Car Advice

Where can you legally mount LED lightbars?

LED lightbars have been popular over recent years, but as ever the road authorities across Australia have been slow to amend the rules – where can you legally mount LED lightbars?

The first principle of vehicle modifications in Australia is that the answer is always state-specific.  Sadly, each part of Australia has its own road authority, which has a slightly different set of rules so what’s legal in one state may not be legal in another.  Because, well, who knows.  We just have to live with the pain.

LED lights are popular because they’re relatively cheap, provide a nice, white light, are small and easy to mount relative to conventional driving lights.  And they look cool.   LED bars are not a subsitute for spotlights because there’s just not enough room to design a reflector which can throw light a reasonable distance, so instead they’re best used as short-range fill lights for manouvering, low-range driving, recovery or working.

The law used to state that all driving lamps had to be mounted in pairs so that the lighting was symmetrical.  This made sense for the conventional circular lamps, but not for a light bar which while a single light is so broad it can be mounted symmetrically.   Eventually, the appropriate Australian Design Rule (ADR), number 13/00, was amended to permit use of lightbars provided they were “fitted to the front of the vehicle, symmetrically about the centre”.   However…they didn’t specify a minimum width or height, so you could have a very short lightbar and technically still be legal.   Wouldn’t recommend pushing your luck though.  At least now all states and territories permit lightbars, so we’re all good now with consistent regulations?

No, that’s be too easy.  Below are some excerpts, and the bold text highlights some inconsistencies:

Here’s Vicroads’ official words on the subject:

  • The lamps should, as far as is possible, be installed symmetrically in pairs to the front of the vehicle. 
  • If lamps are not fitted as pairs (e.g. one, three etc), they must be fitted to the front of the vehicle, symmetrically about the centre. 
  • A maximum of four driving lamps (including LED light bars) can be fitted to a vehicle in addition to the vehicle’s main beam headlamps.
  • The lamp/s must be installed in a way that the light produced does not cause the driver of the vehicle discomfort either directly or by reflection. 
  • The lamp/s must only come on when the main-beam (high beam) headlamps are used, and must automatically turn off when the main-beam headlamps are turned off.
  • The lamps must not obstruct the driver’s view of the road.

Source: https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/vehicle-safety/fog-and-driving-lights

What about SA?

LED Light Bars and additional headlights may be fitted, provided that they meet the following requirements:

  • The light or lights must be installed to be forward facing and in a position that does not obscure the driver’s view of the road ahead.
  • The lights should, as far as is possible, be installed symmetrically in pairs of between 2 or 4 lights.
  • If the lights are not fitted as pairs, they must be fitted symmetrically about the centre line of the vehicle.
  • The lights may be fitted to the roof of the vehicle.
  • The light or lights must not be fitted or be used in any way that is likely to dazzle another road user and must be installed in a way that the light produced does not cause the driver of the vehicle discomfort either directly or by reflection.
  • The light/s must only come on when the main-beam (high beam) headlights are used, and must automatically turn off when the main-beam headlights are turned off.
  • The driving lights may be fitted with an isolator switch to allow high beam to be switched on without the driving lights also being switched on.

Source: https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/transport-travel-and-motoring/motoring/vehicles-and-registration/vehicle-standards-and-modifications/lighting-and-instrumentation

And here’s WA:

The exemption is subject to compliance with the following conditions:

  • The LED light bar(s) must be installed at the front of the vehicle and not higher than the front
    edge of the bonnet.
  • The LED light bar(s) must be installed horizontally and located symmetrically about the
    longitudinal centre line of the vehicle.
  • The LED light bar(s) must be forward facing and positioned in a way that the light produced
    does not cause the driver of the vehicle discomfort, either directly or by reflection while in the  normal driving position.
  • The LED light bar(s) must only operate when the high-beam headlights are in operation and
    must automatically turn off when the high-beam headlights are turned off.
  • A manual switch must be provided to allow the LED light bar to be deactivated, so that it is
    not on whether the high beam is on or off. This switch must be accessible to the driver of
    the vehicle from the normal driving position.
  • The LED light bar(s) must only emit white light.
  • The LED light bar(s) shall not obstruct the driver’s view of the roadway more than 11 metres
    ahead of the driver’s eye position when looking through the windscreen, with the driver’s
    seat in the rearmost position
  • One or more (to a maximum of four) LED light bars may be fitted as additional driving lamps

