Car Troubleshooting

Why Do Headlights Stay on When Car Is Off

The automobile is a pride and joy of technology. Those metal masters of the road have almost everything you could ask for and right at your fingertips.

Each year’s new model has something better: safety locks on doors, Internet portals, streaming technology; you name, and it is probably there on your dashboard. Despite all this new being normal on four wheels, most drivers are still asking a question as old as Henry Ford:

There are several reasons why those headlights are still burning bright even after you have turned off the car. Don’t assume it is because you forgot to manually turn off the lights.

The car’s technology is just as much the reason as any human mistake. It is not always your fault. The answer is in the design, the mechanics, and the electronics of your car. We are going to tell you more about this, so please keep reading.

The Car Was Designed That Way

No, you are not fussy by asking why those headlights stay on. Leaving the lights on in a vehicle is a primary drain on any battery and you want to avoid that. The last thing the owner of a car wants is to have the battery not functioning in the dead of winter.

It might not be your battery or the wiring. The car manufacturer might have wanted the headlights to stay on in the first place. The automobile may have a system that enables the headlights to remain on after removing the ignition key.

This should only be for a short while, and then the lights will go off. You can correct this by remembering to turn off the headlights before you turn off the engine. Really, it can be that easy.

Daytime Running Lights Could Be the Source

It is another design issue that has nothing to do with the driver. The headlights will go on during the daylight hours.

That might seem a bit odd, but do not worry. The dash lights are not harmed at all. However, the system may be having some problems, and the lights stay on even though the ignition happens to be off.

There is an easy fix for the daytime running lights when running your car, and it requires using the parking brakes.

If the daylights are still operating, you can set the brake and check the lights to determine if they are still shining (setting the brake will ordinarily stop the daytime lights from working). You would first turn off the car, and then you put on the brake. The final step is to turn the car back on. The daytime running lights will be off.

Working on the running daytime light module itself is also a way of resolving the issue. You can either replace the module, or you can remove it.

Blame It on the Key Fob

The car you drive is full of computer technology that can cause some annoying problems for the average driver. You would almost have to be the car expert to know what is creating the headache.

This might sound a bit strange, but one reason for the headlights staying on is in the palm of your hands.

The key fob is what you use to unlock your car doors. You might not have known this before, but that little black part of your key has a role to play in your car’s technology.

The sensors in your vehicle will detect whether the key fob has been turned off. If it hasn’t, then the sensors will keep any auto lights on for a while longer.

Something is Amiss in the Wiring

The car under the hood sometimes looks like a plate of spaghetti. This is because there are so many wires going this way and that, and these are very sensitive to age.

Anyone who has owned a car for a few years knows that the wires and cables may begin showing the wear and tear of being on the road. Trouble can flare up because the inner workings of the automobile got old.

The headlight problem could be due to a malfunctioning headlight relay. The trouble might also stem from a headlight switch gone bad. If you have a knack for electrical circuitry and have worked on your car’s internal working before, you can test the relays to see if those are the problem and install a new one.

Sensor Problems Can Cause the Issue

We mentioned before how amazing the new auto technology happens to be. Well, technology can sometimes mess up. There are photosensors in your car that work hand in glove with the headlights.

Those automobile electronics will note any outside ambient light. If that natural luminosity begins to dim, controls within your vehicle will turn on the headlights. Conversely, greater radiance is going to turn off those same headlights. We believe that having an auto mechanic check those sensors is the best way to fix the problem.

We need to remind you that working on your car’s electronics is not something for a beginner.

You could accidentally disconnect the battery and create more problems. If a car repair is not your idea of a good DIY project, let the auto mechanic have a look at the circuits. It may cost a little bit more than you want but the alternative, a car that goes nowhere, can be even more expensive.

 Try Programming Your Car

There might be nothing wrong with your automobile, and perhaps you are frustrated by headlights that stay on longer than you think they should. Guess what? That is a very easy fix.

The modern car is intended to be as convenient as possible. Headlights can be a challenge, but it is one you might be able to solve without having to go to a service center. It is all about the Auto.

By that, we don’t mean the car but the Auto function in the vehicle. There is an exit delay that determines how long the lights are on once you have turned off the automobile’s engine. You can program how long those headlights will stay on. Here is how to do it.

  • Start by putting the headlight switch into AUTO, making sure your car key is in the OFF position
    • Turn off your headlight switch
    • Once that is done, turn the switch to ON, then OFF
    • Turn the switch back to the AUTO and check to see if the lights are coming on
    • You then wait the amount of time you want the headlights to glow, and once you do that, turn the switch to OFF  

This minor procedure will program your headlights to stay on for your predetermined length of time. Of course, three minutes is the maximum, but that is more than enough time for the headlights to be on.

If You Want to Go the DIY Route

Your Owner’s Manual can help you find out where to look when a glitch happens (the Owner’s Manual is even more critical when you consider there are different manufacturers).

If you feel ambitious and want to tackle the lights yourself, be sure that you have the right tools to make the adjustments. Know what you are doing before you open the hood.

You also need the right parts. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts are considered the best. These are created to the exact specifications of your vehicle but are not cheap.

Aftermarket parts are intended to be compatible with numerous makes and models and cost less. You should check to be sure that the aftermarket parts are compatible with your car.

You Should Remember the Why

Okay, so why the @#*&&^ are those headlights on when you do not want them on in the first place? The manufacturer is not playing some high-tech joke on you. There are some significant reasons for the delay causing the headlights to stay on.

The first is convenience. That extra lamination can help on a dark, foggy night as you go from your driveway or parking light to your home. Of course, it is just a few moments of light, but it comes in handy when the outside visibility is down to zero.

The second reason is safety. If you are parked on a dark road, you might not be able to see what is coming at you as you get out of the car. Those bright headlights help you spot an oncoming vehicle, or an animal headed in your direction. Furthermore, the lights will alert another driver of your presence.

A general rule of thumb with any car problem is not to panic. There are usually rational, highly mechanical reasons why your four-wheel pride and joy is not working quite the way it should.

Frustration with the headlights is just one of the mechanical challenges you may have to deal with. And those difficulties are not as earth-shattering as you may think.

Stubborn headlights are annoying, but the glitch is nowhere near as bad as replacing a transmission (Serious Money Pit!). You should consult an auto mechanic if the headlight problem persists; it’s better to solve a car problem now before it gets any worse.

Here is an excellent habit to have when it comes to spotting headlight trouble. It would be best if you always looked over your shoulder as you leave a parking lot at night. That is a simple way of checking on your headlights to determine if everything is all right.

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