Driving Lights for Car

I have a 99 Ford Escort that has terrible headlights. I can’t see anything with them. I’ve tried to clean off the plastic and then install new bright bulbs. That didn’t do anything. I’d like to install a small driving light bar to be used as brights but I’m not sure what’s legal in Illinois. I’m only thinking like a $20 Walmart LED that has 4 bulbs going across. Is something like that legal for highway use? Initial research seems to indicate any bar like that is illegal. If I can’t go that route, what suggestions do you have? Thanks!

Unless your headlights look brand new, I’d think about replacing them. They’re about $50 each on Rockauto, I don’t know how much work is required to replace them.


Did you clean the headlights with a headlight cleaning kit (where you use a drill to buff them)? If not, that might make a big difference if the fogging is on the outside, although it’s also possible that the inside is fogged. If that doesn’t help, I agree with the comment above that replacing the headlights seems simplest.

Many body shops will do headlight cleaning and polishing and even some dealers and detailers. I have seen the results and what they can do is much better than I did myself.


I have a 2003 Taurus, the headlights were terrible when I got it off my dad in 2015. I polished the headlight assembly and installed Silverstar bulbs, it was a little better but not much. I ended up buying new headlight assemblies to replace the originals to fix the issue. I believe the reflective surface in the oem assembly had deteriorated over the years. I bought the Taurus headlight assemblies off Amazon. Recently I bought new assemblies for my wife’s 2006 Sienna off Rock Auto. Again a big improvement for night driving. Google how to replace the assemblies, the 2003 Taurus was relatively simple, but I had to partially remove the front bumper on the Sienna.

Ed B.


Back in the bad old days when all cars had terrible headlights and I lived out on a country road infested by deer, I ran a set of PIAA 1100X driving lights. Those things were like airplane landing lights. I could see deer 15 feet off the road, and for that matter the tops of trees. The company’s still around - just remember to either hook them into your brights only, or turn them off when cars are coming.

And be conservative in your interpretation of the law. Many states say a set of auxiliary lights up to 55w is legal, but those laws were written back when halogen was the best you could get. Do that with the new LED lights (assuming you could even find them) on the front and it’ll be like stadium lighting. No need to blind oncoming drivers that badly.

I had mine done at a body shop, polished then they clear coated the lenses, nearly new visibility.

I put new lamp assemblies from Rock Auto on my 1999 Honda and it was far more effective than the polishing job I had done earlier. Made the car look like new, too.
Also did the same for our 2007 Chrysler minivan, with improved vision and appearance. Well worth it. I use Silverstar bulbs in both.

Stay away from any aftermarket gimmick bulbs or light bars or the like.

This is new assembly compared to the old one on a 2006 Sienna. The old assembly had been cleaned and polished many times.


Ed B.

Not recently…

Yeah I think an extra 55 watts for a driving/fog light is about all that is allowed for low beam. I think pretty universal but that really isn’t much light and fog lights to me don’t hardly do anything. I think your answer is to simply replace as suggested. There are two things, the clarity of the plastic, and then the condition of the reflector inside the light. If the reflector is shot, clearing the lens won’t help much. My Riv head lights were actually glass, so when they got sand blasted, nothing would clean them. So if you can get new replacements for $100, do it, and then spend another $50 for the Silverstars and life will be good again.

If OP just wants to know if the light bar is legal or not, stop in at the local sheriff’s office when they aren’t overly busy and ask. They’ll be happy to tell you; especially if you ask before you install something that’s illegal.


Agreed . . .

that said . . . it might get tiring cleaning and polishing them every few months

You have to be careful with that. If cops were well-versed in the law, they’d be lawyers. I’ve had a lot of cops tell me things are illegal when they aren’t.

Agreed as well. I’ve found that keeping a coat of good wax on them helps. They yellow because of UV damage, and the wax blocks it.

It’ll take more than a few months to turn cloudy from pitting again unless you live somewhere that a lot of grit gets blown around.

sadly, that describes my neck of the woods perfectly

On the flip side . . . isn’t it funny how the law enforcement officers’ personal vehicles often have window tinting that is blatantly too dark to actually be legal. But who’s going to enforce that . . . ?!


… assuming that the Sheriff’s Office in one’s county has anything to do with automotive regulations.
In my neck of the woods, the Sheriff’s Office provides security at the County Courthouse and at the County jail, but they don’t provide any other services.

Thankfully, youtube is VERY helpful in that derpartment. They use a 2001, but it’s the same generation as the 99 of the OP

That youtube video brings back some memories . . .

Back in the day, the warranty lady at the dealership drove one of those 2 door Escorts like in the video . . . was it called ZX2 or something like that?

Didn’t seem like a very practical car, though

I suppose it was supposed to look fast and sporty, but in fact it was neither

The only other thing they do where I am in South Jersey is execute money judgements.

Yes, I forgot about that job of theirs. Perhaps in other states the County Sheriff has duties of a wider scope, but in NJ, their services are very limited.