PIAA Replacement Headlight Bulbs

Pros: Fairly easy to replace, same wattage, brighter light, whiter light
Cons: Can’t see more any more road, same coverage area as stock bulbs
Cost: $70

I’ve always been unhappy with the headlight performance on my 1998 M roadster. The brightness of the headlights was okay but the light coverage area was terrible. BMW has apparently designed the headlights with more concern for oncoming traffic than the Z3 driver. There is a dead space (I call it the black hole) that is just left of center. The problem is that if I was driving on a road that was turning to the left (like in the picture above) the black hole ended up being RIGHT in the middle of the lane I was trying to drive in. I’ve never been comfortable driving my car at night because of this. Even after repeated attempts to adjust the aiming of the headlights I still wasn’t comfortable with the results. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to start throwing money at the problem and see if that would fix it.

PIAA makes replacement headlight bulbs (model number 9006) that are the same wattage (51 watts) as the stock Sulvania bulbs, but claim to produce brighter, whiter light without producing additional heat. The pair of bulbs cost a hefty $70 but my frustration with the stock headlights made the purchasing decision easier to swallow. I waited until after dark and then drove the roadster to a dark road so I could take before and after pictures. Replacing the bulbs wasn’t simple, but only took about 10 minutes for each side (picture to the right was taken after upgrading only the left side). It would have been a lot easier if I had tiny hands, but the PIAA instructions repeatedly warned about not letting anything touch the bulb so it was difficult to maneuver everything in the tight space. (I’m sure working on a dark road also made it more difficult but it was necessary for this article.

After getting both headlight bulbs replaced my first reaction was “Wow”. But then I took a longer look and went back to my before and after pictures to confirm my suspicions. I think everyone will agree that the PIAA bulbs are whiter and brighter, but if you look at the pictures closely you will notice that the PIAA bulbs don’t light up any additional area, which is what I really intended to do with this upgrade. So now I have brighter and whiter headlights, but my roadster really isn’t any safer to drive at night.