Car lights dim and brighten randomly causes fixes are essential information for car owners who have experienced their headlights fluctuating in brightness.
Your car headlights are vital tools for illumination, so randomly fluctuating lights ruin your driving experience and increase the risk of accidents. In this complete guide, our car team will reveal the causes and solutions to this problem.
- 1 What Are the Causes of Car Lights Dimming and Brightening Randomly?
- 1.1 – Corrosion of Ground Straps/Wires
- 1.2 – Bad Alternator
- 1.3 – Damaged Alternator Belt
- 1.4 – Dying Bulb
- 1.5 – Oxidated Bulb Lens
- 1.6 – Light Settings/Configurations
- 1.7 – Unclean Lights
- 1.8 – Troubles With the Electrical Wiring
- 1.9 – Overloaded Circuits
- 1.10 – Aging/Yellowed Headlights and Lenses
- 1.11 – Malfunctioning Ballasts
- 2 What Are the Solutions to Car Lights Dimming and Brightening Randomly?
- 3 Conclusion
What Are the Causes of Car Lights Dimming and Brightening Randomly?
The common causes of car lights and headlights dimming and brightening randomly include ground wiring problems, faulty alternators and ballasts, overloaded circuits, or even a bad bulb. In some cases, a combination of two or three defective parts (for instance, bad alternators and dying bulbs) can cause the issue.
– Corrosion of Ground Straps/Wires
Corroded ground straps/wires can cause uncontrollable dimming and brightening of vehicle lights. The ground wire forms the foundation of your car’s entire electrical system. In most cars, it appears as a single negative black wire connecting the negative terminal of your car battery to the chassis. If this ground strap gets damaged, corroded, or dirty, electricity won’t flow freely to the necessary car components.
As a result, your vehicle headlights and dash lights will receive less power and will only give off dim lights. In severe cases, the electricity flow may be cut off entirely, causing your headlights to go off even though they’re still good. Dimming and brightening of vehicle lights can also arise from the corrosion of the wire(s) that connect the chassis to the headlights.
– Bad Alternator
A bad alternator can cause your vehicle lights to dim and brighten occasionally. An alternator has the job of maintaining proper headlight brightness and providing electrical power to nearly all of the car parts that need electricity (including the power steering, wipers, and headlights). If your car alternator fails, the necessary car parts won’t receive any power.
Instead, they’ll draw all the power they need from the battery. However, car batteries were never designed to provide that much electric power. And so, it’ll quickly get drained. As a result, you will experience dim or fluctuating lights.
Here is one way you can tell if your alternators are responsible: your vehicle lights seem bright when you put the car on ignition, but become dim when you power the car fully.
– Damaged Alternator Belt
A damaged alternator belt can also cause dimming headlights. Sometimes, the fault may not be with the alternator itself, but with the alternator belt that connects it to the engine. If the belt is heavily damaged or worn out, it may keep slipping off while in operation.
– Dying Bulb
A dying bulb is one of the most common causes of your vehicle lights brightening and dimming randomly. Just like regular lightbulbs at home, headlight bulbs have a lifespan. When nearing the end of their lifespan, they give off poor lights or fluctuate in brightness.
If the bulb gets burnt out or dead completely, your headlights won’t come on at all. Generally, the rate at which you use your headlights will determine how long the bulbs will last.
– Oxidated Bulb Lens
Oxidated bulb lenses can also cause dimming headlights. Over time, as you continue to use your car, your lenses can oxidize. This oxidation causes them to become hazy, cloudy, or shady in appearance.
The color shade caused by oxidation prevents light from passing through the lenses as it should. As a result, your headlights will look dim, even if your bulbs are working fine.
– Light Settings/Configurations
Sudden dimming or brightening of your lights can also be due to the light’s settings. Most vehicles today have automatic lighting options, and they’re usually set by default. Thus, you will find your headlights adjusting automatically or flickering while driving. Unless you reconfigure the settings, you will keep experiencing this while driving.
– Unclean Lights
Dirty lights can also cause your vehicle lights to dim when they come on. It’s quite common for grime, dust, and other materials to accumulate in your car lamp and form a film that obstructs the distribution of light. The dirt may be internal or external dirt, and sometimes, it could even be water trapped inside the headlights.
In some cases, your lights may not be dirty, just discolored. This happens mainly in headlights with halogen bulbs. As time goes on, the halogen gas inside these bulbs will form a film on the inner part of the glass, making the headlights look dark. This prevents light from shining brightly.
– Troubles With the Electrical Wiring
Electrical circuiting/wiring troubles can surely cause dimming headlights and dashboard lights. Several electrical components (including the wiring harness and fuse) work together to power your headlight bulb.
If there are any misconnections, damaged wires, or bad fuses, your headlights will malfunction. You will mostly experience faulty wiring after doing DIY repairs or servicing your car at the hands of a non-professional mechanic.
– Overloaded Circuits
An overloaded circuit can also be the cause of your lights flickering. Every electrical circuit has a maximum power output. If your car’s electric circuit is powering too many devices, the current it distributes to the various devices will reduce, which will affect their performance.
