LED and HID headlight bulbs – Are they legal in 2021?

With the coming of the new year, and of course Brexit, 2021 brings some amendments to MOT regulations that motorists need to be aware of.

This time there are changes made to regulations regarding retrofitted LED bulbs.

It seems as though headlights on new cars get brighter and whiter every year, right? For those among us in vehicles not yet blessed with headlight output matching the power of the sun, it may seem awfully tempting to upgrade your existing headlight bulbs.

But if your vehicles utilise standard halogen bulbs, you’d better think twice.

Can I upgrade my halogen bulbs?

There are two popular alternative light sources that are often fitted to halogen headlights – HID and LED.

But on 11th January the wording in the MOT inspection manual was updated to state that conversion of halogen to either HID or LED bulbs will automatically fail an MOT. To quote section 4.1.4 of the MOT Inspection Manual:

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.

HID lights (high intensity discharge) fitted to halogen headlights have been reason to fail an MOT for a while now, but fitting LEDs has always been a bit of a grey area.

Technically only “E Marked” bulbs could be fitted to headlights, and LEDs do not typically carry such markings. However many would continue to fit them as an alternative for halogen for longer life and greater output.

LED’s are also a cheaper and far simpler alternative to HID bulbs that often require extra work installing additional wiring and ballasts.

Any ambiguity on the rules for LEDs has been put to rest with this clear MOT guidance now though.

It’s not entirely clear on the reasoning behind this new wording – some cite changes stemming from Brexit, others argue it’s just to keep any loopholes closed.

But now it’s important as a motorist that if your vehicle is not using halogen bulbs when it should be, you’d better consider swapping them back as an MOT failure would now be entirely justified.

Let’s keep those MOT histories squeaky clean!