Source: htttp://www.transport.wa.gov.au/mediaFiles/licensing/LBU_VS_IB_132A.pdf

Here’s an official WA government image showing how bars can be mounted:

LED1

Source: htttp://www.transport.wa.gov.au/mediaFiles/licensing/LBU_VS_IB_132A.pdf

And they have another:

LED2Source: http://www.transport.wa.gov.au/mediaFiles/licensing/LBU_VS_IB_132A.pdf

Queensland has a similar take on it here:

http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/~/media/Safety/Vehicle%20standards%20and%20modifications/Vehicle%20standards/Vehicle%20standards%20instructions/L152Drivinglampsv3.pdf

which includes:

Driving lamps may be fitted above the roof line. The driving lamps must be fitted to the front half of the vehicle, when measured from the front to the rearmost point of the vehicle.

however, it goes on to talk about not increasing the risk of pedestrian injury, line of sight of the driver and so on.  That means the above statement is not a license to install the lights wherever and however you please on the roof. It also specifically mentions protrusions.

Enough! What does all this mean?

The rules excerpts above all more or less say the same thing, but every authority has put their own slant on it.   One problem is that absolutes such as “you will not mount lights on your roof” (unless you’re in WA) have been replaced by “do not dazzle another road user” and “cause driver discomfort”.   This is good because it gives freedom of placement, but bad because it’s hard to define what dazzling or discomfort is.

So, below I’ve written a conservative interpretation based on reading the above and other sources which appears to comply with all the states’ various demands.  But as I’m not transport minister, it’s not law so use at your own disrection and as guidance only:

  • Number of driving lights – maximum four.  This may be 2 x pairs of spotties, 4 x lightbars, 2 x spotties and 2 x lightbars.  The rules are clear on this.
  • Mounting – symmetrical relative to the centreline of the vehicle, even if Vicroads have poor wording.  Rules clear here too.
  • Switching – driving lights only able to be switched on with full beam, and full beam must be operable without the driving lights.  That seems to be safest and is what most people do anyway.
  • Orientation – long side of the lightbar to the horizontal.
  • Location – no higher than the car’s headlights.  If you do that, then there shouldn’t be any drama with arguments over dazzling other users, discomfort and so on.  You could perhaps mount higher legally, if you’re prepared to handle the dazzle/discomfort issue.  The actual words from ADR13 are “illuminate the road ahead of the vehicle without causing undue dazzle or discomfort to oncoming drivers and other road‑users”.
  • Direction – forward facing.  Best to make them all exactly forwards facing or very nearly so.
  • Obstruction – no part of the light visible from the driver’s seat.  Then no worries about obstructing forwards view.
  • Light colour – white.

So far, I’m yet to hear of anyone having compliance issues if the above list is adhered to.  Oh, and don’t forget to allow adequate cooling space too.

Dear Road Authorities of Australia – feel free to copy the above as standard wording.

A quick note HID (high-intensity discharge) headlamps

Can you upgrade your headlights to HIDs?  Yes, if you do it legally?  That means you also add:

  • an automatic headlight levelling device
  • headlamp cleaners

You’ll also need to redesign the reflector so that it works properly with the HIDs.  Basically, the effort isn’t worth it and if you want more light then fit a set of spotties.  More on this in Australian Design Rule 13.


16 Comments

  1. McF1
    September 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm — Reply

    Well done Robert. Plenty of research has gone into this article. I don’t own a SUV/4WD but I have been seeing more of these light bars fitted to them. At times I wonder whether owners are fitting them for a practical purpose or because they look interesting. It is annoying that the laws vary from State to State.

