Who knew that something as simple as upgrading the lights on your motorcycle could be so confusing?
LED lights seem to fall into the murky grey waters of unknown legalities, and many of us tend to skirt around the edge, hoping for the best.
We have gathered the most up-to-date and accurate information from as many sources as possible to clear up the mess.
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Are LED lights on a motorcycle road legal?
It’s complicated. Not the answer you were after? Let me break it down.
Section 4.1.4 of the MOT inspection manuals states that
“‘Existing halogen headlamp units should not be converted to be used with high intensity discharge (HID) or light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. If such a conversion has been done, you must fail the headlamp.’”Gov.uk
However, changes have been enforced since 22 March 2021, which means that not all motorcycles will fail their MOT if their headlamp is converted to be used with HID or LED bulbs.
“Class 1 and 2 motorcycles must not be failed for the defect ‘Light source and lamp not compatible’.
Headlamps must comply with all other requirements of the test and headlamp aim.”
Essentially as long as the headlight beam pattern is correct and doesn’t interfere with other road users, LED light conversions will now be legal, and you will not fail your MOT for converting your headlamp.
This change in the law is very new and has led to some confusion in the industry.
So my motorcycle will pass an MOT with LED lights fitted?
Yes, your motorcycle will pass an MOT with LED lights.
During the testing procedure, your lights are tested based on:
- Running order
- Headlight beam angle
- Indicators, rear lights and reflectors are also tested.
Do LED lights need to have an approval mark or British Standard Mark?
LED bulbs are not required to have an ECE approval mark or British Standard Mark.
Therefore, headlamp conversions as of March 2021 are entirely legal, providing the conversion meets all other requirements of the MOT testing procedure.
Complete LED headlamps do require an ECE or British Standard Mark.
A few notes before you switch to LEDs
LED lights are very bright; therefore, it is easy to dazzle other road users with a low wattage bulb.
The Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations Act states that motorcycles under 250cc need lighting setups to be of a minimum of 15 watts; a bike over 250cc requires a minimum of 30 watts.
This is where things can get complicated, as your LED lights must be safe for other road users with the correct beam length and angle.
Sometimes your original headlight casing will not dip the LED beam enough, and you may need to alter this to ensure it is legal.
LED lights emit a lot of light using a lot less energy than halogen bulbs. Therefore, when fitting to your motorcycle, they can cause a CANbus error on your dash.
To avoid this, you should purchase CANbus-compatible bulbs or resistors, eliminating the errors that your motorcycle dash may throw up.
If you are keen to switch your halogen headlamp to LED, you may be better off purchasing a new LED headlamp unit for your motorcycle.
This will ensure that it is appropriate for road use and eliminate any issues that could crop up by just installing LED bulbs.
Modifying your headlamp is classed as changing your motorcycle, and you may be required to inform your insurer about the conversion.
It is likely that motorcycle manufacturers will increasingly use LED lights as standard; some car manufacturers are already doing so.
Although there is no legislation in the UK specifically regarding pre-installed LEDs, vehicles using Xenon HID lights are tested to pass European testing. They are therefore deemed legal under ECE Regulations 98 and 48.
LED lights are brighter, improve fuel efficiency by using less energy and have a longer life.
They are a good choice for motorcyclists, mainly for riding through the Winter or in the dark; just be sure to do everything by the book to avoid any unwanted stress.