The Difference Between H16 and 5202 Bulbs

If you go to the website store and look at their H16 replacement halogen light bulbs for cars and trucks you will see this picture. PIAA, an automotive lighting superpower in the aftermarket world, is one of the few replacement light bulb companies out there who has gotten this right!

According to H16 is not the same as 5202!

According to H16 is not the same as 5202!

The H16 automotive light bulb is part of the H9/H11 bulb family and it is very similar to H8, H9, H11 and H15. It is characterized by having a traditional right-angled style connector input base, a large rubber o-ring below the metal tabs and 3 metal tabs spaced evenly apart around the base to lock it in place. The biggest difference between H8, H9, H11 and H16 are both the wattage levels that they run at and whether or not they have a painted on reflector cap at the top of the glass tube. H16 is most commonly used in fog lights, whereas the H11 is most commonly used in headlights. Therefore, you’ll see H11 bulbs that look almost identical to H16 bulbs but have higher wattages than H16 and they will also have a slightly different pin configuration, but with some manipulation you could swap an H16 and H11 around if you really wanted to.

So where did the confusion for H16 and 5202 bulbs come from? Well, first of all until very recently there were hardly any vehicles out there that used an H16 bulb in America. Then, I’m guessing some uninformed light bulb manufacturer in Asia somewhere one day decided that they didn’t know what a real H16 bulb was and there was some confusion. One thing led to another and they started classifying 5202 light bulbs as H16, 5202, 9009, etc… This is wrong!! You will never see a Sylvania or Philips or other OEM bulb labeled as H16 that looks like a 5202. Here are some popular LED versions of these different bulbs:

5202 LED Bulbs from GTR Lighting:


H11 / H16 LED Bulbs from GTR Lighting:

I hope you learned something new about different types of replacement automotive bulbs from this article and really the goal here is to educate people on different lighting products so you can make the right decision next time you spend your hard earned money. From an enthusiast standpoint, the last thing you need is to order a part for your vehicle, it shows up and it’s the wrong thing…. ugh.

So if you have a 2014 Toyota Tundra and you’re trying to find some cool LED fog lights for your stock H16 fog light bulbs, try one of these!

What’s the difference between HID and Halogen lights?

Halogen vs Xenon Bulbs

Just because the bulbs are shaped similarly, doesn’t mean they share many traits.

The original automobiles literally used lamps (glass housing with a candle burning inside) to light the way on the roads, similar to how people would light the way on horseback. And I’m sure you’ve heard of Thomas Edison, who invented the first long-lasting incandescent light bulb in 1879, what most vehicles use in their modern day headlamps are based off of his original designs. A standard light bulb has a filament, and it gets electricity applied to each side of the filament and when this happens the filament gets very hot and reaches a state of incandescence. This is why we call light bulbs with filaments, incandescent light bulbs. High-power incandescent light bulbs used in car headlights are filled with a gas called Halogen, and it reacts to the brightly glowing filament and creates a massive amount of light, up to 1,200 Lumen of light output. This is why we call standard automotive headlights “halogen bulbs”.

This is not to be confused with Xenon or HID bulbs – they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. An HID light bulb (stands for High Intensity Discharge) is filled with Xenon gas which reacts to the spark created inside the HID bulb. This xenon gas is ignited and creates a vast and powerful amount of light output that can be measured in thousands of Lumen, depending on the power consumption (normally 35w, 55w or 75w). Today, a vehicle that comes factory-equipped with xenon lighting uses a 35w lighting system.

A Xenon HID bulb does not have a filament, instead it has two electrodes that meet inside the xenon-glass filled bulb. A ballast is used to send up to 24,000 volts of AC electricity that creates a powerful spark and ignites the xenon gas mixture. This process is sustained and produces the exuberant amount of light output:

HID Bulb Explained

A true HID bulb uses a ballast to ignite the chemical mixture inside. It does not use a filament.

