Ensure that the lights are right

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REGINA, Sask. – Saskatchewan’s Department of Highways is attempting to clarify what types of headlamps are legally allowed on the province’s highways.

“A lot of discussion has taken place recently on the legality of some new types of headlamps and bulbs,” says Brian Johnson, manager, carrier services, with the Transport Compliance Branch.

It’s likely that his bulletin followed complaints about related charges on provincial highways, another department official mused.

All motor vehicle headlamps must comply with section 108 of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). And not all whites are white enough. A legal bulb has to meet the definition penned inSociety of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J578. And bulb intensity can’t be more than 45 to 60 watts.

The most telling sign a bulb is legal, however, can be found at the base of every headlamp, which will have “Department of Transport Canada” (DOT) marked on the base of the bulb.

The CMVSS requires the identification numbers on the lenses and bulbs to match on headlamp assemblies for vehicles manufactured with replaceable bulbs.

That’s not to say off-shore bulbs are automatically illegal. A European bulb, for example, is allowed to be used in Canada. These bulbs are marked H1, 2, 3, and 4 with a letter “E” in a circle. A lens marked with code “H1” is required to have an “H1” bulb. An “H2, 3 or 4” bulb cannot be used as a replacement bulb. But keep in mind that these bulbs are not interchangeable with North American bulbs, although they appear identical to the North American HB2.

Bulbs not designed or designated for headlamps cannot be marked with an “HB” number.

Bulb trade numbers, including American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 9004 or 9005, do not identify the bulb as legal for highway use. This is only a design standard to ensure consistency between bulb types.

Tinted bulbs simply can’t be used on the highway. For example, some bulbs are tinted blue, yellow, multi-coloured or rainbow. The tinting “reduces bulb brightness to dangerously low levels,” according to Transport Canada.

Gas discharge light bulbs that emit a slight blue hue are only installed on low beam and operate at approximately 84 volts. The bulb base is identified with a lightning bolt insignia.

Every bulb used on the highway must comply with the CMVSS section 108. Brand names such as “Cool Blue” and “Super White” must comply with the designated standards when installed as an after-market component.

For more information, call Reg Common, Saskatchewan Government Insurance Vehicle Standards Branch safety supervisor, at 306-775-6190. n

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