Hey there, fog light aficionado! If you’re here to read about DOT-approved fog lights, you’re in the right place. In this blog post, we’ll go over what that term means, some of the other different kinds of certifications, and why it’s important to buy approved fog lights. Now that that’s out of the way let’s get started!

The first thing you should understand is that there are different types of ratings and certifications regarding fog lights. The most common is DOT Approved, which should be used in the United States and most other countries. There are also SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) as well as European ECE (European Economic Community) regulations.

First of all, what are fog lights from a regulation standpoint?

Fog lights are lighting fixtures that are mounted on a car’s bumper, and, according to USA law, they are supplemental equipment. Their design and placement allow them to optimize the illumination of road surfaces, especially in inclement weather conditions where visibility is severely impaired. 

Most cars have different types of lights to improve visibility while driving or parking, such as headlights, taillights, and turn signals. Fog lamps are not considered main lighting equipment and usually do not serve a regulatory function. They can usually be turned on independently from the vehicle’s other lamps and stay on for as long as the driver requires them to. 

However, for optimal illumination, fog lights are to be used in conjunction with primary headlights and not replace them, as specified by the DOT.

First of all, what is DOT and why is it important?

The Department of Transportation, usually known as DOT, is a federal department that regulates transportation in the United States and Canada. Such a regulatory body can also be referred to as Transport Canada and “E-Mark” in Europe.

Taking into account that most parts of a vehicle must be used lawfully on public roads as it is a matter of road safety, DOT oversees components such as headlights, taillights, tires, and bumpers, which are subject to rules and regulations imposed by the DOT.

As a result, in order for an LED light to pass testing and receive DOT approval, it must be constructed in accordance with tight governmental requirements. Furthermore, when it comes to car lighting, DOT takes into account would be beam width, intensity, and height.

All of this is done to guarantee that the light may be used on public roadways safely, that it fulfills its purpose, and that it produces adequate lighting.

As you can probably tell by now, fog lights DO NOT need to be approved by the DOT as such institution not only does not regulate and hasn’t established specifications when it comes to auxiliary lamps (which includes fog lights) but also does not directly regulate them.

Moreover, auxiliary driving lamps are not required to be original equipment on motor vehicles, unlike headlamps, according to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment.

The only specification the DOT has for fog lights refers to their position: they must not be mounted on a motor vehicle, either as factory-installed or aftermarket accessories, in a way that reduces the effectiveness of necessary lighting equipment (for example, mounted too close to a turn signal lamp so as to obscure its signal). Additionally, they are not to be used as a replacement for headlights (mandatory equipment).

When it comes to rear fog lamps, their installation is prohibited unless it does not impact the overall effectiveness of the standard equipment. 

In other words, headlights or any type of mandatory lighting system must function at their standard, and their effectiveness must not be impaired by additional lighting systems. As such, before you decide on installing those glossy fog lights, make sure they do not impair your standard lighting system.

So… who actually approves fog lights?

According to the CFR (Code of Federal Regulation) (https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/49/393.24), front fog lamps must comply with SAE Standard J583 Front Fog Lamp, and auxiliary driving lamps must satisfy SAE Standard J581 Auxiliary Upper Beam Lamps, both of which were published in 2004.

What is SAE and what do they do?

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is a technical institution that exists to improve the mobility, safety, and sustainability of the world’s society from an aerospatial, commercial vehicle, and automotive engineering standpoint.

Founded in 1905, SAE has grown into an immense organization with more than 138,000 members worldwide. It produces thousands of documents that set standards for vehicle components like lighting systems or fluids for brake systems.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has its own set of safety standards for automotive equipment, including fog lights. If you see this symbol on your fog lights, they have been certified by the SAE.

SAE certification is not the same as DOT certification and should not be confused with it—but since they’re both used in the United States, they sound pretty similar! 

The main difference is that SAE documents that certify performance (how well a product performs) do NOT carry any legal strength. In contrast, DOT certifies safety (whether or not something would pose a threat to your car), and their specifications MUST be respected.

Consequently, SAE-approved lighting equipment is not necessarily legal, which doesn’t mean it can be lawfully used on public roads. Similarly, a non-approved SAE-led light is not necessarily illegal unless it impairs the overall functioning of the standard lighting equipment.

When you see an SAE-approved fog light, keep in mind that such certification refers to the product’s overall design qualities and construction and how the high standards of SAE engineers define it. Just to be sure, check your county’ fog lights legal requirements before purchasing your new fog lights.


The SAE is an international standards organization that sets the quality guidelines for vehicles in the U.S., while DOT is a government agency that sets and enforces those standards. 

