I was just tellin myself I need to do a write up on the subject and I stumbled across your post.
1) A lot of people run the SilverStars with no problems. They are probably the least expensive option for headlight upgrades that actually improve some over stock lighting. Most noticeable is the whiter color you get out of them. They have a slight hint of blue but not enough to be "ricer" or anything.
2) Your next best bet (which of course cost more) is to do an H4 conversion. This is a real popular conversion with a couple options. First you have to decide on which H4 housings you want. Here is a breakdown of the 3 based on my personal opinion. A lot will agree, some will disagree, so just remember its just my personal opinion.
- Ebay housings (anything that is less than $20 each, often called "diamond cut" or some other sly disguise of a name: Avoid them at all costs. Plastic housings that can melt, non researched beam patterns, just blobs of light, basically cheap overseas made crap.
- Hella Housings: In my opinion they are the best. I run them on my personal XJ and have ran them in a couple prior vehicles. They give a sharp cutoff so you don't blind on coming traffic. The project light decently to the sides as very well straight ahead. They have a small beam towards the right that aims up a little to light up the right side a little more. They are roughly $80/pair online. I've found them for about $95/pair locally.
- Cibie Housings: I personally have never used these nor seen one in person but I have read tons and tons of personal reviews of these headlights. After filtering out the reviews that are obviously so good because the owner is so proud of their purchase, I've learned that these housings are an equal to the Hella's. The tend to shine to the sides a little better but not as far straight out. Their high beam is a little more precisely aimed. But you also pay more for them. Best prices I was finding was about $120/pair online, I've never found them locally.
- IPF Housings: are very popular. I've seen them in person and they appear to work well untill put side by side with a Hella or Cibie where it is obvious they are not as effecient or precise. While IPF tends to make quality parts and are popular in the off road market it is understandable why many people still use them and swear by them. They are still a definate upgrade over stock sealed beams but are a decent 3rd compared to the Hella or Cibie options.
3) Once you choose a housing you need to choose a bulb. Aftermarket bulbs are an area I've had a ton of personal experience as I've ran just about every high dollar bulb out there. (remember that last sentence). I'm gonna not necessarily name brands here but give you some basics about headlight bulbs...
- A 55 watt bulb can only make 55 watts of light. Several companies advertise and promote their bulbs as 55/60w ---> 100/110w. What they are trying to say is that for whatever special reason their bulb that is only 55w will produce the equivelent of 100 watts. Not true, it is a carefully worded marketing scheme that isn't technically false advertising but is definatly misleading.
- The only way to get 80w of light output is from an 80w bulb. Don't fall into the marketing schemes.
- All those really neat blue, superwhite, hyperwhite, crystal ion, etc. coatings don't really help. If your goal is to produce a certain color light or want to imitate HID by getting a "HID" type bulb then there are many quality brands and models to choose from. But if your goal is to produce as much safe useable light as you can, these are not for you. All those "special" coatings they put on to create those colors and advertise as producing higher wattage actually lower your light output. At first glance in dry conditions it may appear that these bulbs are brighter and thats because the whiter light is a lot more noticeable in dry conditions to the naked eye. It tends to appear to reflect more and tricks the eye a little. But once into stormy wet weather this super white color will be nearly useless at moisture tends to absorb it more than reflect it.
- You can run any 55w bulb safely with your stock wiring doing no upgrades. Even if they advertise it as "projected" 100w, as long as it is a 55w bulb at heart. If you want to run higher wattage bulbs you will need an upgraded harness to do so safely.
More to come about the harness next.
4) Upgraded Harness: is a must if you want to safely run higher wattage bulbs. Many people will tell you that they have run xx watt bulbs on stock wiring with no problems and while this may be true, its asking for trouble. A stock headlight wiring harness in many vehicles is made of thin wire which is routed poorly through many plugs and a switch. They tend to not deliver a full 12volts to the headlights, let alone the 12.5-14 volts that most alternators/batteries actually run at. The upgraded harness essentially uses 30amp relays to pull power directly from the battery/alternator using thicker wire to the headlights themselves. There are very few connections in between and no switch as the relays act as the switch. Delivering slightly higher voltage at a greater amperage capacity makes a large improvement in how your headlights perform. There are several manufacturers of these harnesses and tend to range $90-$150. I also make these harnesses and sell them at a more affordable price. If you are interested in one PM me and we can talk.
With all that said let me tell you about my personal setup right now. I run Hella housings along with one of my upgraded harnesses. I ran with high dollar PIAA bulbs untill a week ago when I swapped them out for some $10 no name 80/100w made in Germany bulbs. Let me tell you this, these are the cheapest bulbs I've ever bought and they are the biggest upgrade I've made over any of my past bulbs. I don't have the bling hyper white color or anything but I tell you what, they throw down some light and in stormy wet weather, I can still see where I'm going.