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In the car industry, underglow or ground effects lighting refers to neon or LED aftermarket car customization in which lights are attached to the underside of the chassis so that they illuminate the ground underneath the car. Underglow has become popular in car shows to add aesthetic appeal to the cars. Some states prohibit underglow on public roads.

Andrew Wilson, who holds 14 patents on ground effects lighting and other products, invented it in 1987. He changed his name from "Andrew" to "They" in 2004.[1]

Types of underglow[edit]


Neon tubes[2][3] that are used for the underglow of a car start of heating it up to high temperatures. From there they are filled with neon gas. Though neon gas only produces the color red, adding other elemental gases could change the tube up to 150 colors. Mercury makes blue, carbon dioxide makes white, helium makes gold, and phosphorus creates different colors under various pressures. Because neon tubes are gas compressed, they tend to break often while going over speed bumps. With the neon tubes, people are more able to adjust them to follow specific rhythms like music.


LEDs are light-emitting diodes[4] which are semiconductor small bulbs which can be put together. LEDs generally last longer than neon tubes. LED strips are also considerably less fragile than neon tubes. LEDs are used and installed in the same manner as neon tubes. LED's have multi-color capabilities and can have strobe effects.

There are 3 major styles of underglow LED lights: pod style led lights, LED strips and flexible LED tubes. LED pod consists of a rigid housing, bunch of LED lights and a lens. LED strips are easy to install almost everywhere, including engine bays or air intake scoops. LED tubes put out steady light that resembles classic neon glow.

Legal issues[edit]

In the United States of America, certain underglow lights can be considered illegal.[5] The colors could be distracting to the drivers or the drivers could easily confuse them for police officers. For this reason, colors like blue, red or any kind of flashing lights are banned from public streets in some states. The laws on the underglow of a car depend on the state and if they believe that it could be harmful for the drivers on the road. Almost all the states prohibit the colors green, red and blue because these are used for emergency purposes only. States where there is a lot of traffic and have a lot of cities have stricter regulations due to the high risk of crashes. Police and the state government officials believe that bright colors at night could be dangerous for people who are also driving. Ground effects lighting is illegal in the state of Michigan.[6] In California,[7][8] underglow lights are allowed to be used in places other than public roads and there could be a penalty if found using them in public roads. In Vermont, there is a penalty if underglow is turned on while driving. In Alaska, underglow lights are allowed as long as the color is white, yellow, or amber.

Underglow or ground effects lightings are illegal in the province of Alberta, Canada. The use of these lightings are prohibited under section 4 subsection (4) of Alberta's Vehicle Equipment Regulation.[9]


  1. ^ "Missouri man legally changes his name to 'They'". USA Today. 2004-09-23.
  2. ^ The History of Neon Signs. Bellis, Mary. About. http://inventors.about.com/od/qstartinventions/a/neon.htm
  3. ^ Urban Neaon Car lights. FAQ page. 2005. http://www.urban-neon-car-lights.com/content/carlightfaq.html
  4. ^ How stuff Works:How Light Emitting Diodes Work. Harris, Tom. http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/led.htm
  5. ^ Is It Illegal To Have Neon Lights On Your Car? NBC Augusta. August 16, 2007. "http://www.nbcaugusta.com/features/goodquestion/5976076.html
  6. ^ Vehicles - May a vehicle be driven with neon ground effects lighting?
  7. ^ California DMV. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d12/vc25400.htm
  8. ^ Is It Illegal To Have Neon Lights On Your Car? NBC Augusta. August 16, 2007. http://www.nbcaugusta.com/features/goodquestion/5976076.html
  9. ^ Alberta's Vehicle Equipment Regulation