Car lights and headlights: what they are and when to use them

Dipped headlights

Dipped headlights, or low beams, are the most frequently used type of headlight. They're brighter than sidelights but not as much so as high-beam headlights. Dipped headlights get their name because they pointing downwards at a slight angle, toward the road. The switch to turn them on is usually located on the dashboard near the steering wheel or indicator stalk. However, newer models often have running lights that come on automatically without any input from driver needed.

When to use dipped headlights

As stated in the highway code, you must turn your headlights when visibility is restricted, which is defined as when you can only see 100m in front of you or less. This includes night-time and poor weather conditions.

Full beam headlights

Full beam headlights are the strongest type of headlight on customary vehicles. They cast a brighter light than dipped headlights and may be angled higher, which is beneficial for seeing more of the road while you're driving. The switch to turn them on is commonly found near the switch for dipped headlights; furthermore, full beam headlights usually use a different set of bulbs than other types do.


When to use high beams

Only use your full beam headlights when you're driving on unlit roads at night. But, when you meet someone coming from the opposite direction (which could be a car or even a cyclist), are driving behind another vehicle, or taking a left turn, switch your headlights off as they can often be too bright and cause accidents.

Fog lights

Fog lights are created to pierce through fog and mist, in contrast to full beam headlights that are just reflected by fog.

They typically come in two sets, one for the front of the car and one for the back. The switch is usually color-coded: amber for rear fog lights and green for front ones.

With most cars, you have to turn on your dipped headlights before being able to press or twist the fog light switch.

When to use fog lights

You should only use your fog lights when visibility is significantly reduced, for example, when it's below 100 metres. Another way to gauge if it's appropriate to use them would be if the length of a football pitch isn't visible. Keep in mind that you risk dazzling other drivers if you use your fog lights inappropriately when visibility improves.


Your hazard warning lights and indicators are both placed on the corners of your car. You use your indicator stalk in order to turn on and off the blinking amber light down one side of your vehicle; this light will also automatically shut off once you've straightened your wheels after making a turn.

When to use indicators

If you've passed your driving test, then you shouldn't need to ask this question! You should use indicators whenever you intend to turn, which includes at roundabouts, when pulling away from a stop, overtaking vehicles, and changing lanes. Just be sure not to leave it too late or turn them on too early; otherwise other drivers might think that you're taking an earlier turning.


Car headlight bulb types

With the dramatic transformation in car design, it's also no wonder that their lights are progressing. As producers give thought to the ecological footprint of their merchandise, energy conserving solutions have become more prevalent on our vehicles. With modern technology, we now have three general types of bulbs:

Halogen headlights

Halogen lights are the most popular type of light on our roads today. They use a combination of gases - usually nitrogen and argon – and a tungsten filament in a glass tube to produce light. Halogen bulbs are cheap and easy to replace, but they have fallen out of favour in recent years because they are inefficient and don't provide as much illumination as other options.

LED headlights

LED lighting is much more efficient than older systems, and they have a shorter rise time. This means that they work over 250 times faster than halogen lights. They are especially well-suited for brake and indicator lights.

LED bulbs last much longer than halogen bulbs, and can be arranged into a variety of designs. This gives manufacturers more flexibility with their product designs. Additionally, LED directional lights are brighter than halogenbulbs even when they're the same wattage.

LEDs do emit heat while in use, but it is minimal compared to other light sources. In order to avoid damage to nearby cables, cooling systems are put in place--usually positioned in the engine bay .

Although LEDs have many human-made components and are expensive, they halogen bulbs.

Xenon headlights

Xenon HID headlights operate by heating gases and rare metals to generate a bright white or blue light. They are significantly brighter than halogen bulbs, but require more power to start up. However, they use much less power overall and have a longer lifespan.

There are a few reasons why HID headlights have not become an industry standard despite their very distinctive appearance. These include the cost of rare metals needed for production, uncontrolled brightness that often causes glare for other drivers, and the time it takes to reach full brightness.