There has been a lot of debate in Open Road recently about fog lamps and when and where they should be used.
Fog lamps differ from driving lights and your vehicle’s high beam. They are designed to reflect a horizontal band of light across the front of the vehicle, and a special shield built inside the lamp prevents the beam from being projected upwards.
Back in the old days, it was recommended that the fog lamp be fitted below the vehicle’s front bumper. Because fog is thinner closest to the road, positioning fog lamps low to reflect ‘underneath’ the fog maximised their efficiency. At least that was the idea, until you damaged them on a gutter or by stones thrown up from other vehicles. The ideal positioning these days is just as much about aesthetics and valueadding as it is about lighting efficiency.
Now, fog lamps are a common sight on vehicles everywhere. As manufacturers across the board add extra features to their mid- and high-specced models, the proliferation of fog lamps (whether we need them or not) has become more widespread.
In NSW, it is illegal to use fog lamps where there are no adverse weather conditions such as fog. Note, though, that LED daytime running light (DRLs) are not considered fog lamps, though they often cast a stronger light than a typical fog lamp.
So why are we seeing an increasingly high proportion of vehicles driving around with illuminated fog lamps, in situations that clearly don’t warrant their use?
I will put my hand up and say that I have been one of those drivers on a couple of occasions recently, during the filming of NRMA DriverSeat videos. How? On the multi-function headlight switch fitted to each vehicle, there was an inner ring that, when rotated, turned on the fog lamps. I had inadvertently turned on the fog lamps when I flicked on the lights for the shot.
A quick scan of the owner’s handbook for both vehicles would have saved any grief. Many people are unaware that their light switch even has a ring that can turn on their fog lamps. To add insult to injury, when we later checked these two vehicles in the NRMA DriverSeat garage, we realised they both had small, green warning lamps in the instrument cluster, to alert the driver if the fog lamps were on.
Our tip is to check whether this warning lamp is lit up on the instrument panel along with the main headlight indicator lamp. If it is illuminated and you’re not driving through fog, switch it off, unless you want to cop a hefty fine!
Do you have any issues with fog lights? Let us know in the comments below.
Article by NRMA motoring expert Tim Pomroy and taken from the May/June 2013 issue of Open Road.