Turn out the lights
January 23, 2009 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I've recently become aware that my headlights are always on and I can't turn them off if the car is on. How big of a problem do I have?

I had some electrical work done just over a year ago, and I honestly have no idea how long its been like this. The lights are supposed to come on automaticly, but I've just noticed that, no mater how bright it is outside, I see my lights on in the reflection of other cars. I can turn this brighter, but never off. The brights and everything else are working normally, and the lights will turn off with the car.

Do I have a problem? If so, how much of a problem? Thanks!
posted by jmchrist to Technology (20 answers total)
I'd say you don't have a problem.
posted by nitsuj at 8:58 AM on January 23, 2009

You have a feature.
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:58 AM on January 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

Lots of cars have daytime running lights, which are just not-so-bright headlights. Maybe you never noticed them before? As long as they turn off with the car, there isn't any problem.
posted by orme at 9:00 AM on January 23, 2009

Wonderful. Thats funny, no one I've talked to knew anything about that, and they didn't originally come with my car. Thanks!
posted by jmchrist at 9:02 AM on January 23, 2009

Could have been something a little extra your electrician did while he was in there. Or if he replaced the ECM then it might be a feature of the new ECM.
posted by sbutler at 9:03 AM on January 23, 2009

In some jurisdictions at least, they're required by law in new cars.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:06 AM on January 23, 2009

It's not a bug, it's a feature.

Seconding that the electrician probably did it for you.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:06 AM on January 23, 2009

What kind of car is it?
posted by notsnot at 9:07 AM on January 23, 2009

Where was your car made? I believe all vehicles manufactured in Canada have dayrunning lights, as its the law there.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:14 AM on January 23, 2009

Daytime running lights often give you an insurance discount so I would check into that if I were you :)
posted by Kimberly at 9:19 AM on January 23, 2009

In Canada we've had this feature for a long time. I drive an older car, so always drive with my headlights on. People are less likely to pull out in front of you from side streets and less likely to pass in the oncoming lane because you are more visible and appear closer. Slightly more expensive in the short term, but it can save your life, or theirs. Cheaper long term.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:29 AM on January 23, 2009

I know this is a feature, but oh my god daytime running lights that you can't turn ever turn off piss me off so bad. It's why I will never ever buy another Jetta. When you need to turn them off (your car's running but you haven't pulled out of your apartment parking space and you don't want to shine your lights into your neighbor's window), you're screwed. I know better than my car, thanks. I always drive with my lights on, but I'll turn them on myself.
posted by peep at 9:38 AM on January 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

you actually may want to check with your insurance company.. you (may be able to) get a discount for daytime running lights..
posted by MattScully at 9:48 AM on January 23, 2009

One slight concern: daytime running lights are different from, oh, let's call them nighttime running lights, because the latter also includes the red lights in the rear. And daytime running lights are also not to be confused with photoelectric sensors that turn on the headlights when it's dark. I've seen more than a few drivers who seem to not quite grasp these points.
posted by box at 9:53 AM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

peep, you can turn the lights off with the car still on, just put on your parking brake, assuming the Jeta works like the New Beetle.
posted by nomisxid at 9:56 AM on January 23, 2009

Seconding peep. There's a simple procedure for getting rid of the DRL bug on my car and I've done it. I drive with my lights on all the time, but I want to be able to turn them -off- (example of when you need to do this: it's night time, you're on a single lane road and you encounter someone backing down. At this point you want to get off the road at the first turnout behind you. Once there you leave your parking lights -on- but turn -off- your main beams so the person backing down can see well.) I do not want to set the parking brake at that point.

peep, you may be able to find a simple "DRL disable" procedure for your car on the intarwebs.
posted by jet_silver at 10:34 AM on January 23, 2009

For most VW's you can get a replacement light switch that is very simple to install to give you the ability to turn off daytime running lights. The switch is removed by pressing in on the knob, turning it slightly to the right, then pulling the whole assembly out. Unhook the wiring harness and install the replacement.
posted by odinsdream at 12:13 PM on January 23, 2009

Peep, my running lights shine light into a neighbor's bedroom every morning at 6AM when I leave for the gym. I figure they should have considered the downside of buying a place with a stranger's parking spot right outside their bedroom. Maybe it doesn't bother them. If it does, they can buy black out curtains/sleeping blindfolds.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:02 PM on January 23, 2009

Maybe the brightness sensor has fallen out of place, or gotten disconnected, or has failed?
posted by gjc at 7:33 PM on January 23, 2009

One slight concern: daytime running lights are different from, oh, let's call them nighttime running lights, because the latter also includes the red lights in the rear.

That tangentially answers a question that has long nagged me: why do I see so many cars on the freeway at night with no tail-lights lit? Usually a couple per commute, more in summer, less in winter or the rain; their headlights are lit; and they're not the kind of beaters you might expect to have one or both bulbs out.

So, ah-ha!: they're drivers with daytime running lights who either forgot, or simply don't know how, to actually turn their lights on.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:06 AM on February 15, 2009

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