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HID Ballast Startup & Stabilization

One very important function of the HID ballast is startup and stabilization. When you reach to click on your headlights, signals are sent through the switch in the vehicle, to relays pulling 12 volts of power directly to your ballasts. The ballasts then take those 12 volts and convert them to 20,000+ volts and around 9-10 amps. This creates the arc of electricity within the HID bulb’s capsule (known as startup), that ignites the Xenon gas & salts. Less than 1 second later the amperage output is automatically adjusted within the ballasts to around 4-5 as the arc is stabilizing. During the next 30 seconds or so (time varies depending on make/model of the bulbs and ballasts) amperage drops to 3-4 as the HID bulb is fully warmed up.High Voltage Warning

If a poorly designed/poor quality, old/worn out or damaged HID ballast is being used it can cause a number of issues. The most common is odd coloring during the startup/stabilization phase. Any pinkish, reddish or off color hues can indicate improper voltage or a malfunctioning unit. The ballast should be replaced.

Another common indicator of a faulty ballast is bulb flickering. This of course means all the connections and wiring to the ballasts/bulbs is solid and in tact. Flickering during operation or the bulb warmup can be a sign of a bad ballast.

Ballast Ignition Arc

What about ballast hot-start or hot-strike? A hot-start or hot-strike is when you’ve been using the HID headlights for a set amount of time (let’s say 30 minutes) during driving and the lights are briefly shut off then re-started again. This is where having a good quality ballast can pay off. HID bulbs do NOT like to be cycled on and off – it’s actually recommended that in between every use cycle the bulb is allowed to cool (generally 15-30 minutes). In the real world this happens more often then not. Will an HID bulb be harmed if turned back on without full cool down time – very minimally (next to nothing at all). But if a ballast/bulb is repeatedly fired on/off to “show-off” startup or in a high beam situation (not a bi-xenon setup) then this can drastically decrease the lifespan of the bulb and ballast.

The Morimoto brand ballasts for example have hot-circuit protection built in. They can’t be rapidly cycled on/off within a set time frame.

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