Flashy paint jobs and aerodynamic spoilers disappear into the darkness when night arrives, but unique car lighting is still visible. Over 7 million cars were sold in the U.S. in 2016. Custom lighting will help you find yours in a crowded parking lot. Subtle during the day and wild during the night, car lighting can take many forms.
Customizing headlights is a subtle way to set your car apart. BMW set a standard in 2001 with the release of “angel eyes” headlights, which have luminous rings inside of the headlight assembly. They are also called “halos” or “corona rings.” While they might not be spotted during the day, they are visible at night. Some people even set the luminous rings to a different color during the day. For example, onlookers might see a soft orange glow around the headlights on a rainy day. Halo headlights, introduced in a street legal BMW, are also legal in most areas.
In the future, custom headlights might be even more functional. Mercedes and Audi have developed dynamic headlights that respond to oncoming traffic by dimming or that spotlight a pedestrian walking across the road. Unfortunately, these innovations are not yet legal in the U.S.
One of the most eye catching customizations, underglow illuminates the area under your car using LED or neon lighting. LED underglow can flash in different colors. Unfortunately, underglow is not legal in every state. Check your state laws for terms like “after-market lighting,” “vehicle equipment regulations” or “ground-effect lighting” to see if underglow is legal in your area. Typical regulations only ban certain uses, like flashing red or blue. However, you might have to leave underglow turned off on public roads.
The exploding popularity of LED lighting strips has lowered the cost of interior illumination. Although you can still get interior illumination done professionally, installing LED lights is a fairly easy do-it-yourself project. Sexy lighting options include under-dash lighting and gauge lighting. You can also install more functional interior illumination, like a light for when you open the rear hatch of a car. LED is enabling so many more options, like the lighting installed in this video. The owner even installed red LED lights on each handle of his BRZ!
Each year brings more options for illuminating your car cheaply. Some of it is functional. Some of it is just for fun. Generally, these options are yours to enjoy on private roads. It’s a good idea to check with local laws before taking your bright new car out onto public roads at night. At the very least, you’ll be able to find your uniquely lit car in the parking lot.