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Are aftermarket taillamps with clear lenses in compliance with FMVSS No. 108?

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This is probably the most frequently asked question regarding aftermarket lighting equipment by consumers and law enforcement officials.

FMVSSs only affect manufacturers, importers, distributors, dealers, and  motor vehicle repair businesses.  FMVSSs do not affect the consumer.  The consumer is covered under the applicable state laws.  However, if your state laws have adopted FMVSS No. 108, you may be able to apply the information below to your state.


The Federal law and taillamps with clear lenses


The governing section of FMVSS No. 108 for replacement equipment is shown below:

"S5.8.1 Except as provided below, each lamp, reflective device, or item of associated equipment manufactured to replace any lamp, reflective device, or item of associated equipment on any vehicle to which this standard applies, shall be designed to conform to this standard."

This signifies that replacement equipment has to be designed to conform to the same requirements as OEM equipment (see interp).  § 30115 requires manufacturers/importers to certify the compliance of these items, if the manufacturer fails to do so, then §30112 prohibits the sale of the item in the United States


I've got aftermarket taillamps with clear lenses on my car and they have the DOT marking; are they legal?


Paragraph S5.8.10 of the standard states that manufacturers MAY mark the lenses with the "DOT" symbol to certify that the equipment complies with the standard. 

Therefore taillamp lenses do not require the "DOT" symbol on the lens to indicate compliance.  They would, however, need a label or tag on the equipment, or on the outside of the container in which the equipment is delivered (§30115).

If a lamp does have a "DOT" symbol, this constitutes a certification by the manfacturer/importer that the lamps conforms with all applicable safety standards, in theory anyway…


 All clear replacement taillamps with "DOT" mark. 

Are they compliant with FMVSS No. 108?  Are they legal for sale in the United States?

The answer to both questions is NOHere's why:


What about red bulbs, will they satisfy the requirements for the red color in taillamps and stoplamps with colorless lenses? 


Manufacturers are required to certify motor vehicle lighting equipment using bulbs which meet SAE specifications.  Since there is currently no SAE specification for a red bulb, a red bulb could not be used to show conformance with SAE standards.  Therefore, no taillamp with an all clear lens could possibly comply with the red color requirements specified in S5.1.5 of the standard.

Furthermore, NHTSA knows of no manufacturer who is producing a red bulb that is intended to make signal lamps with colorless lenses comply with FMVSS No. 108 (see interp).  


"Altezza" style taillamps with "DOT" mark.  


Are they compliant with FMVSS No. 108?  Are they legal for sale in the United States?

It is possible to manufacture this "style" of taillamp and certify its compliance with the Federal standards.  Lexus has done it on two of their vehicles, and even Chevrolet has them on their 2000 Monte Carlo.  

The aftermarket replacement lamp manufacturers, however, appear to be having a difficult time with the compliance of their products.  Here's why:


This page modified on August 05, 2001




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This site is not affiliated with any Federal, State, or Local organization.  The goal is to be as factual as possible, however, the views expressed on this site are the opinions of the author and should not be used to determine the legality of motor vehicle equipment in accordance with Federal laws.  If you require a legal interpretation of your specific situation concerning FMVSS No. 108, you should contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Chief Counsel.