Sylvania Lights The Path To Good Service With Bulb Replacements

SJ replaced his Volkswagen’s bulbs with Sylvania Silverstar lights that were twice as expensive, only to watch them fail after three months of use. Disappointed, since the standard bulbs lasted for three years, SJ wrote to Sylvania telling them that he expected, at a minimum, a voucher for new bulbs. Sylvania’s response managed to brighten his day…

SJ writes:

I borrowed some of your tips on how to write a letter to a company earlier this month, and it worked. I just wanted to give credit where credit is due, Consumerist and OSRAM Sylvania.

4 months ago or so, the 3 year old headlights in my Volkswagen finally started to go out. I always swap in pairs, and decided to try Sylvania Silverstar bulbs for both my high and low beams. They’re not exactly cheap, but the performance I got from the bulbs was more than worth the price. After 3 months, one of the low beams fried, then the other. I wrote an email to them via a web form on the site…

“In late October of 2008, I purchased 4 Silverstar bulbs at Autozone for my 2005 Volkswagen GTI after the OEM low beams had begun to fail. The original bulbs lasted over 3 years.

Unfortunately, your product has not performed well. After a little over 3 months of use, last night one of the low beams failed. This was astounding to me considering the Silverstar bulbs cost twice as much as the OEM replacements. I have now replaced both low beams with standard OEM replacements.

To resolve the problem I would appreciate either a coupon or voucher that would allow me to obtain new Sylvania bulbs when the remaining bulbs in my vehicle fail. The only numbers on the base of the failed bulbs are (OSRAM 64210ST / H7U).”

At this point I didn’t have the receipt anymore, but the next day they advised me to send the bulbs back with a copy of their response. I sent them out last week, and got not just one, but two pairs of Silverstar H7 bulbs for my VW today in the mail.

Thanks again for the tips on how to talk to a company about a product that didn’t meet expectations, it worked perfect! My faith in Sylvania is restored as well.

Good work, Sylvania! Although once again, we’re reminded that price and quality don’t necessarily mean the same thing.

Comments

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  1. downwithmonstercable says:

    I should have tried that. I don’t know how many times I’ve had sylvania bulbs burn out after just a few months. I finally have given up and started using regular OEM style bulbs for my cars. I think the longest a Silverstar has ever lasted me was six months. Which at nearly 40 bucks a pair, seems like a huge ripoff.

    • Darren W. says:

      @downwithmonstercable: I’ve had the same experience, except that this latest set seems to be holding out pretty well. Either way, good post Consumerist!

    • crashman2600 says:

      @downwithmonstercable: I have tried these bulbs several times over the past few years and I have always had the same results. They burn out after a few months. I always end up going back to the OEM style bulbs.

    • tmyprod says:

      @downwithmonstercable:

      Mine only lasted about 6-7 months. I was talking to the guy at Schucks and he said lots of people complain about the Sylvania bulbs.

    • Veeber says:

      @downwithmonstercable: I’ve been finding that if you buy the regular bulb it lasts for the year. If you try one of the brighter halogen bulbs they actually burn out faster. You probably don’t need the brighter bulbs, just go with the standard.

      Low beam headlamp
      H1
      H1ST Silverstar High Performance Lighting: The Whiter and Brighter Halogen
      H1XV XtraVision Halogen – The Brighter Light

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure there was absolutely nothing wrong with the bulbs. If you touch the bulbs with your fingers while installing them, you will instantly ruin them. The oils present on your fingers cause the bulbs to fail within a matter of months instead of the usual lifetime. I’ve had many good experiences with these, and never had an issue when installed correctly.

  3. usa_gatekeeper says:

    I imagine they wanted to check the halogen bulbs for fingerprints (oils from skin can lead to breakage or shorten the life of halogen lamps) before sending the free replacements. Congrats!

