Your vehicle comes with a range of different car lights that all have different purposes. You may be familiar with a few car lights (for example your headlights, high beams & indicators) but there may also be some you have not yet been in a situation where you have needed to use them (for example hazard or fog lights).

Different makes & models may have different controls for each light, but essentially all vehicles will have relatively similar placement of the lights themselves.

Read on as we help you not only identify each type of car light, but also when you should use them. 


Headlights are located at the front of the vehicle & consist of low beams & high beams.


Low beam headlights are one of the most commonly used car lights. The main purpose of headlights is to illuminate the space in front of the vehicle while driving at night or in poor weather conditions. Secondly, they allow other road users to see your vehicle. Low beams are your ‘normal’ headlights that you would use when driving at night. They are located at the very front of your car & are short-range focused, with the beam directed outward & slightly downward toward the road.

Low beams provide enough illumination without being so bright that it blinds other road users. Typically you would activate them manually via a dashboard dial or twisted indicator stalk, although on some newer models are automatic.

It is recommended to use your headlights at night, sunrise & dusk, when it’s raining, on overcast days & when visibility is limited to less than 100m in front of you.


High beams are the brightest light on your vehicle & are designed to help you see as much of the road ahead as possible. They are angled higher than low beams with a centre-weighted distribution of light, providing more illumination of the road than low beams. They are especially useful for driving at night on unlit roads, & areas where it difficult to see due to lack of streetlights or other external lights.

However, since they are so bright & angled higher, they give off a lot of glare & can be intense & blinding for other drivers, pedestrians & cyclists. Because of this, if not used responsibly, they have the potential cause an accident. Therefore, if you do encounter oncoming traffic, or are in a position where you cannot see if there is other traffic around (for example, turning into another street or on the crest of a rise) you need to switch to low beam headlights until it is safe to return to high beams again.

High beams usually use different bulbs than low beams, so if one is blown, you can still rely on the low beams as backup. Some newer cars come with automatic high beams. Some will switch to low beams when detecting oncoming traffic, while others have an array of LED lights that allow only those which are directly blinding on-coming traffic to be turned off, meaning just the sides (into the bush and edges of road) will remain lit by high beams.


There are at least four indicator lights on your car; two at the front next to the headlights, two at the rear next to the tail lights, & also on the side mirrors on some vehicles. These amber lights blink on & off continually on one side of your car to signal to other road users your intentions to turn, & usually that you will be slowing down to do so; thus giving them sufficient time to adjust their driving. You use your indicator stalk & flick up or down, depending on whether you intend to turn left or right. They turn off automatically once you straighten your wheels after making a turn.

Indicator lights should be used when you’re signaling to turn into a road or intending to pull over, merge, overtake, pull out into traffic, or exit a roundabout.  You need to be mindful of when to engage them; too early & other roads users may assume you intend to take an earlier turn, too late & they may not have enough time to slow down in order for you to safely make the turn.


The hazard lights are the same lights located at the front & rear of the vehicle used for your indicators. When manually activated via the button illustrated with a red triangle on the dashboard, all four flash continuously until you deactivate them. They warn other road users of a hazard or emergency. Examples would include a breakdown, an accident, debris or an obstruction ahead on the road, or if it is your vehicle that is the obstruction.


Tail lights are red & are located at the rear of your vehicle. They turn on & off in conjunction with your headlights. Regardless of whether you turn on your headlights manually or they work automatically, your taillights will also be working by default. Tail lights help other road users behind you be able to see you at night or in low light, & help them to gauge the distance between their vehicle & yours.


Brake lights illuminate red when the driver applies pressure to the brake pedal. On most vehicles, the brake lights are the same bulbs as the tail lights. One filament inside the bulb is for the tail light, & the other filament is for the brake light. However, the brake light glows a much brighter red when activated. Brake lights alert other drivers that you are slowing down or stopping. They are a safety feature as it gives other road users time to stop so they don’t run into you.


Reverse lights essentially warn other road users & pedestrians that your vehicle is about to move backwards. They come on automatically when you engage reverse gear & also provide some illumination at night to light up the area behind your car. Reverse lights are usually mounted in the tail light assembly beside the brake lights & are a clear white, which differentiates them from the red tail lights.


This one is pretty self-explanatory. Located in the interior of your vehicle, it is designed to illuminate inside the cab so that the driver or passenger can check directions or find an item in the dark. They should not be used for long periods or while driving as they can distract the driver.


Many drivers may not have yet experienced a situation where they have needed to use these lights. As the name suggests, fog lights are to be used in foggy conditions when visibility is poor (less than 100m) but are also recommended in other hazardous weather conditions such as dust storms or smoke. These individual lights are generally mounted low on the bumper below the headlights. However, not all vehicles will have these. They deliver a flat, wide beam shape to cut through the fog & light up the road without reflecting off the fog & dazzling the driver (which is what can happen with normal headlights in these conditions). They are designed to spread the light beam so it illuminates the edges of the road closer to the front of the car, making it easier to see the kerb in thick fog. Their additional purpose is to make your position on the road more visible to other drivers. They are usually yellow or amber to draw attention to the vehicle. Like high beams, fog lights are very strong & should only be used when headlights are ineffective & should be turned off immediately once it is safe to do so. Most cars that come equipped with fog lights will also have at least one in the rear to help other motorists see you. In most cars you’ll need to turn on your low beam headlights before pressing or twisting the fog light switch.


If you notice any problems with your car’s lights, or have any issues with your vehicle; contact one of our friendly technicians today on 0412 161 776 for a vehicle inspection.

At Burleigh’s Mobile Mechanic, our trusted and qualified technicians service all makes and models. We follow manufacturer guidelines and specifications, use quality parts, and our log book services wont void your new car warranty. Ask about our mobile service; we can pick up your car and drop it back to you when we are done. We strive to make our service convenient and hassle-free.

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