Darker Nights

Now the nights are drawing in and everyone is looking forward to Christmas it’s a good time to think about lights, and not just the ones on your tree. It’s very important to be seen in the dark afternoons and evenings. It’s not something everyone thinks about, we often get into the car, and as long as we’ve remembered to flick the light switch on we forget about it. We know it’s good practice, whatever the time of year to periodically check your lights.

How do I check my lights?

It seems a daft question, but how do you check the lights on a car? It’s easier if you have a friend to help you, but you can do it on your own.

Running and Side Lights

First you should check your daytime running lights. You might feel these aren’t as important as they’re on during daylight hours, but they’re there for your safety. They will help you to be noticed even in the day, and your car will fail it’s MOT if they’re not working. To check them make sure you’re parked somewhere safe, where you can walk around your vehicle safely. When the engine is running get out and look at the front of your car. You should see both of your running lights are visible. Not all cars have running lights, so it’s worth knowing if this is part of the specification for your vehicle. Next turn on your sidelights, and get out of the vehicle to check they work.

Headlights and Indicators

Now check your headlights and indicators. Get back in the car and turn on your headlights and hazard lights. Get out to check everything is as it should be, you should see headlights, rear (red) lights and indicators on the front and rear. It’s worth doing this in the dark if you can, as you will be able to check your headlight alignment as well.


Headlights should be angled so they don’t blind oncoming traffic. If one of your lights seems to be a bit off you can get it realigned in a garage, or you may be able to adjust it yourself.

To check alignment you will need to make sure there’s no weight in the car, so you don’t have anything in the boot or a friend sitting in the car. You also need to know your tyres are all inflated as they should be. You will need a wall that you can use to measure the field of light on. Park about 60cm away from the wall (facing it) the ground should be flat.

Turn on your headlights, not fog lights or full beam. The headlights will produce circle shapes on the wall. You need to use tape or chalk to make a cross on each circle. One line should go vertically from the top of the circle to the bottom and the other should go horizontally across the widest part. Where the two lines meet in the middle is the centre of your headlights.

The centre of both plus signs should be the same height, so use a tape measure to check. If they aren’t, you may need to lower one plus sign so that they are the same height.

Once you’re happy with your marks and they’re both the same height, reverse your car so it’s about eight metres from the wall. If the middle of your headlights still fall within your markings, then you don’t need to make any adjustments. If they are falling above, below, or to the side of the plus symbols, then you’ll need to realign your headlights. If you’re not sure about checking this on your own, don’t worry. Most garages will check your headlight alignment for you.


Fog Lights

Next you should check your fog lights work, turn them on and walk all round the car. You should see at least one rear fog light as well as your bright front beams.

The last lights to check are your brake lights. To do this if you don’t have a friend to help you you will need to park in front of a reflective surface. Apply the brakes and look back to see the reflection of your lights. If you don’t see two lights reflected you will need to get a new bulb.

It might feel like a lot of effort, but it’s worth it if it keeps you and other road users safe. The last thing you want to hear is ‘sorry I didn’t see you’ after someone’s bumped into your car.


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