Turn Signal Light Buyer’s Guide
- Turn signal lights, or simply turn signals, turn indicators, blinkers, or flashers, are the amber blinking lamps on the corner of the headlights and tail lights.
- Turn signals also function as your vehicle’s hazard lights, as they can also blink simultaneously when the hazard light switch is engaged.
- Some vehicles have additional lights, which are known as side turn signals, that are either found on the front quarter panel or incorporated into the side mirror assembly.
- A bad relay, burned-out bulb, and a damaged switch can cause your turn signal lights to malfunction.
- The only time you’ll need to replace a turn signal light assembly is if there is physical damage evident on the housing and lens.
- OE replacement turn signal lights on CarParts.com are priced anywhere between $2 and $690.
- Replacing a failing turn signal light can save you and your passengers from sideswipe and T-bone accidents when changing lanes or turning.
Automotive lighting is the primary medium for driver-to-driver communication mainly because lights can be used to signal other drivers on the road. A part of a car’s lighting system is the turn signal light, which drivers use to let other drivers know they are about to turn or change lanes.
Located at the four corners of a vehicle, turn signal lights are especially important components in a car's lighting system. They are used to signal a turn, which is crucial in avoiding minor to major accidents due to sudden maneuvers and direction changes.
Electric turn signals were invented in the early 1900s but the blinking turn indicators we know today weren’t around until 1938. Before it became standard equipment, drivers used hand turn signals when turning or changing lanes. Hand turn signals are still used today by bicyclists and drivers of older vehicles without signal lights. Another early form of turn indicator is the trafficator, which is a semaphore signal that protrudes from the bodywork of a vehicle.
What is a turn signal light?
Your turn signal light, or turn signal indicator, is basically a type of light assembly that's used to signal to other drivers your intent of turning or shifting lanes. This light is usually found on both sides of your vehicle's front and rear ends and can be activated by means of a lever. They are also commonly referred to as blinkers or flashers.
These lights are now mostly amber in color as a result of a 2008 NHTSA study suggesting turn indicators are safer in amber than red. They blink in one-speed pattern as regulated by International UN Regulations. Turn signals are activated by flicking the turn signal switch lever behind the steering wheel. Most left-hand drive cars have the indicator switch lever on the left of the steering wheel.
The advisable distance to activate your indicators is 100 feet before making a turn at an intersection, while 900 feet is the safest when changing lanes on a highway. Flick the lever upwards to activate the right turn signal light and toggle it downwards to activate the left. The turn signals also function as your vehicle’s hazard lights, as they can also blink simultaneously when the hazard light switch is engaged.
Where are the turn signals in a vehicle?
There are usually four turn signal lights on a vehicle, one on each corner of the vehicle. That means there are two on the front and two at the back. However, some vehicles have six turn signal lights. The additional lights, which are known as side turn signals, are either found on the front quarter panel or incorporated into the side mirror assembly. These devices are meant to provide or add lateral visibility when the turn signals are engaged.
How do turn signals work?
As mentioned, turn signals need to blink or flash in a simultaneous steady pattern according to International UN Regulations. Most turn signal lights have a steady rate of 60 to 120 flashes per minute. Part of this regulation are audio and visual indicators that inform the driver when the signal lights are active. A pair of arrows that blink with a tick-tock sound that repeats for as long as the indicators are activated is found on the instrument cluster.
Aside from the traditional turn signals that blink simultaneously in a steady pattern, the market also saw the rise of sequential turn signal lights in the mid-’60s. Sequential turn indicators feature multiple lit elements that flash sequentially, creating an outward light motion. The inner lamp is illuminated first, followed by the next outermost lamp until the last lamp is illuminated. The process repeats over and over as the lights extinguish altogether after the last lamp is lit. The cycle of illumination makes the light appear to crawl to the direction where the driver intends to turn.
What causes turn signal lights to malfunction?
Bad turn signal relay
The relay controls the flashing of your turn signal lights. Relays are electrically-operated switches that have a set of input terminals and a set of operating contact terminals. These devices open and close contacts, which regulate electric current to make the lights blink on and off. A bad relay will make it impossible for your turn signals to illuminate. It can also cause changes in the blinking rate. A turn signal that’s blinking fast, for example, can be caused by a bad turn signal relay.
Burned-out turn signal bulb
A dead turn signal light can be caused by multiple issues such as wiring connection problems or a bad relay. However, you can quickly rule out the problem if only one of the two bulbs per side isn’t working. There’s a high chance that you have a burned-out turn indicator bulb. A busted signal light bulb can be easily fixed by replacing the bulb. You may refer to your vehicle owner’s manual and fix it yourself or let a certified mechanic perform the repair for you.
Damaged turn signal switch
The turn signal light switch is the lever that’s usually found behind the steering wheel. Flicking this lever signals the turn indicators to flash left or right. It holds the lights flashing until the wheel comes right back to the normal position after a turn. There’s a tendency that a malfunctioning turn signal switch won’t hold the lights flashing unless it is being manually held down. This could make it difficult for the driver to perform a maneuver safely, as he or she would need to hold the lever while steering.
