How to turn car lights off | Detailed instructions

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The other night I hopped out of my 2010 Toyota Camry, flipped the headlight switch off, and headed inside for dinner. When I came out in the morning, I tried starting the car but the battery was dead. After jumping the car, I looked inside and sure enough, the map light was on. To try and save you readers the same trouble I had, I figured I’d put this article together to talk about the common interior lights that can be left on and cause a battery to drain over night.

How to turn car lights off


How to Turn off lights in most cars

This article will give you tips on turn off the outside lights in your car, especially without draining your car battery. If necessary you may need to take your vehicle to a mechanic if you can’t shut them off yourself.

Not only is it inconvenient, but it may also be a severe safety hazard if your interior lights stop working.  However, while there is no one reason why the cabin lights might fail at any particular time, you could use the process of elimination to reveal the possible causes and limit the amount of guesswork you have to do on your end.

To check the car lights try to complete the tasks shown below.

Turn off headlights when car is running

Look for a extended knob coming out of the steering wheel column on either the right or the left side. It should have a symbol that looks like a light with a line through it. Some will simply say ‘Off’ as you can see in the photo below on a Kia Optima.

headlight control knob
Turning off the lights on a Kia Optima. You can also set it to ‘AUTO’ to have the exterior lights turn off automatically.

Finding the Headlight Switch

Find the controls for the headlights. Although headlight switch are not found in the same position in every car, there are a few frequent locations. However, they are usually located near the steering wheel, look for a control system or a control arm. Some older vehicles will have the headlight illumination switch on the dash.


Headlight Control Panel

Some automakers include a separate headlamp control panel beneath the dash, to the driver’s left. These panels are particularly popular in bigger automobiles with more dashboard area. Look for a little knob on a small panel. The usual headlight indication symbols should be spaced out around the dial at different intervals.

The headlight controls are mounted on a control arm affixed to the base of the steering wheel by other manufacturers. A headlight system typically will be installed toward the end of the arm, which can be positioned to the left or right of the steering wheel. The typical headlight indicator symbols will be marked on this headlight knob.

Take a look at the “off” setting. The headlight controls are set to the “off” position by default. Make a mental note of whatever symbol represents that position and where it is on the dial so you can switch off the headlights when you’re done.

The “off” feature is normally found on the dial’s far left or underside. An open or empty circle is usually used to indicate it on the dash. For example, on this 2000 Dodge Ram pickup, you have a dial on the left side of the dash:

dodge ram dash light control

Why are my inside car lights staying on?

The middle lights inside the cab are usually called the interior Map Lights and/or Dome Lights. On some vehicles (like the Dodge 2500 seen below) when you manually press the map lights to turn them on, they will stay ‘on’ until you manually press them again. So if after 30 seconds your interior lights dont turn off when you leave the car or truck, you might have to give them a push.

all about car map lights

Make sure your doors and trunk/hatch are all closed tightly. If you need to turn the lights off with a door open, check out this article.

How To Turn Off Daytime Running Lights

Many automobiles now include daytime running lights (or DRL) that turn on automatically when the vehicle is turned on but the headlights are turned off. If your headlights appear to be turned off but there are lights glowing from the front of your car, they are most likely daytime running lights.

When you switch off your automobile, always ensure sure the headlights are turned off. Leaving the headlights on while the car is turned off can drain the battery, and if the battery is completely depleted, the car will not start. If you neglect and totally deplete the battery, you’ll have to jump-start your car to get it back on the road.

Change the symbol on the switch to the proper one. Rotate the control dial between your thumb and index finger until the desired setting is reached. The different settings are marked by different symbols, and when the dial travels through each position, you should feel it “click” into place.

How to turn Off Parking Lights

On most automobiles, the parking lights are the first setting. On the front of the car, these lights are orange, and on the back, they are red.

The next setting is commonly “low beam” or “dipped beam.” These headlights give forward and lateral illumination while reducing glare, thus they should be used on congested routes when other cars are fewer than 65 yards ahead of you.

This dial may also have the “fog lights” function, although other automobile manufacturers place the fog light control on a separate button adjacent to the conventional headlight settings. Fog lights illuminate the road with a large, downward-pointing light. They should be used when there is low vision, such as fog, rain, snow, or dust, and make sure they are updated often.

