Leaving Car Headlights On
November 22, 2007 8:57 PM   Subscribe

How can I create a low-tech way to remind my daughter to turn the lights off in her car?

I gave my daughter my 1988 Honda Civic. Back in those days, you didn’t hear any dings or other reminders when you turned your car off and left the lights on. She has left the lights on three times, requiring me to show up and jump her car each time.

I’d like to come up with a way to remind her to turn her lights off. But, I’m not skilled enough to rewire something in the car. So, this needs to be a low-tech solution. Any ideas?
posted by GregWithLime to Travel & Transportation (43 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I assume having her go without car for a few days isn't an option. That'd probably be the best way of teaching cause and effect.

Besides that I guess you just have to put something on the doorhandle. Something rough like 80 grit sandpaper so that she remembers every time.
posted by sanka at 9:05 PM on November 22, 2007

You know those greeting cards that play a message when you open them? Record your message ("Check your lights!"), take the card apart, and glue the important bits into the doorframe.

Opening door = audio message.

Dunno how long the battery will last, but the cards are like three dollars, and I imagine a few hundred audio reminders and she'll be hearing it every time she touches a car door, even 20 years later.
posted by rokusan at 9:06 PM on November 22, 2007

Buy her a flashlight and have her turn it on when she turns the lights on in her car. She can stick it in her purse so it doesn't distract her driving. She'll see it on when she parks and it will remind her of the car lights. I'd also suggest being busy the next time she calls you for a jump. Let her wait an hour and a half for AAA to show up. What is her incentive to learn responsibility when you are being her knight in shining armor all the time? Let her deal with th consequences and see if her memory improves.
posted by 45moore45 at 9:11 PM on November 22, 2007

If she frequently uses her cell phone, a note or sticker on the case/back/lid could remind her to check. Would a noticeable tag on her key chain work as a reminder?

Ever consider clicker training? Sit in the car with her and make her practice turning off the headlights before she turns off the car. Every time she does it right *click* and give her a treat. ;)
posted by bonobo at 9:14 PM on November 22, 2007

In all honesty though, I would suggest a sticker or tab on a key that must be used after parking the car. Maybe a little dot sticker near the key lock on the outside of the car? Or something hanging from the interior light control?
posted by stresstwig at 9:17 PM on November 22, 2007

You can get a warning device retro-fitted to a car. Here's a kit. I'm not suggesting you install it yourself, but it's a starting point and you might be able to find a car place that will assemble and install it for you, or already have a similar product.
posted by krisjohn at 9:18 PM on November 22, 2007

Teach her to rap on the steering wheel and say Lights Out when she gets out of the car. Pairing the easily forgotten task with a physical action helps me remember stuff. Sometimes.

They make batteries that you can keep in your car for an emergency charge. Probably a good investment, along with jumper cables. Show her how to use them.
posted by theora55 at 9:18 PM on November 22, 2007

Get her one of these and teach her to jump it herself or, if it's a manual transmission, teach her how to actually jump start it.
posted by 517 at 9:18 PM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: An elastic band dropped over the gear shift. When she turns the lights on, the band goes on her wrist. When she leaves the car, it goes back on the gear shift, provided the lights are off.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:24 PM on November 22, 2007

I've left the lights on a few times myself. More than any system I could have devised to remind me to turn the lights off, having only myself to rely on to get my car going again is what cured me of this. Don't take the car away as punishment -- just don't help her get it started. Make an exception if she would be in danger, of course -- but if she's going to be late for work, don't come rescue her.
posted by yohko at 9:29 PM on November 22, 2007

This is hard, once you've gotten used to the electronic auto shutoff, or if you have to switch between vehicles frequently.

The way I eventually did it for myself was to mentally rope the action of turning the headlights off to removing the key. Both hands at once, one smooth habitual action.