If your lights shine bright when driving but suddenly go dim or flicker when you put on the AC, it’s very likely that you have a circuit problem on hand.
– Aging/Yellowed Headlights and Lenses
Aging bulb lenses can also cause your lights to alternate between dimming and brightening. Headlight lenses are the pieces that cover the bulbs, mostly made of polycarbonate plastic or acrylic. These chemicals can react with the sun’s UV rays, and over time the lenses may develop a yellowish coloration due to this reaction.
Also, it’s normal for rocks and road debris to scratch the surface of your headlap, giving it a cloudy appearance. This discoloration will make your lights appear dim, even when they’re working fine. Your light lenses can also get disfigured over time, causing lighting problems.
– Malfunctioning Ballasts
Malfunctioning ballasts can make your bulbs flicker. Ballasts are necessary for keeping your lamps in place and supplying them with the right amount of electricity. Ballasts also regulate the special startup conditions required by some bulbs.
However, as ballasts age, the amount of voltage and current they send to the car bulbs will fluctuate, leaving you with flickering lights.
What Are the Solutions to Car Lights Dimming and Brightening Randomly?
The solutions to car lights dimming and brightening randomly include changing the affected lights and lighting assembly to changing the associated wiring and equipment (like alternators, batteries, etc.). You will first need to trace the cause then carry out the necessary fix or replacement.
Fixing your car’s dimming light issues can cost anywhere from a hundred up to a thousand dollars or more. The actual cost will depend on the particular cause or car component to be fixed. For instance, rewiring your car system will cost much more than merely changing the light bulb.
– Change Ground Strap
Changing the ground strap can solve your car dimming problem, as well as any other electrical problem in your car caused by the bad or corroded wire. However, you’ll need to see a mechanic to do this, because any mistake in the connections can be hazardous to your vehicle and to you. Ground straps aren’t expensive, but they take time to assemble and fix.
– Replace the Bulbs
The simple solution for dying or faulty bulbs is to replace them. This is also recommended if you have a bulb discoloration problem. However, you need to carry out an inspection before concluding that a dying bulb is responsible for your issue. Sometimes, it may be a defective light switch instead.
When replacing bulbs, always go for the exact type of light your car came with (Halogen, HID, or LED). Once you have the right kind of bulb, open your car headlamp (you will have to undo a few screws) and locate the affected bulb. Disconnect the wires attached at the base of the bulb, then install the replacement bulb and put the headlamp cover back in place. If you can’t replace it yourself, see a mechanic to avoid making the wrong connections.
– Check the Associated Wiring and Electrical Unit
From the ground strap to all other associated wirings, check if there are any loose connections. Also, check for any corroded or damaged wires and short-circuiting as well. Fix any wiring issues you find and see if the lights stop flickering. For a thorough inspection, you can hire a mechanic.
– Clean the Headlights
Cleaning the headlights will get rid of stains that make your vehicle light go dim. If the stain is external, simply use a cloth to wipe it off. For internal stains, you will have to open up the lighting assembly to ensure proper cleaning.
To brighten your vehicle lights, you can also clean or restore them using a reputable headlight restoration kit. Another way you can make your car headlights shine brighter is by using a different type of lighting bulb. HID and LED lights always shine brightest.
– Change the Light Cover
If you have shady headlights caused by aging and reaction to UV rays, you need to change your car headlight cover. Doing this will also solve the problem of dust, debris, and stains that have accumulated inside the headlamps.
To change your light covers, power off your car, open your car bonnet, undo the bolts or screws holding the light cover in place, and wiggle it free. Then replace it with a new one.
– Check the Alternator and Alternator Belts
Check and test your alternator to see if it’s functioning properly. Testing alternators directly is complicated, so you are better off having a mechanic help you. However, you can check the alternator belts yourself to see if it’s still in good condition or needs changing.
Belts stretch and wear out with time, so checking them regularly is advisable.
– Replace Malfunctioning Light Switches
Car light switches malfunction with time, and when they do, lights may begin to flicker or dim unnecessarily. In these scenarios, changing the bad switches will fix the problem. Depending on the type of switch (standard or dimmer switches), installing a new replacement switch will cost you between $50 and $200.
Now that you know all the things that can cause dimming or flickering lights in your car,
let’s go over the major points one more time:
- Car dimming or flickering lights can arise due to problems with the switch, ground/associated wiring, alternators, and ballasts.
- The problem can also be due to accumulated dirt and debris inside or outside the headlamps, as well as discolored or oxidized lights.
- Fixing your car’s dimming light problem entails repairing or replacing the affected parts causing the issue (bulbs, alternators, etc.).
- You can carry out simple solutions like cleaning or restoring light bulbs, but a professional mechanic should always do complex fixes like changing ground wiring.
If you can’t seem to troubleshoot the cause of your lighting issues, you should take your car to a mechanic for a checkup. Make sure to keep enough money aside, just in case expensive issues (like bad alternators and straps) are the cause of the problem.
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