Mr. Simon S. Shih
Irvine, CA 92604
Dear Mr. Shih:
This responds to your e-mail, in which you seek clarification regarding the legality of high intensity discharge (HID) headlamp conversion sets, specifically whether it is legal to manufacture or sell sets of HID headlamps to replace original equipment halogen headlamp sets. We are pleased to have the opportunity to answer your questions related to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108, Lamps, Reflective Devices and Associated Equipment.
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue FMVSSs that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. As a preliminary matter, we would clarify that we have no authority either to approve or disapprove motor vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment. We do advise correspondents of the relationship of their products to applicable FMVSSs and other regulations that we administer. If a product is covered by one or more of our safety standards, its manufacturer must certify compliance of the product with all applicable FMVSSs prior to its importation or offering such product for sale. The symbol "DOT" on replacement lighting equipment is often mistaken for "DOT approval" of the equipment, but, in fact, it reflects the manufacturer’s own certification of compliance.
We believe that your questions are addressed by our March 13, 2003, letter of interpretation to Mr. Galen Chen (see enclosure). In that letter, we interpreted FMVSS No. 108 as requiring headlamps manufactured to replace original equipment headlamps to comply with all applicable photometry requirements using the replaceable light sources intended for use in the headlighting system on the vehicle for which the replacement headlamp is intended. Unlike other lamps, FMVSS No. 108 specifically regulates headlighting systems, including their light sources (see S7.1, S7.5, and S7.7). We adhered to this interpretation in a recent interpretation to Calcoast-ITL (69 FR 60464 (Oct. 8, 2004))(see enclosure).
Because replaceable light sources are, by regulation, designed to be non-interchangeable, it would not be possible for an HID headlamp conversion set to meet the standard’s photometry requirements for an original equipment headlamp system using a halogen light source, so the replacement lamps could not be sold for this purpose. Furthermore, a headlamp dealer or motor vehicle repair business could not remove the original halogen headlamps and install HID replacement headlamps without violating 49 U.S.C. 30122. That section prohibits manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and motor vehicle repair businesses from making inoperative equipment installed in accordance with a Federal motor vehicle safety standard. We cannot comment on the specific replacement lighting products that you mentioned because we do not have sufficient information on them.
Finally, in a subsequent e-mail, you asked whether our regulations require HID lighting systems to include "auto-leveling" and washing systems, similar to those incorporated in vehicles sold in Europe. The answer is no. FMVSS No. 108 does specify aimability performance requirements under paragraph S7.8 of the standard, but that paragraph does not require an "auto-leveling" capability. The standard also does not contain any requirement for a headlamp washing system.
s it may be of interest to you, we also have enclosed a copy of our November 18, 2002, letter of interpretation to Mr. Jeff Deetz, which relates to kits that substitute the type of light source in existing headlamps.
I hope you find this information useful. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact Eric Stas of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.