Lighting technology has entered a new dimension. LED's are blazing a new path from taillamps to headlamps. Headlights can now produce light beams that bend around corners, lengthen when a car is going fast, and shorten/widen when a car slows down. The aftermarket is on the leading edge of these advances that promote safety and provide styling alternatives for new lighting products. Much of this aftermarket equipment provides greater illumination and increased visibility. Federal and state regulators are working to keep current with these advances, and also confirm that new products comply with existing regulations.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the federal agency that regulates original and aftermarket lighting products, including new technologies in the marketplace. Attention has been focused on non-compliant High Intensity Discharge (HID) conversion kits that may produce glare, and restyled combination lamps that are missing required functions existing on original equipment lamps. Certain clear taillamp covers, marker lamps, "blue" headlamp bulbs, and other equipment have also been subject to scrutiny.
Optional lighting equipment (non-federally required) is not prohibited by federal law, but is sometimes regulated by the states. Many establish optional lighting restrictions through the authority of the state police or transportation agency.
State-level enforcement of federally required lighting equipment cannot deviate from what is prescribed by federal law. This is called federal preemption. However, states are free to enact and enforce safety and equipment regulations that are identical to the federal safety standards. States also have jurisdiction to enact and enforce vehicle and safety regulations covering equipment not regulated at the federal level, such as "optional" or "accessory" lighting equipment. Some states prohibit a vehicle from having a lamp or lighting device unless said device is expressly required or permitted by law. Other states regulate optional lights for maximum candlepower, location, placement, aim of light beam, and the times, places and conditions under which the lamps or lights may be used. Some laws prohibit the use of flashing, oscillating, modulating or rotating lights of any color while the vehicle is driven on a public highway.
Other states only allow optional lights that were developed and installed by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This OEM lighting equipment meets no standards except those established by the manufacturers themselves. These lamps are often of the same or greater intensity than ones developed and installed by the aftermarket with similar installation.
There is a battle raging in Washington that may force you to put ethanol in your car, whether you want to or not. The EPA currently allows gasoline to include up to 10 percent ethanol (E-10), a fuel additive made from corn or other biomass sources. The ethanol industry wants the EPA to increase the amount to 15 percent.
Who would object? Millions of owners of high-performance engines and older cars who fear corrosion and other nasty side-effects. Ethanol attracts water. In turn, the resulting condensation can corrode fuel lines, fixtures, and gas tank components (steel, rubber, aluminum, etc). We're talking rust, clogging, and deterioration. For modern cars, the oxygen atom in the ethanol molecule may confuse the exhaust sensor when measuring the fuel/air mixture going into the cylinders. The mixture may be too lean, producing a hot exhaust capable of damaging the catalytic converter. The end result may also be more nitrogen oxides, a building block for smog. E-10 has been a problem for some current and older models, and E-15 may be worse. Many in the auto industry have cautioned the EPA to do more science before it rules on the request.
The fact is, gasoline without ethanol may eventually become scarce or non-existent when you pull up to the pump. We also face an education curve. For many people who already ignore the "contains 10 percent ethanol" sign, they will not understand that 15 percent may cost them a pretty penny in repair bills.