Are LED Headlights Legal In The UK?

Just a few short years ago, as a nation, we were encouraged or compelled to start using low energy bulbs in our households as part of the movement towards energy efficiency.

It's something we have become used to and something that aids a cleaner environment.

LED lights are perhaps a little more expensive but they last a whole lot longer and produce more light.

It is a good idea then, for this technology to be included in our cars, especially as the vehicles themselves generate their own electricity. It just makes sense.

Why Use LED Headlights

Well, for a start they are up to eighty percent more energy efficient than halogen lights and, by drawing much less power, they help keep a car's battery healthier for longer.

They last longer and provide greater illumination too. This fact has not been lost on car manufacturers who, in their efforts to become cleaner and greener, now fit LED headlights into their new cars, which is fine because they comply with the latest type approval regulations.

There is however a slight issue when it comes to older cars; so are LED headlights legal in the UK?

The Law As It Stands

It won't come as a surprise to learn that the machinery of government works very slowly. The law regarding car headlights is dated 1989, before the idea of LED technology in our motors was conceived and applies to vehicles to be used on public roads.

Thus, technically, because no legislation applies to them, LED's can't be legal, unless the vehicle is to be solely used on private land.

However, anyone who buys a new car, or a used car, with LED lights factory fitted as standard is okay. In the case of used cars, come MOT time, provided those LED's are fitted, configured and set correctly, that's fine too.

Unlike halogen bulbs, LED's should last a long time but, if by chance they do blow, then the whole light assembly must be changed, one which carries the appropriate type approval; you can't just change a bulb. That's the law.

The bad news for car owners who would like to upgrade their existing road-facing halogens for LEDs is that, as things stand right now, it is currently illegal to add LED bulbs only to your car as an after-market installation. However if you change the whole headlight assembly this is acceptable.

Other Lighting

As stated, the law deals with road-facing lights; those a driver uses to see the highway ahead. Lights must be a certain intensity and colour temperature and no more to prevent dazzling or distracting other road users; that's Rule 114 of the 1989 Act.

Some Xenon lights fall foul of that. That's why it is vital when purchasing after-market products to check for compliance with the law.

Other types of on-vehicle lighting, LED light bars or LED work lights for example, are fine except that, once again, if they don't comply with the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations Act then they can't be used on public roads. Such equipment is intended for off-road use only.

Laws governing motor vehicles are complex and seemingly never ending. Here in the UK we are fortunate that most suppliers of after-market components comply with the law.

There is no doubt that LED lights are a giant step forward in automotive safety; we just have to wait for the law to catch up.

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