Lights - Not Used, Not Working or Causing Problems

Daytime Running LightsWithout a doubt, one of the most popular topic suggestions that I receive has to do with vehicle lighting. Either they are not being replaced when burned out, aren't being used properly (or at all) by drivers or are causing problems because of brightness or colour. Most include the complaint that neither drivers nor the police are regularly checking vehicles and doing or enforcing the required maintenance.

Some of the smartest drivers I ever stopped for a burned out bulb dealt with the issue by thanking me for bringing it to their attention. They reached into their glove box, took a spare bulb out and immediately replaced the dead one. How could you write someone a ticket in those circumstances?

Don't signal, signal too late, don't dim, don't turn headlights or tail lights on, don't turn fog lights off, the items on this list seem endless. These lights all have a job to do and it's up to the driver to know how to use them and use them properly, every time. If you are paying attention to the task, how difficult can it be to do this?

Finally we are left with the decorators, the blinders and some that are legal but annoying. The right colour in the right place in the right number is something I have written about often. I've also explained how some lights can be legal yet are perceived as glaring nuisances. "Make it right" could be a good slogan for both vehicle owners and law enforcement.

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Perhaps you thought of it but decided it wasn't important enough but another concern that i have is improperly adjusted headlights, in particular high beams that point into the opposing lane instead of ahead of the vehicle. Having headlights that are working but misaligned and blinding the opposing traffic is dangerous for both vehicles. I remember the saying in the driver manual " Remember, the driver you blind may run into you" or something like that.

I am just wondering if there is a law on the books restricting the candle power (if that guage is still used) for head lights. I drive an 07 Xterra and hate the headlights for anything but clear night driving. I am thinking of going to an auto parts store to see if they have anything more powerful but I am sure they would sell me something that may not quite be legal.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations Standard 108 contains a Technical Standards Document that uses highly technical language to describe which lamps are prescribed by law.

You are right to be concerned about what you might be sold, as I have found that for the most part aftermarket suppliers are more interested in making money through sales than they are in providing proper advice. This includes popular chain and specialty stores that will happily sell you lights that are marked with warnings such as "check local regulations" or "off road use only" in print that is significantly smaller and buried so that you need to look carefully to find it.

Any bulb over 65 to 70 watts should be immediately suspect, as should any bulb that is coated with a colourful coating. These coatings are filters that prevent the bulb from passing some of the light created by the filament out to the world for you to use to see by. Some bulbs with a very pale coloured coating are legal, but I really wonder if they are worth the money you spend on them. Generally, they are trying to emulate HID headlights or just "look cool," which is not always synonymous with good night vision for the driver.

My personal recommendation is to buy and install a set of driving lamps properly. They are legal, they are meant to help you see a significant distance in conjunction with your high beam headlamps and they seem to have worked the best for me over the years.

When I drove Taxi,,if I had to change cars,or change to a Van,I actualy had to start carrying tools so I could adjust the Headlights,(I was a Night Driver)  The Taxi Company NEVER EVER checked the Headlight Adjustments,,and the day drivers never complained,,mind you some night drivers never complained either.

I found it Amazing that a company responsable for Human life,as it,s almost Sole perpous,Never had any concern for Where the Headlights Pointed,,and this is a 24/7 buisness to top it off. It was even so bad that some of the Vans had Broken Headlight Mountings (eg,from deer hits) that Never got fixed,no matter how many times you wrote that Vehicle up to be fixed,,So when you drove down the hwy,the lights would actually flap in the breeze,,I had to countless times find something to block those headlight tight to stop the movement. The problem was that you could start a trip in Daylight,but on the 4-6 hour trips,darkness creeped in the middle of the trip sometimes,So I would actually have to pull off the hwy to fix them,

PS,,,,I Never have that Problem with my own Vehicles,and Yes I carry Spares for all my lights.

One of my biggest beefs are pickup lites that are on ones that have lift kits and over size tires. They absolutely hard on the eyes when meeting at nite.Also cars with poorly adjusted lights. Back in 1950 when I lived in Denver ,Colo. the state had what they called a (Brake and Light sticker program) if I remember right you had to have your vehicle checked brakes and light adjustment every 6 months and a sticker issued aand displayed on the window. The cost was minimal at the time of only a dollar. If there had to be adjustments made you paid the garage the costs. I would love to see something like that in BC. I think there are a lot of drivers do not know that there lights are out of adjustment and would be surprised how much better they would see the hwy. So thank you for your column and letting me sound off. Also, when do you think the hwys will get rid of the cheap paint for dividers and get some good stuff. lol