Guide: Headlight Bulbs & Your Mustang

2022 Ford Mustang Ecoboost

Buying new headlight bulbs for your Mustang may not be on the same scale as, say, shopping for performance upgrades or a new set of wheels. However, this does not mean you should just waltz into the nearest store and pick the first bulbs you see. 

It is crucial that you fully understand what suits your needs best, like the colour temperature, tint, bulb size and other specs. For instance, SuncentAuto offers a variety of LED headlight bulbs available for Mustangs, so it pays to double-check before buying. 

Evolution of headlights

Various types of headlights

Via LED Outfitters

Headlights first emerged in the 1880s, around the time automobiles were invented. However, they were very primitive in nature. Back then, headlights were little more than acetylene lamps that were quite complicated to use and served no aesthetic purpose.

In 1912, an electric bulb took the place of the acetylene lamp. The Cadillac Model 30 and the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost were among the first to get electric headlights. Then in the 1920s, the use of incandescent bulbs spread from premium luxury cars to more mainstream vehicles as the technology became more accessible.

The headlight continued to evolve over time, keeping pace with technological and design advancements. In 1919, Bosch introduced the two-filament lamp, and in 1962, Europe pioneered the first vehicle-mounted halogen lamp. The halogen lamp operated based on a chemical reaction between tungsten and halogen. Consequently, it was brighter, lasted longer and caused less damage than the other types.

Today, the primitive design and materials of old have given way to highly sophisticated laser and LED systems, incorporating systems that increase visibility and prevent glare, among other benefits.

Types of Headlights

Using bulb types as the criteria, headlights will typically fall into any of the four categories listed below.

  • Halogen headlights
  • HID headlights
  • LED headlights
  • Laser headlights

With halogen bulbs, the filament is surrounded by halogen gases (usually bromine and iodide). The gases ensure that the thin filament does not break and also prevent blackening of the bulb, a common problem with the earlier sealed beam headlight. Among other advantages, halogen bulbs are affordable and easy to replace. 

HID, short for High-Intensity Discharge, is more commonly referred to as Xenon headlights. They emit light when an electric power arc passes across a pair of electrodes encased in a glass tube. The glass tube is filled with xenon gas and vaporized metals like mercury. Xenon headlights are famous for the bluish-white light they give off. They illuminate the road for greater distances compared to halogen bulbs. However, there is the risk of night vision loss, especially for oncoming drivers in the vehicle’s path.

LED-accented headlights on the 2024 Ford Mustang

Via Motortrend

LED (Light Emitting Diodes) headlights convert electricity into light via diodes present within the headlights. They are energy-efficient and can be turned off and on instantly, unlike HID headlights, which take a few seconds to warm up. Another advantage of LEDs is that they can be designed to emit any colour of the spectrum and do not blind oncoming traffic. However, they are expensive compared to halogen or HID bulbs, partly due to the technology involved.

Compared to the other types, laser headlights are relatively new in the automotive industry. The BMW i8 was the first production car fitted with laser headlights. These lights illuminate through chemiluminescence, a fancy term that just means they emit light as a product of a chemical reaction. They are more efficient than LED bulbs but also generate more heat, meaning that laser headlights require more sophisticated cooling systems. They are also the most expensive, costing up to $10,000 per set.

Apart from bulb types, headlights can also be classified according to headlight housing and the number of bulbs in each assembly.

Finding the right headlight for your Mustang

Evolution of Ford Mustang over the years with different headlight designs

Via Business Insider

It’s clear at this point that finding the right headlight for your Mustang can be tricky – and it’s not just because about the different headlight options. The Mustang was first introduced in 1964. Since then, there have been six generations (with the seventh expected for the 2024 model year). 

The table below shows the suitable headlight bulbs for various Mustangs, depending on the generation and model year

Generation Year Headlights Remarks
1st 1964 – 1973 Halogen H4 Headlights (Sealed beam) (H4 means the bulb has two filaments in the bulb housing and one lamp base plate). Any H4 headlights will do but the authentic ones have a tiny ‘FoMoCo’ logo in the centre. Non-serviceable. The entire unit has to be replaced
2nd 1974 – 1978 Halogen H4 Headlights (Sealed beam) Non-serviceable. The entire unit has to be replaced
3rd 1979 – 1986 Halogen H4 Headlights (Sealed beam) Non-serviceable. The entire unit has to be replaced
1987 – 1993 9004 Series/HB1 Bulb
4th 1994 – 2004 9007 Series/HB5 Headlight Bulb These are dual beam bulbs with two filaments and serve as both high beam and low beam headlights within the same bulb.
5th 2005 – 2014 9008 Series/H13 Headlight bulb
2007 – 2012 (Mustangs with factory HID headlights) D3S HID Headlight Bulb Some ‘07 – ‘12 Mustangs have optional HID lights from the factory.
2013 – 2014 D3S HID Headlight Bulb HID lights are fitted as standard.
6th 2015 – 2017 D3S HID Headlight Bulb HID lights are fitted as standard.
2018 – Present LED Headlights Mustangs with sealed headlight assemblies; non-serviceable and designed to last the life of the vehicle.

Ford Mustang with colourful aftermarket LED headlights

Sources –,

Other Considerations

Via Autoledtech

One of the obvious reasons to shop for headlights is to replace defective or damaged units. It is not only a safety hazard but is also illegal in most parts of the world to drive around with non-functioning headlights. Apart from this, though, there are other reasons why someone would want to purchase new headlights. 

No shortage of options when it comes to headlight styles and designs

Via The HID factory

For instance, headlights can dramatically alter the appearance of the front end of a vehicle, and ultimately the overall aesthetics. That is why it is important to be very deliberate about the choice of headlight bulbs. There is more flexibility when it comes to non-classic era Mustangs and headlight options. After identifying the right bulb for your headlight, there are other factors you may want to consider. If you opt for HID or LED bulbs, for example, what colour temperature would be most ideal? How about the overall fit with the profile of your Mustang’s front end? Are you looking to stand out with your new headlights? 

You may not have answers to all the questions but the aftermarket for Mustang headlights  – places like SuncentAuto – can guide you into making the selection that would best suit your needs.