Q&A - Are LED Headlights Legal?

Q&A ImageQUESTION: I see BC Transit buses have converted their big bus fleet to LED headlights. Are they now legal? Just an observation, most are poorly aimed and prone to blinding on-coming drivers.

Image of LED headlights on a car


Bright blue-white headlights can be one of two types assuming that we are talking about legal headlights. 

The most common are high intensity discharge lights which is what I suspect that you are looking at. The other would be LED lights which are still fairly uncommon, even on new vehicles today.

Legal LED Headlights

A quick search finds that General Electric is producing a Nighthawk brand replacement sealed beam that is listed as DOT compliant in their sales literature. It is marked SAE HL. The price looks to be about $300 US each, so the retrofit promises to be expensive. 

These should be legal for use on BC highways.

Retrofitting LED Headlights

Retrofitting a non-sealed beam system is likely another question entirely.

I am unaware of any legal replacement bulb to convert a filament bulb housing to LED, even though there are plenty of companies that would be happy to sell you some. 

Again, it is a question of DOT / SAE approval and even then you cannot rely on some of these items not be have been marked that way even though they don't comply with standards.

The word eBay comes to mind here.

Question the Vendor

If you were to go to an auto parts supplier and have them refuse to write on your purchase invoice that the lights you are buying are legal for use on the highway in BC, I would be concerned about making the purchase.

LED Replacement Bulbs

Here's an interesting article that explains that most LED headlight upgrades don't really work

Of course, this does not necessarily apply to LED headlights that come as standard equipment on new vehicles.

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This is a pretty touchy subject with me,and what I can conclude up to this point is,it will get worse, before the issue of forward lighting on vehicles gets addressed.It seems that no one in a position of addressing the issue, is willing to take any steps to address the problems associated with recent lighting systems.Consider this,we now have 3 worlds colliding to create a real problem for all drivers.The first being the endless escalation of wattage and intensity of lights available.Second is the the belief that if you have fog lights,you must drive with them on at all times,regardless of the conditions,or circumstances.The third , is the trend to raise the ride height of vehicles,and also include the first two issues,and make sure not to adjust the lights to compensate for the aditional ride hieght. This will  ensure any oncomiming vehicle will be made aware of your disregard for other people,on your personal roadways.So the question is, at what point will it get addressed? Hopefully through enforcement,or maybe at some point, ICBC will take some interest in addressing the matter.If there are already laws in place regarding this ,what then is the limit that people can exceed the standards already set out by the MVA.As of now,many vehicles use 4 lights on the low beam circuit,and increase the wattage of all 4 lights.Recently people are adding a center light bar in the grill,that on its own produces more wattage than the factory high beam system.So will 6 or 8 be allowed to slide also?Maybe strap a few across the roof for good measure.A key point people miss is that even if these lights are properly adjusted,when coming around a corner, or cresting over a hill,the shear wattage is detriment to oncomming traffic.Maybe some one from ICBC or Law enforcement can offer whether this issue is of concern to them.

If a driver is confronted by a situation where an approaching or following vehicle has, what the driver feels, are poorly aimed or illegal headlights or auxillary lights, and they can obtain the license plate number, can they not make a report to the RCMP and have the police follow up on it?  To me this would seem to be the logical course, as now the driver of the offending vehicle may be ordered to have it inspected. 

Good question : If you go to Divion 4 of the MVA , the section on lighting, you will see it has been gutted of almost all regulation pretaining to headlights, I inquired with the superintendant of transportation BC as to why this was done and they responed by saying inforcement is now in the hands of the transport Canada.

When i inquierd with CVSE who is the enforcmet side of TC they said they leave it to the vehical manufacuer to do the right thing.

So the the sup of transport BC has washed his hands of the matter and besicly its a headlight free for all as far as i can tell !

Answer to your question they are nether legal or illegal .

sorry bout the crap spelling, no spell check here.

Here's a quick overview:

  1. Transport Canada sets the standards that manufacturers must follow when building new vehicles. These standards are in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act & Regulations
  2. Maintaining these standards has been delegated to the provinces. Here in BC it's via the Motor Vehicle Act & Regulations, especially Division 4
  3. Police in British Columbia are responsible to see that the vehicles on our highways meet these standards and take enforcement action if they do not

CVSE is a provincial enforcement agency that is not part of Transport Canada but is part of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. They are similar to "regular" police but specialize in commercial transport oversight.

This is the applicable legislation:

General lighting requirements

4.02 (1) A vehicle on a highway must only be equipped with and use lamps, reflectors or other illuminating devices authorized by this Division or authorized in writing by the director.

(2) A vehicle on a highway must be equipped with lamps equivalent to those provided by the original manufacturer in accordance with the requirements that applied under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Canada), or a predecessor to that Act, at the time of vehicle manufacture.

(3) All lamps, lamp bulbs and reflectors required or permitted by this Division must comply with

(a) the approved standards established by the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Canada) and the applicable SAE standards,

(b) the conditions of use described in this Division, and

(c) the requirements of Table 1 of the Schedule to this Division.

So, headlights must comply with the rules and LED headlights that comply with SAE standards that either are OEM equipment or supply the same functionality as the OEM headlights are permitted.

Recently I have noticed quite an increase of vehicles using LED Lights. Quite frankly the use of these lights really do not appear to make the highway ahead more visible to a driver but they are almost TOO BRIGHT for oncoming drivers.

It seems to me that the availability of these expensive lights are another ploy by manufactures to increase their bottom line, at the expense of a guilible public.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I think guilible public is an understatment, near as i can tell many of the LED bulb maufactures do no R&D and promote their products as if they will work in any application, there are way to many people out there retrofiting LED bulbs into housings that were designed for halogen bulbs, you can spot those vehicals miles away as they are all glare and no beam.

I really dont see how a LED can be a direct replacement for Halogen !

I think the people who it really harms are people who have some stage of catoract, i know when i had catoracts before my surgery it was a nightmare to drive at night, i was okay to drive but when a car with LEDs came from the other direction it was like looking into the sun, i think there are lots of people out there runnig LEDs who dont really care how it effects others.