notably, in the Type Approval standards, bulb life is not considered. This is why trusting a recognised bulb brand is important, as it will conduct internal lifetime tests. Generally, a long life halogen bulb might give out slightly less light but a high performance upgrade is likely to have a shorter life. 

Consider offering auxiliary lighting, such as daytime running lamps for older cars, but only if the light units are road legal by being E-marked, confirming the mandatory Type Approval compliance.

MOVING GOAL POSTS 

Changing light sources is a different matter. Since last May, the MOT Test enforces the existing legislation by singling out HID conversion bulbs, fitted to halogen headlamps. Yet, consider also that LED conversion bulbs used in headlamps (and all exterior housings for that matter) are not road legal for the same reasons, despite not being mentioned specifically in the MOT Test manual. 

Should your customer wish to upgrade lighting sources legally, the entire unit lamp must be changed. Swapping halogen with used HID headlamps may not be possible because of wiring, programming and hardware conflicts, not least the absence of washer jets on most, but not all, OEM applications. 

WHAT NOT TO RECOMMEND 

Obtained mainly from dubious online sources, never be tempted to supply LED conversion bulbs to any exterior lamp on a road- going vehicle. Even if the customer supplies a non-Type Approved bulb for you to install, you will be breaking the law, because it is an offence to fit vehicle parts that do not comply with the required Construction and Use stipulations (UK Road Traffic Act 1988). 

There is an opportunity to replace HID headlamp burners that still work. Over time, standard-fit HID light output reduces, as seen here that compares a new bulb against the beam pattern of one that is four years’ old. Fitting a new pair is not a task meant solely for a main dealership.
(Image courtesy of Ring Automotive).

While The European Commission confirmed to Autotechnician that, under UN Vehicle Regulations (1958), only Type-Approved lighting systems can be sold legally in the EU, and Brexit will make no difference to this stance, it is most interesting that even respected bulb manufacturers and retailers are selling non-Type Approved LED conversion bulbs in the UK aftermarket (notably, we understand that they were banned in Germany in 2017) marking the part as for ‘Off-Road 

Use Only’. Sometimes, this statement is not placed in a prominent position on either packaging, or catalogues. Despite this, we are aware that Trading Standards has approached a retailer of non-approved automotive bulbs, stating that this codicil would not be acceptable. Therefore, we cannot recommend that you source, or fit, a non-Type Approved lamp to any road-going car. 

Original LED units are sealed but repair might be possible, with some lateral thinking. While each LED module cannot be replaced easily, you may be able to split the lamp apart. The resistance of the remaining resistors on this brake light were measured and the rusted ones replaced. The parts cost was under £3.00 and took an hour, compared with over £80.00+VAT for a new component.

Bulbs are one of the few replacement parts that must be Type Approved, which balances performance against causing dazzle through excessive light scatter. Any bulb that you supply and fit to a road-going car must be E-marked. Pictured left is a road-legal halogen bulb, pictured right is a non- road legal ‘Frankenstein’ alternative, possessing a halogen base and an LED top.

 

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