  4. Catherine Armstrong says:

    My work uses Sylvania bulbs for all our lights. They actually have fantastic service. There was actually an occasion where they called us and said that a large number of bulbs had come out badly, and that they were going to replace our whole stock free of charge just in case. They also asked us to help out by dating the bulbs when we install them so they can make sure they are getting the correct life out of them. Someone picks up the bad bulbs when they deliver knew ones for inspection and recycling.

  5. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    Obvious advice for the lowest common denominator (not necessarily OP) DO NOT HANDLE BULBS WITH YOUR BARE HANDS. Always use gloves with no oils on them.

    • Imperialist says:

      @R3PUBLIC0N: This is the first thing I thought of.

      Since he didn’t mention NOT installing them with his bare hands, I’m going to say he did.

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      @R3PUBLIC0N: SERIOUSLY, THIS!!

      The teachers in my school used to steal projector bulbs out of my back room, even though only *I* was suppposed to install them. Of course then I’d get the complaints that I was buying “substandard” bulbs because they were burning out after just a week! Of course, fingerprints ALL OVER the bulbs.

      • lockdog says:

        @The_IT_Crone: I know a few old theatre technical directors and lighting designers who could tell you whether the guy who installed the bulbs had eaten lunch at the nearby McDonalds or at the Burger King by the quirks of how the lamp (bulb) failed. Of course these are the same people who drilled us in learning the names and sizes of all the various arrangements of sockets, filaments and envelope shapes (the glass part). It’s a great party trick….well, not really.

  6. Rich Jeffery says:

    We use Sylvania bulbs at my coffee shop. I’ve literally had them burn out within minutes of being put into the socket. We pay $5 a pop for them and have to replace 20+ a month…

    • Inglix_the_Mad says:

      @Rich Jeffery: Wow. Exact opposite experience. My friend has 7 stores with an average of 12 lights per store (mean) and he doesn’t replace them anywhere near that often. He might, and I mean MIGHT, replace 1 per month.

    • failurate says:

      @Rich Jeffery: IANAE (not an electrician) but if you have devices that pull electricity in large surges, you might want to make sure your lights are not sharing a circuit.

  7. Turcicus says:

    The life expectancy on Silverstars is only one year. I bought a pair for my car and after a year they both died. I called Sylvania to find out the expected life and was told you’d be lucky if they lasted more than a year. I don’t buy them anymore.

  8. Corporate-Shill says:

    Bad or worn out sockets.

    Removal and reinstallation of bulbs causes undue wear, tear, stress on the socket. Improper installation will do the same thing.

    Similar problem with common wall outlets, especially high amperage outlets (refrig, washer, dryer, stove etc).

    The outlet fails to properly bind the male plug resulting in overheating of the socket/connection.

    The bulb (or appliance) then fails because the connection overheats.

    To the OP: When these bulbs fail, check the sockets.

  9. baquwards says:

    Crazy as it sounds, I have had my nissan sentra for 9 years and have not replaced a single bulb inside or out.

    • LittleEnosBurdette says:

      @baquwards: Same here on my ’01 Dodge Ram. Factory battery too!

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @baquwards: same with my ’98 avalon after i’d had it for 10 years. and my ’01 camry, but we’ve only had that for 3 (well, after my collision in the camry, i had body work done, which included replacing the head light. after i got it back, the bulb was out.)

  10. LoadStar says:

    The Silverstars are definitely not worth the money. I added them to my car, and while they didn’t have quite as short of a lifespan as “SJ” did, they were definitely shorter than your average $10 bulb. The same holds true with everyone I’ve spoken to that uses them. Also, as far as I’m concerned, didn’t produce a noticeably improved light.

  11. supergaijin says:

    Silverstars are rated at *200 hours* of life (and that rating is FAR less if you happen to touch the bulb and get finger oil on it). That’s far less than 1 year if you drive 1 hour a day at night.

    These are TERRIBLE bulbs, and never should have been allowed to market for something as critical as car headlights. Our OEM bulbs lasted 8 years. The two sets of Silverstar we tried before we relaized they were crap lasted about 8 months each.

