Does my car need headlamp beam deflectors? Yes, it probably does. There are a few exceptions that I’ll tell you about, but 95% of cars* need headlamp beam deflectors.
*Please note before you read on: When I say car, you should take that to mean “vehicle” because this rule doesn’t just apply to cars, but, trucks, lorries, vans, buses, coaches, motorhomes, motorcycles, scooters etc.
If you’re in or on a motorised vehicle, of any kind, that has headlights you’ll need them while driving/riding through France and other mainland European countries.
Below I’ll give a full explanation of the exceptions, so you can work out for sure if you need them.
- Headlamp beam deflectors are a legal requirement throughout France and all other mainland European countries. They are to stop your headlamps from dazzling other motorists on the opposite side of the road.
- It’s illegal to not have them fitted as that can cause serious accidents. Fines are applicable for non-compliance.
- UK cars are made to be on the left, so when on the right-hand side your beam will be pointing straight at the oncoming traffic. This means your car isn’t road legal and will invalidate your insurance!
Table of Contents
- Why do 95% of Vehicles need them?
- Why you might not need Headlamp Beam Deflectors
- Cars with Switchable Headlights
- How can I find out whether I have a standard Left-Side Bias
- Headlamp Deflector/Converters
- Headlamp Beam Deflectors for Motorcycles
- You get what you pay for
- **Adaptive Headlights
Just to give you some background as to my expertise in this subject. I started selling Headlamp Beam Deflectors in 2008 and since then, as the owner of Drive-France and Euro Motoring Ltd, there can’t be many people who’ve sold more than I have.
Here in this article on headlamp beam deflectors, I aim to provide you with all the essential info you need to find out if your vehicle needs them or not.
Basically if you have Standard headlights, Projector headlights, Xenon headlights, HID headlights, and LED headlights you will probably need them.
Why do 95% of Vehicles need them?
Standard cars that drive on UK roads have a dipped headlamp beam that points forwards but with a “left side bias”. This means that as you drive along in the dark you will illuminate the tarmac in front of you on your side of the road, and the left kerb if in the town or the left hedgerow if you’re driving down a country lane.
You will NOT be illuminating the kerb/hedgerow on the right-hand side and more importantly the oncoming cars. (So, you don’t dazzle anyone).
Obviously when you drive your car on the continent, in France or any other European country you will now be driving on the right-hand side of the road (opposite to normal).
This means that the left-hand bias of your headlights will be shining directly into the faces of the oncoming drivers. This, apart from being illegal and leave you open to getting an on-the-spot fine, can cause accidents as it is exceptionally dangerous.
At the very least you will be constantly flashed by oncoming drivers, annoyed that you’re shining your headlights straight into their faces.
So that is why you MUST fit headlamp converters to your vehicle.
The next section covers the possible exceptions to the rule.
Why you might not need Headlamp Beam Deflectors
Generally, vehicle manufacturers have additional considerations when selling cars in the UK versus selling them in Europe. The steering wheel and all the controls are on the opposite sides and as mentioned above the headlights will be set differently.
Therefore some manufacturers try to save money by NOT giving their headlamps a left side bias (or right side for Europe) and just have what they call a “flat beam” which just points directly forwards. This means when making them they only have one type of headlight, and this keeps their costs down.
Modern motorcycles and scooters are more likely to have this than cars but even some cars have this one size fits all method of a flat beam. It isn’t ideal in my opinion but they are deemed legal.
There’s a second possibility why you might not need to buy headlamp beam deflectors. Something called “switchable headlights”.
Cars with Switchable Headlights
There are some manufacturers that have “switchable headlights”. These are mainly German ones, such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porche but not just those. Some Volvo models have them I believe, and Citroen models as well. This is a good idea but sadly it’s not as easy as it sounds.
The fact is it isn’t as simple as flicking a switch on the dashboard. If you’re the sort of person who does minor repairs and maintenance on your vehicle at home, then you should be fine.
Though for people like me, I’d be getting a mechanic to do it or as I do just fit some headlamp deflectors!
You must mess around under the bonnet, and you’ll probably need some tools to get to the switch. The biggest problem with a lot of modern cars is that it’s so difficult to get access to the back of the headlights. Things are crammed in so you may have to remove other things, possibly the battery or water tank as there is no space and it can be very fiddley. Knowing me I take things out and not be able to put it all back in again lol.
These are useful though if you plan on emigrating to Europe and take your car with you as they’ll pass the equivalent of an MOT abroad.
So great if you have them and are capable of easily doing it yourself.
Don’t mix this up with Adaptive headlights** that is totally different and will not help you. I’ll touch on these later in the article.