Have her practice that, maybe.
posted by dhartung at 9:36 PM on November 22, 2007

There's two sources of 12v power in a car like that; the constant source from the battery, and the switched source from the alternator. Wire a relay inline to the headlights that is closed by the 12v from the alternator, and the headlights will turn off automatically when the engine does.
posted by bizwank at 9:39 PM on November 22, 2007

Tough love: Next time she calls AAA.
posted by IvyMike at 10:01 PM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I haven't looked for one lately, but in the early 90's I bought a couple cheap and quick lights on buzzers - one at K-mart in the auto section, another at one of the big national auto parts chains. Pretty much it was just a small piezo buzzer with 2 wires and clips to fit into the fuse holder. You pulled out the fuse for the lights, plugged in teh wires, and stuck the buzzer on the side of the block with a little piece of attached tape. Cost $3-$4 at the time.

Auto part websites are being stupendously unhelpful at the moment, but if you stop in at an Advance/Pep Boys/Autozone, I'll bet you find something pretty easily.
posted by pupdog at 10:08 PM on November 22, 2007

piece of paper that says: "Lights?"

tape to steering wheel center.

done. this actually works.
posted by Aquaman at 10:12 PM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here's something like it from Napa: Lights-On Safety Buzzer
posted by pupdog at 10:12 PM on November 22, 2007

You could just get a solar panel that recharges the lights all the time. I remember seeing these in hardware stores a few years ago. I'm not sure what they are called, but somebody in this thread might have a suggestion.
posted by acoutu at 10:23 PM on November 22, 2007

Post it note on the window.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 10:31 PM on November 22, 2007

Charge her $20 for each jump. Either she'll start remembering, or you'll have a nice year end bonus...
posted by barc0001 at 10:35 PM on November 22, 2007

You can buy add on chimes that piggy back on a fuse (install takes about 2 minutes) for like $3. Or you can roll your own with a diode, buzzer, and a few inches of wire. If you want to get really fancy get a chime module frome the wrecker's and use that instead of a generic buzzer.
posted by Mitheral at 10:51 PM on November 22, 2007

American Autowire has them on page 37 of their catalogue for $23 to give you an idea. Auto parts places will have them for much much cheaper (the afore mentioned $3).
posted by Mitheral at 11:00 PM on November 22, 2007

Lock the drivers side door every time she turns on the lights. Seems weird that she'd remember that and not the turning off of the lights, but it works for me.

When you try to get out, you can't, then you remember why and switch the lights off.
posted by kaydo at 11:15 PM on November 22, 2007

Buy one of the kits mentioned above or whatever they have at your local auto parts store. They are easy to install. They just plug into a few locations in your fuse box.
posted by caddis at 11:30 PM on November 22, 2007

i respectfully disagree with the tough love people ivymike and 45moore45. if you leave her out there for 90 minutes and she gets raped, i deem it unlikely they will offer support.

charging $20 jump is a little cold but does not present this risk.
posted by bruce at 1:00 AM on November 23, 2007

There's two sources of 12v power in a car like that; the constant source from the battery, and the switched source from the alternator. Wire a relay inline to the headlights that is closed by the 12v from the alternator, and the headlights will turn off automatically when the engine does.

Although this would solve the immediate problem of her leaving the lights on accidentally, this idea presents a safety issue. There are times (such as when you break down on the side of the highway) when you want the lights to work even though the engine is off. I can even invent some reasons why you might want to be able to turn on the headlights without the key in the ignition (which most cars will allow).

If you decide not to retrofit one of those beepers, I say buy the girl a AAA (or equivalent car club) membership, so she has someone to call for a jump start at 3am who isn't you.
posted by Forktine at 1:31 AM on November 23, 2007

For me, it was just a matter of getting into the habit of glancing back at the car as I was walking away.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:02 AM on November 23, 2007

I just knew someone would play the rape card in an Ask Me thread about remembering to turn off lights. WTF?

How about buying her a MeFi membership so we can all send her MeFi mail reminding her to turn off her lights?
posted by emelenjr at 4:50 AM on November 23, 2007

I agree with the rape card that was put down.

You shouldn't punish a young girl (or any girl) by causing them to be vulnerable for an hour and a half. Find a better solution.