  12. SavageATL says:

    I’ve had lower life with the Sylvania Silverstar bulbs on my car as well. For the record, it’s not a problem with touching the bulb, because my car has the old sealed-beam headlamps- you replace the entire bulb, reflector, lens all in one package-. BUT the bulb gives a MUCH brighter, higher quality light and for me is well worth the price. I know I’m getting more than 8 months, maybe a year on a set.

  13. pigbearpug says:

    I find it ironic that an example of good customer service results in lots of people sharing their displeasure with the product. I’m sure as hell not going to buy Sylvania now…

  14. Anonymous says:

    I’m on my third pair of Sylvania H7 Silverstar bulbs (low beams) for my Saab in the past year. I’ve installed all the bulbs carefully with oil-free gloves but both left and right bulbs have burned out within weeks of each other after an average of 3 months. I thought there was something wrong with my car’s electrical system that was causing the bulbs to short out or something, so I just kept replacing them, but now I will just switch brands (thanks, Consumerist!). I have daytime running lights and my low beams are on all the time, so I guess 200 hours = 3 months is about right.

  15. Drew Howk says:

    Yeah. I’ve had the same experience as this guy. I figured I just had a bad batch, until the second time it happened. I like the light they provide, just don’t like having to replace bulbs every 3 months.

  16. usa_gatekeeper says:

    Customer Satisfaction Blurb on Sylvania’s Silverstar web page:

    [www.sylvania.com]

    Silverstar
    SilverStar Customer Satisfaction

    To Our Valued Customer:

    At OSRAM SYLVANIA, your complete satisfaction is our business. Our SYLVANIA SilverStar® brand bulbs are high performance products that may require replacement at more frequent intervals than original equipment manufacturer parts. Headlights dim over time, and OSRAM SYLVANIA recommends evaluating your headlights annually for optimum performance.

    If your SilverStar® brand bulbs do not meet your expectations within a year of purchase and they were purchased from an authorized distributor, we will gladly offer a replacement with the return of the product.

    Purchases from EBAY® or other online auction sites are not covered. EBAY® (as well as other online auction sites) are consumer to consumer marketplaces lacking quality control guidelines and lighting expertise.

    Please contact our Customer Service Department for more information about obtaining a replacement for your SilverStar® brand bulbs or other automotive lighting products from SYLVANIA.

    We ask that you have the product and receipt in order to process a replacement. CLICK [see link] HERE to send your request/email to our Customer Service Department. For Canadian customers, send your request/email to our Canadian Customer Service Department to process your replacement request.

    Thank you.

    Customer Service
    OSRAM SYLVANIA, Automotive Lighting

  17. Dansc29625 says:

    Ive had Silverstar Sealed beam in my Jeep for the better part of a decade, haven’t had a problem.

  18. Joe Martin says:

    I used to love the color and brightness of silverstars in my old car, the bulb life however, sucked.

  19. zolielo says:

    You guys called it. Oil from directly touching the bulb most likely lead to a quick death.

  20. supergaijin says:

    usa_gatekeeper,

    It’s good to note that this replacement offer is a ONE TIME courtesy. Since the bulbs are DESIGNED to last only 200 hours, and dying at a year or less is pretty much SPEC for these crappy bulbs, Sylvania will not keep replacing them. That was made clear to me when I wrote them for replacement. One time, that’s it.

  21. jstonemo says:

    News to me. I have had Silverstars on my truck for 5 years now and never a problem. Brighter and less yellow than factory bulbs too. I would buy them on sale at the local Advance Auto Parts, usually buy 1 and get the 2nd half price.

    • zentex says:

      @jstonemo: I was just about to post the same thing. All I use is the Silverstar’s in multiple vehicles and I’ve not had a problem…and it’s going on 6-7 years.

      lots of night time driving (like all night) for 1/2 that time in two of the vehicles.

      no complaints from me.

