A lot of new 4WD’s come factory fitted with LED or HID headlights. The benefits are significant in terms of light output, power consumption and reliability. Of course, when new technology comes out everyone is quick to try and roll it backwards, into vehicles that never came with it.
There is however, one substantial problem with doing this; its not always legal, and in fact can be quite dangerous if done incorrectly. In this post, we look at where you can legally convert halogen lights to HID or LED, and what you need to look for.
To make it a bit more relatable, I’d be surprised if you haven’t been dazzled by a vehicle coming the other way when its dark. I’ve been guilty of flashing high beams at someone because their lights are blinding me only to find they aren’t actually running high beam, and they flash you back. Who’s at fault? Sometimes, its unavoidable, but a lot of the time its not.
Illegal/incorrectly installed lights are dangerous
There’s a reason we have the Australian Design Regulations in place. Sure, in some cases they are daft, and don’t make a whole lot of sense, but in general the idea is to ensure everyone driving a vehicle on the road does so with a vehicle that is safe, and roadworthy. If you ignore the ADR’s, often its because you’ve made your vehicle unsafe, or dangerous.
Incorrectly installed aftermarket lights are downright dangerous, and that’s ignoring the legality side of things. If you are blinding oncoming traffic, you risk causing an accident because they can’t see clearly. Your lights might make them miss a motorbike rider, or another vehicle moving past the front of their car, and that’s a pretty significant increase in risk.
When you are sitting in your vehicle, it might look perfectly fine, but to everyone else who has to put up with you sitting behind them and blinding them, or oncoming traffic it couldn’t be further from safe. It’s a lot of risk created just to have some marginally better lighting!
Whilst this is far more frustrating when its dark, lights that scatter everywhere are still dangerous during the day, and a real pet hate of mine. I drive a small Corolla to and from work each day, and for a good chunk of the year it is dark on the way to work, and almost every single day I get blinded by someone who’s converted their headlights to LED or HID illegally, or incorrectly.
The blinding can also happen if you’ve lifted your vehicle and the lights don’t account for the lift. I was following a big 4WD the other day who’s lights shined straight into the back window of a small vehicle in front. Not only is it super annoying, its downright dangerous and irresponsible.
Are LED and HID conversions legal?
The short of it is if you take a vehicle that didn’t come with LED or HID head lights and you install them just by changing the globes, its not legal. It’s actually really simple; halogen lights have a specific reflector (the housing) that is designed to distribute the light evenly and safely in front of your vehicle.
When you throw and LED or HID globe inside a normal reflector that light gets scattered everywhere as opposed to the one direction, blinding oncoming traffic and annoying the absolute daylights out of those driving around you.
Determining whether the lights are factory fitted or not is really simple – you can tell from a mile away. If the light beam is focused nicely, with clear edges around the reflector its not a home job. Those that just whack a new set of LED or HID globes in end up with a light reflector that is lit up like the moon, with no clear reflection onto the road.
As this is a pet hate of mine, I’ve taken a habit of making note of what cars come factory fitted with LED or HID headlights, and there aren’t a huge number of 4WD’s on the road that do. When you see a 10 year old Land Cruiser, or Commodore, or Triton pass you with giant white moon looking lights, its a dead giveaway that they have illegal lights.
Lets make this really clear; if you want to know are LED headlights legal in Australia just by converting the globe? The answer is a big fat, no.
There are 32 ways to make your 4WD illegal, and running incorrectly done HID or LED’s is one of them.
How can you do it legally?
If you want to fit LED or HID headlights, read the ADR’s and comply with them. Legal light fitments will come with complete reflectors, and actually direct the light where its supposed to be (on the road, in front and not up high or to the sides!).
However, often just the reflectors is not enough; the ADR states that you need headlight cleaning devices auto levelling headlights for LED’s and HID’s if they are over 2000 lumen (light output), and then it just becomes too much work to modify. You can buy a HID conversion kit online from a huge number of places, but on its own, it will almost always be illegal.
If you want the exact wording, check the link out from the Department of Transport.
If you are after an overall improvement, you can get a range of Halogen globes that are either more powerful (like the Narva plus 120’s) or a higher wattage. Just be mindful of what capacity the wiring and the rest of your electrical system can handle, so you don’t damage anything (including the reflector if its too hot).
If you are going to run illegal lights, do it safely
I’m not here to tell you what to do. If you want to run illegal lights, and risk getting defected or blamed for an accident (and have huge insurance issues as a result) that’s up to you. But, at least do it with a bit of thought for the others on the road.
Your headlights come with adjustment arrangements so you can tilt them up and down, and side to side. If you are going to install globes in your normal reflectors that scatter light around like a disco ball, aim them down. H4 conversion kits can give you a lot of extra light, but please direct it sensibly!
Before you swap, park your car up against a wall, mark where the light shines and then swap them out, making sure the light also points in the same place, or lower. If you don’t, and you blind those around you on the road you deserve to have your vehicle yellow stickered.
What lights do you run? How are they? Do you ever get high beamed for them?
