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The Purpose of LED Daytime Running Lights

Updated on January 27, 2014

A daytime running light is an automotive light that is on when the vehicle is driving on the road to improve visibility during daytime conditions. These lights are traditionally automatically turns off when the headlights are on and is a safety feature meant for daytime driving hence the name. Countries like Russia, Canada, and several European countries mandate that all vehicles are equipped with daytime running lights. There are many beneficial attributes to having daytime running lights such as increased vehicle visibility, safety, and provide a stylish look to the vehicle. Most daytime running lights on vehicles are secondary functions of primary lights such as the low beams, high beams, or turn signal lights operating at a lower wattage. However, many newer luxury vehicle brands such as Audi, Lexus, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz have dedicated systems for the daytime running lights and are also LED lights instead of incandescent filament bulbs. Thanks to the stylish design of LED daytime running lights on many luxury brand cars, other cars and trucks also want to attain that same look; fortunately, there are many aftermarket solutions from a direct fit replacement to a universal fit assembly available from retailers. Since the LED lights are highly sought after, it’s no doubt that these aftermarket solutions are predominantly LED.


There are so many aftermarket choices for daytime running lights; these choices range from what brand, universal type, direct fit replacement, style, and much more. The deciding factor of which type to purchase will typically come down to the ease of installation when in the market for a light. Direct fit replacements are what the name implies, a direct replacement of an existing part on the vehicle requiring little to no modification to existing components. Many direct fit replacements also use the factory wiring connectors so splicing or tapping wires is not required which is a very attractive feature to automotive enthusiasts who are reluctant to touch the wiring of their car. Universal assemblies do not have a specific application to fit on; they are rather an LED assembly in a general size that can fit most vehicles as long as there is enough room. Since they do not have a specific application, modification to the vehicle or the assembly may be required. Wiring may also have to be involved as these lights may not utilize the factory wiring. Despite these slight obstacles, the benefits of a universal fit assembly installed on your car will create a unique look that not many people have thanks to the custom work to make it fit.

2013 Audi LED Lighting Technology


Since direct fit replacement assemblies are an exact fit to the vehicle, this is the number one choice most enthusiasts take when buying these types of modifications. There are many attractive designs that factory equipped cars have that is commonly copied for other cars; examples include the LED daytime running light row that many Mercedes-Benz or the Audi style running lights underneath the headlight. Another reason for these modifications is to obtain the same look that is available on the same car, but sold in other parts of the world. Vehicles such as the Kia Optima have factory installed LED lights on the bumper which are available from factory in South Korea and China, but not in the United States. Direct fit LED replacement lights will sometimes remove factory installed options such as fog lights and replace it with an LED equivalent in its place; the wiring is usually plug and play with the factory wires as well. Not having to worry about complicated measurements and other details involved in most custom jobs makes direct fit LED lights the go-to choice for all car enthusiasts.


When taking a brief glance at the market, many people notice repeating designs for many new cars such as the Scion FR-S. Since its debut in 2013, this car has been at the center of attention of many aftermarket parts companies. It’s only natural that an aftermarket lighting solution is available for this car; an LED daytime running light replacement of the lower fog light assembly which requires no modification. Tapping of wires is required for the Scion FR-S’s without factory fog lights and if you want to take advantage of the extra features that comes available with this light; the LED DRL has the ability to dim or turn off the daytime running light when another light is on. While these may not be the same LED daytime running lights that are inside the headlight of the Japanese and European models, these LED lights are a wonderful cost-effective alternative to a $1000 headlight upgrade.


The next example to show is the LED daytime running lights for the Kia Optima. The Kia Optima’s that are sold in South Korea and China have the option for factory equipped LED daytime running lights that run near the bottom of the bumper above the fog lights. This is a perfect example of obtaining the look available on a factory equipped car not available in ones country. Because these LED lights are designed after the international-spec model, some slight modifications are required to fit the lights to the car. However, these modifications are limited and can be easily done by any experienced individual or professional. One more added bonus is that the bezels for these lights are available pre-painted in Glossy Black or unpainted black plastic; for those who want a color-matched bezel with their car paint, they can opt for the unpainted version for slightly less. Your Kia Optima will look just like how it was originally designed in South Korea, but while being in the United States.

2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Overview -- Full-Size Luxury Sedan


One last example to show is the direct fit LED daytime running light for the 2007-2010 BMW X5 (E70) before the facelift. This daytime running light requires no modifications at all and is very user friendly in terms of installation and wiring. Many aftermarket LED daytime running light setups utilize the stock wiring for power or use a separate module to power the lights; in this case, these lights utilize an automatic DRL switch that turns the lights on when the engine is on. European cars are also very notorious for having issues such as error messages when installing aftermarket lights, but these lights do not throw any error messages since they are not replacing an existing light. Add-on type lights that do not replace any factory light will not create an error message on European car with a canbus system which makes this another choice for many BMW X5 owners.


While there are many choices of lights available, they all serve to achieve the same purpose; it increases the safety by allowing the vehicle to be more easily seen and also improves the look as well. With LED lights becoming standard equipment on many factory vehicles as a daytime running light due to benefits such as improved visibility, electrical efficiency, stylish look, and reduced emissions (thanks to the low power requirements that LEDs have); these are definitely the light of the current and future. Not only are LEDs being integrated into the daytime running lights of many vehicles, they are also slowly being used on tail lights, license plate lights, and interior lights of some vehicles. Thanks to the large aftermarket support, any car or truck can achieve the same or similar type of look as their favorite luxury car.


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    • Anna Dawson profile image

      Anna Dawson 3 years ago from Perth, Australia

      Audi is driving progress at high tempo and LED headlight already provides excellent illumination of the road and gives the cars with the four rings a unique look.

    • SolveMyMaze profile image

      SolveMyMaze 3 years ago

      Cool hub. My car is an older model so it missed the EU regulations of having LED daytime running lights being installed on it.

      Regardless, I'd be tempted to have them installed as an aftermarket kit if I could find a reasonably priced one.

      I would agree that it improves the visibility of your car, and ideally it'll prevent accidents.