Turning on headlights: 8 steps (with pictures)

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Turning on headlights: 8 steps (with pictures)
Turning on headlights: 8 steps (with pictures)

Headlamps are an important safety measure for any motor vehicle. It is very important that you know how to turn on the headlights, and also very easy to learn.


Part 1 of 2: Operating the headlights

Turn On Headlights Step 1
Turn On Headlights Step 1

Step 1. Locate the headlight control

The headlight controls are not in the same place in every car, but there are some commonly used places. Look for a control panel or control arm near the handlebars.

  • Some manufacturers place a separate headlight control panel just below the dash on the driver's left side. These panels are especially common in larger vehicles that have more dashboard space. Look for a small panel with a dial. The standard headlight indicator symbols should be in different positions around the dial.
  • Other manufacturers place the headlight control on a control arm that is attached to the handlebars. The arm can be on the left or right side of the handlebar and there will be a rotary headlamp control knob on the end of one arm. This dial will be marked with the standard headlight function symbols.
Turn On Headlights Step 2
Turn On Headlights Step 2

Step 2. View the off position

The headlight control will usually be in the off position. Notice which symbol marks that position and where on the dial that symbol is located so you can turn off the headlights when you're done.

  • The out position is usually the farthest left or bottom of the button and is usually marked with an open or unfilled circle.
  • Today, many vehicles are equipped with running lights, which come on automatically when the vehicle is on and the headlights are off. If your headlights appear to be off, but you can still see light from the front of the vehicle, it's probably the running lights.
  • Always make sure your headlights are off when you turn off the car. Leaving the headlights on when the car is off may drain the car battery, and the car will not start if the battery is empty. If you forget the lights and the battery is completely empty, you have to start the car with jumper cables to get it going.
Turn On Headlights Step 3
Turn On Headlights Step 3

Step 3. Set the switch to the correct symbol

Hold the control knob between your thumb and index finger until it is turned to the correct setting. The different settings are indicated by different symbols and you should hear the button click into place when it is set to a function.

  • The parking lights are the first setting in most cars. These lamps can be orange at the front of the vehicle and red at the rear.
  • The next feature is usually the low radius setting. These lamps provide forward and lateral light while minimizing glare. So these should be used on busy roads if there are other vehicles less than 60m ahead of you.
  • The 'fog lights' may also be on the dial, but some car manufacturers place the fog light on a separate button, right next to the standard headlight control. Fog lamps provide a wide, downward beam of light to illuminate the road. They should be used in low visibility conditions such as fog, rain, snow and dust.
  • The 'main beam', 'high beam' or 'high beam' is not found in the low light control. This setting is usually found on an arm on the steering column, sometimes the arm that controls the turn signal, and is always separate from the regular light control. The high beam can be activated by pulling or pushing the indicator arm away from you. These lights are much more intense and create more glare, so you should only use them when there are no other cars around.
Turn On Headlights Step 4
Turn On Headlights Step 4

Step 4. Consider checking the results

If in doubt, check how the lights on your vehicle react when you set the button to different functions.

  • If there is someone who can help you, you can ask that person to stand in front of the car when it is parked. Roll down your window so you can interact with your assistant, then move the control knob to any position. Pause at each position and ask your assistant to identify the setting.
  • If there is no one to assist you, park the vehicle in front of your garage, a wall, or similar structure. Move the lamp control to any position and pause at each position long enough to watch the light shine on the surface. You should be able to determine the correct setting based on how brightly the light reflects.
Turn On Headlights Step 5
Turn On Headlights Step 5

Step 5. Know when to use the headlights

You should use your headlights when visibility is poor. You should be able to see 150-300 meters ahead, if not, the headlights should be on.

  • Always use headlights at night. Use the low beam when there are other vehicles nearby and the high beam in other conditions.
  • Also use your headlights at sunrise and sunset. Although sunlight is present, the shadows cast by buildings and other structures can make it difficult to see other vehicles. You should at least use the low beam at these times of the day.
  • Use your fog lights in bad weather, such as rain, snow, fog or dust clouds. Don't use your high beam here, as the reflection and glare it causes can actually make it harder for other drivers to see well.

Part 2 of 2: Headlight symbols

Turn On Headlights Step 6
Turn On Headlights Step 6

Step 1. Look for the basic headlight indicator symbol

Most lamp controls are marked with a standard headlight indicator symbol. Look for this symbol on the side of the control panel.

  • The standard headlight indicator symbol looks like a sun or an upside-down light.
  • Many control panels will also have a closed circle to this symbol. The circle marks which side of the panel controls the settings. Align the closed circle with the setting you want to select.
Turn On Headlights Step 7
Turn On Headlights Step 7

Step 2. Identify the symbol for each setting

Each lamp setting must be marked by a separate symbol, and these symbols are the same in almost every vehicle.

  • If your vehicle is equipped with parking lights, these will be marked with a symbol that looks like the letter p with some dashes sticking out of the round front.
  • The "low radius" symbol looks like a rounded triangle or the capital D. Down-pointing lines protrude from the flat side of the mold.
  • The 'fog lights' symbol uses the same symbol as the lower beam, but has a wavy line through the center.
  • The "high beam" symbol also looks like a rounded triangle or capital D, but the protruding stripes on the flat side are horizontal.
Turn On Headlights Step 8
Turn On Headlights Step 8

Step #3. Look for warning symbols on the dashboard

Vehicles with an electronic or digital dashboard may display a warning light when certain light functions are not working properly. If any of the warning symbols flash, replace the corresponding bulbs or have them repaired.

  • If the headlights are not functioning properly, the vehicle may display the standard headlight indicator symbol in combination with an exclamation mark (!) or an X through it.
  • It may also display the low beam symbol with an exclamation mark above it.

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