Have you ever stopped to think about why you aren’t blinded more by oncoming car headlights?
After all, we know they’re powerful bulbs. Unless someone has left their full-beam lights on, usually, you won’t struggle to see.
That’s because headlights aren’t symmetrical and straight, but sometimes you may need beam deflectors installed on your car.
Are LED headlights the same?
Some LED headlights will need beam deflectors if you drive a left-hand drive car in a right-hand driving country, or vice versa. Some modern headlamp designs won’t need them, though – this will be stated in the manual for your car or the headlamp kit.
In this guide, I’ll explain:
- What beam deflectors do
- Whether LED headlights need them
- Which countries require beam deflectors to be installed
The Purpose Of Beam Deflectors
Before we get into LED headlights, let’s first clarify exactly what beam deflectors are and why they’re needed.
To do that, we need to start by explaining headlight orientation.
You might not realize it, but your traditional low-beam headlights are not symmetrical, and they don’t both point straight forward.
One of them does. If you live in a country driving on the left, your left headlight will point directly ahead.
Meanwhile, your right is angled slightly to the left, away from the oncoming traffic.
Of course, if you live in a country where you drive on the right, the reverse is true.
You won’t notice it when you’re driving because the two beams form one cohesive forward-facing beam – it’s not shining into the eyes of oncoming drivers.
So, what do you need a beam deflector for?
A beam deflector is an adhesive item that you place on your headlamp cover to block the light – you use it when taking your car anywhere that drives on the opposite side.
Because if you have one angled headlight that cuts across the other beam when you drive on the opposite side, that beam will shine right into oncoming drivers’ eyes.
The beam deflector hides part of the beam so that you still have good visibility, but you aren’t causing other drivers to suffer and putting them at risk.
Do LED Headlights Require Beam Deflection?
Based on that information, do LED headlights need beam deflectors?
Well, there’s quite a bit of misinformation around about this, but the simple answer is that with modern headlights, you don’t – but some ‘older’ headlights do still need them.
When I say older, I’m referring to early LED (and Xenon/HID) tech.
When these were first introduced, there was some confusion about whether beam deflectors were needed, but they were. The beam shapes remained the same.
However, more modern LED and Xenon headlights have different shapes, so they aren’t angled across each other.
They do have a more flat, straight beam.
You shouldn’t assume that your headlights are safe to be used without beam deflectors because the technologies are still very new, so designs aren’t standard.
Thankfully, there’s an easy way to check – look in the manual for your car or your headlamp kit if you’ve entirely replaced your headlamps.
This will tell you whether your car doesn’t need beam deflectors. If the information isn’t published in the manual, assume that you need to install deflectors.
The only other headlights that don’t require beam deflectors are those with a control built into the car to let you switch between left-hand drive and right-hand drive positioning.
This isn’t super-common. It’s important to note that this differs from the toggle to change between headlamp height.
Instead, this is a feature that lets you adjust the headlight direction to either the right or left, depending on which country you’re driving.
If your car has this feature, you don’t need beam deflectors – make sure you have the headlamps in the correct position for the country you’re driving in.
Do Adaptive Headlights Need Beam Deflectors?
Some modern headlights, including LED and Xenon headlights, are Adaptive Headlights.
There are different types. The most basic ones are called ‘Curve Adaptive Headlights,’ where the bulbs pivot as you turn. They’re designed to give you the best road view while cornering.
The more advanced types are Adaptive Driving Beams, exclusive to LED tech.
These use various sensors to detect your surroundings, including other drivers, and manage the brightness so that you get the best view at all times without switching back and forth between low and high beams.
However, they can cause problems when driving in other countries.
It’s recommended that you turn off the ‘Auto’ mode for these headlights or add some beam deflectors just for extra protection to ensure you don’t accidentally blind drivers because of this tech.
Which Countries Require Beam Deflectors To Be Installed?
As I’ve said, you’ll only need beam deflectors if you’re driving a car designed for a left-hand driving country in a right-hand driving country or vice versa.
If you import a car through official manufacturers, the headlights should be adapted for your country before you take possession of it.
But if you are buying a car independently, you may need to install beam deflectors if your vehicle doesn’t have the right modern LED or Xenon headlamp design.
The more common situation will be if you’re driving your vehicle from your home country into another where the driving laws are different.
Approximately a third of the countries in the world drive on the left-hand side, including all of Australasia/Oceania, most of South-East Africa, the Caribbean, and some countries in Europe, including the UK and Ireland.
North America, the majority of South America, mainland Europe, and North/West Africa all drive on the right.
So a typical example would be anyone driving from the UK to France or in the opposite direction – you would need to install beam deflectors.
If you don’t, you can be stopped by the police and issued a fine. They may also invalidate your insurance, as your car is considered ‘not fit to drive.
Beam deflectors are really cheap, so don’t risk ignoring them if you need them!
Also, remember to check the other road rules for where you’re driving.
Despite some confusion, beam deflectors are usually needed if you’re driving on the opposite side of the road to that which your car is designed for unless you have modern LED, or Xenon lights the manufacturer tells you are exempt.
Even then, you should make sure you have that page of your car’s manual bookmarked.
You should only be stopped by the police if your headlights are blinding other drivers.
If an officer stops you for other reasons and questions you, it would be helpful to have proof that you don’t need deflectors to hand.
The only exception is those cars with headlights with manual controls to switch them from left-hand to right-hand driving.
That doesn’t include Adaptable Headlights, which are very clever but still need beam deflectors.
Have you ever driven to another country without them?