It”s hard to believe but at one time automotive lighting was a strictly utilitarian function, with small, mostly round lights that barely allowed you to see and be seen in the darkness. In contrast, today”s car lights are at the convergence of high-tech illumination and cutting edge automotive design. All modern cars are fitted with extensive electrical and lighting systems, and we rate a huge collection of best car lighting components designed to keep you, your vehicle and other road users safe on the road. Browse the items reviewed below to find the part you need. Navigate easily to your vehicle’s make and model to find the vehicle lighting parts you need.
The lighting system of a motor vehicle consists of lighting and signalling devices mounted or integrated to the front, rear, sides, and in some cases the top of a motor vehicle. This lights the roadway for the driver and increases the visibility of the vehicle, allowing other drivers and pedestrians to see a vehicle”s presence, position, size, direction of travel, and the driver”s intentions regarding direction and speed of travel. Emergency vehicles usually carry distinctive lighting equipment to warn drivers and indicate priority of movement in traffic.
Early road vehicles used fuelled lamps, before the availability of electric lighting. The Ford Model T used carbide lamps for headlamps and oil lamps for tail lamps. It did not have all-electric lighting as a standard feature until several years after introduction. Dynamos for automobile headlamps were first fitted around 1908 and became commonplace in 1920s automobiles.
Silent film star Florence Lawrence is often credited with designing the first “auto signaling arm”, a predecessor to the modern turn signal, along with the first mechanical brake signal. She did not patent these inventions, however, and as a result she received no credit for – or profit from – either one. Tail lamps and brake lamps were introduced around 1915, and by 1919 “dip” headlamps were available. The sealed beam headlamp was introduced in 1936 and standardised as the only acceptable type in the USA in 1940. Self-cancelling turn signals were developed in 1940. By 1945 headlamps and signal lamps were integrated into the body styling. Halogen headlamp light sources were developed in Europe in 1960. HID headlamps were produced starting in 1991. In 1993, the first LED tail lamps were installed on mass-production automobiles. LED headlamps were introduced in the first decade of the 21st century.
Forward illumination is provided by high and low beam headlamps, which may be augmented by auxiliary fog lamps, driving lamps, or cornering lamps. Conspicuity devices are the lamps and reflectors that make a vehicle conspicuous and visible with respect to its presence, position, direction of travel, change in direction or deceleration. Such lamps may burn steadily, blink, or flash, depending on their intended and regulated function. Most must be fitted in pairs—one left and one right—though some vehicles have multiple pairs (such as two left and two right stop lamps) and/or redundant light sources (such as one left and one right stop lamp, each containing two bulbs).
Most cars have at least one “dome light” located in or near the ceiling of the passenger compartment, to provide illumination by which to fasten seatbelts and enter or exit the car. These often have an option to switch on when the front (or any) passenger doors are opened. Many vehicles have expanded this feature, causing the overhead interior light to remain on after all doors are closed, allowing passengers to fasten seat belts with added illumination. The extended lighting cycle usually ends when the vehicle”s ignition has begun, or a gradual reduction in light emitted after a couple of minutes if the car isn”t started, called “theater” lighting. Interior lighting has been added on some vehicles at the bottom edge of the dashboard, which illuminates the floor for front passengers, or underneath the front seats at the rear, to illuminate the floor for rear seat passengers. This type of convenience lighting approach is also sometimes used to illuminate interior or exterior door handles, exterior step running boards, or electric window switches.
LED light sources appear increasingly as interior convenience lights in various locations, especially with finely focused lighting on console control surfaces and in cabin storage areas. Map lights are aimed at specific passenger positions and allow for reading without glare distraction to the driver. Some vehicles have “approach lighting” (puddle lights) in the exterior mirrors or lower edges of the doors, as well as interior lighting activated via key fob. Many cars have lights in the trunk (or boot), the engine compartment, and the glovebox and other storage compartments. Modern pickup trucks usually have one or more white cargo lights which illuminate the bed of the truck, often controlled in conjunction with the interior dome lighting.
Most instruments and controls on a dashboard in modern vehicles are illuminated when the headlamps are turned on, and the intensity of light can be adjusted by the driver for comfort. The incandescent light bulb was long the light source used in all automotive lighting devices. Many types of bulbs have been used. Standardized type numbers are used by manufacturers to identify bulbs with the same specifications. Bases may be bayonet-type with one or two contacts, plastic or glass wedge, or dual wire loops or ferrules used on tubular “festoon” lamps. Screw-base lamps are never used in automobile applications due to their loosening under vibration. Signal lamps with internal or external coloured lenses use colourless bulbs; conversely, lamps with colourless lenses may use red or amber bulbs to provide light of the required colours for the various functions.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are increasingly used in automotive lamps. They offer very long service life, extreme vibration resistance, and can permit considerably shallower packaging compared to most bulb-type assemblies. LEDs also offer a potential safety benefit when employed in stop lights, because when power is applied they rise to full intensity approximately 250 milliseconds faster than incandescent bulbs. This fast rise time not only improves the intentional conspicuity of the stop lamp, but also provides following drivers more time to react to stop lamps. However, this faster rise time has not been shown to make cars with LED stop lamps less likely to be struck from behind.
High-intensity discharge, or HID lamps, sometimes referred to as “xenon lamps” are modified metal halide lamps employing xenon fill gas. Traditional HID lamps such as those used for general lighting have a long warm-up time. Headlamps must provide light very shortly after they are turned on, and xenon gas serves to reduce start-up time.
In distributive light systems, the light from a single source is sent via optical fibres or light guides to wherever it is needed in the automobile. Light guides are commonly used to distributively light dashboard displays, and premium vehicles are beginning to use distributive systems for lighting such items as door locks, window controls, and cup holders. Distributive exterior lighting has also been explored, with high-intensity central light sources.
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