The most important question when upgrading car lights is: what about approval? They are only legal if they carry an E symbol – plain and simple. The big advantage is that if it’s there, no further bureaucracy is required.
Car lighting is highly regulated. Virtually everything that shines outwards requires authorization, which no longer only comes from the national authorities these days. When it’s about whether something is “permitted or not permitted”, only internationally valid authorizations following the rules of the ECE apply in Europe and many other countries. The three letters stand for Economic Commission for Europe and incidentally don’t have anything to do with the EU. It’s a UN sub-organization which is based in Geneva, so it’s even outside the European Union. Sometimes it’s also abbreviated to UNECE. If a headlight or any other light is ECE approved it carries an E number. It is shown as a large E and a subscript number within a circle. The big advantage of this number is that any part that carries it can be installed and used without any further authorization. But beware – of course you need to make a distinction between right-hand and left-hand traffic when it comes to headlights. It goes without saying that headlights approved for continental Europe are not necessarily usable in the British Isles.
The part itself doesn’t need to be approved in the country in which the car is used. Those of you who are interested can check where it was approved by looking at the small number in the circle behind the E. Very common are E1 (Germany), E2 (France), E3 (Italy) E4 (Netherlands), E9 (Spain) and E13 (Luxembourg). E11 for Great Britain will remain despite Brexit. ECE regulations generally don’t only apply in Europe and its EU. Included in the member list are Japan (E43), Australia (E45) and South Korea (E51), among others. A full list of countries is available here. All the countries mentioned in this list recognize the ECE approval process and hence the approvals of others. The number doesn’t say anything about the quality of the part or the standard of the approval. For example, German companies often have their products homologated in Luxembourg (E13) because it gets done quite quickly there.
The new LEDriving Xenarc upgrade headlights from Osram for the Golf VI carry the E4 approval symbol, so they’ve been approved in Holland and are also valid in other countries without restrictions, provided there’s right-hand traffic. If the headlights have been installed, connected and adjusted following the instructions, there is no more bureaucracy.
One way or another the ECE process is firmly anchored in national law. Unfortunately some policemen don’t seem to know that. Although rarely, they sometimes ask: where does it say that? In most cases pointing them towards the Economic Commission for Europe will help.