This post will concentrate on fitting a HID (High Intensity Discharge) xenon kit to a vehicle that has a projector headlight fitted as standard, that includes the Ducati 848 and its big brothers, and the ST2 and ST4. Other bikes such as the older BMW R1100S also have projectors fitted and can be upgraded in the same way.
I would not consider fitting a HID xenon to any light that does not have a projector due to the HID giving out about 3 times as much light, (35 watt version) as a 55 watt halogen bulb. The shield in the projector stops any of that light straying into other road users eyes.
There are vendors on ebay who will try and sell halogen bulbs and call them HID or xenon, but they are halogen, if there is no ballast then it is not a HID. Ebay is the best and cheapest place to buy a kit, and most kits for sale in the US or Europe, started life in China and on ebay. Buying from ebay will also ensure that you are getting the very latest and smallest ballasts on the market rather than some previous generation, bigger ballasts from some ones old stock.
First decision to make is the power that you want, two versions are available, 35 or 55 watts. The standard halogen bulb fitted to your headlight is a 55 watt. The watts in these cases are a measure of electrical power consumed and not light output, that is measured in Lumen. A 35 watt HID xenon has nearly three times the light output of a 55 watt halogen. If you use a 35 watt HID xenon bulb then you must also use a 35 watt ballast.
The second decision is the colour of the bulb, measured in “k”, a 4300k is about the same white as daylight and a 6000k is bluer, but puts out no more light than the 4300k – bigger is not better. You also need to know what type of halogen bulb is used in your standard projector. The Ducati 848 etc use a H11 and the ST range a H1 or H3 (I can’t remember which).
Below is a kit that was ordered separately as a bulb and a ballast from ebay for around £8 for the lot.
The bulb is ringed in red. In this case it is a 6000k H11. It comes, as they all do, with the cable to supply 12 volt power to the red lead of the ballast and two plugs to take the very high voltage out of the ballast.
Here you see the connector for the 12 volt in, circled in red, and the two connectors for the bulb supply, circled in green. The hard part of installation is finding where to fit the ballast, but this ballast is a very thin modern one and fits behind the triangular panel inside the right mid fairing on the 848.
This shows the only part that needs to be fitted now the ballast is located. The HID bulb (green) needs to be fitted in place of the standard H11 halogen, and the two wires arrowed in red need to be fitted to the original plug supplying the halogen bulb. I avoid touching the bulb just as I would a halogen due to the oils in human skin. As the ballast will be outside of the headlight enclosure a rubber grommet is supplied to fill the hole than needs to be cut into the back of the headlight.
Does it make much difference? Well here is a short video that I made in my garage with the Gopro. The first light that you see is the 6000k HID xenon dip beam. The sharp beam cut off can clearly be seen.
When the main beam comes on (a standard 55 watt halogen H11) you can clearly see that it is not as bright and more yellow than the dip which stays on. At one stage I put my hand over the dip so that just the halogen main can be seen, that shows that it only lights toward the top as there is a shield inside that light too, it is just a dip fitted upside down! If that shield were removed there would be a better spread of light from the main. That will be the subject of another post.
The main thing is that people can see the difference between the two light technologies and can understand how a 35 watt HID xenon gives so much more light than a 55 watt halogen.
There is, however, one disadvantage to the HID, it does not light instantly like any other bulb, but takes a few seconds to come to full brightness. This is the reason that I will leave a halogen in the main beam for the flash function.
Doing this mod took me about 45 minutes and needed no special tools other then a 25 mm hole cutter to cut the plastic. It has been running for a few hundred miles without problem.