DATE: 09/13/88 EST





TEXT: This is in reply to your letter of June 20, 1988, with respect to two motor vehicle lighting products which you intend to import into the United States. You have asked "whether these devices require approvals from D.O.T."

First let me explain that the Department of Transportation does not "approve" or "disapprove" specific products. It does advise whether a product appears allowable under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Your letter does not indicate whether you wish to market these devices as original equipment to be installed before initial sale of a motor vehicle, by either its manufacturer or dealer, or whether you intend to market them solely through the aftermarket. I shall address each situation. The Federal motor vehicle safety standard that applies to original equipment is Standard No. 108 Lamps, Reflective Devices and Associated Equipment. Paragraph S4.1.3 of Standard No. 108 allows additional motor vehicle equipment provided that it does not impair the effectiveness of the lamps and reflectors required as original equipment. Effectiveness may be impaired if the device creates a noncompliance in the existing lighting equipment or confusion with the signal sent by another lamp, or functionally interferes with it, or modifies its candlepower to either below the minima or above the maxima permitted by the standard. In addition, a motor vehicle must remain in conformance with Standard No. 108 (and all other safety standards) until its first purchase for purposes other than resale. There is no Federal standard that applies to your devices as aftermarket equipment, but the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act prohibits a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business from knowingly rendering inoperative, in whole or in part, original lighting equipment.

Your first device is called a "foglight converter." The advertising literature attached states that its function is to turn "the existing


headlights...into foglights...." In our opinion, such a device would create a noncompliance with Standard No. 108 by rendering the headlamp function unavailable when the fog lamp converter is in use. We shall assume that the headlamp would be converted into a fog lamp meeting the specifications of SAE Standard J583 MAY81 Front Fog Lamps. None of the photometric test points of SAE J583 coincide with those specified for headlamps. Our further concern with this device is that a driver might fail to return to the headlamp mode from the fog lamp mode, and operate the vehicle with reduced frontal lighting.

The situation differs with respect to the aftermarket. Under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business may not perform modifications that render inoperative, in whole or in part, equipment such as headlamps added pursuant to a Federal safety standard. We believe that the installation of the converter could affect the operability of the headlamp within the meaning of the statutory prohibition. However, we note that the foglight converter is advertised as "easy for any driver to attach to any vehicle." As an owner is not a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business, the owner is not restricted under Federal law from modifications to his vehicle. He is, however, subject to the laws of the States in which his vehicle is registered and operated. We are not conversant with how State lighting laws might affect use of the foglight converter, and you may wish to obtain an opinion from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 4600 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203.

We have several other comments as well. The literature you enclosed depicts the foglight converter attached to what appears to be the European-designed H-4 bulb. Standard No. 108 does not permit headlamps with H-4 light sources to be sold for use on 4-wheeled motor vehicles. In addition, the application of the device where motion is translated from the lamp's exterior to the interior by a linkage in the bulb base would affect compliance with the requirement that the bulb base withstand a pressure differential of 10 psi. Additionally, creating a hole or passage for a linkage has the potential of rendering the headlamp noncompliant with Standard No. 108's requirements for certain environmental tests, such as resistance to dust, corrosion, and humidity.

Your second device is a "headlamp intensity modulator," adjusting a headlamp beam "automatically from low to high beam through a middle beam." According to your literature, when a sensor notes the beams of an oncoming car 500 meters ahead the upper beam gradually passes through a middle beam and diminishes into a lower beam when the vehicles are 150 meters apart. This device is also advertised as capable of owner installation, and without the modification of any vehicle parts. The system appears to operate by a switch. This device directly conflicts with Standard No. 108, and its use would create a noncompliance with it. Headlamps are defined as producing upper and lower beams, and means must be provided for switching between these beams. Use of the device would alter upper and lower beam characteristics from those required by Standard No. 108, and in effect create an infinite number of beams while passing from a conforming upper beam at one extreme to a conforming lower beam at the other. This precludes its use as original equipment. We


believe that its aftermarket legality would be limited. Although Federal law would not preclude an owner from installing it, the instructions are sufficiently complex that in our opinion many purchasers would seek to help from a "dealer" or "motor vehicle repair business," which could not be legally given. There would also remain the question of legality with State laws.

These appear to be innovative devices and we regret that we cannot be more encouraging.