Certain conditions must be met if you want to replace your vehicle’s original headlights with xenon or light-emitting diode (LED) headlights.
Xenon headlights, also known as high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, and LED headlights have become increasingly available as standard equipment over the past few years. These headlights provide better visibility and energy savings and have a longer lifespan than conventional headlights. They usually give off a very white, somewhat bluish rather than yellowish light. In theory, these new types of headlights should not cause more glare than previous headlight models because they must meet the same federal standards, notably regarding their colour, and those standards have not changed.
On the road, when you are blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, you might automatically assume that the other driver did not switch to the low beams and left the high beams on. However, it is possible that the other vehicle is equipped with xenon or LED replacement headlight bulbs that were not installed by the vehicle manufacturer. Other reasons may explain the glare. For example, the vehicle’s headlights may be improperly aligned or the vehicle’s rear could be overloaded, thus misdirecting the light beams.
You are allowed to replace a vehicle’s original conventional headlights with xenon or LED ones, but only if you do so using parts (bulbs, headlight housing, adjustment system, etc.) that come from an original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
Be wary of replacement xenon or LED headlight kits that have only a bulb and ballast. Kits that do not include headlight housing might not provide adequate lighting as the vehicle’s original headlight housing was designed to work with a bulb that diffuses light differently. Such kits are not authorized.
A study carried out in April 2019 and published by SAE International tested out 9 replacement 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 authorized maximum in certain tests, whereas other bulbs did not produce the minimum amount of light required to ensure adequate visibility for the driver.
The headlights of vehicles sold by the manufacturer must comply with the lighting standards prescribed by Transport Canada.
Vehicles or headlights from countries where people drive on the left side of the road must not be used, because they could blind oncoming drivers even more. Headlights are generally designed to shine a higher beam along the shoulder and a lower beam on the side next to oncoming traffic, which means that headlights and vehicles designed to be driven on the left are not compatible with our roads.
To ensure that a sealed-beam headlight or vehicle from another country meets Canadian standards, you can ask the manufacturer to provide a certificate of compliance with Canadian standards or check to see if the lighting components bear any specific markings certifying their compliance.
Headlights that bear the specific marking provided for by SAE International are considered compliant with current standards. The various acceptable compliance markings are listed on Transport Canada’s website.
Under the Highway Safety Code, the SAAQ may require the removal, repair or modification of any equipment that has not been installed by the vehicle manufacturer if the equipment presents a risk for road users.
Fog lights can be equipped with LED or xenon bulbs so long as they:
To check whether a fog light meets the applicable standards, look for “SAE F” on the lens or ask the manufacturer if the fog light meets Canadian standards. That way you will be sure to obtain a beam that is aimed mainly at the ground.
Auxiliary lights other than fog lights are for off-road use only. For example, a LED light bar intended for off-road use and installed on the roof of a vehicle must be turned off when not in use and ideally covered to avoid accidentally turning or leaving it on.
Last update: August 16, 2023