There are strict rules about replacing the lighting on your vehicle

Unsafe headlight conversion

Could you perhaps comment on poorly focused, high-intensity illegal conversions done to forward lighting on vehicles?

This person said he has had many of his friends comment on how newer vehicles with high-tech headlights have made night driving uncomfortable and unsafe for them. I've noticed some of these conversions are also difficult to look at during the day as well.

All of the components of a vehicle's external lighting system must be marked by the manufacturer to show they meet standards.

Depending on where the vehicle or lamp was made, you will find either “SAE/DOT” (North American) or “ECE” (European) compliance markings. For headlights in general, you will find a North American “SAE” code or a European “E” code on the lens that starts with an “H.”

North American codes are:

H—old style tungsten filament sealed beam

HR—replaceable halogen tungsten filament bulb

HG—xenon high intensity discharge (HID) lamp

HL—light emitting diode (LED) lamp

If you are going to upgrade your vehicle lighting system, it will mean replacing it all with something that is compliant. The entire assembly, from the wires out, will need to be replaced and be capable of being properly aimed. It is both dangerous and illegal to mix these.

The most common improper conversion is to put a gas discharge capsule, or an LED bulb, into an “H”-type housing. That results in significant glare for other road users because the housings can no longer focus the light from the lamp properly. It may also mean the loss of ability to switch between high and low beam for vehicles with only one headlight on each side.

Beware of some "good deals" on sites like eBay and through less scrupulous suppliers that are marked with “SAE,” “DOT” or “E” markings but are counterfeit and do not do the intended job properly.

Inspection facilities have reference material to help the inspector determine if a fake is being used and when they are found the vehicle must be failed. This effectively removes the vehicle from the road until satisfactory repairs are carried out.

The article “Thinking of Converting Your Halogen Headlamps to HID or LED?” on the Daniel Stern Lighting website has a detailed explanation that is worth reading if you are thinking about modifying your vehicle's lighting system.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories