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Rob's Garage

Shouldn't vehicle tail lights stay on all the time? Add to ...

Rob, why don’t they make cars with the tail lights on all the time? So many people don’t put their lights on in bad weather.

Why do you see so many late model cars without the daytime headlights on? Have they disabled them?

Thanks, Ralph

These are both great questions Ralph.

Your first one makes a ton of sense from a safety standpoint and in a way, has been addressed by many auto manufacturers with the application of automatic lights.

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In many newer vehicles, you will find an “auto” position on or around the light switch. In this position, when dusk arrives or the vehicle is driven into a dark area such as a parkade or tunnel, the lighting system turns itself on automatically. This includes tail lights, side marker lights, instrument cluster and dash lights.

Here’s the rub: if the vehicle is equipped with this feature, the driver (in most cases) needs to place this control in the auto position. If not, as you have identified, the lights will not come on automatically. For many of us, being seen while driving is a no-brainer, especially if you remember when you passed your driver’s test. I was told that it was always best to drive with your lights on. As a matter of fact, there are jurisdictions that require drivers to turn on their lights if the windshield wipers must be turned on.

As for your second question Ralph, according to the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act and its Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations, vehicles made for the Canadian market were required to have DRL (Daytime Running Lights) after December 1, 1989. As you can imagine, some of these vehicles are getting old and some of their systems are breaking down. In some cases, repairs are neglected due to costs and availability of parts. As for being disabled, most DRLs are integrated into the lighting system, making them virtually impossible to disconnect.

It is sometimes difficult for provinces and territories to enforce regulations that don’t stipulate in absolute terms that DRLs must be in working order. As a result, we sometimes see newer vehicles without DRLs, or in some cases, only one light is working. This is usually a simple maintenance issue.

Nova Scotia introduced new legislation in 2009 that mandates all vehicles use DRLs. It goes further by stipulating that vehicles without DRLs must use low beam headlights.

Like many things in life, there are loopholes and work-arounds, but Ralph, the manufacturers are getting there. Traffic patterns and driving habits have certainly changed over the years and safety features, within cost constraints, are trying their best to keep up.

Send your automotive maintenance and repair questions to Rob MacGregor at globedrive@globeandmail.com

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