A common mistake is thinking that “SAE certified” means “DOT approved” because both terms refer to standards related to lights on vehicles. 

However, there are actually two different types of testing processes involved here: one for safety and one for performance. Fog lights have their own set of requirements for each category, so if you want your headlights to be safe AND effective in nighttime driving conditions, then make sure they’re both certified by these agencies before purchasing them online…or else risk getting stuck with some duds!

To wrap things up, both institutions do their own thing, with DOT making sure products are roadworthy once you’ve purchased them and SAE just making recommendations for vehicle manufacturers on how to build them. One produces mandatory requirements, while the other is built to ensure a product’s quality.

Keep in mind that each state has a certain level of autonomy when creating the laws around fog lights. SAE Fog Lights are not required everywhere, but some states like Washington demand fog lights to meet the SAE Standard J583. Consequently, in some states, SAE requirements are enforced as legal compliance.

What does ”DOT/ SAE Approved” actually mean?

In the United States, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and uncertainty over lighting standards for the transportation sector. Truth be told, unless you’re referring to headlights, the terms “DOT approved” or “SAE approved” signify nothing. 

This is due to the fact that only headlights are required by law to bear the “DOT” marking. Even then, the “DOT” designation merely validates that the product was produced in accordance with DOT regulations; it does not imply endorsement by the US Department of Transportation.

ECE certification

Let’s get one thing straight: ECE is not the same as DOT. You can’t just slap an ECE sticker on your fog lights and call it a day. 

European Economic Community (ECE) standards are similar to those held by the DOT in America; they regulate what types of materials can be used in manufacturing items like fog lamps so that they don’t pose a danger to users or others on the road when installed properly in vehicles made within Europe.

The European Commission for the type approval of motor vehicles—aka, the European Economic Community—is responsible for certifying headlights and tail lights in Europe (and other countries) to ensure their safety and compliance with regulations. The organization has set its own standards for headlights, which are stricter than those of the US Department of Transportation (DOT).

You can check the ECE requirements here: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2019.014.01.0042.01.ENG 

Other Types of Certifications

What is AAMVA?

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, or “AAMVA,” is a trade association whose members are state-level motor vehicle administrators. It is a non-profit organization that provides educational materials and best practices on a wide range of automotive topics, including car lighting.

Certain states need registration from manufacturers operating inside their boundaries. A State may define its own standard for auxiliary lamps since they are not necessary lighting equipment. Manufacturers must acquire a certificate of compliance with the State standard before selling auxiliary lights in the State.

As such, an AAMVA-approved certification may suggest that AAMVA had secured the appropriate permissions for the sale of the lamp in those States that allowed AAMVA-approved lamps.

What is AMECA?

The Automotive Manufacturers Equipment Compliance Agency (AMECA  https://ameca.org/ ) is an independent 3rd party safety registration organization whose mission is to provide for the general welfare of the motoring public by providing information, education, and training in matters relating to automotive safety equipment. 

A successor of AAMVA, this organization carries AAMVA’s Equipment Compliance Program, and it provides the only means at present available in the United States for manufacturers or distributors of automotive safety products to have their items listed as complying with appropriate standards and regulations. 

As such, AMECA is not a governmental agency but rather an industry association with representatives from equipment manufacturers and automotive manufacturers who voluntarily participate as members of AMECA’s Executive Board of Directors. 

In addition to providing a set of recommendations when it comes to fog lights, AMECA provides extensive testing services for the automotive industry, state governments, and foreign governments. From car seats to tires, we test everything.

Every product that AMECA lists have been examined by a laboratory that has earned the organization’s accreditation and has been deemed to meet all relevant USA requirements. At AMECA, everything is tested in their laboratories, including car seats, tires, and fog lamps.


In conclusion, in the USA, a LED light or any other type of mandatory light must be authorized by the department of transportation in order to be used legally on public roads (DOT). A lighting system cannot be lawfully used on a public street or highway if it is SAE compliant, which means it was made to the exacting standards established by the SAE alone and not the DOT.

It is DOT that says what is legal to be used on the road and what isn’t, not SAE. So if you are looking for LED lighting that you can operate legally on public roads and highways, ensure that the LED driving light, LED fog light, or LED headlight is DOT approved and not just SAE approved.

However, when it comes to fog lights, the DOT has nothing to say, as long as they do not impair the standard lighting system. As such, when choosing your fog lights, make sure that you’re getting the best possible outcome. 

Since fog lamps are destined to set a shred of light during inclement weather conditions, SAE-compliant fog lights represent the standard of quality you should be seeking.