See the light
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.