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Upgrade Your Car Lights for Maximum Safety

Upgrade Your Car Lights for Maximum Safety

Every consumer car, truck, or van comes with lights pre-installed.  Without lights, night driving would be practically impossible and bad-weather traffic would be extremely dangerous.  The stock lighting kit that comes with your car is often incomplete, arriving with just enough lights to meet government specifications.  Yet lighting almost always takes a back seat to other things, your sound system for instance, when it comes time for upgrades.  But why upgrade lights if they haven’t burned out yet?  Well it’s more than just upgrading headlights.  A car with a full light kit includes additional lights such as fog lamps, driver lights, and parking lights.

Stock Lights

BMW Headlights
BMW Headlights

The stock light kit for your vehicle includes headlights, tail lights, signal lights, and cabin lights.  These are the easiest lights to upgrade, and can usually be done by anyone since the owner’s manual will tell you what type of replacement bulbs will work (vintage cars typically require labor intensive, full headlight casing replacements).  Simple replacements come in the form of light source types, specifically, halogen, xenon, HID, or LED.  Stock headlights are inexpensive halogen bulbs, and can be readily replaced with newer Xenon or HID bulbs for better viewing distance at night.  Always check to see if a replacement bulb requires a special wiring harness or ballast for the lamps.  Otherwise, just match the bulb type to your car and upgrade away.  Tail lights, turn signals, and cabin lights are much simpler since they’re regular incandescent light bulbs.  LED lights are a common upgrade for these since they use very little power and only need to be bright enough to be seen.  If you want to go for a more stylish approach, you can also replace the reflector casing in your head or tail lights.

Fog Lamps

Image used courtesy of Leon Wilson
Image used courtesy of Leon Wilson

We use lights for safety.  Yet many cars do not come equipped with fog lamps.  In a heavy fog, both your low and high beams can be dangerous since their light reflects off the fog and into your eyes while driving.  Since fog usually hovers a little more than a foot above the ground, fog lamps are aimed lower than standard headlights to avoid this reflective light.  To avoid illuminating the fog, fog lamps need to be installed at a certain angle.  It’s recommended that they be professionally installed and checked regularly to make sure the angle of each lamp hasn't shifted.  A misaligned fog lamp can blind oncoming traffic.  Don’t forget to keep your fog lamps clean as well!

Driving Lights

Driving lights (or light bars) are an external accessory typically used on trucks or SUVs – some types are mountable on a standard car, however.  Driving lights use a powerful beam to pierce the darkness of the night.  If you do a lot of night driving, these lights are perfect for increased illumination.  Highway speed nighttime driving is perfect for these types of lights since they increase your visibility and give you precious extra time to react in case of an emergency.  Again, beam angle is important on these lights since you don’t want to blind oncoming traffic.  Getting them professionally installed is easier but the Society of Automotive Engineers (S.A.E.) does have general guides if you’d rather perform the installation yourself.  Driving lights can be installed for different uses and road types.

  • Normal Driving lights give an increase in beam intensity and distance.  These driving lights are useful for highways at night.
  • Euro Light Beams illuminate the sides of the road with a brighter light to improve street sign or hazard visibility.
  • Cornering Lights are a general improvement for front and side vision.  These lights are best used for areas with winding roads and tight curves.
  • Off-Road Lights are high intensity beams with wide angles to improve visibility in all directions.  Off-roading is dangerous and requires high visibility, which is why multiple off-road lights are typically used.  These lights are illegal for use on public roads since they will blind oncoming traffic.

While all of these improvements make your car a much safer place to be, many of them can be upgraded to look nicer as well.  Stylish driving lights or headlight reflectors can be found as custom kits and installed.  Lighting upgrades to your vehicle are both practical and fashionable.  If you have any extra tips you’d like to share about automotive lighting, we’d love to hear it in the comments below.  You can also share any examples of custom kits you've put together with us on FacebookTwitterGoogle PlusLinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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