It would work to buy her a portable charger and show her how it works. She will train herself to turn out the lights to avoid the hassle of using the charger.
posted by cda at 5:25 AM on November 23, 2007

I like the idea of charging her every time it happens. Rather than twenty bucks a pop, how about have it escalate each time? Ten the first, twenty the second, thirty the third, and son on. I can't think of anything that would've worked better on me as a kid.
posted by mjgrady at 6:17 AM on November 23, 2007

My dad taught me to turn the lights off each and every time I remove the ignition key - day or night, no matter what. It's now a pretty in-grained reflex for me.
posted by klarck at 9:06 AM on November 23, 2007

When we had such a car, our mechanic installed a buzzer for us. It was just a $20 part that installed under the dash (or was it in the steering column?) and buzzed if the headlights were on when the ignition was off (so it didn't need to be wired to the door -- simple to install).
posted by winston at 9:29 AM on November 23, 2007

This is not hard.

Stop picking her up.

She needs to learn a little self-reliance, and a part of that involves actively using her brain instead of coasting on auto-pilot because she knows someone will always be there to bail her out.

The good news is that you only have to deal with her anger and frustration at your refusal to pick her up once.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:37 AM on November 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the responses. When I entered this question last night, I thought maybe I would get two replies. But Wow, what a great response.

Just went through the list with my daughter and we had a great time reading your responses. The most humourous one was getting her a MeFi account so that everyone could annoy her with email. What a hoot!

weapons-grade pandemonium's idea is the one we will try first. we can actually put the elastic on her light switch. If that doesn't work, I think I will look at installing a buzzer.

Thanks again!
posted by GregWithLime at 9:51 AM on November 23, 2007

How about a mirror where she parks her car?
posted by TomMelee at 10:46 AM on November 23, 2007

I do not know where the "if she calls AAA she will get raped" people are from, but in this neck of the woods, when you wait for AAA, you do not spend the time hanging out in rape alley. You return to wherever it was you just came from to wait.

And if the neighborhood she is in has no such safe waiting places, then of course you can use common sense and pick her up. But then I question the wisdom of allowing her go to such a dangerous location in the first place.
posted by IvyMike at 11:03 AM on November 23, 2007

Just use the lights every time you go out. Enter the car, turn the lights on. Exit the car, turn the lights off. None of this "only when it's dark or raining" stuff.
posted by anaelith at 11:10 AM on November 23, 2007

Seconding that she lock the drivers-side door to remind her of why she can't exit the vehicle. Duh, lights.
posted by desuetude at 12:36 PM on November 23, 2007

I've gotten in the habit of always looking back at my car after leaving it.

It's amazing what you pick up on if you do that regularly for a couple of years (door open, trunk open, headlights on, interior light on, car rolling away, etc . . . ).

On a related note, after two or three times locking the keys in the car over the years, I've worked to cultivate the habit of physically touching the keys (either in hand or in pocket), making sure I have them with me, before I hit the "door lock" button or close the locked door.
posted by flug at 5:58 PM on November 23, 2007

Getting into the habit of always locking the door with the remote, which most cars these days come with, will prevent locking the keys in the car. Of course, with some new cars, i.e. Prius, you can leave the keys in your pocket while you drive.
posted by caddis at 7:14 PM on November 23, 2007

After nothing seemed to work, my dad finally bought me a jumper cable kit attached to a battery.

I mean, thats a worse case scenario because it probably wasn't cheap but I never needed another person to help me jump my car again.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 1:05 AM on November 24, 2007

My grandmother paid her mechanic to wire the headlights to the engine, and my current car does this. I can't actually think of a situation where I would need the lights on and couldn't have the engine running.

It's not a low-tech solution, but personally I think it's a better long-term solution. Besides, it actually encourages safer driving habits: she'll always drive with her lights on (even during the day), instead of being afraid she'd forget to turn them off and so not driving with them on during the day time.
posted by leahwrenn at 6:37 PM on November 24, 2007

leahwrenn writes "I can't actually think of a situation where I would need the lights on and couldn't have the engine running."

Hockey/frisbee after dark and for signalling car hops are a couple that come to mind. In both cases it would be kind of wasteful to idle the engine and dangerous to boot in the first case.
posted by Mitheral at 10:59 PM on November 24, 2007

I agree with Mitheral -- there's plenty of reasons why it's handy to have lights without motor. Not to mention that this will likely not be the only car this teenage girl has...may as well learn the habit.
posted by desuetude at 12:00 PM on November 25, 2007

« Older I need to buy a Chia Pet in time for Christmas   |   When is the typical Thanksgiving day feast eaten? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.