Lights are vital safety equipment for any motor vehicle. It is important that you know how to turn them on, even if it is a relatively simple operation.
Part 1 of 2: light the fires
Step 1. Look for the light controls
The light controls are not all located in the same place in every vehicle, however certain locations are commonly used. Look either on the dashboard or on a control near the steering wheel.
- Certain manufacturers install a control panel dedicated to the controls of the lights on the left of the driver. This panel is found on most large vehicles with a lot of space on the dashboard. It is equipped with a dial lined with symbols representing the different types of lights.
- Other manufacturers place the light controls on a stalk at the base of the steering wheel. This is located to the left or right of the steering column and is equipped with a light control dial at its end. The symbols for the different types of lights are located on this dial.
Step 2. Look for the "off" position
By default, the light controls are in the “off” position. Locate the symbol that indicates this position and its location in relation to the dial so that you can turn off the lights when you are finished.
- The off position is usually found at the left end or below the dial. It is indicated by an open or empty circle.
- Most vehicles these days are equipped with daytime running lights that come on automatically when started and if the headlights are turned off. If your headlights are off, but you still see light in front of the car, it is probably daytime running lights.
- Make sure the lights are off when you stop the engine. Otherwise, you risk depleting the battery and you will not be able to restart. If you forget to turn them off and the battery dies, you will have to push your car to restart it.
Step 3. Position the dial in front of the correct symbol
Grasp the dial between your thumb and index finger and rotate it until it is at the correct setting. The various settings are indicated by separate symbols and you should feel the dial “click” each time it passes over a symbol.
- The parking lights come first on most cars. They are orange at the front of the vehicle and red at the rear.
- Then come the low beams. They illuminate the front as well as the side and minimize the risk of glare. They are used on crowded roads when other cars are within 60m in front of you.
- Fog lights are also found on this dial. However, some manufacturers place the control of these lights on a separate button located directly next to the control of conventional lights. The fog lights emit a broad light directed downwards to illuminate the road. They are used in low light conditions, such as in fog or in rain, snow and dust.
- The high beam controls are not located with those of other lights. Most of the time, they are on a stalk near the steering column (the stalk that controls the turn signals) and are always separate from the low beam controls. The main beam headlights are turned on by pushing or pulling the turn signal switch. They emit a more intense light and create a lot of reflections on the road. They should only be used if there are no other cars around.
Step 4. Check the operation of the lights
If in doubt, check how your lights come on when you turn the dial.
- If you have someone to help you, ask them to stand in front of the car. Lower your window to be able to communicate and move the dial to each position. Ask the person helping you to identify the different light settings.
- If you don't have anyone to help you, park your car in front of a garage, wall, or something similar. Cycle the dial to each position, pausing long enough between each adjustment to see what the light looks like on the surface in front of you. You should be able to determine the various settings based on the reflection of the lights.
Step 5. Know when to use your lights
You must use your lights whenever visibility is reduced. If you can't see beyond 150 to 300 meters in front of you, turn on your headlights.
- Always use your lights at night. Use the low beam if there are other cars nearby and the high beam in other conditions.
- Also turn on your headlights at dawn and dusk. Even if there is still some light left, the shadow of surrounding buildings and other structures will prevent you from seeing other vehicles. You should at least use your low beam headlights at these times of the day.
- Use the fog lights in bad weather: rain, snow, fog or sandstorms. Do not use your high beam headlights, as the glare they produce under these conditions will reduce the visibility of other drivers.
Part 2 of 2: The symbols of the different types of lights
Step 1. Locate the traffic light symbol
Most of the light controls are marked with a headlight design. The design is usually found on the side of the control dial.
- The symbol of the lights looks like a sun or an upside down light bulb.
- On most light controls, there is a circle with a dial that controls the light settings. To turn on the lights, all you need to do is line up the dial with the setting you want to choose.
Step 2. Identify the symbol for each setting
The light settings are indicated by symbols which almost all look the same from one vehicle to another.
- If your car is fitted with parking lights, these should be marked with the letter "P" with rounded lines around.
- The low beam symbol is a rounded triangle or a capital "D". Oblique lines come out from the slightly flattened side of the triangle.
- The symbol of the fog lights is similar to that of the low beam (capital D and lines), but the oblique lines are crossed in their middle by a wavy line.
- The high beam symbol is also a rounded triangle or a capital D, but the lines coming out of the flattened side of the symbol are perfectly horizontal.
Step 3. Look for the warning lights on the dashboard
Cars equipped with an electronic / digital dashboard have warning lights which come on in the event of a malfunction of certain lights. When one of these lights comes on, the corresponding lights may not work or have a problem.
When the lights are not on, the corresponding symbol is displayed on the instrument panel with the sign !
or an "x" across.
- The low beam symbol may also be displayed with an exclamation mark next to it.