What’s The Difference Between Headlights And Taillights?

Have you ever wondered why tail lights are red? And why do they turn on whenever you are using your headlights? And are tail lights and brake lights the same?

I used to ask the same questions. Turns out that taillights serve a fundamental purpose that many of us don’t always consider. New drivers, especially, confuse tail lights with brake lights as they share the same bulb.

In this article, I go through the differences between headlights and taillights. We will discuss the purposes of these lights and will also examine several factors. So, let’s get started!

A brief comparison between headlights and taillights

I made a small table here describing the differences between these two types of lights. If you are in a hurry, just have a glance, and you can get an estimate!

UsePrimary illumination on the frontIlluminates the rear of a vehicle for safety
PlacementFront end of the vehicleRear end of the vehicle
Lumens2000-4000 on average400-900 on average
LawsHeadlights are required by law in the USHeadlights are required by law in the US
ControlsHeadlight switchRelay function; turns on when headlights are in use
ColorWhite or light yellowRed

Headlight: Definition, Types, and Use

Headlights are the lights situated on the front end of a vehicle. They are the primary source of light for a car. Headlamps first appeared in the late 1880s.

Headlights can be of various types. However, there are three popular kinds of headlight bulbs:

  • Halogen
  • LED
  • HID

Headlamps provide the essential illumination for drivers to properly see the road from sunset to sunrise.

What are tail lights

Tail lights: Definition, Types, and Use

Taillights are situated on the rear end of a vehicle. They illuminate a red light rearward.

Similar to headlights, there could be several types of tail lamps. Nowadays, LED taillights are getting more popular.

The purpose of taillights is to let drivers behind you know the existence of your car. The red light is easy to spot, and vehicles behind you can recognize the outline of a car by seeing them.

Taillights were being used a little bit after headlights. In 1915, these lights were first introduced in cars.

Laws regarding headlamps and taillights

In all states, both headlights and taillights are mandatory by law. This law is also mostly similar in countries other than the US.

US laws also focus on the color of these lights. For example, headlights can only be white or light yellow. On the other hand, taillights are mandatory to have red color light.

If your taillights burn out, you can get pulled over by the cops for traffic violations. So, it’s a good idea to keep them in check.

Are taillights and brake lights the same?

Even though brake signals and taillights can share the same housing and even the same bulb, they are not identical.

Brake lights glow brighter than taillights; they only turn on when you are braking. This more luminous red is a noticeable signal for drivers behind a car to stop.


Primary differences between tail lamps and headlights

  • Headlights are the primary source of light in a vehicle. They illuminate the road ahead in the dark and let drivers see the road and any obstacles. Taillights glow red on the rear end of a car. They let other drivers from behind know the outline of the vehicle. This prevents accidents.
  • Both headlights and taillights are mandatory by law. Since both types of lights play crucial roles in preventing nighttime accidents, they are more than essential.
  • While headlights are white and light yellow, taillights are primarily red. This is because the red color of the tail lamps is more noticeable. Therefore, cars behind you can easily see your vehicle’s outline. In addition, having red headlights is illegal as they can blind oncoming drivers.
  • Headlights are much brighter and bigger than taillights.
  • While there is a dedicated switch to turn on headlamps, there is no such option for taillights. Instead, the rear tail lamps turn on whenever headlights are on. This is due to a relay control function.

Final Note

Every day, taillights prevent countless crashes at night. They serve an essential role, and you and I need to give them more credit. In addition, it’s critical to keep your tail lamps in check now and then.

Nowadays, many cars are coming up with cool taillights that add an aesthetic value to the vehicle. So, does your car have a stylish pair of taillights?

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