Headlight Switch Buyer’s Guide
- The headlight switch, also known as the dimmer switch, controls the operation of your vehicle’s lighting system.
- The headlight switch is typically found on the dashboard or a combination switch lever mounted on the steering column.
- Aside from activating the headlights and taillights, this switch typically allows you to switch between different headlight settings.
- There are three common types of headlight switches based on design: Headlight switch knob, Push button headlight switch, and Headlight switch stalk.
- The cost of a headlight switch varies depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. OE replacement headlight switches typically cost anywhere between $5 to $270. These are commonly sold individually or as part of a kit.
- A headlight switch must be replaced as soon as it ceases to function properly to protect you and other vehicles on the road.
A functioning headlight switch is critical to ensuring the driver’s visibility and safety on the road. Like any part of your vehicle that is used daily, this switch may get worn out and cease to function. When this happens, you’ll need to know about the basics of headlight switch replacement.
What is a headlight switch?
The headlight switch, also known as the dimmer switch, controls the operation of your vehicle’s lighting system. This electrical component activates the headlights and tail lights. It may also control the fog lights and other lighting systems on your vehicle. The headlight switch is typically found on the dashboard or a combination switch lever mounted on the steering column.
How does a headlight switch work?
Each vehicle model features a different headlight switch. Some will have a standalone switch for operating the headlights and tail lights, while others have a combination switch that includes the turn signal lights. There are also universal headlight switches that can be used on different models.
The headlight switch is connected to a power supply that can complete either one of two circuits. Switching it on sends an electric signal to power the headlights and tail lights. Aside from this, it also allows you to switch between different headlight settings. Here are some of the settings you will see on a headlight switch.
The first setting will usually switch on your vehicle’s running lights. These are automotive lights that are switched on whenever the vehicle is in drive. Newer vehicles that have an automatic system call them the DRL or daytime running lights. Older models may require a manual switch for these lights.
These are often powered by a low current 12-volt signal transmitted from the switch to activate the headlight relay. To activate your vehicle’s high beam and low beam settings, the switch sends a signal to a separate relay.
This setting produces a concentrated light that aims the illumination from your headlights forward and down toward the road. This makes it easier for the driver to see the road without blinding oncoming vehicles driving in the opposite direction.
The high beam setting produces a light that is aimed forward and illuminates longer distances to provide maximum visibility. This is only recommended for use in dark, low traffic areas to prevent blinding vehicles driving in the opposite direction.
What are the types of headlight switches?
There are three common types of headlight switches based on design.
Headlight switch knob
Older vehicles and base models may come with a headlight switch knob and combined with a dimmer or a toggle switch. This type of headlight switch allows you to change your settings by turning the knob left or right, or dim the lights by adjusting the wheel.
Push button headlight switch
Newer vehicle models may come with a push button headlight switch that is installed on the dashboard. As its name suggests, this switch features tactile buttons for easy control of your car’s lighting system.
Headlight switch stalk
This type of headlight switch is mounted underneath the steering wheel and protrudes from the steering column. A switch arm or stalk may also include the controls to your vehicle’s turn signals.
How much does it cost to replace a headlight switch?
The cost of a headlight switch varies depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. OE replacement headlight switches typically cost anywhere between $5 to $270. These are commonly sold individually or as part of a kit. Fog light and auto headlight controls may or may not be included with the switch.
While it is possible to install this part on your own, it is recommended to have a certified mechanic replace it for you. This will ensure that all relays are properly connected, and any other issues that can compromise your vehicle safety can be quickly identified.
What are the signs of a bad headlight switch?
As the switch is an electrical component that is connected to one or more relays, checking it on your own may be difficult. This may require dismantling parts underneath the dash or on the steering column. As soon as you notice one or more of these symptoms, it is recommended to have a trusted mechanic check your vehicle.
Lights won’t switch on
One of the most obvious signs of a faulty headlight switch is your lighting system failing to operate. If your headlights aren’t busted or due for replacement, there is a high probability that the issue is with the relay or the switch itself.
Lights won’t stay on
Aside from lights that won’t switch on, another symptom that you should look out for is if your headlights suddenly switch off. Incidents like this may be caused by a loose or damaged headlight switch.
Problems switching between modes
Another sign of a faulty headlamp switch is the lighting system getting stuck on one setting. A bad switch may make it difficult to switch between low beam and high beam. This may cause your vehicle to be a safety hazard on the road. Being unable to lower or switch off your high beams may blind oncoming drivers and impair their view of the road.
The importance of headlight switch replacement
Driving without functioning headlights is not only a safety hazard but also a traffic violation. A vehicle that does not have working headlights and tail lights cannot be seen by other drivers on the road, increasing the chance of collisions.
As a driver, you will also have difficulty observing your surroundings and avoiding road hazards at night without a working headlight switch. This may lead to serious vehicle damage and fatal passenger injury.
A headlight switch must be replaced as soon as it ceases to function properly to protect you and other vehicles on the road.
You may use our website’s search feature to browse through our vast collection of headlight switches. To find the right fit for your vehicle, you may plug in its specific year, make, and model to filter the results.
Headlight Switch Repair: A Simple DIY Guide
There may be times when your headlights don’t work even if you have a new set of headlight lamps. Either it suddenly shuts off and lights back on, or it doesn’t light up at all. If this is the case, you may have a faulty headlight switch. Depending on the level of the defect, the problem can be solved either by a repair, or a complete replacement.
Difficulty Level: Easy
- Wrench set
- Cotton swab
- All-purpose cleaner
- Electric degreaser
- Headlight switch replacement (if necessary)
Step 1: Turn off the car’s engine and disconnect the battery.
Step 2: Remove the headlight switch from its mounting. Depending on your car, the switch can be located on the steering column or on the dashboard. If it is on the steering column, remove the column’s cover first. Turn the wheel and unscrew the screws holding switch. Unplug the wires to completely detach it. If the switch is mounted on the dashboard, simply remove the screws attached and unplug wires to get the switch out.
Step 3: Diagnose the switch. If it is repairable, disassemble the switch to access the different prongs, contact points and compartments. Use your fingers and cotton swab to clean the insides with all-purpose cleaner. Find the contact points and rub electric degreaser on them to improve its conductivity. Assemble the switch after cleaning.
Step 4: If the switch is beyond cleaning and repair, throw the old one and buy a whole new unit.
Step 5: Connect the wires to the new switch.
Step 6: Plug the battery to test if the switch works properly. Check if the lights turn on and if all settings on the switch work. If everything is working condition, finish the repair by returning all the remaining screws and covers.
The whole repair will only take about 30 minutes.
If the switch is mounted on the dash, it might be a good idea to clamp the wires together outside the panel so that they won’t fall inside the engine compartment.
Label or take a picture of the wires so that you’ll have a guide on how to reconnect them. [external_footer]