Inconspicuous and neglected

Shortly after passing their test, young drivers rarely think about the small lamps on their vehicle, which are hidden somewhere and, sitting inside, they can’t even see. But even old hands at the wheel, if they don’t belong to the group of meticulous control freaks, tend to forget about an exterior light or two. For example, license plate lights belong to those light sources on vehicles that are more likely to be neglected because they’re small, inconspicuous and somewhere at the back where you can’t spot their failure immediately – just like faulty rear lights or brake lights. Sometimes only after several months, but at the latest when the next general inspection is due. So here’s my appeal to you: turn the lights on, go round the back and just take a look.

Still legible from 20 meters away

Oh, some even ask themselves, the license plate is illuminated? Of course it is. And there are of course regulations for these lights. In simplified terms, the license plate lights need to go on and off automatically with dipped beam, need to be as colorless as possible, and must not dazzle following drivers which is why they need to hit the license plate at an angle of eight degrees. In short, the plate needs to be clearly legible from a distance of 20 meters. The reflective license plates that have been around since the 70s don’t replace the lights though.

Design element and challenge

These few requirements have always kept designers busy, because it’s their job to incorporate the license plate lights as neatly into the body or bumper as possible. Whether it’s the one cleverly centered light on the original Beetle, the lamps illuminating the plate from the side on some sports cars, or the lamps integrated into the bumper illuminating the plate normally from above – different vehicle types have different solutions. It seems all the more strange that many of us don’t even have these small lights and their capabilities on our radar. Perhaps because they’re so inconspicuous. And well hidden behind some overhang. And because it goes unnoticed when they burn out and fail. No one flashes you if the lights for the license plate work only on one side, do they?

A new brightness

So next time you walk around your car in the evening, take a look at the license plate lights. Or why not do it right now? They could probably use reviving. It doesn’t look very nice if only half of the license plate is illuminated – or even though both lamps are still working they give off no more than a faint glimmer. You could even upgrade your lights with beautifully bright, energy-saving and durable LED lamps. That can all be done without any problems; the vast majority of license plate lights are quick to remove from their holders using very few tools or none at all. After all, it’s also these small details that create a harmonious overall appearance of your car, especially in darkness.

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