Enlighten me on HID / Xenon Headlights in California
March 7, 2016 2:23 PM   Subscribe

Are HID / Xenon headlights legal in california and if so what are the restrictions?

I have a 97 Honda Del Sol with factory installed reflector headlights (with the hazy lens with lines in it). I'd like to upgrade (I can't see a darn thing) and I am trying to determine what the legalities are to figure out what I need. I have a few options as far as I know:

1) stay with halogen bulbs (bleh)
2) go with LED bulbs (more research to be done, looks expensive at first glance)
3) Get a conversion kit for reflector headlights (not too excited about this, but its the cheaper option)
4) Order OEM replica reflector headlights with a clear lens, get a retrofit projector lens kit, install an HID system

I'd like to go with option 4 but i'm still hazy on what the laws in california are. I've called my local state trooper office and they said that the vehicle code is very general, that the lights must be white from the front and red from the back, but it's ultimately up to the law enforcement officer if they decide to cite me. If I go with the projector retrofit and HID system, with a lower-kelvin temperature so the light isn't bluish (think pure white, not ice-blue white), am I within the bounds of the law? As long as the lights are aimed correctly so i'm not blinding other drivers, do I have some kind of legal recourse if I was cited, or am I dreaming?
posted by nurgle to Travel & Transportation around California, CA (2 answers total)
There are no aftermarket headlight modifications that can guarantee you won't get a ticket. The stock headlight systems are tested and approved by the DOT. The aftermarket systems are not. If you are cited, then the fact that you do have non-stock setup means that you have an unapproved headlight system. As that is what you would be being ticketed for, it's going to be impossible to fight since it is true. The best you can hope for is that your modified headlights won't be noticed and will be overlooked by cops. That doesn't make them legal or immune to ticketing though.

I'd try de-hazing your existing headlight lenses. You can do this with toothpaste and some elbow grease (although this will need to be redone again soon unless you apply protectant as well; there are kits from major manufacturers that include such). I tried the Meguiar's polish on my 2003 Hyundai Elantra; it made a big improvement though it wasn't perfect. (If I had actually removed the haze using the toothpaste method first, it probably would have been better, but I was lazy.)
posted by kindall at 3:01 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

OEM projectors or a projector retrofit (like from The Retrofit Source) are really the only way to do HIDs correctly, but going from your fogged stock lights to a new set of projector lights alone will be significant - you may not need to use HIDs.

I don't have experience with the Del Sol but a quick search turns up several projector options, and using a good quality halogen bulb in a good quality projector will provide better light than a cheap HID drop-in. That's the cheaper option, and it gets you most of the way there.

The better, costlier option is HID projectors + ballasts like the Morimoto kit from TRS, but you're still buying either new lenses (if your factory lenses are replaceable) or new headlight assemblies.

Don't put drop-in HIDs in a reflector housing, that's how you blind people and deservedly get ticketed.
posted by a halcyon day at 6:00 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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