Unsafe Headlight Conversions

HID HeadlightsCould you perhaps comment on poorly focused high intensity illegal conversions done to forward lighting on vehicles? This person says that 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 that 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 that they meet standards.

Depending on where the vehicle or lamp was made you will find either SAE/DOT (North America) 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

Proper Conversion

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.

Improper Conversion

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. This 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.

Buyer Beware

Beware! Some "good deals" on eBay and through less scrupulous suppliers 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.

Learn More

The article Thinking of converting your halogen headlamps to HID or LED? on the Daniel Stern Lighting website is a detailed explanation worth reading if you are thinking about modifying your vehicle's lighting system.

I agree some of these lights are as bright as hi beams and they are blinding. This is especially true on BCs rural hwys where there is no street lighting. There should be more regulation vehicles should be taken off the road until fixed or even adjusted properly. Super bright headlights are even more dangerous in low visability situations such as rain or snow when it is already difficult to see the roadways.

I don't know if it's my imagination but there seems to be an epidemic of people blissfully driving around with their high beams on full time now. This is not just the HID or LEDs.... they really have their high beams on. Not sure how that happens with all the technology (auto dimming) in the cars now. I regularly flash people and they don't get it.

Great article on the non SAE lamps as well as the counterfeit marked lamps. Another item I run into is when people remove the reflectors from the bulb itself and therefore completely change the beam pattern. I run into this frequently and it amazes me how unsafe these combinations are.

... but I wanted to see if this post worked on the site?