Automotive lighting

From ArticleWorld

Automotive lighting refers to the guiding and indicating lamps installed on the sides of a vehicle. This form of illumination is done to help a vehicle’s driver navigate his vehicle with adequate concern for the safety of not just himself but also other vehicles and pedestrians. It serves the purpose of helping drivers see at night, keeping others warned of a vehicle’s presence and providing clear indication when negotiating turns, changing lanes or stopping.


Forms of automotive lighting

Automotive lighting is provided in a number of forms on the front, rear and sides of every vehicle. Lighting can be classed as forward illumination, position lighting and signalling. The different forms are described below:

Forward illumination

The main headlights facilitate forward illumination. Apart from the normal ‘main beam’ headlights, ‘dipped beam’ headlights are used for greater control over the spread of light on the road. The beams of light sent out are sharply defined to prevent light from blinding drivers of approaching vehicles.

Fog lights may also be installed on the front to aid during poor visibility. Aimed at the road, these bright yellow lamps help drivers see when weather conditions are bad, as in dense fog, heavy rains, snowfall or sandstorms. Fog lights, however, are rarely used and the laws of most countries do not make them compulsory.

Some vehicles use ‘cornering’ lamps that are activated whenever a vehicle has to turn. However, regulations normally do not necessitate their use.

Position lighting

Position lighting is necessary for vehicles in order to indicate their presence when they are stationary. For safety purposes, it is essential that every vehicle is as conspicuous as possible under conditions of poor ambient light. These lights are white in colour in most countries. Cars in the United States and Canada use amber position lights, along with retrofitted reflectors. Such lamps may be present at the rear of the vehicle as well, referred to as parking lamps. Bright position lighting may be used during the day also.

Lights are also provided to illuminate the number plates of vehicles. There are lights that clearly define the shape and size of a vehicle, thus preventing deadly mistakes from occurring on the part of drivers at dark nights. Brilliant red rear fog lamps are used to warn others during poor visibility conditions.


Whether on major highways or urban lanes, signalling is very important for a vehicle. Bright yellow lamps that blink (blinkers) are provided on either side of a vehicle in order to warn other vehicles before changing lanes or taking a turn. Rear brake lights, red in colour, indicate an instance of stopping. Suitable conventions are followed to avoid confusion between the red lights of rear fog lamps and brake lights. White reversing lights are activated when a vehicle is in the reverse gear.

The reversing lamps, rear indicating lamps, registration-number lamps, stop (brake) lamps and parking lamps are collectively called ‘tail lamps’.