One of the most common complaints I hear that is not about a moving violation concerns the use or misuse of lights on vehicles. Here is one of them: “What is really starting to annoy myself and many others is people driving with their fog lights on during clear nights or even during the day. Is this not an infraction? These lamps are often unreasonably bright.”
I agree with this reader, I also find many fog lamps unreasonably bright, even during the daytime. What’s to be done about it? The following information may help you to use these lights effectively and avoid causing problems for others.
First, let’s be sure we are all on the same page. Fog lamps are identified by the SAE F marking on the lens, or a B above the circle with the E in it on European lamps. In B.C. you are allowed two fog lamps that emit either white or amber light. They must be mounted on the front of the vehicle, below the headlamps, but not more than 30 cm below. When you switch them on, the parking lamps, tail lamps, licence plate lamp and, if required, clearance lamps must also illuminate.
Fog lamps may be used in place of headlamps if atmospheric conditions make the use of headlamps disadvantageous. Otherwise, fog lamps may be used at any time of the day or night and in fact are used as the daytime running lamps on some vehicles.
Vehicle lighting at the time of a vehicle’s manufacture is regulated by Transport Canada. Specifically, Technical Standards Document 108, which details construction, performance and location of lamps and reflectors.
Here in British Columbia, lighting use and maintenance is regulated in Division 4 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. Essentially, it requires that the lights and reflectors that a vehicle was manufactured with must still be there and function as originally intended. Dimming of headlights and the times that vehicle lights must be used are also set out here.
I suspect that the unreasonable brightness comes from improper aim. Fog lamps must be adjusted and aimed so that, at a distance of eight metres from the lamp, the centre of the beam is at least 10 cm below the height of the fog lamp. Oddly enough, there is no tolerance specified as too low but anything higher than horizontal is too high.
There are other reasons that could contribute to problems. The use of LED replacement bulbs in housings designed for filament bulbs is one of them, along with using higher wattage filament bulbs than is intended. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure publishes an inspection and approval protocol for vehicle lighting to help inspection facilities decide what to pass.
It is a good guide to follow if you are considering making modifications to your vehicle’s lighting system.