What Are Daytime Running Lights and Why Do I Need Them?

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Volvo XC40/Image Credit: Volvo

Have you ever been driving at dusk and seen a car pass by without its headlights on? Maybe it was a black car and you only just noticed it at the last second. Ideally, ALL vehicles would have a system that automatically turned on the headlights when needed, but unfortunately, some do not. Even those vehicles that DO have the feature usually have a way to disable it and go to an on/off function controlled by the driver.

What Are Daytime Running Lights?

Daytime running lights (or DRLs) help with this problem of having completely dark cars being operated in low light conditions and are also intended to help in other circumstances. DRLs were originally made popular in parts of the world where daylight can often be dim and short in duration. They work great as a way to identify the car using them to other cars on the road. Unlike headlights, they are not intended to illuminate the road ahead, and they don’t also have any rear marker lights. They are simply dim lights at the front of the vehicle.

How Do They Work?

Volvo Lighting Ring in AUTO Position/Image Credit: Volvo

In vehicles equipped with daytime running lights or DRLs, the system is automatic. They are intended to be on when the vehicle is driven without requiring any driver input. The way they work varies from automaker to automaker, and even from model to model. In nearly all the systems originally developed, they worked by using a lower power setting on already existing lights, typically the high beams. As time went on, many automakers have adopted DRLs as a sort of jewelry or brand identifier, and LED bulbs are now popular.

Once enabled, DRLs are completely automatic and work without any need for driver involvement. They are usually on when the car is on, but some automakers like Subaru enable them only when the vehicle is in any gear other than “Park.” When the headlights are turned on by the driver or the automatic system the vehicle is equipped with, the DRLs may stay on or turn off. Once the headlights are enabled, the DLRs are no longer needed and just serve to make the car look distinctive.

Do I Need Them?

Checking headlights/Image Credit: Zephyr18

DRLs are pretty simple to understand and the reasons why they are used are hard to argue against. However, believe it or not, there are in fact anti-DRL groups who lobby against them. The main argument they put forth is that DLRs are not “effective” or not “necessary.” Here at BestRide, we feel they provide a safe and simple way to stay visible on the roads and to other drivers, and strongly encourage utilizing them. Now, are they REQUIRED? That’s a different story. Canada has mandated all new cars have DRLs since 1989 and has fines for drivers not using them. In the US, however, manufacturers are not legally required to have them in their models.

In some vehicles equipped with DRLs, the system CAN be disabled (perhaps to satisfy the aforementioned naysayers). If your vehicle’s DRLs are not working, the typical cause is a bulb has burned out. In many cars, the bulb is shared with another function, so we suggest trying the other lights to see if you can identify the cause. However, before you go too far into the troubleshooting process, make sure to take a quick glance at your owner’s manual. They may just be in the off position or not enabled in the scenario you expect.

If we’ve got you convinced of the positives of DLRs, the next step is finding a vehicle that has them! that’s where we’ve got you covered. No matter the body style or features you prefer, we can help you find your perfect ride. Start your search today!