Turn down the lights! Do you know how to operate your car's 'brights' or high beams?

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  • A car's headlights need to be on to activate the high beams or 'brights'.
  • It is usually marked with a blue headlight icon displayed on the instrument cluster.
  • 'Brights' or high beams can be activated (on older cars) by pushing the indicator lever to the front. 


Part and parcel of being a road user is having to contend with other motorists and how they drive. Some change lanes without indicating, others cruise in the fast (right) lane and then there are those on their phones while driving. All of the above can make your emotions and patience go from 0-100km/h very quickly.

Another road peeve easily added to the list is when a motorist is driving with their 'brights' or high beams on at night or early in the morning.

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As a motorist, you'd think this is basic knowledge, but you'd be surprised how many road users are unfamiliar with their vehicle's headlights and how to use them appropriately - or even how to turn them on, or off. 

Do you know how to activate your car's high beams?
Do you know how to activate your car's high beams?

According to Arrive Alive, high beams should only be used when road visibility is very poor and be switched off when another vehicle is approaching. Most new cars have an automatic dimming function, and the high beams will turn off when an oncoming car approaches and then readjust once the road ahead is clear. 

High beams are brighter and project light at a much stronger frequency to illuminate the road ahead for a longer distance, while the regular headlights are angled down towards the road. Many aftermarket options are also available, if you're looking for white or brighter headlight bulbs. You could also buy LED headlights if the ones on your older vehicle is no longer sufficient.

Shining bright 

It's pretty simple to know if your high beams are activated, and motorists can do so by looking at the instrument cluster (usually situated around the speedometer area) for a blue headlight icon. High beams can only be activated with the standard headlights turned on and are done so (on most cars) by pushing the headlight lever, or the one you use to indicate, away from you – towards the instrument cluster and front of the vehicle. 

Some road users are unaware how to turn their cars
Some road users are unaware how to turn their cars high beams on or off.

Since most modern vehicles have headlight functionality that automatically switches between low and high beams, depending on the environment, the projection of the high beam shines light directly into the car in front of you. It can cause visual discomfort or obscure vision when the driver looks into the rear-view mirror. 

READ | Looking ahead: Here's why car lights are so important and how they can benefit you on the road

On some occasions, the bulbs of regular headlights can also go out of sync for some reason and shine upwards, replicating the effects of a high beam. Even though it's not common, it can be set correctly by using an Allen key or an adjusting screw – depending on the make and model. 

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