What Are Car Sidelights And When Should You Use Them?

What Are Car Sidelights And When Should You Use Them?

Every driver is familiar with their standard headlights and high beams, but less so with the other lights on their vehicle. In particular, lots of us out there don't know much about their sidelights, including how to use them.

What are sidelights?

The term 'sidelights' can be confusing. These lights are actually not located on the side of your car. On many modern cars, they're located in the headlight unit itself. Sometimes, you'll find them on the front corners of the car, near the headlights.

Adding to this confusion is their differing names, as in the US and Canada they're referred to as parking lights.

Sidelights (or parking lights) aren't as bright as headlights. These bulbs typically use a 5W bulb, compared to standard headlights which work on a much higher wattage.

In several countries, including the US, Canada and New Zealand, sidelights can either be white or amber in colour. Most other countries, including the UK and Australia, require them to be white on all cars. This helps drivers to differentiate between car sidelights and amber motorcycle lights.

When should I use my car sidelights?

As implied by their US name, sidelights are most often used when parking. It's advisable to turn on your sidelights on at night when you're parking on the side of a busy road. This will help other drivers to see you easily, avoiding any potential accidents

If one of your headlights goes out, it's a good idea to turn on your car sidelights. While they won't give you much additional light, they will help other drivers spot you on the road. Plus, they'll also know that you're a car and not a motorcycle, so they can give you all the room you need.

Some drivers use sidelights when it's simply not dark enough to switch your headlights on. The bulbs won't be able to light up the road ahead, but you will make yourself visible to other drivers. A great example of this is on a cloudy day.

It's still always a good idea to use caution and check your local laws regarding sidelights. In many US states, it's illegal to drive your car with only the sidelights, or referred to as parking lights, illuminated. The thinking behind this is that if it's dark enough to require lights, drivers should simply use their headlights.

Are sidelights necessary?

Given that many drivers never use their sidelights, you might wonder if they're necessary. They can be helpful in certain situations, but, for most of the time, sidelights aren't needed.

Parking lights will never be bright enough to help you see on a rainy day or during night time driving. If you're in a situation where you're concerned about seeing the road ahead clearly, you're always better off using your headlights.

Car sidelights do help other drivers see you - which is their primary function. There are times when using them is required by law. In the UK, you're required to use them when parking a car on the road at night, when the speed limit is 30mph or greater.

Some drivers prefer to use their sidelights instead of headlights, if the driving conditions aren't dark enough. They use less power than headlights, so you'll save on fuel over the long term. Of course, since this isn't legal everywhere, we would recommend checking your local laws before you set off on your journey.


Shop our range of Replacement LED Sidelight Bulbs here.

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About the Author

John Conboy is the founder of PowerBulbs.com, a UK based automotive lighting specialist, which ships bulbs worldwide. John has 20+ years experience in the industry and in that time has become an approved partner of Philips and OSRAM.