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 a pose 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.
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.
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.
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?