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Old 8th January 2021, 21:34   #1
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Default Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

This is about something that I have been trying to find an answer to for quite some time now.
My garage consists of two cars that were bought in the 1990s. One is a 1995 Esteem and the other is a 1993 Tata Estate. Both of them are non starters now, and have been sitting abandoned for the past decade or so, but whenever I see them, I notice this strip of black paint or tape at the top of their headlights. I have also noticed this in quite a few cars from the 1990s.
My question is, what purpose do they serve? Why did people put these strips on their headlights?
And if it did indeed serve a purpose, why didnít people continue it even beyond the 90s?

On the Tata Estate:
Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?-ef64f9ca478248eab47d3b121f803291.jpeg

On the Maruti Esteem, the black strip has faded away, but you can still see the residue:
Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?-91665993ef984e598c0eac080eeec300.png
Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?-1bbe3a8b9ce542d58553aee1069be40c.png

I searched the forum, but couldnít find a discussion about this. I also searched the Internet, but couldnít find an explanation for this. Would really appreciate if someone could shed some light on this.
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Old 8th January 2021, 21:36   #2
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

To avoid blinding oncoming traffic (I don't think they had headlight leveling controls back then), perhaps?
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Old 8th January 2021, 22:00   #3
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

I remember, police in Patna used to stop cars and paint black strip on headlights!! I was in school so don’t remember any reason and never asked. For sure it was to curb the high beam madness but back then people respected others and low beam was actively used even in Patna !!
Our Maruti 800 was done by them and looked rather ugly. Gradually it wore off and so did the police drive!
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Old 8th January 2021, 22:04   #4
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tanayr View Post
To avoid blinding oncoming traffic (I don't think they had headlight leveling controls back then), perhaps?
Yes, in our place it was enforced by police. Roads in Assam at that time (now also) were mostly single carriageway and high beam impacts drivers from the opposite direction. Not sure what legal provisions were used by police, but I remember my father added that black strip on headlights of our car and scooter.

Last edited by airbus : 8th January 2021 at 22:18. Reason: Minor correction.
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Old 8th January 2021, 22:48   #5
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

Those are blackout strips, a remnant of the Indo-China & Indo-Pak wars, to prevent enemy aircraft from spotting cars below easily. For a couple of decades afterwards, the rule stayed - some government official(s) had figured out that those strips also prevented dazzle to oncoming traffic. Whereas at one time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the black paint covered almost half the light, over time owners took liberties and the paint started to cover less and less (a bit like the evolution of women's swimwear, I suppose?).

Till a few years ago, that black strip had transformed to yellow and remained as an anti-dazzle add-on to the right side of the right headlight of cars in Gujarat (The Yellow Sticker Shakedown In Gujarat Update: Rule abolished from March 2, 2015).

It would have been easier to teach a few generations of drivers to compulsorily drive on low beam in the city, and we would have been happier today if that had happened.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 8th January 2021 at 22:52.
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Old 8th January 2021, 22:48   #6
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

Before cars and bikes started using projector lamps, they were using something called a parabolic reflector with prism structures to make a light pattern on the road. This pattern is achieved by complex engineering which looks too simple(just reflecting and dispersing light with reflective surface through a lens).

The reflector can do only so much and to make a proper cut off in low beam (to avoid glare onto oncoming traffic), the bulb design also helped by having a reflective shield for low beam filament and opaque paint(black/silver dip) on capsule to avoid light rays hitting the eyes directly. The low beam is also shaped based on traffic direction (LHD &RHD) and are called assymetric beam lamps. There is option to have symmetric beam with a straight cut off line. High beam does not have any cut off hence the vision bleach.

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Now even more older vehicles, had plain aluminum painted reflectors and round bulbs (S2 family), had no control on glare, so they used to have a black painted dot in centre and black strip on the top of the lens. Also, another reason is for reducing detection by enemy aircraft during a war, this is more like today's army vehicles with convoy mode control of lamps..

