04/05/2020
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Tech advice: HID headlights upgrade on a motorhome or campervan

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Planning to change or upgrade the headlights in your motorhome or campervan? Then you should read this advice first...

 

It's easy to assume that, if you can source and buy an accessory for your motorhome, it should be legal to install that accessory.

However, a recently submitted project to MMM revealed that, if you plan an upgrade or replacement, you should always research it first.

A reader recently upgraded his car's headlights to have brighter Xenon bulbs and then, finding they were available for his motorhome, ordered and fitted a set to this, too.

However, a check on the government's gov.uk website would have revealed there are rules about such headlight upgrades.

Xenon headlights (also known as HID or gas discharge) are not mentioned in the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989.

However, many new vehicles have these fitted as original equipment and this is allowed because they have been type approved under EU law. No EU country can refuse to register a new, unaltered vehicle that has European Whole Vehicle Type Approval.

The approvals that relate to this issue are ECE Regulation 98 (for the HID headlamps, which are tested on a rig in a laboratory) and ECE Regulation 48 (lighting installation on the vehicle).

But the issue is not with vehicles that have HID lights fitted from new, but rather for aftermarket upgrades.

For the aftermarket, a used vehicle cannot obtain type approval because this only applies to new vehicles.

However, the DfT (Department for Transport) has not banned HID lights from being sold in the aftermarket.

Instead, it requires that HID lights sold on the aftermarket meet the same safety standards as HID headlights fitted to new vehicles. Therefore a HID aftermarket headlamp unit should:

  • Be type approved to ECE Regulation 98 as a component
  • When fitted to the vehicle should enable ECE Regulation 48 to be complied with (although no government inspection will actually take place)
  • Comply with RVLR as far as “use” is concerned

In practice, this means any upgrade must replace the entire headlight and not just bulbs and that the headlamp unit (outer lens, reflector, bulb) must be type approved to ECE 98 and be ‘e-marked’ to demonstrate this.

That e-mark can only be done by the headlamp supplier – Hella, Valeo, etc – who must test the headlamp in an independent laboratory.

Once fitted, the headlight must have headlamp cleaning and self-levelling (which can be for the headlamp or can be in the vehicle suspension – using self-levelling suspension). Also, the dipped beam must stay on with the main beam.

The headlamp must be maintained in good working order, kept clean and aligned/adjusted correctly in the same way as any other headlamp.

The DfT states, “It is not legal to sell or use aftermarket HID lighting kits, for converting conventional halogen headlamps to HID Xenon.

"If you want to convert your vehicle to Xenon HID you must purchase completely new Xenon HID headlamps.”

The DfT goes onto explain that the existing lens and reflector are designed around a halogen filament bulb, working to precise tolerances.

If a HID bulb is placed in the headlamp, the DfT says the beam pattern wouldn’t be correct, with the potential for dangerous glare in some places and not enough light directed to other areas.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence to supply, fit or use vehicle parts that are not legal.

However, there are websites (often not based in the UK) that sell these headlight kits, meaning that people could fit such upgrades to their motorhomes without realising they are breaking the law.

Summary

It's not permitted to convert an existing halogen headlamp unit for use with HID (Xenon) bulbs. The entire headlamp unit must be replaced with one designed and approved for use with HID bulbs and it must be installed in accordance with the rules stated in this article.

Head here to find out more: gov.uk

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