Dale Amy
October 7, 2010

Lighting
Lighting technology has entered a new dimension. Light emitting diodes, for example, are blazing a new path from taillamps to headlamps. Car lamps can now produce light beams that bend around corners, lengthen when the car is going fast, and shorten and widen when the car slows down. The aftermarket industry is on the leading edge of these technological advances that promote safety and provide styling alternatives for new lighting products. Much of this innovative aftermarket equipment for cars, trucks, and SUVs provides greater road illumination and creates increased visibility. Federal and state regulators are working to keep current with these advances and also confirm that new products comply with existing regulations.

NHTSA is the federal agency that regulates original and aftermarket motor vehicle lighting products, including new technologies coming into the marketplace. Attention has been focused on non-compliant High Intensity Discharge (HID) conversion kits that may produce glare and restyled combination lamps that are missing required functions existing on the original equipment lamps. Certain clear taillamp covers, marker lamps, certain "blue" headlamp bulbs, and other equipment has also been subject to scrutiny.

Optional lighting equipment (non-federally required) is not prohibited by federal law, but is sometimes regulated by the states. Many states establish optional lighting restrictions through the authority of the state police or the state transportation agency. State-level enforcement of federally required lighting equipment can't deviate from what is prescribed by the federal government. However, states are free to enact and enforce safety and equipment regulations that are identical to the federal safety standards. States also have jurisdiction to enact and enforce vehicle equipment and safety regulations covering equipment not regulated at the federal level, such as "optional" or "accessory" lighting equipment.

Still other states only allow optional lighting equipment that was developed and installed by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This OEM lighting equipment meets no standards except those established by the manufacturers themselves. These lamps are often of the same or greater intensity than those developed and installed by the aftermarket and frequently aimed and positioned similarly. In this way, these states unfairly discriminate against the installation and use of aftermarket lamps.

Ethanol-My Engine Is Not Vegetarian, It Wants Gas
There is a battle raging in Washington that may force you to put ethanol in your car, whether you want to or not. The EPA currently allows gasoline to include up to 10 percent ethanol (E-10), a fuel additive made from corn or other biomass sources. The ethanol industry wants the EPA to increase the amount to 15 percent.

Who would object? Millions of owners of high-performance engines and older cars who fear corrosion and other nasty side effects, that's who. Ethanol attracts water. In turn, the resulting condensation can corrode the fuel lines, fixtures, and tank components (steel, rubber, aluminum, and so on). We're talking rust, clogging, and deterioration. For modern cars, the oxygen atom in the ethanol molecule may confuse the exhaust sensor when measuring the air/fuel mixture going into the cylinders. The mixture may be too lean, producing a hot exhaust capable of damaging the catalytic converter. The end result may also be more nitrogen oxides, a building block for smog.

Many newer engines and parts have been designed to be more compatible with ethanol-blended fuels, and E-15 will not be an issue. But E-10 has been a problem for some current and older models, and E-15 may be worse. Many in the auto industry have cautioned the EPA to do more science before it rules on the request.