When to replace a turn signal light
It is important that you evaluate a failing turn signal light before taking any actions. Determine which component is causing the problem first before purchasing a turn signal light replacement. Figuring out the possible causes of your turn signal issues could help you avoid unnecessary purchases and help you save money for other future repair jobs. The best way to know what’s causing a failing turn signal light is to bring your vehicle to a certified mechanic.
The only time you’ll need to replace a turn signal light assembly is if there is physical damage evident on the housing and lens. Of course, this only applies to vehicles with turn signal light assemblies that are separate from the headlights or tail lights.
How to select the right turn signal lights
Communicating with fellow drivers on the road is possible through the vehicle's signal lights. Because of their essential role in promoting road traffic safety, choosing the appropriate turn signal lights requires adequate assessment.
LED light vs. Incandescent bulb
Before, when choosing lights for your vehicle's turn signal lights, the variations available were only for the areas you intend to use it on. With innovations in technology, more options became available to auto owners. One of which is the LED light bulbs. To help you decide which side to take, LED or incandescent, here's a quick contrast and comparison of the two.
Life span, heat generation, and endurance
Incandescent light bulbs can last up to 10,000 hours on normal usage while LED light bulbs can be used for more than 60,000 hours. In a 60,000-hour usage, around 60 incandescent light bulbs must be used while only 1 LED light bulb is needed. Since incandescent light bulbs use heat to generate light, they are more prone to bursting after long continuous usage, unlike LED light bulbs which generate very little heat and can stretch for long hours without breaking.
Aesthetics and durability
Aside from protecting your vehicle against road traffic accidents, LED signal lights also improve your vehicle's appearance. LED, which stands for light-emitting diode, is a solid semiconductor device, designed to emit light. At night, LED signal lights give out a more precise light compared to its predecessor, regular incandescent light bulbs. LED turn signal lights don't have filaments, unlike the standard incandescent light bulbs. This enables them to endure rough road conditions better than the standard light bulbs.
Value for your money
Standard incandescent light bulbs cost less than $10 each while LED light bulb prices start around $60 each. Though they are more expensive compared to incandescent ones, LED light bulbs are more energy efficient. Aside from significant cost-savings, LED light bulbs come with a 1-year warranty depending on the brand.
When choosing your turn signal lights, make sure that you match the light bulb color to your vehicle's turn signal light lens. Also take note that your automotive lens can reduce the light coming from the bulb, especially in LED light bulbs.
How much is a turn signal light replacement?
OE replacement turn signal lights on CarParts.com are priced anywhere between $2 and $690. You could either buy it as a single piece, as part of a kit, or in sets of two. To simplify your search, indicate your vehicle’s year, make, and model on the filter tab under the search menu. There are different color finishes, location of installation, and assembly inclusions that you may choose on the “shop by” section.
Importance of replacing a failing turn signal light
Driving with malfunctioning turn signal lights is dangerous as it can result in serious accidents that can otherwise be easily avoided. Replacing a failing turn signal light or any of its components like the bulb, switch, or relay can save you and your passengers from sideswipe and T-bone accidents when changing lanes or turning. Remember that it is crucial to communicate with other drivers around you to prevent such accidents, so it’s best that you don’t waste time and take your car to the mechanic as soon as you notice that your turn signal lights aren’t working properly.
How to replace your turn signal lights
Keeping you and your passengers safe from dangerous road traffic is one of the turn signal light's job. These signal lights are sturdy enough to withstand different weather conditions and produce the needed light. In case one of your turn signal lights break or burn out, you can easily replace it with a new one.
Follow these few instructions on replacing your turn signal lights:
Difficulty level: Easy
Tools to be used:
- Replacement light bulb
Step 1: Place the ignition key into the "on" position to start your vehicle's engine. Activate your turn signal switch and observe which of the lights is burned out or damaged.
Step 2: Turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the damaged light bulb. In essence, turning the steering wheel to the right simply means that your left turn signal light is the one that's broken. This allows you to access the fender and the turn signal assembly easily since the wheel is out of the way.
Step 3: Turn your engine off. Move under the front fender of your vehicle. Remove the screws from the wheel well cover using a Phillips screwdriver. Take out the wheel well cover and set it aside.
Step 4: Access the signal light bulb by sticking your hand into the wheel well and locating it. Turn the light bulb to the left and unbolt it from the turn signal assembly. Then, detach the light bulb. Be extra careful when removing the old light bulbs out. They may get brittle enough to shatter as you pull them out.
Step 5: Get your new signal light bulb. Secure it into place by screwing it with your hands. Make sure that they are fitted tightly in the bulb socket.
Step 6: Replace the wheel well cover and screw it into place with a Phillips screwdriver. Do the same procedure for the other damaged signal lights.