  2. Wendy Eadon
    August 31, 2016 at 4:07 pm — Reply

    So I got defected in my Nissan in Richmond NSW, only last week. He claimed 7.3.4.3. I was given 7 days to remove and get the defect cleared($100) or I loose my licence. I’ve no doubt the RTA will charge me a fee also. Angry Wendy

    • Nicole Rowe
      October 12, 2016 at 2:10 pm — Reply

      were and what are the lights you got defected for? do you have a pic or have you already taken them off

      • Wendy Eadon
        October 13, 2016 at 6:00 pm — Reply

        It is mounted on the roof, on a roof rack. I have emailed the tech heads of the Dept of R&M who make the regs, and he supplied me with all sorts of regs except the one that says I can’t have it because….. to say it’s a grey area is an understatement. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e6db2c8c33f7828639824a794ac9f8d0524c0b85c5bb4bfde0cea694f442a7c3.jpg

        • Nicole Rowe
          October 13, 2016 at 6:34 pm — Reply

          Hi there thet are illegally mounted there this is an email from the rms. I run my own auto electrical business so i need to know what the rules are in nsw. I dontbwant to do the wrong thing by my customers. Hope this helps😊
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cd30bed8a0a03a35602556fd3b19a3fec6d44c2bda1bc94d7ddf167cf644e343.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/477a96d6739fbf0654ebdcfad65d39aa114b9094e445a0e91834c3614b6d1d93.png

          • October 13, 2016 at 8:19 pm

            Thanks guys good info for all to learn from. Real shame the authorities aren’t clearer about this.

          • anon driver
            April 14, 2017 at 4:53 am

            However….the ADR does NOT say the lights must be mounted on the “FRONT END” but :
            7.3.4.3 In length: AT THE FRONT of the vehicle and fitted in such a way that the light emitted does not cause discomfort to the driver either directly or indirectly through the rear-view mirrors and/or other reflecting surfaces of the vehicle.””

            ADR ALSO SAYS:
            “6.1.4.3. In length: At the front of the vehicle. This requirement shall be deemed to be satisfied if the light emitted does not cause discomfort to the driver either directly or indirectly through the devices for indirect vision and/or other reflecting surfaces of the vehicle.”

            i dont know of any other legislation on this, but others may be able to advise further.

          • Wendy Eadon
            October 15, 2016 at 1:10 pm

            Hi Nicole, I went thru all this with the RMS guy. My light bar is turned on by an isolated switch. In the 3 years it’s been on the car it has been used maybe a dozen times, in the bush on private property usually or in the thick of the bush setting up camp. It doesn’t protrude outside of the vehicle area and so poses no risk of injury. All I want is to be presented with the regulation that states this is illegal. That states about roof mounting.
            Nobody can seem to do this. The regs are muddy at best. Nothing is clear in writing.

          • Nicole Rowe
            October 15, 2016 at 1:29 pm

            Hi Wendy in my email from the rms he clearly states that you can not mount them on the roof. It’s clear in the ADR 13 that it’s to be the front of the car https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f0f9eea14d7ccdbe05ba51a2981a68c626f8117ed6dae7803476c4c1fd75a40e.png

          • Nicole Rowe
            October 15, 2016 at 1:36 pm

            It’s says here as a requirement the must be on the front of the vehicle. I don’t see how that isn’t clear?

          • Wendy Eadon
            October 16, 2016 at 6:16 pm

            Because, as I was pointed out by the Sergeant that defected me, ‘ The front of the vehicle is designated by the door seam at the drivers right shoulder’. This is forward or front of the vehicle.
            Thanks for your time btw

          • Nicole Rowe
            October 16, 2016 at 10:37 am

            Graeme Snell from RMS explains the ADR13 rule. He says whilst there is no height limitation the requirement in ADR 13 7.3.4 is for the lights to be at the front of the vehicle. This would limit the placement for example on the roof or roof rack. The ADR definitions define front end FRONT END / the foremost point of the vehicle including the bumper bar;over/riders;tow hook; and bull bar if standard equipment. He also stated that the ADR13 has been amended and the last past states ” are fitted at the front,symmetrically about the longitudinal centreline. If you look up a pic of what longitudinal and centreline means you’ll see a pic. Here is the federal register of legislation and the full act is available to read.
            Hopefully this will help as it has been a mind field for me to research as I’m sure it is for a lot of people.You will see the reference to ADR13. 7.3.4.3 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c8313ee1011649f216459e0a5614c587a085b2123b24f4fa67fc0990eff04fd8.jpg

  3. Erwin
    August 31, 2017 at 6:14 pm — Reply

    One of the old laws does state that lights must not be fitted above 1400mm from the ground on a vehicle …so most 4x4s wouldn’t pass this with the lights on the top of the bullbar yet alone the roof …

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper