See the light

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Editorial -

Ve­hi­cle light­ing has ad­vanced in leaps and bounds over the past two decades. Modern plas­tic-housed units have trans­formed the front-end de­sign of many a ba­sic hatch­back. How­ever, I’ve al­ways thought that side­lights of any ve­hi­cle were pretty much use­less. With many cars now fit­ted with au­to­matic light­ing con­trols – which switch on when day­light di­min­ishes, op­er­at­ing straight to dipped beam – as well as day­time run­ning lights (DRLS) on all newly type-ap­proved UK mod­els from 2011, what point is served by the lit­tle 5W side­light bulbs?

Of course, DRLS have been around for a while. Volvos and some Saabs started fit­ting 21W bulbs in the side­light hous­ing to be pow­ered per­ma­nently. Re­mem­ber those late-1970s Volvos we kept flash­ing our lights at think­ing they had left the side­lights switched on?

De­spite my doubts about their use­ful­ness, it was in­ter­est­ing to read in our lead light­ing fea­ture, start­ing on page 6, that re­place­ment road-le­gal side­light bulbs are now avail­able, which cre­ate a bright, non-yel­low light.

An­other thing I learned was not to be tempted to fit re­place­ment LED bulbs with no E-mark brand­ing in orig­i­nal head­lamp hous­ings, as this is an of­fence. Al­though an MOT tester will prob­a­bly pass a set of th­ese side­light bulbs if they are pro­duc­ing a white light, you can be stopped by traf­fic po­lice for us­ing LED side­lights on an older car and they will most likely check to see they con­form with an E-marker.

Plus, I’ve heard one ex­cuse that cer­tain in­sur­ance com­pa­nies use to find a way of get­ting out of pay­ing for any ac­ci­dent dam­age is to check which bulbs are fit­ted to a dam­aged ve­hi­cle and then re­fus­ing li­a­bil­ity if they aren’t Type Ap­proved. You have been warned!

It’s in­evitable that head­lamp tech­nol­ogy will con­tinue to evolve. The halo­gen bulb is likely to dom­i­nate, only with more stylish head­lamp hous­ings, at least un­til Led-pow­ered head­lamps and rear lamps are fur­ther re­fined.

The days of the small side­light bulb might yet be num­bered.

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