Totally agree that fitting an LED in place of a halogen bulb is no guarantee of ADR compliance. Lamps are certified as an assembly, markings on the assembly must comply with ADR 46/00 and the globe design is specified as part of the headlights certification. Its difficult, if not impossible to place the LEDs in the exact same location and orientation as the original filament. Non- compliant.
Yep, unfortunately lots of people either don’t know, or don’t care. Super annoying if they are coming the other way!
All the best
That 42 inch light bar in the image above on the D-Max is also illegal if used on the road. A light mounted above the bonnet line can only be used legally, off-road.
That Dmax is mine, and unfortunately you are not correct. In WA, you are allowed to have them mounted on the roof for both on road and off road use. The laws in WA changed a few years back. You cannot mount them above the bonnet line on the bull bar, but the roof is perfectly fine.
This is all made very clear on the department of transports website – https://www.transport.wa.gov.au/mediaFiles/licensing/LBU_VS_IB_132.pdf
All the best
Has Philips found a way of producing LED replacements which conform with the ADRs then?
Introducing our latest technology of LED upgrade to date: the Philips LED headlight bulbs boasts an outstanding beam performance of up to 250% brighter light*, stylish cool white light and enhanced lifetime. Since the Philips LED upgrades are designed to replace any standard halogen bulb, they make upgrading your car simpler, easier.
LED upgrade are used to replace your existing Halogen lighting solutions with better lighting technology to increase performance, quality of the light and lifetime.
Source: https://www.philips.com.au/c-m-au/car-lights/headlight-bulbs/led – Extracted 14 Oct 2021
You can ask them yourself, but I would say no, they haven’t. You can replace any halogen light with an LED, but it doesn’t make it legal. They don’t mention anything about ADR approval (which they would if it did) and often the issue is not so much the globe change, but the reflectors being designed for the LED, and having an auto levelling function.
Give them a call; it’d be interesting to see what they say
All the best
Great article and I completely agree that there’s so many thoughtless idiots on the road these days who don’t give a damn about anyone else and these damned LED replacement globes are super dangerous.
FYI, minor spelling correction: “as a pose to the one direction” should read: ‘as opposed to one direction’.
Yep, its become a bit sad really, with people not thinking about how their actions can impact others.
Thanks for the spelling pickup; so easy to get carried away typing and not think about it!
Hi everyone, ever notice how obviously modern oncoming cars have lights that “get scattered everywhere as opposed to the one direction”. These would obviously have HID or LED lights as standard, but their harsh white light still manages to blind you as you approach, with it sometimes even changing colour and splintering into purple or green. All the while your retinas are praying for their car to come level so you can see your side of the road again. Seriously.
Halogen headlights, especially those of older vehicles, don’t have such problems, regardless of road angle. Needless to say, fine headlight aim doesn’t get checked for rego now because so many modern cars would fail the oncoming dazzle test. And don’t get me started about FG Falcons with their INBOARD low beam headlights that give you no idea of car width in the dark. This is what got the first Morris Minor knocked back for distribution in America!
And what’s this sh*t about selective high beam, where drivers of new BMWs tootle around town merrily with 4 lights on (this is supposed to be legal?). I don’t care what the stupid factory says, if the road angle changes and I cop 4 LEDs in the eyes, they cop 200W in return from me.
I was told by a Senior Technical Manager at RMS (now retired) that the NSW law about it being illegal to let your lights dazzle other drivers gets thrown out the window, as Australia MUST trade with other countries by importing their cars, and in the interests of ‘harmony’ must accept any lighting standard (as long as headlights dip left, lol), including such disasters as 3000-bulb and/or retina-searing LED stoplamps, and mudguard amber side marker lights that look like an indicator is on, but isn’t.
Yep, the factory lights of some vehicles today are shocking, especially if you are in a lower vehicle. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future; if they keep getting brighter its going to be awful for anyone except the driver of the vehicle!
All the best
I am also sick to death of being blinded by retrofitted HID or LED headlights. Having a replacement bulb that can be upto 250% brighter is all well and good however the reflector in the headlight being retrofitted was never designed for that type of light. I think headlight operation alignment and brightness should be a part of ghe annual NSW rego check.
Yep, its getting worse by the day, and you don’t seem to see too much being done about it!
If you drive a smaller vehicle around its atrocious at night
All the best
What is the correct procedure on alignment of headlights, please.
Thank you and regards,
Your headlights will have screws to adjust the horizontal and vertical alignment. You want them pointing straight down the road, and not too high, or it will upset people. For the exact process, whichcar have a decent article using a garage door, tape measure, some tape and darkness.
All the best
I recently purchased a Hyundai Staria, (not a 4WD I know but was interested in your discussion) with possibly the worst headlights known to mankind can’t see more than a few metres down the road and high beam not whole lot better either.
I can live with the high beam but suggestions for legal low beam improvements please they are currently halogen bulbs.
Are the headlights clean externally and internally? The glazing that occurs along with build up of muck can make a big difference and can be cleaned with a few products.
Otherwise, replace the globes with brighter ones from Narva or another brand that don’t draw more current. The plus ones work well.
You might be able to replace the headlight assembly for cheap from somewhere online too.
All the best