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High Beams? Low Beams? How to Switch Your Headlights to Suit Different Driving Conditions

You pull out on to the street into a thick white-grey fog and reach for the headlight switch. High beam? Low beam? Sometimes, when you’re driving in unusual weather or in a different region, it can be hard to remember which way to switch your headlights so you can see and be seen.

To increase your visibility to other drivers and avoid hazards, it’s important to switch your headlights according to the weather and the time of day while being mindful of other drivers.

Here is a handy guide to when and why you should use your high beams, low beams and your daytime running lights.

When should you use your daytime running lights?

Fair weather


Daytime running lights were created to help ensure drivers could see oncoming traffic easier during daylight hours. Here in Canada, every passenger vehicle, truck and bus has been required to be equipped with daytime running lights (DRL) since Jan 1, 1990.

Safety statistics show daytime running lights have made a big difference in increasing visibility during daylight hours, but when road conditions worsen and when it gets dark, you’ll need to use your other headlights.

When should you use your low-beam lights?

Night time/when it’s dark

Heavy rain, snow, sleet or fog

Any time your visibility is less than 150 metres because of heavy rain, for example, you’ll want to use your low beams headlights. If you were to use your high beams in thick fog, for example, the light would get reflected back to you. Low beams light up the road at short ranges, and you’ll mostly use them in the city.

When should you use your high beams?

Rural or poorly lit roads

Extreme weather (daytime)

High beam headlights give bright, long-range illumination. They’re usually only used on highways and rural areas without much traffic. Because high beams are so bright, be sure to switch to your low beams within 150 metres of oncoming vehicles and when you’re approaching a vehicle from behind so you don’t blind the driver ahead of you.

On some vehicles, turning on your headlights allows other light systems—parking lights, tail lights, license plate lights—to be activated, so make sure you have your headlights on at night so drivers around you can see you and your intentions. This may seem to be common sense, but with DRL systems, sometimes it’s easy to forget your tail lights aren’t on.

Maintaining your headlights is important for your safety as well, especially in winter as your lights can become dirty. If you notice your lights are pointing in different directions, visit a Kal Tire location near you so we can adjust them for you.

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