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Car Lights: Types & Tips

Updated on November 3, 2016
Car Lights
Car Lights

What are the requirements of safety while driving? Your spontaneous answer may be, “Excellent driving skills”! Well, that’s quite logical. But just imagine, you are driving at nighttime with your excellent driving skills, but your car has no lights! Although you have all the driving skills to drive your car with due care, can you be called ‘safe’? Of course, not! An efficient lighting system is one of the prime requirements for a car’s safety. It not only shows you the road, but also shows your car to others who can avoid bumping in your car! If your car is not equipped with proper lighting system, consider revamping it on an emergency basis.

Today a car’s lights are not limited to headlights. Its body consists of various other types of lights inside as well as outside. It’s interesting to see these various types and of course, we’ll also discuss how to shop for them to ensure you buy correct lights for your car as per your requirements.

Types of Car Lights

Different types of car lights are identified based on their mechanism of producing light. Based on this mechanism, four types of car lights are especially popular, viz. halogen, incandescent, LEDs and HIDs.

Halogen Car Lights: Halogen car lights are bulbs containing a tungsten filament and halogen gas. The tungsten filament is charged electrically and thereby produces light. They are more efficient than incandescent lights which contain a mixture of some other gases like nitrogen and argon. Actually halogen lights can create 50% of more light using the same energy as is used by incandescent lights. They also last thrice longer. There is a metal background in halogen lights because of which they work more efficiently. Traditionally they are used as headlamps, but nowadays they are also used as marking and signal lights.

Incandescent Car Lights: Incandescent car lights are being used since when the usage of electric car lighting started. They work the same way as that of halogen bulbs, i.e. a tungsten filament producing light. The gaseous mixture in these bulbs is, for example, of nitrogen and argon. Or it may not contain air at all. 15 to 150 watts are produced from this type of bulb. Incandescent bulbs are usually used in the interior of the car.

LED Car Lights: LED car lights have some distinct benefits over other types of lights which make them popular among many automobile makers. One of them is that they produce light with its full brightness as soon as they are switched on. The speed of producing light is around a 1/4th of a millisecond quicker than that of incandescent light. Therefore they are normally used as brake lights. They are easily noticed. They also give more time to other drivers to take appropriate action upon seeing your brake lights. Small size and longer life are two of other prominent benefits. LEDs come in many types and all or many of them can be wired without being connected to the engine, so that you can leave them on even if your engine is off.

HID Car Lights: The gas used in HID lights is xenon and the light produced is much more intense than incandescent bulbs or even halogen bulbs. Life span of these lights is also longer than other bulbs. Also because of their lower energy consumption, they are perfect for being used as headlights. They are also used as fog lights on trucks.

Halogen Lights (Headlights)
Halogen Lights (Headlights)

Types of How Car Lights can be Used

You can equip your car by using the above-mentioned various types of car lights in different ways, inside as well as outside the car’s body. However, your car should have the following three types of lights at least.

1. Headlights: Headlights or headlamps are on the front side of the car. They are the main lights and are used for lighting up the road in front of the car at night or in low light conditions. They consist of two parts, low-beam or dipped lights which produce light enough to light up the road but not to blind other drivers, and high-beam aka main-beam lights that have no glare control and so create very bright light and so, should be used only if the road is clear, because they can stun or blind other drivers or pedestrians.

Headlights are again divided into two types, viz. bulb or sealed beam. You should choose carefully among them. A bulb, if stops working, only needs a new bulb to start again. Bulbs are also often inexpensive and you can replace them easily without professional help. However, if the sealed-beam light stops working, you have to replace it altogether, because the headlight assembly is entirely a single piece. Headlights also have a part called housing. In an accident, the housing or bulb or both may get damaged and need to be replaced according to the extent of damage. However, a bulb having a limited lifespan, needs to be replaced more often. You can either replace the old type of bulb or upgrade to a better type. Standard bulbs are often halogen lamps and are perfect for most conditions and reasonably priced too. Among the top-line bulbs, xenon bulbs are more popular because xenon burns two times as intense as halogen.

In case of failure of only one of the headlights, it’s usually a smart decision to replace both the lights even if the other is not yet worn out, because bulbs installed at the same point of time tend to wear out on the same day.

2. Convenience Lights: As the name suggests convenience lights are for the convenience of the passengers inside the car and so, they are in the interior. They too are of different types. For example, dome light is on the ceiling of the car and allows passengers to see the inner part of the car. There are also engine lights, glove box compartment lights and trunk lights. In modern cars, there are even map lights and dashboard lights. Convenient lights are usually made of LED bulbs.

3. Communication Lights: Communication and signaling lights are designed to make other drivers know about where your car is or what you (the driver) are up to. These are again classified into different types, like parking lights or front position lights which makes other drivers know about the car’s position when it is parked, turn signals or blinkers which signals other drivers that the car is about to turn or enter another lane, reversing lights which are on the backside and signal other drivers that the car is reversing (this needs to be white), side marker lights that do the same job as front position lights but are located on the sides of the car, stop lights or brake lights that signal a driver behind that the driver of the front car has stepped on the brake, and so on. Types of signal lights also depend on the laws of the country in which the car is driven.

Fog Lights
Fog Lights

Other Types of Car Lights

Fog Lights: Fog lights are also placed on the front part of the car and work as supplementary headlights. They are used in foggy, rainy, snowy or even dusty weather conditions. In these conditions, drivers need to slow down the car. These lights generally make use of halogen bulbs because they decrease glare so as to avoid dazzle for other drivers.

Different Colors of Car Lights: The 1949 VCRT (Vienna Convention on Road Traffic) and the 1968 UNCRT (United Nations Convention on Road Traffic) have set certain conventions about colors of car lights. According to these conventions, car lights facing forward should emit white- or yellow-colored light, whereas lights facing the car’s sides and turn signal lights should emit amber-colored light and lights facing the rear side should emit red-colored light. Therefore, you should check while buying lamps for your car that you are buying the correct colors.

Red-colored Tail Light
Red-colored Tail Light


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