  22. CRCError1970 says:

    I was one of the “A/V Geeks” at my high school so I know how to properly install a high output light bulb. That being said, I used the Silverstar bulbs for a while but had the same experience.
    The Silverstar bulbs just don’t last long – couple that with me being a safety freak and driving with my headlights on even during the day – you can imagine how quickly I burnt through them.

  23. Nick says:

    Wow – I had no idea how common of an issue this is. Add me to the list of people who burn through SilverStars in 6-8 months. Meanwhile, the driving/fog lights on my car–that are on whenever the headlights are on–have been going strong for 8 years.

  24. Jesse says:

    I had pretty good luck with my last set of Silverstar headlights. Now Trico windshield washer blades on the other hand, that’s a different story.

  25. AD8BC says:

    Is there an important reason for replacing bulbs in pairs, or is it an advertising gimmick so they sell more bulbs?

    I’ve never replaced bulbs in pairs… come to think of it, I haven’t replaced more than two headlight bulbs in 10 years covering every car we have owned during that time.

    • Anonymous says:

      @AD8BC: No reason other then that the second will usually fail shortly after the first and that with age, bulbs diminish in light output so replacing in pairs keep them even.

  26. intooooo says:

    High lumen output bulbs like the silverstars will burn out quicker, thats just physics….

  27. parad0x360 says:

    Wow…I always thought my Hyundai had an electrical issue! My used to buy those same bulbs and the low beams would die out after a couple months and I would replace them with the same bulbs.

    My Hyundai was an evil car so I always blamed it and just got more bulbs…never even considered it was the bulbs themselves. However it could really have been the car cause what are the chances all Silverstars blow after a few months? It must be a conspiracy.

  28. dssstrkl says:

    I’ve had the same issue over three cars. I even started installing them with sterile surgical gloves (I work in a lab, so we have LOTS), but never got more than a few month’s worth of life. I got am 09 tC in Sept. and don’t even want to touch the bulbs. I’m done with Sylvania.

  29. nuton2wheels says:

    Silverstar bulbs aren’t really brighter! In order to be DOT legal, they must conform to a specific wattage for their application. While the light you see is whiter, it is actually not as intense as a regular bulb. The whiter hue of the bulbs occurs as a result of the blue coating on the glass acting as a filter, however, this also reduces the bulb’s intensity.

  30. Anonymous says:

    One of the tricks used to get a brighter light/higher color temperature from a given bulb design is to use a filament with a lower voltage rating than the power supply provides. Of course this shortens bulb life. But Silverstar was intended as a poor mans solution for brighter than stock headlights. At $20 a pop, they are still far cheaper than a conversion to arc lamp bulbs. But the over volted filaments won’t last as long as OEM spec bulbs. Everything is a trade off.

  31. BMRFILE says:

    Pretty interesting that the bulbs are made by Osram. they make many studio light bulbs, some with intensity as high as 1500 watts.

  32. humphrmi says:

    I see a lot of people, including the OP, claiming that OEM bulbs last longer than Sylvania. So I guess, following this here thread, given that he probably changed the OEM bulbs the same was as the Sylvania bulbs, the OEM bulbs have a “magic you-can-touch-this-bulb-without-gloves” feature.

    Either that or it’s just blaming the OP BS as usual.

    • MauriceCallidice says:

      @humphrmi: Since the OEM bulbs he replaced sound like they were factory-installed (they were “original”), they might indeed have been installed without being directly touched by human hands.

      He didn’t make a general statement that OEM bulbs are better than Sylvania, just that these particular Sylvanias didn’t last long, he was disappointed, but Sylvania did right by him.

      Just to clarify, WE DO NOT KNOW if he installed the Sylvania bulbs with his bare hands. It’s silly to say “I’m going to say he did” (:cough:@ Imperialist), just as it’s silly to say that anyone is claiming that similar type OEM bulbs may be touched with bare hands.

  33. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

    Silverstars are crap. they don’t offer anything close to true HID lights, and like others have said they don’t last long. I bought 2 pairs and they both went in about a year. Now I have genuine HID lights and I expect them to last a few years.

  34. RevRagnarok says:

    I am yet another person who thinks they are crap. Check HondaPilot.org – you’ll see an army of others. I thought they looked great in my Pilot until after about three months when I lost both low beams simultaneously when I started the car and was afraid I blew some circuit. I had to drive around with my high beams on for the rest of the evening. I also got a “one time replacement” sent to me, and they lasted about four months. Then I switched to some other one that was a bit more pricey but they have a lifetime warranty. Which sounds crazy, but I had one of those go and they just mailed me a new set.

    It’s not fingerprints, etc: when I complained to Sylvania they stated something to the effect of, “to get the higher output we need to run hotter which lowers the life of the lamps.” To which I reply that measuring the lifetime of anything in a vehicle besides the gas tank in weeks is just trash.

  35. andrewe says:

    I’ve had lots of issues with Sylvania bulbs for my home. Early failure or faulty right out of the package. I finally contacted Sylvania and they fedexed me out some replacements with little fuss. Great service I thought.

    Some of the replacements were also faulty. I just gave up and buy GE instead.

  36. É®îç says:

    Good for him. The almost identical scenario happened to me and my Jetta, but only with one pair. Two years later I still haven’t heard from those shitbirds. Fuck Sylvania and the buttplugs they sit on.

  37. DrRonster says:

    Im hooked on the Silverstars. Only problem that I dont have is that my 2 pairs are still burnibg after 3 years on a Camaro SS. What did I do wrong other than use Latex surgical gloves to install them?

  38. Musician78 says:

    That’s pretty cool. I work for Sylvania, in the exact plant where the automotive lighting is made. Even though I am far from Mr. Corporate, it is nice to see some good publicity (for lack of a better word) about the place I work.

  39. From the cubicle of PGibbons says:

    I’ve tried these “premium” bulbs a couple times and have since given up. Pay twice the price, they burn out within weeks or short months. Don’t want to deal with an EECB just to get a replacement. They’re crap, and don’t measure up to standards of OEM bulbs. Plus, they tend to blind other drivers and probably lead to more accidents.

    And to those in the thread fixating on “fingerprints” as the culprit, I’m doubting this has anything to do with the short lives mentioned here. An OEM bulb is just as susceptible to oil as these ‘premium’ bulbs, and the same people are installing each but only having problems with the Sylvanias.

  40. Doug81 says:

    I looked at getting Silverstars for my VW (same bulb as the OP) but eventually decided against it. The blue tint of the bulb cuts down on light output. Supposedly, they don’t last as long due to compensating for this.

    A better choice would have been some Osram Silverstars. No blue tint (brighter) and cheaper but you can’t get them at autozone or similar.

  41. introductoryperiod says:

    i had the same issue with the HU7. failed after 3 months.

  42. Jfielder says:

    It makes sense to me that these bulbs don’t last as long. Sylvania went and made a light bulb that still only uses 55w, but produces much more light (and it actually makes more light, and doesn’t just tint it blue…). So in order to do that, there will be some differences from normal bulbs. What it is exactly, I don’t know, but I would assume that the wire filament is wound into a larger coil, with a finer wire. Which would make the filament much more fragile. I would still be unhappy with 3 months of use. One year would be acceptable though. And by the way, car headlights are only designed to be used for 2 years. After that, light output and color will be greatly diminished. So you guys with 10 year old bulbs, give your eyes a break and get some new ones!

  43. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    I have been tempted to upgrade my VW’s generic low cost off the shelf halogen bulbs for the Silverstar… but have always been put off by the price…

    Now that I have learned from the posts here that the bulbs only last 200 hours I am not going to do it. My VW runs the low beams always on and 200 hours will pass far to quickly.

    However, since I only use the high beams when I am out in the country, and that is where the extra brightness and distance would be an advantage, and wouldn’t piss off every driver that has to cope with these brighter bulbs, I may try them only in the high beams… of course I will have to wait for the lows to show signs of reduced output before it is time for a new set…