The low beam control has no “primary beam,” “high beam,” or “brights” buttons. This setting is normally found on a steering column stick, occasionally the turn signal stick, and is always independent of the low beam control. By pressing or moving the turn signal lever forwards or backward, the high lights may be turned on. Because these lights are brighter and produce more road glare, you should only use them when there are no other cars around.

If you still have trouble, there could be some electrical gremlins you need a multimeter to chase down. Check out this vid from JoeZ for tips:

Check The Headlights

A lot of newer rigs will keep the lights on for about 30 seconds after you exit the car. So when in doubt, spin the control dial to each position and see how your car’s headlights react. Make sure your doors are fully closed and wait up to a minute to make sure the lights turn off fully.

Ask someone who can assist you to stand outside and in front of your vehicle while it is parked if you have one. To speak with your assistant, roll down your window and move the headlamp control dial to each setting. At each position, take a breath and ask your assistant to identify the situation.

Locate Help To Check The Car Lights

If you don’t have somebody to assist you, park your car in front of a garage, a wall, or something similar. Turn the headlight control dial to each setting, pausing long enough after each one to see how the light reflects on the surface. Based on how brilliant the lights reflect, you should be able to figure out which setting is which.

When should you use your headlights? When vision is poor, you should utilize your headlights. If you can’t see 500 to 1000 feet ahead of you, turn on your headlights.

At night, always turn the headlights. When there are other cars around, use your low beams; otherwise, use your high beams. This is a common safety feature.

Use Of Headlights & Car Lights

Make use of your headlights during dawn and night as well. Despite the presence of some sunlight, strong shadows cast by buildings and other objects might create difficulties to see other cars. During certain hours of the day, you should at the very least utilize your low headlights.

Headlights on During Poor Weather Conditions

During inclement weather, including snow, fog, rain, or dust storms, turn on your fog lights. High beams should not be used in these situations cause as glare and reflection they generate can make it difficult for the other motorists to see properly.

You want to look for the fundamental sign for a headlight indication. A typical headlamp indication key will be seen on the majority of headlight controls. Search for the symbol just on control dial’s side.

A sun or an upside-down light bulb is the typical headlight indication light.

Simple Headlight Symbols

There will be an encased circular symbol next to this indicator sign on several headlight control knobs. The circle denotes the dial side that controls the headlight settings. You must align the enclosing circle to the desired headlight setting before you can drive.


Determine the symbol for each setting’s indication. Symbols should be used to identify each headlight setting on the vehicle. These symbols are nearly universal across the makes and models of automobiles.

Parking Lights or Fog lights

In the event that your car has parking lamps, they should be identified by a symbol that resembles the letter “p” with multiple lines extending from the front side.

A  triangle or a capital letter “D” represents the “low beam” light. Through the flat side of the form, downward-slanted lines stretch outward.

Fog lights on

The “fog light” sign has the same form as the “lower beam” symbol and has descending slanting lines. However, one wavy line should cross through the middle of these slanted lines.

Although the “high beam” emblem resembles a rounded triangle or a capital “D,” the lines extending from the flat side are completely horizontal.

Warning Indicators

Warning indicators are found on the dash and automatic come on when there is a problem such as an engine light. Keep an eye out for warning indicators. A warning light may appear on vehicles with electronic/digital dashboards when specific car lights fail to work properly. A warning light flashing means the associated headlamp has to be changed or serviced in some other way.

Your car may display the regular headlight indication with an exclamation point (!) or an “x” across it if your headlights are faulty. Which means it needs to be removed or closed and repaired.

Alternatively, it may show an exclamation point above the low beam indicator.

Most Commonly Asked Questions

Do the headlights automatically switch on?

The headlights are turned on and off automatically by the auto light system. First, a door left open while the ignition switch was switched off resulted in the headlights being on for a brief duration before turning out completely. When the headlights are on and another door is opened, the timer is reset to zero.

What happens if the headlights are left on while the automobile is turned off?

The battery in an automobile can be drained if the headlights are left on while the car is off, and a dead battery means the car won’t start later. To get your car moving again if you neglect to charge the battery, you’ll have to jump-start it. Select the appropriate symbol on the switch.


Why are no lights coming on in car?

The most common cause is a dead or very drained battery. If you have a multimeter, try hooking it up and making sure the battery tests at 12.6 volts.

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