Transport minister Anthony Loke has issued a reminder on illegal high intensity discharge (HID) headlamp conversions. He was explaining the related regulations in reply to a question in parliament, and posted up a video of that on his Facebook page.

“Any fitment of HID headlamps that do not follow specifications is not allowed, except for whole-assembly system change with accreditation from authorities such as SIRIM,” he said.

“HID headlamp installation that is allowed adhere to UN regulations – UNECE R48: Installation Of Light, UNECE R98: Gas-Discharge Headlamp and UNECE R99: Gas-Discharge Headlamp Source – and includes original HID headlamps fitted by car manufacturers according to the above standards.

“For instance, UNECE R48 states that a vehicle’s headlamps can only have maximum brightness intensity of 4,300K, but HID headlamps rated up to 16,000K are available on the market. Those found guilty can be charged and fined a maximum of RM2,000 or jail of not more than six months,” he added.

What the minister essentially means is that any non-standard and aftermarket HID headlamp conversion is illegal, unless it’s a whole-system factory retrofit job approved by the authorities. If the HID, Xenon or LED headlamps came with your car from the factory, then it has been type-approved and is legal. Nothing new here, just a reminder of existing laws.

HID lights produce a whitish light that’s brighter – by up to two or three times – than that produced by halogen lamps (LEDs are behind HIDs in this respect). It requires less power than halogens (around 35 watts) and is claimed to have a lifespan of approximately 2,000 hours. HIDs usually come with an auto-leveling function and have wider light dispersion. Wider and brighter means improved visibility and safety at night, not just for the driver, but for other vehicles as well.

The problem is with aftermarket fitments that are too bright or aren’t properly calibrated. Last year, we got clarification from Datuk Mohamad Dalib, director of the automotive engineering department at the Road Transport Department (JPJ), and this is what he had to say.

“The rules on vehicle headlights are very clear. Any lights that are fitted on later (retrofitted), lights that differ from the original ones that came with the vehicle, they’re illegal. If it follows the specifications of the manufacturer, no problem.

“But some HID bulbs on the market have colour temperatures of up to 16,000K. That’s the problem, when we come across cars that blind opposing traffic. This endangers other road users, and we want to avoid this,” he said, adding that changing headlamps is also against the Vehicle Type Approval (VTA) that has been given to the vehicle.

LED DRLs? They’re OK, Mohd Dalib confirmed.