Dimmer Switch Buyer's Guide
- The car dimmer switch is an electrical component that allows the driver to turn on the vehicle’s headlights, switch between low and high beam settings, and activate the turn signal lights.
- Some vehicles carry a multi-function switch that integrates controls for other parts like the windshield wipers.
- These switches typically show up on the dashboard, center console, on the steering column, or on the vehicle floor.
- It connects to the Light Control Module or LCM which creates a relay that switches the headlights on and off. The signal sent by the switch to the LCM coordinates the activation of the low beam bulbs or the high beam bulbs.
- There are five common types of dimmer switches: pull-out switches, floor pedal dimmer, rotary ‘knob’ switches, rocker type switches, and multifunction stalks.
- A bad headlight dimmer switch will cause your headlights to malfunction, get stuck on one setting, or prevent specific settings from functioning.
- The cost of a dimmer switch replacement varies depending on the make and model of your vehicle. OE replacement switches will cost you somewhere between $7 to $485.
- Your headlights come with dimmers and settings that equip you with the proper lighting to see the road ahead in low light conditions. These lights should easily switch on and off when needed to ensure your safety and that of other people on the road.
- Be sure to have your dimmer switch by a licensed mechanic as soon as you notice any symptoms that may be linked to a bad dimmer switch.
Imagine having to pull over and walk towards the front of your car just to turn on your headlights. More than a hundred years ago, this was what drivers had to do every night before the roads got dark, when incandescent headlights were first used on vehicles. Thanks to the invention of the dimmer switch, you can have a clear and bright view of the road ahead by flipping a switch in the comfort of your vehicle.
What is a car dimmer switch?
The car dimmer switch is an electrical component that allows the driver to turn on the vehicle’s headlights, switch between low and high beam settings, and activate the turn signal lights. Some vehicles carry a multi-function switch which integrates controls for other parts like the windshield wipers. These switches typically show up on the dashboard, center console, or on the steering column. A few classic cars will even have this switch activated by a pedal on the floor of the vehicle.
How does a headlight dimmer switch work?
The headlight dimmer is the switch that controls the operation of the vehicle’s exterior automotive lights. It hooks up to the Light Control Module or LCM which creates a relay that switches the headlights on and off. The signal sent by the switch to the LCM coordinates the activation of the low beam bulbs or the high beam bulbs.
Types of headlight dimmer switches
Over the years, headlight dimmer switches have taken on various designs. Listed below are the most common types of dimmer switches that you will encounter in both old and new vehicles.
- Pull-out switches
- Floor pedal dimmer
- Rotary ‘knob’ switches
- Rocker type switches
- Multifunction stalks
What happens when a dimmer switch is bad?
A faulty or failing car dimmer switch will interfere with the operation of your headlights. Here are some common symptoms that will tell you when it’s time for a replacement.
Headlights won’t illuminate
One of the potential signs of a bad dimmer switch is failure to switch on the headlights. If your headlight assembly is still in good condition, a damaged switch may keep it from illuminating.
Headlights got stuck in one setting
Another common sign of a bad car dimmer switch is failing to switch between different headlight settings. Sometimes, your headlights may get stuck on high or low beam mode, even after changing the setting on the switch.
Specific headlight settings don’t activate
Just like how a bad dimmer switch can cause your headlights to get stuck in one setting, a faulty switch may stop specific settings from being activated at all. It’s possible not to notice that the headlights are off if you drive in cities and urban areas that remain well lit even at night.
How much is a headlight dimmer switch replacement?
The cost of a dimmer switch replacement varies depending on the make and model of your vehicle. An OE replacement dimmer switch is a good option for car owners who are not brand-conscious and prefer competitively priced parts that are of the same quality as original parts. These dimmer switches are sold individually and will typically cost you somewhere between $7 to $485.
Why should you replace a faulty automotive dimmer switch?
