Is It Legal To Tint Tail Lights In California? Everything You Should Know

Many people are wondering – is it legal to tint tail lights in California?

Perhaps you are looking to upgrade your vehicle and do some customizations to it. We all know that window tinting has become a common way of updating vehicles, whether you are a car enthusiast or not.

But at the same time, there are some issues that come with customizing your vehicle. This is the case with window tinting, as there are some rules around it depending on the state where you live. 

Thus, the same holds true with tail light tinting. This is why it is important to understand the implications of such action before you get it done to your vehicle. By being aware of the legal issues that come with it, you can avoid some serious consequences that can cost you a lot of time and money.

If you live in California and are planning on having your tail lights tinted, learn more about what to expect from doing this – and whether you may encounter some legal repercussions or not.

is it legal to tint tail lights in california

Is It Legal To Tint Tail Lights In California

Tinting tail lights add a unique appearance to your vehicle. As compared to the usual red color, smoked or tinted tail lights give it a different character. But at the same time, you need to find out whether it is even legal in the place where you live.

For instance, there may be some local laws in California that can prevent you from going about this customization to your vehicle. Street-driven cars basically do not allow tail lights that are completely blacked out. This is considered illegal regardless of where you are. 

On the other hand, if you are not planning on driving your vehicle on a public road, then it should be fine to tint your tail lights. This is the case with race cars, and you can commonly find them with tail lights that come with a blacked out design.

With all this in mind, let us look at what the local regulations are in California, if you are thinking about getting your tail lights tinted. 

Generally, six states in the country consider tail light tinting as illegal when the vehicle is driven on a public road. These states include North Carolina, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Tennessee.

As for the other states, they specifically require all tail lights to be the plain, red color. But there are also some other things to note that may impact your decision of tinting your vehicle’s tail lights.

For example, there are no specific laws around tinting tail lights in many states. But then again, there are laws about the lighting type that is allowed, as well as the required visibility of these tail lights.

What this means is that you need to make sure that your tail light does not block out a certain percentage of light. You should be able to meet the minimum requirements for visibility, which is set in meters, according to the distance.

At the same time, there is really no solid rule when it comes to the amount of tinting that minimizes how much light is emitted. It all depends on the color and shade of your tint, including the brightness of your tail lights.

In California, the vehicle code section 24600 indicates that tail lamps must be plain red and must be visible from any distance within 500 feet to the vehicle’s rear, with the exception of tail lamps on vehicles that are manufactured after 1 January 1969, which must be visible from distances within 1000 feet to the car’s rear portion. 

Now, this creates some confusion to many people since it can be ambiguous. But what is important to note is that tinting any portion of your vehicle, especially parts that emit light is considered as a safety hazard. Hence, it is illegal. 

There are some people who live in California who drive black cars, and there seems to be not much difference between the lights and the body. This is why they get away with a light tint, as long as it does not block out light.

However, it is always best to err on the side of caution and obey the laws to avoid any inconveniences in case you get pulled over by a cop for having tinted tail lights that are not legal in your state.

Additional Points To Consider

Now, let us look at a few more things that you need to consider prior to deciding on making some modifications to your vehicle’s rear lighting.

First, there are the reflectors, which are not supposed to be tinted. These reflectors are designed to provide extra lighting aside from what your tail lights offer. These reflectors may be a component of your tail light assembly but in other cases, they can also be separate.

Either way, you should never tint your reflectors. This is particularly true if these are not a part of your tail lights. But when you have reflectors that are connected to your tail light, you need to make sure that there is a sufficient distance requirement met.

Additionally, you need to have your license plate illuminated at all times, when you drive your vehicle on a public road. The lights must be white, and you are not supposed to use other colors or means of illuminating your license plate aside from what is required by your state.

If you want to add some customizations to your vehicle, you may want to stay away from tinting the tail lamps. Instead, why not install some tail light housings in clear color, or perhaps, have some DOT-approved aftermarket tail lights? Tinting may add some character to your vehicle, but it may not be worth it if you only run into some legal issues.

Final Thoughts

Overall, tinting tail lights in California is not considered legal. This is why it is best to avoid doing this or make customizations that are not against the law to prevent any inconveniences to you.

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