Which lights should you use and when?
High beams, low beams and fog lights; LED, HID or halogen – knowing which lights to use and when to use them can be a confusing affair to inexperienced drivers. Worry not, as this helpful guide will illuminate the purposes of these components and the optimal circumstances for their use.
Most vehicle models these days come with three sets of headlights pre-installed: low beams, which are your standard driving lights, high beams, and fog lights. The use of low beams is fairly obvious: you turn them on when it gets so dark that you can’t see. High beams are more specialised, and are used to complement low beams in extremely dark or otherwise hazardous areas where the driver is unlikely to encounter many other motorists. Fog lights are a bit of a strange addition, however, as they don’t seem to add much in the way of illumination when activated. Rest assured these tools do have a purpose, though their effectiveness is heavily determined by ambient driving conditions. Whether fog lights are useful to you, and whether you should install fog lights on your vehicle, will depend greatly on the weather conditions where you live and regularly commute.
What are fog lights good for?
As the name implies, fog lights are primarily intended for use in foggy conditions, but in actuality their use extends to many other dusty or low-visibility environments. To appreciate the utility of fog lights, you must first understand what effect fog or dust has on standard headlights. Fog and dust are essentially a cloud of tiny water droplets or other particulate matter that is scattered through the air. When your headlight beams come in contact with these particles, the light is reflected, bouncing around and illuminating the cloud such that effective forward visibility is sharply reduced.
For this reason, the use of high beams in these conditions is not recommended, as brighter, more elevated light beams simply increase the reflection effect, curtailing visibility even more. Fog lights, by contrast, are designed for use in such situations. Unlike standard headlights, fog lights are generally installed very low on the vehicle – near or below the bumper – and are shaped in such a way as to project light toward the road surface. The effect, then, is an illumination of the roadway with minimal light refraction from the fog or dust cloud, giving the driver maximum possible visibility. Thus, while not well-suited to normal driving conditions, fog lights can be extremely useful in certain situations.
Is it worth installing fog lights on your vehicle?
Whether or not to install fog lights on your vehicle will depend on the conditions in which you regularly drive. As previously mentioned, fog lights offer very little in terms of additional illumination in optimal driving conditions. If the area in which you regularly drive is generally free of such hazards, installation of fog lights may be a poor investment, and an investment they would be, as even do-it-yourself fog-light kits can run in the vicinity of £225.
However, a driver cannot anticipate the entirety of driving conditions he/she will experience during their vehicle’s lifetime, and from a safety standpoint, fog lights can be extremely useful tools. Whether fog lights are worth the cost is for you to decide, but should you decide you need them, you can save a considerable amount of money by purchasing a kit and installing the lights yourself.