Last edited by saikarthik : 8th January 2021 at 22:54.
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Old 8th January 2021, 22:52   #7
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

There was the black strip which had the service centres name on it if I remember right and the round black sticker as well that some old scooters had stuck at the centre of the headlamp which now probably is the rubber cap on a bulb.
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Old 8th January 2021, 23:15   #8
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

I always thought that this was due to the older design of the reflectors in combination with the type of filament bulbs that we had then, as compared to what we have now.

But looking at the number of high-beam loving drivers today, may be we should be bring back the black strip. Would really help reduce getting blinded by such thought-less drivers.
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Old 8th January 2021, 23:34   #9
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

Due to the same reason Gujarat insists on having a Yellow sticker on the headlight even today.

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/stree...-2-2015-a.html (The Yellow Sticker Shakedown In Gujarat Update: Rule abolished from March 2, 2015)

Last edited by turbo : 8th January 2021 at 23:36.
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Old 8th January 2021, 23:45   #10
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

The idea of applying 'kajal' has been there even in my childhood days: it was customary to paint the center of the headlight or top half of the headlight black in order to no dazzle the oncoming road users.
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Old 9th January 2021, 09:09   #11
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

Once (don't really remember the year) such a kind of cap thingie was the norm on two wheelers, especially Royal Enfields.

I suppose the idea was to curtail the upward angle of a high beam.

Don't know if this was because of styling or some existing law at that time.

Still available today as an aftermarket accessory.

Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?-royalenfieldclassicheadlightassembly593263b_7.png
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Old 9th January 2021, 10:23   #12
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Those are blackout strips, a remnant of the Indo-China & Indo-Pak wars, to prevent enemy aircraft from spotting cars below easily.
No, during wartime we had to paste brown paper (the same used to cover schoolbooks)on the entire headlights, during night travel.

Some states made it mandatory to cover the centre of the headlights with a black round paint (like a bindi on a women's forehead).
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Old 9th January 2021, 10:49   #13
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post
Once (don't really remember the year) such a kind of cap thingie was the norm on two wheelers, especially Royal Enfields.

I suppose the idea was to curtail the upward angle of a high beam.

Don't know if this was because of styling or some existing law at that time.

Still available today as an aftermarket accessory.
It doesn't help the beam in anyway. It's just for a different look. I had it on my Bullet for years because it looked retro.
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Old 9th January 2021, 11:44   #14
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinod_nair View Post
No, during wartime we had to paste brown paper (the same used to cover schoolbooks)on the entire headlights, during night travel.
I remember black paper being used on windowpanes in our homes, as well as on the headlight lenses. Brown paper may well have been an alternative, though I don't remember that back in Kolkata.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinod_nair View Post
Some states made it mandatory to cover the centre of the headlights with a black round paint (like a bindi on a women's forehead).
That was well after wartime was over. I remember red dots in the centre were quite popular in a few States at one time too.
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post
Once (don't really remember the year) such a kind of cap thingie was the norm on two wheelers, especially Royal Enfields.

I suppose the idea was to curtail the upward angle of a high beam.
Those were spinoffs from the Mark 1 Ambassador's headlight ring, which was prominently protruded at the top.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 9th January 2021 at 11:47.
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Old 9th January 2021, 13:56   #15
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Default Re: Why did people put a black strip on their headlights in the 90s?

Can't remember the black stripes, but I do remember the black dots (bindis) placed on the centre of the headlights.

Was said to reduce glare for incoming traffic. (well..just dim the lights then....then ofcourse ours is a place that just blanket bans window tints cause of a wretched few)

Went away with newer aerodynamic headlights, but I kinda remember cars with round headlights (including our Omni) had to have the bindi sticker even then till the early 2000s.

The only place AFAIK where such archaic stuff remained until recently is Gujarat with its horizontal yellow stripe on the right light.
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