Should you change the color of your car's exterior lights?

Updated Jan 30, 2020 | Same topic: Let's Drive Smart!

Can I change the color of my car's exterior lights? Well, it's a big no. But why? Keep reading to answer!

Many trends have come and gone in the history of car modifications, especially when it came to a vehicle's lights. 

In the 90s, there were car enthusiasts who went wild with the multi-colored under-glow setups that even extended to glowing wheels.

There was also a time when LED strip lights were placed around the headlights, wheels and the interior, usually around the dashboard.

>>> Have you known: Car modifications in the Philippines: What do you make of this?

But what about exterior lighting?

We can look to the Pinoy 4x4 offroading crowd for that one, where their SUVs are outfitted with LED bars, aftermarket fog lights (usually in pairs), and even spotlights. Heck, even some sedans and hatchbacks used similar setups for that "rally-inspired" look, and boy they sure look gnarly.

There are plenty of choices when it comes to modding your car's exterior lights, but this begs the question: "What if I’d like to turn my plain ol' white LED headlight to something that glows purple or blue?" Well...that's actually illegal.

An oblivion character

"Stop! You've violated the law! Pay the LTO fine and prepare your vehicle for impounding!"

>>> Recommended article: A short guide to LED car headlights: Basic parts, types, price & more

The Geneva and Vienna Conventions on Road Traffic

As the Philippines is a signatory to (and abides by) both the Geneva and Vienna Conventions on Road Traffic, changing the color of your car's headlights or using any colored lights other than those approved for international use is illegal. This rule is specifically found Republic Act No. 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, enacted in 1964.

The code states that all vehicles traveling on public roads like highways shall only be equipped with two headlights on each side. These two headlights should emit either one of two permissible colors: white or yellow. 

car headlights

White and yellow are the only color allowed for vehicle headlights

The law adds that all motor vehicles should have a rear lamp that emits a red light visible from at least one hundred meters away from the rear, and a white-colored lamp to illuminate the license plate area.

>>> Just in case: How to Replace a Failing License Plate Light

A picture of a foggy road

Proper external lighting is useful in low visibility situations like this one

A prominent red light, positioned at the rear of the vehicle, should activate whenever the brakes are used, even during low visibility situations.

The code also states that additional lights are permitted, except for forward-facing red lights. Vehicles with auxiliary lighting should also come with a feature that enables the driver to adjust the illumination intensity.

Whenever a motor vehicle is traveling through well-lit roads within city limits and heavily populated areas, the driver must either dim the lights, turn them downward or shut them off completely. 

car sginal light

But what about my signal lights? Can I change their color instead? NOPE!

>>> FYI: Car lights and the importance of checking them regularly

But what about my signal lights, you say. Can you change their color instead? 

On your car's signal lights

In keeping with the Vienna code, a car's signal lights must be rendered in yellow, as they are used for indicating the vehicle's directional movement, with the ability to flash or blink only until the maneuver has been completed. Red and yellow taillights are reserved for the rear of a vehicle. 

A badass USAR vehicle

Search and rescue vehicles are permitted to use auxiliary lights

Other blinking external lights such as blinkers should be used only by authorized emergency response vehicles such as ambulances, police squad cars, firefighting trucks ans search and rescue vehicles, otherwise they will only serve to confuse other road usesrs and lead to traffic mishaps.  

What about reflectors?

Red-colored reflectors and lights should not be used at the front of the vehicle. Conversely, white lights or reflectors which can potentially dazzle othher motorists with glare should not be used at the rear. the only exception being yellow reverse lights that turn off once the vehicle engages neutral or a forward gear. 

car reflectors

Red lights and reflectors belong to the vehicle's rear end 

You might be thinking, "It's my money and I can do what I want with my car!" Well, good luck with that, because violating these rules carries some hefty consequences.

>>> Relevant article: Safe driving: Top 10 tips to avoid headlight glare at night

The price of ignoring the rules

Joint Administrative Order No. 2014-01 enforced by the DOTC, LTO and LTFRB metes out a Php 5,000 fine on those driving a motor vehicle without adequate lighting equipment and with improper or unauthorized accessories. 

The vehicle can also be impounded until you remove or configure your accessories to comply with acceptable standards. Lastly, the illegal devices, accessories, or equipment will be confiscated by authorities to prevent future use. 

An empty wallet

Spending money on illegal mods (and the fines involved) isn't really worth it

>>> For more details: Complete list of LTO fines and penalties in the Philippines

I still want light mods! What are my alternatives?

You're still allowed to install two auxiliary lights that are white or yellowish in color, mounted in such a way that won't interfere with you operating the vehicle. These accessories are limited to having six bulbs per lamp, and are not to be used on well-lit or two-lane roads, lest they dazzle oncoming traffic.

And while there is no actual ruling against underglow lights that we see on some tricked-out cars, it's better to err on the side of caution.

But why not other colors?

Green and other hues that are neither yellowish nor white tend to be less vibrant, making them next to useless as headlights. You won't be able to see much on the road, and you'll also become less visible to other drivers in low-light or low-visibility conditions. You can install "super blue" or "blue" headlights whose actual wavelengths are white. 

A vehicle with red

An example of a illegal lighting mods on a car 

Exterior light colors: Conclusion

While we did try to cover everything you need to know about laws related to vehicle lighting colors, we encourage you to contact the LTO themselves.

 As we've said before though, it's better to err on the side of caution. Leave your lights alone (unless they need replacing) and turn to modding things that actually matter like coil-overs, a better radiator, or a better set of wheels. 

For more guides on how to modify your car properly, keep reading Philkotse.com.

Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar G.B. Miguel

Author

Cesar is a graduate of AB English with previous experience working as a freelance writer for varied internet publications in-between his former stints in the Pharmaceutical Industry, and later as a First Aid Provider and Training Staff at the Iligan City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

Since childhood, Cesar has been keenly interested in cars. He has learned the ins and outs of these marvelous vehicles and is a competent amateur mechanic who is keen on sharing his knowledge.

Cesar is perceptive of car culture in general – not only in the Philippines but in global regard, as well. His knowledge ranges from the prevalent stories and trends among car enthusiasts around the world, to closely following the latest local and international developments in the automotive industry.

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