You are allowed to replace a vehicle’s original conventional headlights with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, under certain conditions.
First offered on luxury vehicles, LEDs are now becoming more available for entry-level vehicles. Before replacing your vehicle’s halogen bulbs with LED bulbs, take the time to read the following information.
All lighting devices on road vehicles (headlights, lights and reflectors) must comply with the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS, or NSVAC in French).
Most vehicles sold today are equipped with headlights whose bulbs can be replaced. The most common types of bulbs include halogen bulbs, xenon (HID) bulbs, and LED bulbs. Even if the light bulb bases allow for interchangeability, not all types of bulbs can be used for a vehicle’s headlights.
A vehicle headlight that is designed to hold an LED bulb will bear the inscription SAE HL on the lens. Only these vehicle headlights are designed to hold LED bulbs. It is still preferable to replace a defective bulb with a bulb of the original type. We invite you to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to find out the proper bulbs for your vehicle’s headlights.
A study carried out in April 2019 by SAE International tested out 9 LED bulbs in vehicle headlights designed to hold H11 halogen bulbs. None of the 9 bulbs studied emitted a compliant amount of light. Some of the bulbs produced beams of light 10 times stronger than the maximum limit, whereas other bulbs did not produce the minimum amount of light required to ensure adequate visibility for the driver.
These lights can be equipped with LED bulbs so long as they do not reduce the visibility of the other lights on the vehicle. For example, an LED bar that is too bright or placed too close to a turn signal light will reduce its visibility.
As is the case with fog lights, auxiliary lights must be installed at the front of the vehicle, at a height that does not exceed the height of the vehicle’s original lights. If they are compliant for road use, don’t forget to turn them off if you are less than 150 m from another vehicle or if you are driving on an adequately lit road.
Under the Highway Safety Code, the SAAQ can have any equipment that was not installed by the manufacturer removed if it presents a risk to road users.
Last update: July 21, 2021