Many drivers in Singapore love their white lights. Among many motorists, the perception of having white headlamps makes a difference in the car’s overall outlook and usability. And in some respects, it kind of makes sense. I mean, my Honda has white LED daytime running lights (DRLs), white LED fog lamps, but ordinary yellow hued halogen headlamps. Go figure.
Funnily enough, according the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) modification guidelines, headlamp modifications are actually listed as “Illegal modifications”, which may seem a little excessive Aftermarket DRLs are illegal too. From a safety standpoint, it does make sense. You wouldn’t want to dazzle oncoming traffic or blind drivers ahead of you. But in cars with older dimmer halogen bulbs, drivers may still opt for a brighter option. Which is why we may see many cars with aftermarket kits.
But before we get started, let’s dive into the basics: What are the different types of headlight bulbs on the market?
First off, Halogen bulbs. Common, affordable, and rather old school. These bulbs still make use of a filament. Next, High Intensity Discharge bulbs or HID for short. These bulbs illuminate when electricity is passed through ionized xenon gas, and offer more lumens for less wattage as compared to halogen. And finally, LED bulbs. These are the most expensive, but also the most efficient, the brightest, and the most durable out of the 3.
Now cars fitted with Halogen bulbs are rather common, especially so on more affordable family sedans or hatchbacks. Though many car companies are starting to include new LED units as they offer more light for less power. Halogen bulbs are easy to replace, and LED bulbs can easily be retrofitted to most cars with a simple conversion kit.
HID bulbs on the other hand, take a little more effort. Cars that are fitted with Halogen bulbs as standard will require a slightly more complex conversion kit in order to work with HID headlamps. Halogen bulbs run on DC current, so a conversion kit for HID bulbs would need to convert DC to AC in order to provide the bulbs with sufficient current to regulate the power.
According to the LTA, High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps must be fitted with an auto-levelling feature. Now, auto-levelling features are a clever bit of kit. If you’ve seen cars that unlock and start up with a dazzling show of lights that flash in complex patterns, odds are the car has auto levelling headlights. These work by adjusting and tilting the light beams based on various conditions such as the car’s tilt angle or the driver’s steering input. On a dark twisty road, it illuminates the section of road you’re about to turn into, essentially giving you a “preview” of the road ahead. Granted, it’s much safer and it’s a neat trick to have. Unfortunately, such features are more prevalent on continental cars. And cars from that side of the world tend to cost a pretty penny here in Singapore.
High wattage bulbs are not allowed in Singapore. Now this is a rule I can wholeheartedly endorse. In most cases, higher wattage bulbs produce more lumens, which means more light. However, here in Singapore, our entire motorway network is fully lit at night, so there really isn’t any need to brighten up stock setups. And deviating from the car manufacturer’s specified power output may cause a slew of other problems. Battery issues, short circuits, or even possibly a fire in the most severe cases.
Sure, drivers may want to change the colours of their lights, they may end up dazzling and blinding drivers. Or rack up severe fines.
So in summary, only cars that have been factory fitted with the manufacturer headlights are allowed. Aftermarket HID and LED kits are deemed illegal. Which is a crying shame. But since most modern cars are running on LEDs these days, it really isn’t an issue. And if your bulbs aren’t posing any obvious threat to the safety of other road users, you’ll probably be left alone. Until it comes time for your routine inspection.