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Interested in Auto Mechanic Training? Here Are 3 Little-Known Facts About Headlight Design

Published on November 1, 2018 by in Blog

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Headlights can sometimes be overlooked in discussions about cars. Although they’re essential safety features, allowing us to drive at all times of night and in all visibility conditions, they haven’t historically had the same levels of experimentation or variety as some other elements, largely due to years of strict safety regulations limiting their development.

A closer look at headlights, however, can offer some fascinating insights for those interested in cars and auto mechanic training. Read on for three little-known facts about headlight design.

The First Headlights Were Acetylene Lamps

The first headlamps, introduced in the 1880s, were actually lamps modelled closely on those used for horse-drawn carriages. These lamps used a silver mirror behind a flame, often fueled by an acetylene tank or generator, to reflect light forward. While the light put out by these lamps was fairly modest, it was enough to make the vehicle visible to other drivers, and to light the road ahead when moving at the relatively slow speeds drivers were then limited to.

For rear lights, needed only for visibility, oil lamps were common. These lamps not only reflected light behind the driver, but also featured a small side window, through which they illuminated the driver’s license plate.

The first headlights were acetylene lamps adapted from horse carriage lights

The first headlights were acetylene lamps adapted from horse carriage lights

From 1940 to 1975, Only Round Headlights Were Permitted in the US

The biggest reason that headlights over the years have been so uniform, at least on American cars, is that there were strict regulations in place to keep them that way. Prior to 1939, manufacturers were free to design headlights as they pleased. In 1940, though, the United States rolled out very specific requirements for all auto manufacturers to use nothing but 17.8 cm sealed beam headlights, which are assemblies made of a bulb in front of a lens, sealed inside of a glass enclosure.

In 1956, the regulations expanded to allow four round sealed beam headlights, using separate sets of two for high and low beams. This provided a bit more leeway for designers, as the sets could be arranged horizontally, vertically, or in a diagonal configuration.

In 1975, US regulations were loosened once again to allow rectangular lights, and in 1983, after a successful petition from the Ford Motor Company, laws were amended once again to allow replaceable-bulb, nonstandard-shape, and architectural headlights, leading to the much greater variety you’ll see after auto mechanic college.

The 1962 Chrysler Newport featured diagonally arranged sealed beam headlights

The 1962 Chrysler Newport featured diagonally arranged sealed beam headlights

Students in Auto Mechanic Training Should Be Aware of Adaptive Headlights

While headlight design was stuck in a rut for many years due to the strict limitations placed on car manufacturers until 1983, designs have seen an increase in variety since then, and with new developments like LED lights and advanced sensor technology, even more significant changes have been underway that anyone interested in automotive training school should be aware of.

One of the most notable of those changes has been the development of adaptive headlights. Adaptive headlights actually turn their beams around each bend in the road, giving drivers a better view of what’s coming. Cars with adaptive headlights use sensors to detect the driver’s wheel position and speed, and turn the headlights accordingly with small electric motors.

Interestingly, the idea has roots dating all the way back to the late 1920s, when the Pilot-Ray Corporation of America produced “double driving lights” that connected to a car’s steering wheel, matching its turns to light curves in the road ahead.

Are you interested in hands-on training for a career as an auto mechanic?

Contact CATI to learn about our auto mechanic training program.

 
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