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Xenon headlamps

Q: What is the legality of Xenon headlamps?

You may be referring to what some people call the “blue headlights”. Xenon headlights are legal. Minnesota Statutes Chapter 169.468 requires the commissioner to adopt vehicle safety rules in substantial conformance with federal motor vehicle safety standards for any new vehicle, or for any new item of motor vehicle equipment. These standards are contained in 49 CFR Part 571.

The headlamp standards are contained in Part 571.108 and refer to Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Standard J1383 APR85 that details performance standards for motor vehicle lighting. The purpose of these standards is to provide uniform motor vehicle lighting standards across the country; and indeed around the world as many of these standards are in use in Canada and Europe. Xenon headlamps must comply with the same requirements as halogen and incandescent headlamps.

Without going into it too deeply, Xenon lights are legal if they conform to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard requirements. If the vehicle is new and has not been altered since it was new, it is almost certain that the lights are legal as the manufacturer has certified that the vehicle is in conformance with all motor vehicle safety standards in effect at the time of manufacture.

The aftermarket use of Xenon lights poses a more difficult problem. Most aftermarket systems are in compliance with SAE and Federal standards. Some “look alike” systems are not in compliance with SAE standards. The vehicle lighting system in question would need to be inspected. The bulbs should contain the proper markings to permit the lighting device to be traced back to the appropriate SAE standard. If they are not legal a person can be issued a citation.

If you have any questions for future columns concerning motor vehicle traffic in Minnesota, please send your questions to: “ASK A TROOPER” c/o Sgt. Curt S. Mowers MN State Patrol P.O. Box 644 Brainerd, MN 56401 or email questions to Curt at: with Ask A Trooper in the subject line. Questions are edited.