How can I find out whether I have a standard Left-Side Bias
You can see if you can find it in the cars owner’s manual or ask your main dealer, they should know! LOL most staff in car dealerships are totally clueless with this sort of thing. So, I suggest you test it for yourself.
In the dark, park with the engine running and your dipped beam headlights on, about 30 feet from a wall, your garage door, or a shop window etc.
You will (if there aren’t any streetlights) be able to clearly see the beam pattern your headlights are projecting onto the wall.
Locate the spot directly where the centre of your car is and then just look to see if there’s clearly more light being thrown to the left hand side. It should be fairly obvious.
If you don’t feel able to do that yourself then I’d recommend that you visit an MOT garage and ask if they could just check it for you. They must check headlights are set correctly for MOT tests, so they should be able to tell for you.
At Drive-France I get lots of enquiries about all sorts of things about driving in France, from breathalysers and speed cameras to road signs and crit air stickers. I've gained some knowledge over the years, but I don’t know every single make and model of car in relation to their headlight settings, so I probably will not know your specific car.
We recommend you buy them from our sister website EuroMotoring as they come with detailed fitting instructions for every make and model of car. Please don’t ask me for fitting instructions or fittings help if you’ve bought them from someone else. (Read “you get what you pay for” below)
They are called different things, but headlamp beam adapter or converters are the same. As someone who frequently drives in different countries, one issue that consistently comes up is headlamp beam deflectors.
They are though not an optional extra, you MUST have them fitted if your lights have a left side bias.
So make sure you have some before you visit Europe again.
Headlamp Beam Deflectors for Motorcycles
It is quite common for modern motorcycles have a flat beam pattern but older bikes and even some new ones will have a left side bias though.
There is not a version of headlamp deflectors specifically for 2 wheeled vehicles, so motorcyclists must buy our car ones.
We have an in-depth look here on Motorcycling in France.
This means they do not come with fitting instructions for your bike, but you should be able to work it out. You’ll get 2 converters in the pack though so if you make a hash of fitting the first one, you can have another go.
You get what you pay for
Because we turn our stock over quickly our sister website only sells brand new stock, with the latest fitting instructions for every car that needs them.
Some people think it’s a good idea to try and save themselves a couple of pounds by buying them from a car boot sale, or an online auction website (Which can be very similar to a car boot sale).
The trouble is they often come with no fitting instructions at all or because what they’ve bought are often over 10 years old the fitting instructions were printed in 2009 and their car (being newer) isn’t even listed so they have no idea how to fit them correctly.
So if this is what you've done please don't ask me for help, go back to the person you bought them off, if you can find them.
Another problem buying really old out of date stock is, although converters don’t really have a sell by date on them, after a few years the special glue that sticks them onto your car doesn’t work properly anymore.
They are likely to fall off the first time you drive over a pothole or sleeping policeman.
So please don’t ask me for help if you haven’t bought them from Euro Motoring.
Another thing that makes me laugh is people who think I'll save myself £6 by putting black masking tape on glass/plastic cover over the headlights. That is a particularly daft idea.
The tape does not have the same beam diverting effect as deflectors, it just blocks light. The beam is just reduced not pointed in the right direction, so your overall visibility will be less.
Also if you have your lights on a lot the glass/plastic can get warm and black tape can then be difficult to remove and spoil the surface permanently.
These will not help you in France and if you have them and it is possible to switch them off. (I mean switch off the auto adaptive feature).
For those who don’t know about “adaptive headlights” they are quite clever in so much as they are fitted with motors or servos, so the bulbs can move left/right as you turn the steering wheel.
So, if you’re going round a bend the bulbs will turn to illuminate the road better for you as you turn. If you are going straight though they may still have a left side bias, though some just have a neutral setting.
If they have a flat beam when pointing straight, then you wouldn’t need headlamp deflectors anyway. If they do have a left side bias, then you should turn off the auto feature and fit headlamp deflectors.
The really clever adaptive bulbs also make allowances for speed, so if you are going fast they will raise up to illuminate further forward.
Do I need headlight deflectors on during the daytime?
Yes, if your car’s headlamp dipped beam has a left side bias. They must be fitted even if you are only driving during the daytime. This is because in France it is a legal requirement to put your headlights on if it starts raining.
In France they have a saying, "Wipers on = Lights on". So you could be dazzling other drivers even during the daytime.
Do I need headlight deflectors in UK?
Only if you are driving a left-hand drive car.
What exactly do headlamp deflectors do?
Headlamp converters rather than just block out light thereby reducing your overall visibility, as the name suggests they deflect the beam rather than totally block it.
Do I need beam deflectors in Spain?
Yes you do, and Germany, Portugal, Brussel's etc. Assuming you're driving your own UK car, you will need to have them whenever you're driving abroad.