  • Xenon is 300 times brighter than halogen
  • Xenon can last 10 times longer than halogen
  • Xenon produces cleaner, whiter, brighter and safer light
  • A 35W Xenon bulb consumes less power than a 55W Halogen bulb
  • Halogen bulbs burn hotter than the same wattage Xenon bulbs

Upgrading your headlights from halogen bulbs to HID technology will make a huge difference in visibility at night by projecting a further beam of light and broadening your road coverage. You will see further, see more and be more visible to other drivers. The sooner you can see hazards on the road, the more time you have to react.

Halogen bulbs operate at 12V and use old lighting technology by heating a wire filament to emit light. Over a short period of time that wire filament becomes brittle, and small vibrations caused by everyday driving causes damage to the halogen filament affecting it’s light output and the bulb’s reliability.

xenon versus halogen

Difference between incandescent halogen light bulbs and HID xenon light bulbs.

What’s the Difference Between D1C and D3C?

D3C HID Bulb

See the green base? Means “Environmentally Friendly”!

Since the late 1990’s some automobile manufacturers like Ford, Audi and Mercedes Benz have been using xenon high intensity discharge headlights as an option for consumers when buying a new vehicle and the most common OEM HID bulb had been the D1 series bulb. First there was D1R (for reflector housings) then there was D1S (for shielded housings AKA projectors). The “R” type bulbs have a painted section designed to block light output to a certain part of the housing thus helping to create a safe output pattern. The “S” type bulbs have nothing on the bulb itself because the shield is inside the projector housing.

Then along came the D2 series bulbs, and again we started to see the D2R and then the D2S, with R and S meaning the same thing as the D1 series bulbs.

D2R Light Bulb

The D2R with painted on shield for use in reflector housings.

D2S HID Bulb

The D2S with nothing on the bulb, designed for projector housings.

Now that you have a clear understanding of the difference between the D2 style OEM xenon bulbs and the D1 style OEM bulbs, now I can show you the newest evolution in OEM high intensity discharge lighting – Introducing The Green Movement!

Enter D3 and D4 OE bulbs, D1 and D3 are in the same family, so are D2 and D4. D1 and D3 have an igniter built into the base, whereas D2 and D4 rely on the igniter inside of it’s accompanied ballast. The biggest difference between the D1/D2 VS D3/D4 bulbs is that these new D3 and D4 bulbs use no mercury and require less energy to turn on! The easiest way to tell the difference between a new No-Mercury bulb and the old style is to look at the part that the wire harness connects to and you will see it is green (see top picture).

Many vehicles today are using this type of D3 bulb, including the new Ford Mustang, Ford Flex and all new Audi vehicles like the A3, A4, Q5 and S5. When you are shopping for OEM style D1S, D1R, D1C, D2S, D2R, D2C, D3S, D3R or D3C HID bulbs, you also should know the difference between the S, R and C identifiers. Manufacturers want to make it hard to put the wrong bulb inside your factory HID headlight housing, so they built the bulbs with little notches allowing them to only fit the correct housing type, but otherwise they are identical.


The “C” type base replaces both “R & S” type bulbs.

As you can see, the D2C / D1C / D3C / D4C bulbs are all designed to replace either the S or R type bulbs because they have all of the notches for any application. This is great because it allows the cost of the bulb to be less than an OEM product due to needing to inventory only one bulb per style instead of 2 or 3. Before I let you go into the world to buy HID bulbs for your xenon equipped whip, let me make a few things clear:

1. The “C” type based-bulbs are a great option for replacing any OEM style bulb.

2. You CANNOT replace a D3 bulb with a D1 bulb! They will physically fit, but the bulb, ballast or both will be damaged when you turn it on.

3. You CANNOT replace a D4 bulb with a D2 bulb! They will physically fit, but the bulb, ballast or both will be damaged when you turn it on.

4. D1 and D2 xenon bulbs use Mercury. D3 and D4 xenon bulbs are Mercury-free!

5. Philips and other OEM producers of xenon lighting in cars DOES NOT offer anything besides 4,300K bulbs. All bulbs listed as Philips or Sylvania in other colors are fakes!