How to Test a Headlight Switch

Written by donny quinn
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How to Test a Headlight Switch
Sometimes, both your headlights can burn out at the same time. (headlight image by Carbonbrain from

It happens: You find yourself stuck in the dark and your car's headlights don't work. The problem could be your headlight switch. A headlight switch controls the functions of several of your car's lights, including the parking lights, high beams and driving lights. The switch uses magnetic energy to close and open, directing energy from your battery to the lights, turning them on. Testing your headlight switch allows you to determine what to do to fix your car.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Move your car to a dark area, such as waiting until night or moving to a dark garage, to test your headlight switch.

  2. 2

    Turn on your car, so you can see your dashboard lights. Note whether some of your dashboard lights fail to illuminate.

  3. 3

    Turn on your car's headlights. Note whether your car's headlights illuminate.

  4. 4

    Press the high beam lever to activate your high beams. Note whether your high beams activate.

  5. 5

    Put your car in "Park." Move to the back of the car. Note whether your parking lights are illuminated.

  6. 6

    View any remaining driving lights, such as lights above the number plate. Note whether these lights come on.

    If more than one set of lights does not activate when you turn on the lights, you may need to replace your headlight switch. If only one set of lights does not turn on, try replacing the light bulbs in that set and then retesting your car. If the lights still do not illuminate, you may need to replace your headlight switch.

Tips and warnings

  • Some cars' headlight switches do not control the high beams, meaning that failed high beams do not indicate a failed headlight switch. Check with your local dealer or car manual to find out which lights the headlight switch controls.

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