Every driver out there considers headlights and high beams to be a vital safety feature. Knowing when and how to turn on the headlights is crucial in the traffic. Failing to do so might result in an accident, which can cause irreversible damage in every possible sense. Therefore, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with the controls if you haven’t done so already.
There are many people who don’t take vehicle lighting seriously and they’re usually the ones responsible for accidents. For example, they completely disregard the fact that high beam lights have to be turned on manually. Some of them keep their high beams off even in poor driving conditions (in bad weather, at night, etc.) So, the problem isn’t just not knowing how to do it but also when.
If you’re new to driving and you want to use headlights and high beams properly, this guide will most likely help you.
Why Are Headlights So Important?
Vehicle lights are basically a means of communicating with other drivers when you’re driving. Other drivers won’t know where you are or what you’re going to do unless you give the right signal. In addition to helping other drivers see you better, headlights also illuminate the road and increase visibility. Therefore, the main reason why everyone should use them is to ensure safety and avoid crashes.
Furthermore, there are several types of vehicle lights that should be used in different circumstances. As far as headlights are concerned, you can either use daylights, low beams or high beams (depending on the driving conditions).
For example, you are required to use daylights almost all the time, especially when you’re in traffic. Most modern cars have a feature that turns on daytime running lights automatically. On the other hand, there are still older vehicle models that require manual operation.
However, both modern and older car models have something in common — their daylights do not activate the tail lamps. How so? Because tail lamps are only activated when low beams and high beams are in use. That’s just one more reason to learn how to use low beams and high beams properly.
The Importance of Using Low Beams
If you’re driving in an area where visibility is less than 150 meters, you should probably use low beams to light your way. They can also be of great use when driving in harsh weather conditions, such as heavy rain, snow, and fog. You should also use them on crowded roads where other cars are less than 60 meters away from you. Most people use them almost non-stop, regardless of the time of the day, and so should you.
The Importance of Using High Beams
High beams should be used exclusively during nighttime when the visibility is so bad that you can’t see anything. That includes rural areas where no lighting or other vehicles are present. Their main purpose is to reach further in order to illuminate the road. However, you must be cautious not to blind the oncoming drivers. Therefore, you should turn them off when an oncoming vehicle is 150 meters away from you.
How to Turn on the Headlights (A Step-by-Step Guide)
As mentioned, most modern vehicles turn on the headlights automatically as soon as you start the engine. However, there are older models that require you to turn them on manually. The entire process is relatively simple, so there’s no way to mess something up. Just stick to following the steps from this brief guide and you’ll be just fine.
1. Find the Controls
Obviously, the first step is to locate the headlights control panel. Now, the position of the control panel may wary and it depends entirely on the model of the vehicle. However, two of the most commonly used spots are beneath the dashboard and on a steering wheel’s control arm.
If your control panel is located under the dashboard, you’ll probably find it to the left of the driver’s seat. The panel will likely have a small dial on it which indicates the selected symbol. There will be different intervals, numbers, and icons all around it (more on that later).
Alternatively, if your steering wheel has a control arm on it, there’s a possibility that the headlight controls will be there. The arm is either on the left or the right side of the wheel. As for the buttons and dials that control the lights, they’ll likely be at the end of the arm.
2. Check the Power Switch
Once you know where the controls are, it’s important to check the position of the power switch. Normally, the switch will be off and you’ll be able to confirm that by looking at the symbol right next to it.
If it’s pointing to a ‘zero’ or a full circle, the headlights are probably off. It might be a good idea to remember that position because you’ll need to switch back to it once you’re done driving. Otherwise, you risk completely draining the battery of the vehicle by leaving them on.
3. Choose the Correct Symbol
The next step is to actually switch on the headlights by choosing the correct symbol. You’ll be able to do that by rotating the dial until you find the right setting. However, since there are too many symbols on the dial, you’ll need to determine which is the right one.
There are two possible ways to go about this. The first way is to familiarize yourself with the functions of each symbol by researching them. That means either consulting the manual or looking them up online. The second way is to simply experiment and try them out. You’ll be able to see what each one does and that’s how you’ll find the right setting.
Alternatively, you could compare the symbols in your car with the descriptions listed here. I will describe each of the symbols briefly just in case. However, keep in mind that they might be different than the ones in your car.
- The standard headlight symbol will probably look like an upside-down light bulb (or a sun), so that’s the one you’re looking for.
- Two diagonal lines (with one wavy line in between) are usually a symbol for fog lights.
- If you want to select the low beam lights, go for the symbol that looks like a letter ‘D.’ There will be a couple of wavy lines right next to the letter that extend away from it.
- The symbol for high beam lights is essentially the same as the previous one. The only difference is that the horizontal lines are perfectly even.
4. Check the Results
The final step is to check whether you did everything right. Simple, right? Well, not quite. Since there’s no way for you to know what’s happening in broad daylight, you’ll probably need another person to help you out. You’ll have to ask someone to stand in front of the vehicle and tell you what’s happening as you push each button or rotate the dial. Alternatively, you could park your vehicle in front of a wall or a garage door and rotate the dial. You’ll be able to see what’s happening by looking at the wall (or any other structure).
How to Turn on the High Beams
The controls for your high beams are probably going to be located on the blinker lever (steering wheel control arm). However, there’s a possibility that they’ll be located beneath the dashboard or somewhere else. Their placement depends entirely on the model of the vehicle.
In any case, the first thing to do is to locate the lever (which is on the left side of the steering wheel in most cases). Next, push the lever away from you until you hear a clicking sound. When you notice the lever clicking in place, it means that the high beams are on. If you want to turn them off, you simply have to pull the lever slightly towards you.
There’s also a way to turn on the high beams without having to lock the lever in place. To do that, you need to pull the lever towards you and hold it there briefly. When you no longer need the beams, just release the lever and they will turn off.
Things to Consider When Using Headlights at Night
Using headlights isn’t only about turning them on and off when you need them. There are several safety precautions that you should consider as well. So, it might be a good idea to pay attention to the following examples and tips.
Dim the Instrument Panel Lights
Your car has a dashboard dimmer for a reason, so use it. Dashboard LED lights have the tendency to blind the driver in certain situations if they’re not dimmed. Your main focus should always be the road ahead. That’s why it’s important to turn off any interior light source that could distract you, especially during nighttime driving.
Aim the Headlights Properly
Another thing worth considering is to adjust the headlights so that they aim properly. Some cars have uneven headlights that point lower than they should. If you notice that your headlights are slightly pointed down, it might be better to have your car serviced.
Do Not Stare at the Oncoming Lights
Your eyes are used to the dim lights of the dashboard when you’re driving at night. When an oncoming vehicle passes, it illuminates everything all of a sudden. That means there’s a chance that those lights will blind you if you stare at them. Therefore, it’s imperative that you don’t. The same goes for bright road signs, billboards, etc.
Clean the Headlights and the Exterior Mirrors
Dirty headlights and mirrors can completely distort a light source which can blind and distract the driver. For example, mirrors can reflect light sources that are coming from behind your vehicle. There’s a risk that they’ll reflect the light straight into your eyes because a stain on the mirror affected the reflection. The same goes for dirty windshields.
Fortunately enough, frequent maintenance and cleaning can resolve that issue, so try to do that as much as possible.
All in all, turning on the headlights and high beams might come off as confusing at first, but it’s really not that complicated. The trickiest part is figuring out the symbols and what they control. Once you figure that out, the rest is a breeze.
If this article was helpful to you, please consider checking out other articles on my website. I share a lot of useful automotive tips on various car-related things.