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What is a Corner Light?

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We all know the importance of the lights on our vehicles. Aside from aiding in road visibility, some of these lights also serve as signals to communicate with other motorists on the road. Being crucial components for vehicle safety and communication, it is important to know what these lights are specifically for.

Surely you are familiar with most types of automotive lights. Your headlights, for example, help you see the road ahead when traveling at night—especially in areas that are poorly lit.

But how about corner lights? Have you ever heard of them?

If your car is equipped with these lesser-known automotive lights and you’re wondering what they are (and where they are), you’re reading the right article.

corner light of a vintage car
Corner lights aid the driver when turning corners.

What is a Corner Light?

Corner lights—also called cornering lights—are said to be the most unappreciated of all automotive lights. They are not required by law, making them somewhat uncommon and generally more obscure than other vehicular lighting fixtures. But what exactly do they do?

While they aren’t considered essential to your driving experience, cornering lights are actually very useful aids for drivers. As the name suggests, these lights aid the driver when turning corners. They provide additional illumination by casting light on the area of the road to the side of the vehicle, making them a very helpful safety feature when turning corners and switching lanes.

Corner lights are usually located near your vehicle’s front fenders—although sometimes, these lights can also be found in the rear. They are usually integrated with your vehicle’s front side marker and/or indicator lights and will illuminate when the turn signal is activated, so you don’t need to worry about switching them on when making turns.

Like most automotive lights, corner lights are usually equipped with halogen or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Take note, however, that these may vary depending on your vehicle’s make and model.

illustration of how a corner light works
Corner lights are usually located near the front fenders and sometimes in the rear.

What is the Difference Between a Corner Light and a Side Marker Light?

Since your vehicle is equipped with several types of automotive lighting, it’s not uncommon for you to confuse two supplementary lights with each other—especially if they look similar or are mounted near the same component.

Corner lights and side marker lights are both found on the sides of your vehicle, but they have different functions. To put it simply, the latter helps other drivers see your vehicle—your position, where you’re turning, and the like—while the former provides additional lighting in low visibility situations.

Side marker lights are auxiliary safety lights that give other drivers a clear view of your vehicle’s position and direction of travel from various angles. They illuminate with your vehicle’s headlights or blink with the directionals and are usually located near your vehicle’s bumper, fender, or rear quarter panel.

Corner lights, as previously mentioned, help improve visibility when making turns. They function similarly to headlights in that they project a beam of light on a certain area of the road.

Since they are not used to signal a turn or communicate with other motorists, they are not considered indicator lights.

Do All Cars Have Corner Lights?

No—not all makes and models are equipped with corner lights. If your vehicle has them, then you’re lucky. Making turns will be much easier knowing that you can clearly see the curbs and edges of the road.

To give you a bit of history, cornering lights were introduced by Cadillac in 1962 as one of its safety features. It was not long enough before the concept of cornering lamps was adopted and implemented on other General Motors (GM) vehicles.

Aside from Cadillac and certain American car makes, there are a few foreign brands that have also added cornering lights as a safety feature on their vehicles—including Swedish automobile manufacturers Volvo and Saab.

Modern Corner Lights

Today, these lights can still be found on some vehicles. However, on certain makes, traditional cornering lights have been replaced with a newer technology called steerable or adaptive headlights. These types of modern headlights are capable of allowing the beam of light to bend when making turns.

Most of them use electronic sensors to detect the speed of your car and how far you’ve turned your steering wheel.

an example of a car's corner light
Not all cars are equipped with corner lights. You’re lucky if your car has them because they can help you see curbs and the edges of the road more clearly.

Dynamic Corner Lights

This type of corner light allows your lights to rotate along with the steering wheel to follow its direction for about 15 degrees. This makes it easier for drivers to make turns, especially in dark corners where it is very difficult to see the curb or the side of the road.

Adaptive Front-Lighting Systems (AFS)

AFS is considered one of the more modern versions of a corner light. In this headlight technology, the behavior of light beams is not only dependent on your steering angle but also on the speed of your car.

Since most headlights in this category follow the steering angle, most of them act as cornering lights as well. This improves the driver’s view when turning corners and traversing intersections during late-night drives.

Many mid- to high-end passenger cars have already implemented this technology, but the exact specifications of the AFS installed in your vehicle will greatly depend on your vehicle’s make and model.

In more advanced variants, the system has the capability to collect data from your vehicle’s surroundings and uses them for light distribution. With the help of a camera or electronic sensors, the system detects oncoming traffic and adjusts the light beams accordingly.

Unlike traditional cornering lights, this system automatically optimizes the distribution of lights according to your driving conditions.

Indeed, automotive lighting technology has advanced quite a bit over the years, and it will continue to do so to adapt to newer trends and the demands of the market. However, it is nice to look back on uncomplicated technologies and simply appreciate the safety and security that these automotive lights give us while on the road.

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