When riding your ATV after sunset, you might wonder what will illuminate your way, such as headlights. Does your ATV come with headlights, or will you have to equip your ATV with an after-market pair?
ATVs do have headlights, and most state laws mandate that at least one of those headlights (as well as at least one taillight) must be operational and on when riding 30 minutes after sunset as well as 30 minutes before sunrise.
This article will be your guide to ATV headlights. We’ll go over the types of headlights and the legalities of having them. We’ll also share some tips for how to maintain your headlights, so make sure you keep reading!
The Types of ATV Headlights
Let’s begin by discussing the types of headlights your ATV may be equipped with. Those would be one of two common types, projector-beam or sealed beam headlights.
Here’s an overview of both headlight types.
Projector Beam Headlights
Starting with projector-beam headlights, these are considered high-performance lights.
If you saw projector beam lights years ago, it was usually only in the most high-end vehicles, and we mean everyday vehicles like cars and SUVs.
It’s only now that projector-beam headlights are becoming more common and we’re seeing newer ATVs and UTVs equipped with these high-end lights.
A set of projector-beam headlights produces light-emitting diode or LED or high-intensity discharge or HID light.
The brightness of the illumination grants projector-beam headlights the power to brighten long distances and more of a road’s surface. The light beam is very focused, more so than other types of lights.
This keeps the light straight-ahead to illuminate precisely what’s in front of you. Less light leaks out towards either side of the headlights, where you don’t really need to see anyway.
Let’s go a little more in-depth about how projector-beam headlights work.
The headlight has a bulb. We mentioned earlier that the bulbs can be LED or HID but may be halogen as well.
Most projector beams also include a reflector. This reflector is shaped like an elliptical.
When the bulb projects light, the reflector receives the light at its narrowest point, and that is by the shutter.
The shutter goes underneath the light beam to cut off the direction of light so it’s aimed more towards the road.
Finally, there’s the lens, which distributes the light beam evenly out into the night.
Sealed Beam Headlights
If not projector beam headlights, then your ATV will be equipped with sealed beam headlights.
These headlamps feature a glass enclosure. Housed in the glass enclosure are a bulb and a lens.
A sealed beam headlight has many of the same components as a projector beam headlight, but with one critical difference.
While some of the features of a projector beam light might be adjustable (at least in cars and trucks and perhaps ATVs and UTVs as well), that’s not the case for a sealed beam headlight.
As the name implies, all the components of the headlight are sealed.
This prevents you from being able to tinker with the shutter or lens settings, which is not to say you necessarily can do that with your ATV’s headlights if those lights are projector beams.
It’s just that projector beams are naturally more adjustable.
Since you can’t access any one individual component of a sealed beam headlight, that means that should any of those components fail, you’re out of luck.
You couldn’t pay to have a mechanic repair the broken lens because they couldn’t get into the headlight to do that.
You’d have no choice but to replace the entire headlight.
Since sealed beam technology is a lot older, you’d probably pay less for your ATV headlights than you would if they were projector beam headlights.
Is It Illegal to Ride an ATV Without Headlights?
Do you know what would happen if you drove a car or truck without headlights? That’s right if a cop sees you, you’d get pulled over.
It likely won’t be any different when riding an ATV.
Without further ado, here are the states with laws that mention ATV lights specifically. Just because you don’t see your state doesn’t mean they don’t have a rule on ATV headlights, so be smart!
In Arizona, state law mandates that your ATV must have functional headlights and taillights when riding both 30 minutes before sunrise as well as 30 minutes after sunset.
According to Arkansas state law, your ATV needs working headlights when operating your ATV at both dusk and dusk.
Are you riding your ATV in the great state of California? Be sure at least one of the two headlights is operational at both dusk and dark.
For those who call Colorado home, you’re required to have both one lighted headlight and taillight on from sunset to sunrise.
Over on the east coast, Delaware mandates that ATV drivers have at least one lighted headlight and taillight after the sun goes down and until it rises.
Indiana state law requires your ATV to have at least one headlight and taillight when riding the vehicle between sunset and sunrise.
Enjoying a day of ATV exploration in Iowa means that you must have at least one lighted headlight and taillight after dark.
In Maryland, the state law dictates that your ATV have one or more headlights as well as one or more red taillights when riding from sundown to sunrise.
Riding your ATV in Massachusetts is only legal if your vehicle has an “adequate” muffler, a rear reflector (must be red), a rear light (must also be red), and at least one headlight.
Nebraska has plenty of land to explore on an ATV, but your vehicle must have one lighted headlight and taillight apiece when driving between sunrise and sunset.
Are you riding on the rustic highways of Nevada? Your ATV needs a headlamp that someone can see from 500 feet behind your vehicle. Further, you must have a working muffler, a rear stop lamp, and a red taillight or red reflector.
Before you ride your ATV in New Hampshire, double-check that one headlight and one taillight (or more) will light when venturing out 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.
New Jersey state law mandates that your ATV have at least one headlight that’s amber or white. The light must be bright enough that it can illuminate 100 feet ahead in the dark.
If riding your ATV and it’s dark enough that you can’t see 500 feet in front of you, then your vehicle needs at least one headlight that can light 150 feet in front of it, per New Mexico law.
ATV owners are prohibited from using their vehicles on New York state highways 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset unless they have both front and rear working lights.
In North Dakota, the state rules dictate that ATV riders need one or more front-mounted headlamps.
Your ATV is required in Ohio to have a headlight that boasts enough candlepower to illuminate 150 feet in front of you in the dark. Rear lights must illuminate 500 feet and must be red.
If you plan to ride an ATV in Pennsylvania, you need a lighted headlamp and tail lamp. These rules are in effect 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after the sun goes down.
You’ll need headlights blazing in South Carolina when riding your ATV both 30 minutes before sunup and 30 minutes after sundown.
According to Tennessee state law, ATVs require both headlights and taillights that illuminate at least 200 feet. Turn the lights on when riding 30 minutes before sunrise and then 30 minutes after sunset.
Everything is bigger in Texas, so of course, you want to have fun on your ATV. However, if you’re riding on a beach or on public property, your ATV must have lighted headlights and taillights when riding between dusk and dawn.
Driving your ATV in darkness in Utah requires you to have working taillights, headlights, and brakes.
Turn those ATV lights on 30 minutes before the sun comes up and 30 minutes after it sets when riding in Vermont. The taillight should be red.
Tips for Maintaining Your ATV’s Headlights
You triple-checked that your ATV is equipped with working lights. Whether you opted for sealed beam headlights or projection beam headlights, keeping your ATV lights in tip-top condition should be a top priority.
Here’s what we recommend.
Don’t Ignore Yellow Lights
ATV headlights are definitely not supposed to be yellow, so if yours are, it’s worth looking into.
The yellowing could be a sign of smog, chemical, and/or sunlight exposure.
When lights turn yellow, they don’t illuminate as well, or the effect can be hazy. Contact your ATV mechanic to see what they can do for you.
Upgrade Your Lights to LEDs
If your ATV headlights and taillights aren’t already LEDs, do yourself a favor and upgrade. In some states, you might be required to have LED lights for your ATV to ensure they can provide the requisite amount of illumination.
Test Beam Strength
How strong are your ATV lights? That’s up to your mechanic to answer! At least once per season, it’s a good idea to get the beam strength tested.
ATVs are required by many state laws to have working headlights and taillights, especially when riding in dim or dark conditions.
Besides the benefit of staying on the right side of the law, having ATV lights is also for your safety!