Willy Lights Inc.
RR#1 Box 241
Bloomfield, Iowa 52537
Dear Mr. Williams:
We have received your letter mailed on September 27, 1994, with respect to the permissibility under Federal law of your invention, Willy Lights. This product appears to consist of lights installed on wheel rims.
You enclosed a copy of a memorandum to you on this subject dated October 24, 1988, from Greg Novak, an engineer with the Nevada Division of the Federal Highway Administration. After consulting with members of this agency, Mr. Novak wrote you that there were no regulations that prohibited the use of lighted wheel rims but that they could not "interfere with any standard safety equipment on a vehicle." You have asked whether this interpretation remains valid, and, if the lamps are not prohibited, the color permissible for the lamps.
You have not provided a detailed description of your device, such as the amount of illumination provided by the lights. Mr. Novak's advice that there are "no regulations prohibiting the use of lighted wheel rims" must be qualified. There are no Federal regulations that specifically prohibit the sale and installation of lighted wheel rims, but there may be regulations governing the use of lighted wheel rims issued by the individual States. We have no knowledge of State laws on this matter and suggest that you write for an opinion to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 4600 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va. 22203.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 Lamps, Reflective Devices and Associated Equipment establishes the requirements for original lighting equipment for motor vehicles. Standard No. 108, in effect, prohibits the installation of supplementary lighting equipment such as Willy Lights before the initial sale of a vehicle if it impairs the effectiveness of the equipment required by Standard No. 108. Thus, if Willy Lights were sufficiently bright to mask in
whole or in part the side marker lamps and reflectors and any lamps mounted on the front and rear that wrap around the sides, Standard No. 108 would prohibit their installation. The seller (dealer) of the new vehicle has the responsibility of ensuring that the vehicle remains in compliance with Standard No. 108 when it installs supplementary lighting equipment, that is to say, the responsibility of determining whether or not impairment exists. This agency does not question such determinations unless they appear clearly wrong.
There is a similar prohibition for supplementary lighting equipment installed after the initial sale of a vehicle. When Willy Lights are installed by a manufacturer, dealer, distributor, or motor vehicle repair business, they must not make inoperative any of Standard No. 108's required equipment. With respect to Willy Lights, we would regard the question of making inoperative as equivalent to the question of impairing effectiveness. If it is concluded that Willy Lights do not impair new vehicle equipment, then one can conclude that its installation on a used vehicle will not have an operative effect on 108's equipment. However, the States retain the right to say whether or not Willy Lights may be used within their borders.
The color of the lamps may also be important in any determination of impairment or inoperability. Under Standard No. 108, required side marking equipment at or near the front of a vehicle must be amber in color, and red at or near the rear. To lessen the chance of confusion in a driver approaching from the side who may never have seen lighted wheel rims, we believe that it would be preferable to follow Standard No. 108's color code. Use of different colors, such as white or green, could cause momentary confusion in the eyes of an approaching driver, leading to the conclusion that the required side lighting equipment has been impaired or made partially inoperative by Willy Lights.
Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel