Are Projector Headlights Legal?

Are Projector Headlights Legal?

Projector headlights are a tricky subject. They're often incorrectly defined and can create confusion when it comes down to legality. In this post, we'll explain what projector headlights are, plus how to ensure your vehicle remains road legal whilst getting the best performance from your headlights.

What are projector headlights?

A projector headlight isn't a type of bulb. It's a kind of headlight housing. This is where the bulb is mounted and what surrounds it. There's two types of housing: reflector headlights and projector headlights.

Reflector headlights are the older style of headlights. Most cars made before the 2000s have them. Lots of new cars today come with reflector headlights installed. This housing features a bulb mounted in a metal bowl, which reflects the light out and forward, illuminating the road ahead.

Projector headlights are a more recent and more advanced invention. These headlights were first used on luxury cars in the late 80s, but are becoming increasingly popular on all types of cars. You can install projector headlights on a car that doesn't have them factory-fitted.

They have a metal bowl-like base that surrounds the headlight bulb and reflects light, just like a reflector headlight. The difference is that the light is reflected onto a spherical lens, which creates an even brighter light. Metal reflectors allow this light to be projected out onto the road in a very specific shape. This type of housing also has a shield that blocks light from the sides and the top, so that the beam of light produced is directed at the road only.


Advantages of projector headlights

Projector headlights have become popular in recent years, and are now included on many new cars. More drivers are installing aftermarket projector headlights on their cars to replace their old reflector headlights. The benefits of projector headlights are:

  • They're brighter than reflector headlights
  • Projector headlights create a crisp outline on the road, shining only in front of your car
  • They're less likey to dazzle oncoming drivers

Confusion regarding legality

So, why is there so much confusion over the legality of projector headlights? This is down to the type of bulb commonly used in projector headlights. There are three types of bulb: halogen, Xenon HID and LED.

Xenon HID bulbs emit a bright white/blue light, and are very easy to spot on the road. However, because of their brightness, Xenon HIDs can potentially dazzle other drivers. In many countries and states, there are laws regulating the brightness of headlights, and some HIDs can surpass this legal limit.

In order to keep Xenon HID bulbs from blinding other drivers, you must have projector headlights. They focus the light onto the road, with shields to keep the light from shining up or to the side, minimising the risk of glare. This has caused some people to confuse HID bulbs with projector headlights, even though they are quite different!

So... are projector headlights legal?

Typically, yes. You may run into trouble if your headlights are excessively bright, or if you have projector headlights that are excessively bright. However, since projector headlights are factory-fitted on most new vehicles, it's safe to say that, generally, they are fully road legal. Properly installed projector headlights ensures that you can safely use most types of HID bulbs.

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