How to use car headlights

How to use car headlights

The importance of headlights to a car driver cannot be overemphasized! Without the proper usage of your headlights, you might be racking up fines, violation points on your license, and even worse; convictions. Be that as it may, your headlights are designed to give you maximum visibility during adverse weather conditions by illuminating the road ahead of you while also making you visible. This is why you must know how to use car headlights because Failure to use your headlights properly like – driving at night with a foggy headlight that needs restoration could endanger the safety of other road users and pedestrians. 

A car’s headlights have diverse functions that are created to help the driver or to signal other motorists which is why according to the department of transportation motor vehicle administration, you must be able to recognize and make use of your car headlights properly in order to successfully pass your driver’s test. However, before we get you started on how to use your car headlights, let’s take a look at the different car light components, and how to recognize them. 

What are the different types of car lights?

What are the different types of car lights

When it comes to cars, there are several lights especially in modern cars. We have the Indicators that serve as both navigation and Hazard lights, Brake lights that signal a stop and double up as parking lights which sit next to tail lights, and headlights which we can set to different modes depending on the time of the day and weather condition. Read on to find out what lights you’ll find on your vehicle and how to use them.

Identifying Your Car Light Components and Symbols. 

Car Light Components and Symbols

Step 1: Find your car headlight controls. 

The first step to identifying your car light components is to find your headlight controls. This can be found positioned in two places: your dashboard or your car’s lever located at either side of the steering. In addition, headlights are usually accompanied by a symbol of an upside-down light bulb and you can rotate its fuse to select the mode you want your headlight to switch into. 

Step 2: Determine the meaning of each symbol on your headlight. 

Using your headlight means switching on car headlights and to do that correctly you must first understand the meaning of each symbol located on your headlight to enable you to switch to the relevant mode based on the time of the day or weather condition. 

Headlights are by default placed on the off mode which is usually connoted by an empty circle or the word “off.” Additionally, you will notice the symbol of two lights facing opposite directions, indicating the parking lights or daytime lights. Also, there is a symbol of a large light that looks like the letter “D” with lines sticking out of it and facing the opposite direction. In the same vein, if you make use of a car with automatic headlights, your headlight switch will be labeled “auto,” or “A” while fog light’s symbol is located near the main controls of your headlights but separated from other controls. Fog light’s symbol is quite similar to that of headlight but with its light placed downward. 

What are the different modes of car headlights and how to use them?

What are the different modes of car headlights and how to use them

To get started on your car headlights, the first step would be to turn them on. You can do this by rotating your car headlight switch until it’s in the mode that you want to use. Each mode has a notch to make it clear that the switch is in the right place.  For cars with automatic headlights, your headlight would come on automatically once you rotate the headlight switch to automatic and would go off automatically depending on the amount of lights outside your vehicle. 

Dipped headlights mode

Dipped headlights mode

The dipped headlights are essentially brighter than the side lights but not as bright as the full beam and it’s the most commonly used headlights in a car. Although most new cars have automatic lights that don’t need the driver’s input, for manual, the switch to put them on is located on the car dashboard or twisted indicator stalk. 

When should you use dipped headlights

The US headlight laws says, “You must use your car headlights when your visibility while driving is seriously reduced,” and by reduced visibility, they mean when you can’t see at least 500ft ahead of your vehicle. This is why most state laws mandate your headlights be on at night and during adverse weather conditions. 

Fog light mode

Fog light mode

Fog headlights, unlike the dipped headlight; usually come in two sets located at the back of the vehicle and at the front. They are designed to cut through fog by being reflective and their switches are usually colored coded with green for front fog lights and amber for rear fog lights. However in most cars, your dipped headlight would need to be on before pressing the fog lights mode. 

When should you use fog headlights 

Fog headlights should only be used during adverse weather conditions or as the name implied, during fog especially when visibility is below 500ft. however, fog lights shouldn’t be used when there is better visibility to avoid dazzling and blinding other drivers. In a situation when an oncoming driver forgets to put off his or her fog lights, you can avert your gaze from their bright blinding lights

Full/High beam mode 

Full-High beam Headlights mode

High beam headlights also known as full headlights are different from both dipped and fog headlight modes. They are brighter and angled higher than the normal dipped lights and they allow you to see more of the road. Most times, the full beam makes use of different bulbs and is located near the switch for dipped headlights. 

When should you use full beam headlight 

Full headlight beam mode should only be used on unlit stretches of highways and should be dimmed when approaching oncoming traffic, driving on left-turning bends, or following another vehicle within 6ft to blinding other motorists which may result in accidents.  

Maintaining your car headlights  

Now that you are conversant with your different types of headlights, their components, and how to use them it’s vital that you also know how to maintain them.

Maintaining your car headlights

Step 1: Check your car headlight operation. 

To ensure safety each for you and other motorists while you drive, it’s recommended that you check the alignment of your headlights regularly. So, how do you know if your headlights are aimed properly? One of the best ways is to have someone stand in front of your car while you switch on your headlights and ask them to check both front lights. If you do not have someone that can help, you can simply park in front of a solid wall and view the aim of your light’s reflection. However, if you notice that both lights aren’t bright or one isn’t working properly, you should have them replaced immediately. 

Tip: check out our article on how to change your car headlights. 

headlight warnings

Step 2: Watch out for headlight warnings. 

You probably might be wondering when headlights need to be replaced! Well, you should know that before any part of a car develops a problem, it must have given out warning signs. For example, if there is an imminent failure in your headlight system, there is usually a warning displaced on your car dashboards in the form of a headlight indicator with an exclamation point next to it or an “X”. While this might not be so for older vehicles, you can easily notice any fault early by conducting a routine check up on your vehicle. 


Using your car’s headlight is very simple and amazing too. If you are new to driving, it might seem like a big fret at first but after driving your car a few times, putting on your headlights and switching between its different modes would become second nature. However, keep in mind to regularly check your headlights and make sure you clean or restore your headlights with the right headlight restoration kit when they appear oxidized. 

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