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January 03, 2011


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I always wondered why the DRL system does not light up the taillights. I agree that people should know this but if the whole point of DLR is to be visible to other drivers then this is a major oversight.

Jim Kayer

If someone is driving without any lights in poor visibility conditions such as dusk in the rain and I turn in front of them because I don't see them and get hit, who is at fault?


Jim, I experienced the answer, or at least cause of this problem. I had this argument numerous times with my "car club". Some of the "tuner" market replace their standard lights with xenon lights. These don't run at low power, so you have to disable the DRLs to make the xenons work.

From what I found, this is not illegal. Much like the centre brake light, new cars must be sold with these features, but disbaling them is not illegal.


I agree with the observation that people don't know when to turn lights on. It is better than before, thanks to the 'auto'setting that prevents some people from driving totally in the dark but it doesn't replace common sense & awareness.

DRLs are required by law but I was told that it is not required to change speedo etc. to metric. Speedos in US vehicles usually have both & the conversion just becomes second nature after driving the vehicle for while.


When they mandated DRLs, they should have also required manufacturers to NOT illuminate the dash without the headlights on. In my Nissan, I am constantly fooled (so maybe I am not that bright) into thinking headlights are on because my dash is lit up. It should be totally dark until headlights are on!


I'd be happy enough if everyone would at least turn their headlights on at night. Or if at least one person somewhere would recognize when I flash my headlights at them, what I'm trying to tell them.


Cars imported from the U.S. are required to be modified to have DRLs added. However, I think the modification is often easily removed, and there's no ongoing enforcement, so certainly someone who hates DRLs can eliminate them.

Interestingly, the modifications aren't necessarily very high-tech, either. I imported a non-DRL Prius from the U.S. The modification (performed by an officially licensed business) entailed running a cable from the battery to the front turn signals, such that when the car's engine was on, the front turn signals are on. But wait! The Prius's gas engine turns on and off at odd times, even when the car is moving. So my DRLs can switch off at any time that the Prius decides it can run on battery power for a while.

Again, the modification was done correctly according to Canadian law, which says that the DRLs have to be on when the engine is on. It's just that "when the engine is on" is not in fact the right time, what you want is "when the vehicle is on", which is subtly but importantly different from "when the engine is on".

Rick Clayton

My practice for the last 40 year is to always drive with my full light system ON at all times. My Saab 9-5 does this on its own, and it works well. Some other Euro makes also do this. I even wonder why you need a light switch at all. You start the engine, the lights go on. You turn off the engine, the lights go off. Simple. On my other car(s) I have to switch them on and off. No, I never forget to turn them off. One- the car has a warning that goes off if I were to forget. Two- the car will turn them off itself after a few minutes (GM, one of their best ideas). Now lets talk about banning white cars and red (not amber) rear turn signals.

Mike in Burlington

I have noted that more then a few late model Honda Civic driving without tail lights and dim headlights making me think that the DRLs are. I have passed a few and and could see that the dash lights are on. What gives?

David Bradshaw

HI Jim,

It's funny - from when I first started driving at 17, I've always turned on the headlights when I start the car, always, as full lights are best. So in 2009 my Subaru was destroyed by a woman who thought a blind left was a good idea LOL and I ended up with a 2003 Aztek. Now I know you love to make fun of the Aztek but I love it, best family vehicle I have ever owned and I'm even a proud member of the Aztek Fan Club (and see, I admit it!).

Having said that, I find this Pontiac quirk hysterical - the lights have an Auto setting, very handy, as at night the lights come on (full headlights) as soon as you disengage the parking brake. The funny part is, during daylight hours, only the stupid DRLs come on, i.e. headlights on low, no tailights. So, I am in the ironic situation with my Pontiac of NOT having to turn the headlights on at night, but having to during the day. How dumb is that???

Jim Kenzie

Hi Jim:

Each case would have to be adjudged individually, but I would think that a considerable portion of the fault should go to the 'stealth' driver.

Jim Kenzie

Hi Brian:

Thanks - I hadn't thought of the 'disable after the fact' option.

As you say the 'car club' thing might be part of it - not sure it explains the very prosaic Accords and such I sometimes see without DRLs!

Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie

Hi Peter:

Couldn't agree more. If they aren't going to mandate rear lights, this would be the next-best (and probably cheapest) way to solve a big chunk of the problem.

Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie

Hi Paul:


Drove by a little old lady in a big Cadillac on the 401 last night. DRL front, nothing to the back, she was hunched over the wheel like she was terrified to even be out there. Flashed my lights - no recognition she even saw me.

That's another part of the problem - in some new cars, their DRLs won't LET you flash lights in any meaningful way - alternating between low beams and 85 percent intensity high beams doesn't supply much of a warning.

In some cars (like my VW) applying the handbrake even slightly shuts off the DRLs so you send a stronger signal.

Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie

Hi Michael:

Thanks for the input. Seems like a perfect example of the law not keeping pace with technology.

If the law just said "All lights front and back have to be on when the car is moving" we'd be done!

Yours is a special case, but I find it difficult to believe there are this many people who hate DRL so much they'll go to the trouble and expense of having it disabled - even if it is a fairly minor procedure.

I think in at least some GM cars supplied with DRL in the US you can re-program them yourself using the radio preset buttons if you know the procedure and the codes! Yet they won't let us DE-program those damned automatic locks...

Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie

Hi Rick:

Me too, even back in the days when leaving the lights on in my Fiat 600 for more than about ten minutes would drain that teeny little snowmobile-sized battery in about ten minutes!

Not sure about white cars - that's been one of the most popular colours for quite a while.

I'm with you on red turn signal lenses though - I am TOTALLY ashamed I haven't replaced them on my 2003 Jetta Wagon.

Well, Lady Leadfoot's 2003 Jetta Wagon. She won't even let me install the trick turn signal harness that converts it to a European-style three-flash lane-changer, like newer VWS have.

Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie

Hi Mike:

Yeah, as noted elsewhere in this blog, a lot of new cars switch on the dash lights with the DRL, which is totally stupid. I'm not 100 percent sure that Civics do this, but that'd be my guess as to what you're witnessing.

Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie

Hi David:

Make fun of the Aztek?


Actually, I use the Aztek as a perfect example of how good design can go wrong - it sometimes doesn't take very much!

The guy who headed the in-depth GM Market Research project which yielded the Aztek (the Buick Rendezvous and Chevrolet Avalanche as well) told me that their research suggested that customers wanted more flexibility, and more functionality (all three of those vehicles nailed that pretty well).

Customers also told them about Aztek, 'Don't put on body cladding, don't put on skinny little wheels and tires, don't make it so expensive that younger families cannot afford to buy it'.

Oh-for-three there.

Also, the concept car looked cool, if different. But the bean-counters insisted they use the shorter GM minivan platform which changed the proportions ever so slightly - just enough to make it look, well, REALLY different...

The last generation - sans body cladding, bigger wheels and tires - didn't look too bad, but by then the die was cast.

As you know well from your membership in the club, Aztek owners generally do love their vehicles because of that functionality.

And in some cases just because they're different!

I also give GM credit for trying something out of the ordinary even though when they did, they usually got burned (Corvair and EV-1 to name but two examples).

Not every car should be beige!

Jim Kenzie

Mike F

Older Honda Accords (such as my '94) had an issue of poor soldering in the DRL relay that would result in some connections eventually failing. The fix was about 60 minutes of your time to remove the relay and resolder the bad connections. Or buying a replacement relay and having a garage install it... I suspect most of the owners don't know or care that the DRLs no longer work and don't realise the issue and solution can be found on the web.


Bob Brown

It's my pet-peeve too. Every morning and evening on the road to/from my work as an auto salesman it seems to be the same makes eg,Honda/VW/Toyota,etc. NO Tail-lights on. Even if I get behind them and flash my lights,the penny never drops.The thing that get's my goat is that the local traffic police never stop an offending car.Infact,I've spotted a cop car who drive's the same route as me into work and he sometimes forgets to put his lights on.


This is driving me nuts. I came upon your website while looking for an answer as to why I'm seeing so many vehicles without driving lights/headlights. I see that Nova Scotia has made it law to show driving lights/headlights on the road with ample fines. Lately the number of cars without lights has skyrocketed in my area (Renfrew). Why has Ontario not introduced similar legislation? There never has been any doubt in my mind that lights save lives! I also would ban the daytime dash lights like in my Yaris. Certainly have fooled me a number of times.

Grantley in Renfrew

Jason Smith

Considers this... Headlights saves lives whether in the dark or in daylight

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