Car exterior lighting regulations

Years ago only round headlights were permitted, as described above.


@Mustangman maybe can provide that info. There presumably was a reason to invoke the rectangular headlight issue in a thread about lighting regulations

No mention was made by the Mn patrol on round versus square versus led, or hid, just candle power. My 74 still had round. My 86 had square. Now they just use bulbs or led. Can’t remember seeing either square or round anymore in a parts place but I suppose they have them or can order them.

So if you use them, maybe have a few on hand. I have found more and more I stock items that are hard to come by. The list is expansive. I had a led garage light burn out. The high power type that I always bought from rockler. Then Menards had them, now nobody except could order them from northern for the time being. I have about 13 of them in the ceiling of the garages and shop with a couple to spare. I ordered five more. I’m ok for a couple years. 3000 lumens with a shade. Highly recommended.

Giving it more thought, I now recall that some European models were fitted with quad headlights for use in The US, and that this conversion usually looked pretty bad in comparison with their original (rectangular?) headlight design for the European market.

So, apparently there was a regulation of this type in The US at one time. Perhaps during the '70s? (Or, was it the '80s?)

FMVSS permitted rectangular headlights in 1974, the first appeared on some 1975 model year vehicles.



Yup, my 1975 Oldsmobile Starfire had 4 rectangular headlights. The US only allowed 7 inch or 5 inch round until '74. Stylists wanted rectangular bulbs on some designs so manufacturers petitioned the gummint to allow rectangular sealed beam lights.

European lights did not use sealed beam lights. They had seperate bulb and lens housings blended into the bodylines. Those were changed for cars sold in the US.

1 Like

My curiousity about this topic was aroused b/c of something I read in a Euro-based magazine recently, writer was repurposing back-up lights into turn signals on an older GM model. Said to be ok in the UK, but not in the USA. Writer claims this is more sensible than the USA requirements, which mandate red lights only for braking, parking, and turn signals. I don’t claim to understand why the writer thinks one country’s regulations are more sensible than another’s.

US side marker lights are amber in the front and red in the rear. Amber rear turn signals in the rear in Europe, red rear turn signals in the US.

Euro and Japanese spec allows clear lenses with red or amber bulbs. The US backup light could easily be used as a marker light with the right bulb in Europe.

I installed clear side marker front lights with amber bulbs on my Honda S2000 because they looked better. I refused to mount a front license plate, too. I did not live in a state with any safety inspections so why not? Maybe others can comment of whether that would be a safety fail in states that have such inspections.

Some Mustang owners have swapped clear rear tail light assemblies with red bulbs onto their cars. Some think they look good, some don’t. I don’t.

Writer is in Europe, their opinion would favor their regulations and not ours. One is not better than the other, just different.

Edit, maybe this article helps…

Well ya learn stuff. One thing I don’t like is the rear amber turn signal lights. I much prefer them to be red like the rest of the rear lights. It can just be a little confusing after a long day not knowing if it is the front of a car or rear. Plus I think the amber is less noticeable and washed out a little from the brake lights.

Now here we go. I’m trying to remember when front turn signals went from white to amber. Then you got amber bulbs, and sometimes coated the white lenses. Must be a non factor now but haven’t replaced signal bulbs in years.

My early-70’s truck’s front turn signals are behind white plastic, but I think the bulb glass is amber. The truck’s rear turn signal lights are red IIRC. I think they are red on my 90’s Corolla too.

The UK-magazine writer used “indicator” (what they repurposed the backup lights to be) but maybe “indicator” doesn’t mean turn signal. Maybe indicator means some sort of marker lamp. Are backup lights not required in Euro-areas? I’ve heard of folks here getting a ticket b/c the officer notices their backup lights aren’t working when they back out of a parking spot.

And, I MUCH prefer amber turn signals both front and rear.
Vive la differance!

1 Like

One thing I don’t like is the rear amber turn signal lights. I much prefer them to be red like the rest of the rear lights. It can just be a little confusing after a long day not knowing if it is the front of a car or rear. Plus I think the amber is less noticeable and washed out

:smile:Agree.100%. :smile:

1 Like

My 1981 Ford PU had retangular headlights.

Personally, I don’t care if the turn signals are amber, red, or white. Any color is ok by me as long as they are flashing, I know they are turn signals. And I don’t care one way or another about the color of the side markers. But I do think the side markers are a good idea for safety. Not sure if they are that much better than simple reflectors though.

Indicator means the same as turn signal… Brit English vs American English.

Backup lights are required in Europe. Just because a backup light is repurposed does not mean they moved it from the rear to the side.

1 Like

You are correct, they didn’t move the back up light from the rear to the side. Since back up lights are required, apparently they are using the back-up light for a turn signal too, double-purposed.

We have the same type wording in our laws too. However - There was an article in the Lawrence Tribune about a year ago and it seems that law has been interpreted as only applying to the existing headlights. They said there is no law to cover any lights that were added. Both MA and NH are seeking to address the problem. NH works extremely slowly, so I probably won’t see a solution in my lifetime.

1 Like

I guess I was thinking of night time. Sitting in traffic with the signal light of the car ahead of me kind of hard on the eyes instead of red.

It was 1962 or 63.