Nowadays car lighting is largely internationally standardized, and there are only very few national oddities. This didn’t used to be the case.

Spirit level in headlights

Experts in the US often complain that headlights are only adjusted rarely and not very accurately. Glare is not seen as critical in the States, with headlamp leveling, which has been compulsory in countries with ECE regulations for more than 25 years, being largely unknown to North Americans. It isn’t mandatory.

But what do Americans do if their cars are heavily loaded and their headlights dazzle? They sometimes use a bull’s eye level. A what??! Something on a dartboard?

Headlight adjustment device: this bull’s eye level helps adjust the range of the headlights to the load in North America.


No, more like a spirit level. An air bubble inside the bull’s eye level shows whether an object – in this case the headlight – is level in all planes. If the rear of the car goes down, the air bubble moves, just like we know it from a spirit level. And then Americans can do something that we Europeans always advise against; they turn the adjusting screw for the height until the bubble is exactly in the middle again.This process has many disadvantages. It presupposes, for example, that the car itself is on completely level ground. How do you want to achieve that all the time? And when turning the adjusting screw, the side beam is always misaligned too. What’s more, large tolerances in poor-quality lamps can have a particularly negative effect with this method. There’s no problem though if lamps from Osram or Sylvania are used.

The disadvantages and probably also the fact that it was barely used have led to the demise of the bull’s eye level. Its advantage is the robust arrangement, hardly showing any defects.

Luci – green light for Italian headlights

Green light: for a long time cars have had to have a control lamp for dipped beam in Italy.


Back when real labeling instead of more or less understandable symbols were still common, fans of Italian cars delighted in the word “luci”, which was written next to a green control lamp. It used to be mandatory in the land where the lemons blossom. It indicated that dipped beam was switched on. High beam was shown using the common blue control lamp. Most drivers liked the green light. Those who regularly drove through tunnels on the highway during the day didn’t need to check the position of the light switch. It was also a good reminder to prevent flat batteries because of accidentally leaving on the light. The common way of displaying switched on headlights in other countries, namely the dashboard illumination, is not bright enough in all lighting conditions.

It’s important to know that the Italian control lamp was not used to monitor lamps, so it didn’t show when a filament burnt out.The word luci can be found once again in very modern cars. Many instrument panels now show information as text, so if the language is set to Italian it says luci; but normally without the green control light because it’s not mandatory anymore in Italy following harmonization of regulations by the ECE.

Parking lights as French city lights

City lights: in France people used to drive only with parking lights in cities.


For many decades, yellow headlights have been a clue that a car was registered in France. However, in cities the French stood out because of a different light phenomenon. For a long time position lights were mandatory in cities, hence the name city lights. Unlike in cars from other countries, the dipped beam levers on many French cars allowed the driver to switch quickly between position lights and dipped beam.The idea behind this was that urban traffic didn’t require long headlight ranges. Given the fact that traffic was heavy even then, it was perhaps a wise solution. In other cases dipped beam turned out to be the better alternative. The parking/city lights disappeared in France even before the yellow headlights.

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