Though often thought to be alike, there are some minor differences between these two bulbs in compatibility and use case. To explain further, the base of each bulb is shaped differently. Additionally, certain aspects make one legal for on-road use while the other is not. Besides these few nuances, these bulbs are largely similar.

At the same time, the 9003 and H4 bulbs are functionally interchangeable, so any driver can purchase and use either without having to worry about fitment or safety. We will go into more depth below and you will see that, for all practical purposes, the 9003 and H4 bulbs are the same.

Socket compatibility

A look at H4 vs. 9003 tries to focus on the compatibility of the two bulbs and their differences. Even though we can see that these bulbs are quite compatible, they still have some slight differences between them. Nevertheless, you can use either type of bulb without any problems.

H4 lamps were once the standard light source in vehicles. These are called bilux lamps, which means that there are two filaments in the bulb: one for low beam and one for the high beam. The high and low beam filaments are arranged vertically in the bulb. 9003 (also known as HB2 or 9004) headlights, on the other hand, have a horizontal arrangement of the filament. This design is called a dual-beam headlight.

In terms of construction and appearance, the H4 headlight is very similar to the 9003 headlight. In fact, they even use the same type of connector. The only difference is that the H4 has two separate wires for high and low beams, while the 9003 has only one wire.

However, there are some slight differences between the two types of bulbs that can affect compatibility.

9003 Bulb Characteristics

This bulb is also known as HB2 or 9003. These lamps have a nominal power of 6 V & 12 V: 60 / 55 W and 24 V: 75 / 70 W. It means that they use less energy than their counterparts. Such a nominal power would be considered an advantage over the H4.

The light beam is focused in a more horizontal pattern. This is advantageous if you are looking to see further ahead while driving. The light produced by this bulb is closer to natural sunlight, which makes it easier on the eyes.

These lamps have 2 filaments and if you don`t know what it means for your vehicle, here is an explanation. The amount of filaments in a bulb corresponds to the number of electrical contacts inside of it. These contacts are connected to the car`s headlight socket. The number of filaments will determine the number of electrical connections required in the headlight socket. So, as you could`ve guessed, a 2-filament bulb will require 2 electrical connections in order to work.

The base type of 9003 bulb is P43t and it means that the lamp may be installed in the following types of headlights:

Finally, the light output of the HB2 lamp is 1250/1600 lumens. That is why the emitted light is usually considered to be bright.

H4 Bulb Features

Usually, these lamps are mixed up with 9003 bulbs, but they are not the same. If your car requires a certain type of bulb, you cannot switch to another fitting; they aren't interchangeable. That is because the H4 bulb has a different base.

The light beam is focused in a more vertical pattern, which can be beneficial if you drive off-road a lot. It allows you to see better what`s happening on the sides of the road. The light output of such a lamp is 1500/2000 lumens. And, as we said before, the light is bright enough.

The H4 bulb would be a good replacement for the lamps with such socket type:

The lifespan of these bulbs is usually 1000 hours. It makes them pretty long-lasting.

Specs Comparison


If you already used 9003 or H4 lamps you might have spotted that the light output is different. The H4 bulbs are a bit brighter. They produce 1100/1500 lumens while 9003 – 910.

It is important to know that the extra brightness can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. In some cases, it might cost you to get flashed by other drivers because your light is too bright for them. That is why we recommend using H4 bulbs only if you frequently drive off-road or in the dark.

Power Consumption

Power consumption is an important factor to consider as well. All things being equal, you would want a bulb that uses less power. After all, it will save you money on your electricity bill.mIn this case, the 9003 bulbs have an advantage over the H4s. They use about 10% less power. So, if you`re looking to save some money, go with the 9003 bulbs.

Beam Type

Whenever you`re choosing a headlight bulb, you have to pick the right beam type. As the name suggests, the low beams provide a lower level of light. They are meant for use in city driving when there is no need for a lot of light. The high beams, on the other hand, provide a higher level of light. They are meant for use on the open road where you need more light to see what`s ahead of you.

Most of the time, 9003 and H4 bulbs come with either low or high beams. However, there are some models that come with both. So, it`s important to check before you buy.


The cases when you can use H4 or 9003 bulbs are different. H4 bulbs are not legal for road use in most countries. That is because they can pose a safety risk to drivers coming in the opposite direction. So, if you`re looking for a bulb to use on the road, go with the 9003.

H4 bulbs are commonly used on motorcycles and off-road vehicles. Additionally, many people believe that H4 bulbs are more tolerant of vibrations. This means that they are less likely to burn out prematurely if placed in a location that is subject to a lot of shaking or vibrations. So, if you need a bulb for your motorcycle or off-road vehicle, then the H4 might be the better option.

Can You Replace The 9003 Lamp With H4 And Vice Versa?

In order to know whether two bulbs are interchangeable or not, you need to know the answer to several questions.

  1. What is the shape of the light beam?
  2. What is the color temperature of the light?
  3. What is the size and shape of the bulb?
  4. What is the voltage?

When the lamps have the same shape of light beam and voltage, it means that they can be replaced with each other. The thing is that the H4 bulb has a different base, which means that it cannot be placed into 9003 sockets - but not vice versa. In case the bulbs are not of the same shape, it means that they will not fit into the other’s socket.

In case you need an alternative lamp for the H4 bulb, you may use the 9004 (HB1) bulbs. These models have the same base type, which makes them interchangeable. The light output of such a lamp is 1250/1600 lumens. That is why the emitted light is usually considered to be bright."

And in case you want to replace the 9003 lamp, you can use the 9007 (HB5) bulb. This option is frequently used for off-road vehicles since the light beam is focused in a more vertical pattern. It allows you to see better what`s happening on the sides of the road. The light output of such a lamp is 1500/2000 lumens. And, as we said before, the light is bright enough.

To sum up, we can say that the H4 bulb cannot be replaced with a 9003 bulb and vice versa. The only exception to this rule is the HB2, which are identical to 9003 (HB2/H4) bulbs.


What does H4 mean on headlight bulb?

Before, H4 lamps were commonly used as the sole light source in vehicles. These are frequently referred to as bilux lamps; this name comes from the fact that there are two filaments within one bulb- one for low beams and another for high beams.

What vehicles use a H4 bulb?

H4 bulbs were designed for race cars but only gained popularity in Europe decades later. In the United States, these bulbs were common among motorcyclists but illegal to use on other vehicles because headlamps had to be sealed per federal law.

What car does a 9003 bulb fit?

Any car with DOT HB2 assembly may use a 9003/HB2/H4 bulb. That is because this assembly is made to emit light in a wide and low beam pattern.


The 9003 vs H4 bulbs are two very different models that serve different purposes. The 9003 is meant for use on the road, while the H4 is better suited for off-road vehicles. Additionally, the H4 has a different base than the 9003, so it cannot be placed into a 9003 socket.

Reviewed by Brent Ordway

Brent Ordway is an ASE-certified car technician. He has been working on cars since he was a teenager and loved helping people keep their vehicles running smoothly. Brent's skills as a mechanic are unrivaled. In 2022, he earned his place on the list of winners for the ASE Master Automobile Technician of the Year award.

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