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What Choices do I Have for Tail Lights?

When it comes to customization, a vehicle’s rear isn’t complete without custom tail lights. We discuss lens color choices (clear, red, and other tints) and high-tech LED optics.
What Choices do I Have for Tail Lights?

The taillights are a defining feature of a vehicle's rear. For a customizing project to succeed, it is almost necessary to change the character of the taillights. Luckily, there is an ever increasing range of taillights available, thanks to the rapid development of modern lighting technology and to changes in the legal requirements for automotive lighting. For many years the creativity and development in automotive lighting was hampered by rules that described a specific technical solution. The rules that now are being implemented prescribe performance parameters and functionality of automotive lighting, rather than specific technologies. Both vehicle manufacturers and makers of aftermarket automotive lighting are taking full advantage of this new freedom, with a number of previously unseen lighting designs showing up, not least for taillights. It won't be surprising if the old style taillight, with incandescent clear light bulbs and red glass, soon will be offered as an exotic accessory used to distinguish the vehicle from the standard cars with LED and fiberoptic lighting, technologies that today are considered exotic, even if they are introduced as standard on more and more vehicles.

New Tail Light Designs And Technologies

The accessory market offers a range of new designs and technologies that available for most modern vehicles. The only limiting factor for these application specific lights and lenses is the shape of the original taillight fixture. You can choose to just change the cover from the standard red, and install colored incandescent light bulbs combined with a cover or lens that is clear or semi-transparent. The color of the taillight is only displayed when the colored bulb lights up. This practice is legal in some jurisdictions and prohibited in others. Black and smoked light covers conceal the taillights on dark colored vehicles, providing a more solid one-piece look. An interesting novelty is taillight covers in a semi-transparent carbon fiber pattern that provides an exotic performance custom look.

LED Taillights

More expensive, but also more exciting, is to convert the taillights from incandescent bulbs to LED lights, which also can be combined with optic fibers to create taillights with exotic looks that both meet and exceed the standards set by legal requirements.

There are accessory LED lights available for every car. In their simplest form, they are made to replace the incandescent light bulbs in the existing original light fixture. The LEDs light up faster and reach full brightness without delay. They also have a number of points lighting up, rather than a single filament in an incandescent bulb. This provides a different look to the taillights even without replacement of the original taillight lens. For many car models there are complete taillight replacement units available, with the LEDs placed in rings or strips that give a totally different look to the rear of the vehicle. There are even LED panels that can replace plain rear body panels, turning them into light fixtures and thus totally transforming the look of the vehicle, especially when lit up.


The LED lights can be combined with fiber optic fibers that provide even more freedom in the design of lights. In LED optical fiber lights, an LED is used to shine into the fiber. The fiber is made of very pure glass, with a coating that reflects light back into the fiber. The fiber leads the light as if it was water running through a hose. By choosing different coatings, the way the fiber emits light can be controlled. This way the fibers can be made to glow along the whole length, or to glow in carefully chosen places. They can be installed as single fibers, no thicker than a hair, and they can be installed as cables made up of a number of fibers. This is a taillight design that manufacturers only have begun to explore. As the LEDs can be made to emit any color desired, there are color LEDs that shine through a clear or smoked lens, and there are white LEDs that are covered with conventional colored lenses. Accessory taillights fitting into, or replacing the original fixtures, are easy to install. Most of these lights are of an easy plug-and-play type that bolt in place and connect right into the original wire harness connections. You can also choose accessory taillights that complement your original lights. There are universal, very narrow LED strips that can be added on. If you let them follow existing pressings or replace chrome decor strips they will look like an integral part of the design. They mount with automotive mounting tape, minimizing the need for drilling. As the LED taillights consume very little energy, they can be connected to the vehicles electrical system with very thin wires. The wires can often be run through rubber moldings for connection to the wire harness of the vehicle, making drilling unnecessary. The difficulty of installation is of course totally dependent on the location you choose for the accessory LED lights.There have never been these many options for taillights, and it has never been easier to create a completely unique lighting signature for a custom vehicle.

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