The Lighting Basics: SAE Lens Codes - Part 1

Warren Lantz - Thursday, September 15, 2016

This month and next month, we are going to look at the letters molded into the lenses of lights.This month will cover the parameters for an SAE Code, while next month will be examples of decoding parts using a table they have provided. The following information has been sourced via an official SAE document written in 1995 and approved for unlimited distribution found posted on I will have the link at the bottom of this article for your reading pleasure. It should be said right off the bat that the SAE itself does not “approve” or “endorse items.”

An SAE code must meet the following requirements:
1. Markings must be permanent on lens or body (typically part of the production process).
2. Markings must be observable and readable.
3. Markings must have “manufacturer identification and model designation.” An example would be “KD 516.”
4. Letters must be 2mm or 3mm (there are exceptions)
5. The code itself.

The SAE Code is made up of the following 4 parts:
1. SAE
2. “A number within a circle or parentheses indicating the number of compartments in a multicompartment device or the number of separate lamps when more than one compartment... No number is required for a single compartment device.”
3. “One or more letters identifying the function or functions for which the device was designed. Multipurpose devices shall be marked to cover each function for which the device was originally designed. Such devices may be used to carry out one or more of these functions.”
4. “The last two numbers of a year which means that the code letters refer to SAE Specifications listed in the SAE Handbook current in the year indicated, or the applicable requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 specified for the device function in the year indicated. To denote that a function meets the requirements of FMVSS 108, but not the current SAE Specification, a dash line shall be placed under the function letter.”

I hope this article gave you a little more insight into the letters on the lens of your light. My source for the above content can be found at: Next month, we will finally get around to decoding the letters on the lens of your light and uncover their meanings for good.