Your headlights come with dimmers and settings that equip you with the proper lighting to see the road ahead in low light conditions. These lights should easily switch on and off when needed to ensure your safety and that of other people on the road. A faulty dimmer switch can cause headlight problems that can make nighttime driving dangerous not just at night, but also under severe weather like heavy fog or rain.
A headlight dimmer switch that doesn’t switch from high to low beams in a busy road can blind oncoming drivers and cause a car accident. The resulting inability to activate high beams while driving in isolated and poorly lit roads can reduce your ability to see and avoid road hazards.
With headlight and turn signal combination switches, a failure in this component may cause collisions while switching lanes or making a turn because the driver may think the turn signal lights activate when a bad switch has interfered with their operation. Be sure to have your dimmer switch by a licensed mechanic as soon as you notice any symptoms that may warn of a bad dimmer switch.
Finding the right fit
Your search for the perfect car dimmer switch replacement ends at CarParts.com. Start browsing our wide selection of high-quality and industry-approved parts by plugging in your vehicle’s correct year, make, and model into our website’s built-in vehicle selector. This will narrow down the results to all compatible parts, so you’re always guaranteed a perfect fit.
Selecting the Right Type of Dimmer Switches for Your Car
Prior to the development of interior and exterior lighting, driving at night was a very taxing and altogether dangerous affair. With the addition of a dimmer switch, things became far easier. In general, the switch very rarely breaks down. In the event that it does-which is why you're checking this out-there are a few pointers that you need to know to make the choice a smart one.
Dimmer switches have evolved quite significantly over the years, and there three distinct types that will strongly influence your purchase:
- Dash-mounted, knob-type: Most cars released in the 90s and early 2000s have this type of switch. It's simple enough to operate and requires just a twist to go from ?off' to ?bright' and all gradients in between.
- Steering column-mounted, stick-type: This is the most common of all the different switch types and certainly the most convenient given how close it is to your fingers when you drive. It has numerous axes of motion that allow you to control both headlights and your interior lighting as well.
- Floor-mounted: You will not likely find this type of switch on any modern car as they are the earliest for of dimmer switch. This had the least options to cycle through. They were popular for being so easy to operate-you just had to slide your foot a little!
The bottom line
When you search for a switch replacement, the type of switch you have has to be carefully noted because you might just end up ordering one, only to find that it's not the one you need. The easiest thing to do is search an online retailer based on the specific year, make, and model of your vehicle. This will minimize the possibility of making a costly mistake, and it also takes away the hassle of having to re-order the right piece!
Switching Out Your Old Dimmer Switch for a New One
Unless you're the type of motorist that just enjoys blinding other drivers on the road, it's important that the dimmer switch on your ride remains in tip-top condition. For most people, this kind of do-it-yourself project seems like mission: impossible. The truth is, however, that it's a pretty do-able project. All you truly need are the right tools, a lot of patience, and this very simple and handy guide!
Difficulty level: Moderate
Stuff you'll need:
- New dimmer switch
- Socket set
Step 1: Make sure than your engine is shut off and the battery disconnected. It's a safe bet to let about half an hour to pass before you start working-especially since this will involve a lot of electrical work.
Step 2: Use your screwdriver to gently pry off the trim panel located near the left side of the steering wheel.
Step 3: Take off all the screws that hold your dimmer switch in place-it's under the trim panel you just pried out. Do not yank the dimmer switch out at this point as you might end up severing the electrical wiring that holds it in place.
Step 4: Take note of the way that the dimmer switch is wired. Write it down or sketch it out if it will help you.
Step 5: Carefully disconnect the electrical connections-do it one at a time, in fact.
Step 6: Wire your new dimmer switch in the same way as the old one.
Step 7: Reconnect the battery to test the switch out before closing up the trim panel again.
Step 8: If everything is a-ok, just make sure that the switch is properly installed and the trim panel flush with the rest of your dash. Voila! You're done!
- As you are going to handle electrical wires, always wear insulated gloves to protect yourself from nasty shocks.
- Do not forget the rest of your safety gear, though! Goggles to protect your eyes and closed-toed shoes to guard your toes should be the bare minimum.