KC lights are a familiar sight on Jeeps and other off-road vehicles. These powerful lights are designed to transform darkness into light for exceptional visibility in adverse driving conditions.
But they are not always welcome by the DOT and state DMVs because of their blinding effect on oncoming traffic.
In this article, we look at the legality of using KC lights and other off-road lights on the roads.
So are KC Lights And Off-Road Light Street legal?
KC lights are street legal in most places as long as you cover them during the daylight. However, states have requirements for the number of lights, their position, and usage even if they are covered.
Let’s dig into exactly what you need to know!
It’s crucial to know your state’s position on the use of these lights to avoid ticketing and reduce the potential risk to other road users.
Fun Fact (Before We Start)
Many people recognize KC lights but only a handful knows the meaning of the two letters.
KC comes from the initials of the owner of the KC HiLites Company Peter Kim Brown and his wife Carol Brown. Peter Brown revolutionized the off-road lighting industry with his durable and powerful designs.
The legality of KC Lights in the USA
Every state of the U.S.A allows auxiliary lights such as KC lamps and other off-road lighting systems. But it appears they all follow the federal Department of Transportation rules on this matter.
The law says auxiliary lamps must be mounted on the front of a vehicle at a minimum height of 16 inches and a maximum height of 42 inches when the vehicle is standing on a level surface.
Most states allow you to install different numbers of headlamps and auxiliary lamps, but only four can be used simultaneously on public roads.
If you follow the height requirements of the law, you don’t have to cover the lamps when using public highways whether day or night.
Anything above the legal height limit must be covered completely with an opaque material even when you are not using the lights.
Usage and Type of Lights
To use KC lights on public highways, the lamps must comply with DOT requirements for visibility, reliability, and durability. Replacement lights must also be DOT compliant to ensure your safety and that of others.
The off-road light law also stipulates that you must aim the lamp’s high-intensity beam on the road surface to the left of the center of an approaching vehicle.
The light must be directed within 100 feet in front of your vehicle.
Some states allow you to drive your KC lights as long as they are within the height limit and are DOT compliant for brightness. In some places, you must wire the lights to work with your high beams while others allow you to use them independently.
Some states also allow drivers to use their KC lights during the day while others restrict their use to the nighttime. Whatever the case, ask your DMV or traffic officers what the law says as the rules change every time.
The most important takeaway is that you can use your KC lights so long as they are mounted below the headlights and are aimed within the distance and direction stipulated by law.
That way, even if the lumens are rated for off-road use, the lights won’t harm other highway users.
The legality of KC Lights in Canada
In Canada, all off-road lights regardless of brands are not street legal.
Canadian transport law requires all off-road lights or illumination mechanisms to be covered completely with an opaque material that does not permit any light emission while driving.
You can only use the lights in off-road conditions even if they meet lighting standards and are mounted below the headlights.
Failure to cover your KC lights while driving attracts a $109 fine. And you may be ordered to get a vehicle inspection at a government-designated facility.
It is also illegal to use LED lights on public roads in Canada.
Regardless of whether they are roof or grill-mounted, LED lights must be covered at all times while driving. Otherwise, you will be fined $113 even if the lights are off.
Is a Light Bar on Top of Your Car Legal?
Yes, it is legal to mount light bars on your car.
Most states permit only LED lights that emit color white. But some places don’t mind as long as they are not the same colors as those used by law enforcement and emergency vehicles.
However, the light bar must be covered completely while using the road even if it is switched off.
Remember that it is illegal to use LED lights on the road for any reason because of the intensity of their illumination.
The reason you must cover them at all times is to avoid blinding other road users if you turn them on mistakenly.
Some states have specifications regarding the wiring, mounting position and distance.
Ask your DMV or a police officer for the rules on LED lights for your state as the regulations vary.
Is KC Lights Street Legal for Pickup Trucks?
Pickup trucks can use KC lights and other auxiliary lighting systems.
In fact, most vehicles that use these lights are jeeps and pickup trucks with excellent off-road capabilities.
But remember that the rule books have requirements for the mounting height and when to use them.
So long as you install the light below your headlights and use DOT-compliant bulbs, they should be road legal.
But ask your police department or DMV whether KC lights are allowed on your vehicle since rules vary by state.
When Can You Use KC Lights?
KC lights draw a lot of attention from cops because of their powerful intensity. If you are not careful, you may get ticketed just for having the lights on your vehicle.
But for some people, it’s a necessity even if they can’t use it on public roads.
Sometimes, off-road lights will serve you better than street-legal illumination, although you must strike a balance to avoid breaking the law.
Here are instances where you are better off with those bright lights.
If you’ve recently developed a taste for the backcountry and want to escape the city life, consider getting at least a pair of KC lights or a quality alternative.
Whether you are heading into the desert, prairies or the wilderness, visibility is often seriously compromised.
While you should keep your street legal headers, reinforce them with off-road luminaires to enjoy excellent visuals whenever you are in the outdoors.
Whether you are racing or just chilling out with the guys, these lights will come in handy.
But always remember to cover up before heading back to civilization.
If you frequent forest roads, it’s advisable to use KC lights at nights, preferably when the road is deserted.
Many people who live in the country share the roads with wildlife that spring across vehicles without warning.
After storms, fallen trees and debris can be hard to spot. It helps to have those powerful lights to brighten your way and avoid catastrophic collisions.
You may also need KC lights if you do night work.
Apart from use in off-road conditions, these powerful auxiliary lights are excellent for work at night.
Things to Remember When Using KC Lights on the Road
Even if it’s legal to use properly mounted KC lights on public roads, they can still pose a lot of danger to other road users.
This is especially true since many states only allow their use at night when the human eye is at its worst and peripheral vision is limited.
Here are tips to remember to keep yourself and others safe while driving with off-road lights.
Aim Your Lights Downward
We need to emphasize this point repeatedly because it’s easy to get carried away.
When driving with KC lights, you want to aim them downward and away from oncoming vehicles.
This will prevent you from momentarily blinding vehicles coming in the opposite direction. Refer to the direction and distance of the high beam above.
Reduce the Intensity or Turn it off
When you approach other road users, you can reduce the intensity of your KC lights and use your main headers for illuminations.
If your state allows you to control the off-road lighting independent of the headlights, you can even switch them off altogether.
But it will take time for your eyes to readjust to the darkness, so use DOT-compliant bulbs.
Many people tend to over-speed when driving with off-road lights because they can see the pavement better.
Unfortunately, improved vision won’t help you and other drivers if something goes wrong.
To reduce the chances of losing control, make haste slowly on public highways even if you are on a deserted road.
KC lights turn darkness into the day which makes them unsuitable for use on roads.
But most states of the USA allow them so long as the installation is correct.
It’s important to know the legal requirements of your area before investing in these lights as they can be expensive.
Stay safe on the road and have fun!