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Car dimmer switches are used to control the intensity of automotive lights. Vehicles are equipped with lights at various places for different purposes. Examples include the headlights and tail lights as well as lights found on the driver’s gauge cluster and dashboard. Modern vehicles are typically equipped with small lights behind important instruments, knobs, and buttons to provide backlighting, which makes them more visible and easier to access at night. Vehicles can also be equipped with several cabin lights, which passengers can freely turn on and off.

Dimmer switches found in vehicles have the same purpose as dimmer switches found in household lamps. Dimmer switches give drivers the ability to adjust the intensity of light.  Different intensities of light are needed depending on people’s needs. Sometimes, people need dim light because bright light can be too harsh and can strain the eyes. Other times, they need more light to better illuminate an object.

car driver turning a steering wheel
Dimmer switches give drivers the ability to adjust the intensity of their lights.

What Are the Types of Dimmer Switches?

There are two main types of dimmer switches found in vehicles. In this article, we’ll go over the two types, how they can help you, and symptoms of faulty dimmer switches.

Headlight Dimmer Switch

The headlight dimmer switch is often located on a steering column lever or on the dashboard or center console in the form of a knob or a button. The headlight dimmer switch is used to switch between high and low beam headlights. Most switches are designed to turn on the low beam headlights first. The low beam headlights point downwards and only illuminate the road up to a few meters away. This is done so that the light doesn’t blind other people on the road. High beam headlights are pointed straight ahead and use more powerful bulbs. High beam headlights should only be used at night when you’re unable to see the road ahead, and when there are no other drivers ahead. High beam headlights are turned on by either turning the knob further or by pushing the lever on the steering column, but designs can vary depending on the vehicle model.

headlight dimmer switch
The headlight dimmer switch is used to switch between high and low beam headlights.

Since the dimmer switch is used frequently, it can wear out after several years of use. It might develop problems like getting stuck on a single setting. You might also be unable to turn on your headlights, or have issues switching from low to high beams. A faulty dimmer switch can be a serious problem, especially if you’re going to be driving at night because it can prevent your headlight from functioning.

Dashboard Dimmer Switch

The dashboard dimmer switches control lights in your dashboard and instrument cluster. Changing the intensity of the lights in your dashboard and instrument cluster can be helpful. Making the lights brighter on a bright, sunny day can make the gauges in your instrument cluster or the buttons in your dashboard pop out more. Making the lights dimmer at night can help you see the road with less eye strain, as the presence of bright lights can hamper your eye’s ability to relax. These lights can also create glare in the vehicle’s windows, which can be distracting for the driver.

dashboard dimmer switch
The dashboard dimmer switches control lights in your dashboard and instrument cluster.

Some vehicle models also have a third dimmer switch that controls the brightness of cabin lights. This allows the driver to make the lights dimmer so that they don’t distract the driver.

Dimmer switches usually cost $6 to $520. The price largely depends on the dimmer switch’s intended vehicle model. A dimmer switch’s price can also be affected by the complexity of a dimmer switch’s design, as some dimmer switches control both the headlights and dashboard lights. Other vehicles just have one small dimmer switch that controls the dashboard lights.

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