Headlight Tech : Clear Lenses

Maximize the performance of the projector compared to the “detuned” stock lenses.

Most OEM projectors out there come standard with what is known as “fresnel” lenses. These projector lenses have circular lines molded into their surface, and are often produced with less than optically clear glass. So what? Well the fresnel lines and frosted/ translucent glass dim the output and soften the beam pattern so the projectors aren’t performing to their full potential. A true clear lens will help maximize the performance of the projector compared to the “detuned” stock lenses. Think of a projector just like any other original part on your car, of course there will always be an aftermarket performance/aesthetic upgrade available. Why doesn’t the car come with the most free flowing exhaust from the factory? Why aren’t the throw’s in the transmission shorter? The brakes stronger? The headlights brighter?

Note that very few cars in the US domestic market come from the factory with clear lenses mounted on the projectors used inside their headlights; European vehicles are spec’d with clear lenses much more often. In fact, when retrofitting headlights started gaining in popularity several years ago, it was usually only possible to obtain clear lenses for a upgrade swap from “ECE” (Euro spec) headlights. (Thanks DOT!) Now, TRS offers a full line of 2.5″ and 3″ optically clear projector lenses for most projectors on the market. So whether you’re looking to enhance the output on the units you’ll be retrofitting, or the detuned factory projectors in your higher-end vehicle, we likely have an upgrade for your application.

Some exceptions to the rule (at least, when considering OEM options) are the Honda S2000 and Acura TSX projectors, which come with factory-installed clear lenses. Before TRS offered clear lenses as a separate accessory, these projectors were among the most popular for their above average performance. Coincidence? We think not. Lets take a look at some of the benefits that optically clear projector lenses have to offer.

Things to Consider

Picking the right diameter will ensure a proper fit, and picking the correct focus height will ensure you can obtain a beam pattern that is well focused. Getting as close as possible to the stock lens’s focus height is a good idea, but if you’re off by 1-2 mm it is possible to re-focus the beam pattern with lens or cutoff shield spacing.

— Do your projectors use a 2.5 inch or a 3 inch diameter lens?
— How thick is your stock lens from the flat surface on the back to the top of the rounded crest?
— The most common focus heights are 22mm, 27mm, and 30mm.

Performance

Light intensity: It’s pretty simple here. The lens is what actually projects the light forward and onto the ground. The more clear it is, the more light it’s capable of shining on the road.

Beam width: A projector’s beam pattern will dim towards its outer edges naturally. Because a clear lens enhances intensity throughout the entire beam, the very edges of the output will be brighter, giving it the effect of increased width.

Beam uniformity: Clear lenses help smooth out the beam by brightening up dark spots to help improve the overall distribution of light.


Clear Lens Aesthetics

Cutoff sharpness: Beam pattern definition will be greatly enhanced with a razor sharp light cutoff line to separate the light from darkness.

Color flicker: Compared to a Fresnel or translucent/foggy glass lens, an optically clear lens will add a band of colorful light across the top of the beam’s cutoff line when set up correctly. This will ultimately enhance the aesthetic appeal of your output from an onlooker’s perspective. The result is known as “color flicker” – this exotic effect occurs as this band of colorful light passes in and out of the field of vision of onlookers as you drive down a bumpy road or over the crest of a hill. Using a clear lens and a relatively low Kelvin bulb such as a 4300K or 5000K, you’ll get the best of both worlds – great “flashy” looks coupled with maximum luminosity. From a distance, the headlights will flash through the colors appearing in your colorband (ie aqua/blue/purple) but standing next to the car at night, the headlights will appear to have a normal white output.

Often times, people think they can achieve the color flicker effect simply by using a high Kelvin bulb such as an 8000K or 10000K, but they’re really just changing the color (and reducing the intensity) of the light within the beam and not adjusting the hues in the cutoff line itself. In comparison to the situation above, your headlights will appear ridiculously blue/purple from a distance, and you’ll still look like an idiot from close up. The actual “flicker” will be reduced, as it’s being drowned out by the color of the actual light being emitted.


Our Recommendation for Retrofitters

Unless your projectors come pre-optimized with clear lenses like most Morimoto’s do, you’ll definitely want to spend the extra money on these. As an upgrade over the stock lenses on most OEM projectors, the benefits are well worth the added cost. If you’re unsure what lens is right for your projectors, we’ll be glad to recommend the correct one for your projectors. Want clear lenses but can’t justify the cost? Check out the discounted version (available under each listing in the drop down box) – they’re in close to perfect condition, and offer the same level of increased performance as the full price version.

As an upgrade to enhance the real and aesthetic performance of headlight projectors, optically clear projector lenses are becoming more popular than ever. Marginal benefit compared to cost, a clear lens swap is worth every penny compared to some other component upgrades.