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Spotlight: Neon Underglow Lights



In this article we’re putting the spotlight on California laws regarding the popularity of underglow lights and what it means for car enthusiasts who may be a little too over the top when it comes to adding some cool to their ride. There are various laws for modifications that can be too distracting for other drivers on the road, and lighting has its restrictions in this area.

In California, its legal to attach underglow or neon lights to your vehicle while in other states this is more strictly enforced under “unlawful vehicle modifications”.


Here’s a look at California’s restrictions:

Color Restrictions

While other states usually forbid red and blue lights for the simple fact that it would appear as a police vehicle, in California, you may not use red lights at the front of your vehicle. And while its not a good idea to use any kind of flashing lights which would distract other drivers, you may use any colored lights on your vehicle, as long as they are not red.

Light Emission

Per the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ standards, the luminosity of your car’s LED lights must be less than 0.05 candela per square inch, which is equal to the emitted light from one candle. This means that your car’s lights must emit a diffused non-glaring light.

Size and Position Restrictions

There are four areas of restrictions when it comes to the size and location of neon lights for your vehicle:

  1. Lights must not replace or disrupt any of your vehicle’s required existing lights like tail lights, break lights, turn signals, or headlights.
  2. Neon lights must not be installed within 12 inches of any required light, lamp, reflector, or other required device on your vehicle.
  3. The size of the underglow must not be larger than 720 square inches, unless your vehicle is authorized to display signs.
  4. An internally illuminated sign in your vehicle is permitted if it’s less than 0.25 candela per square inch, must not contain a white background, and may only be displayed on each side but not on front or rear of your car.

In conclusion, when it comes to penalties for use of an underglow system that is not within these described restrictions, you can expect to receive a citation for a non-moving traffic violation which will of course require bringing your vehicle into conformation with these standards plus the expense of fines.

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