Discover the Secrets of Position Lights

What are position lights? Where can you find them in your vehicle? Do they turn on automatically? How do they work in the first place?

If you’re like most drivers, chances are you’ve never heard about position or parking lights during your driving class. But don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you were busy sleeping or doing something else. Parking lights are among the most misunderstood and overlooked parts of a car most drivers even find it hard to identify them. 

To finally put an end to the confusion, here are some of the important things you should know about these small but helpful lights that will make you appreciate having them. 

What are Position Lights?

It’s not easy to define position or parking lights. It’s easier to explain what these lights are not. For example, these lights are not daytime running lights or fog lights. They’re also different from headlights although some cars have both in just one unit. While these lights are also used to circuit through a similar system as signal lights, these aren’t necessarily the turn signal light or blinker light. 

Parking lights are also not connected to brake lights in any way and are separate from the hazard lights that you use every time you park. Parking lights are also often confused with the parking sensors or the small lights that might engage every time your parking assist system helps you back again. Once again, however, these aren’t the same as parking lights. 

The consensus here is that position lights are a somewhat outdated light system on the rear, side, or front of a vehicle. Originally, these lights were meant for parking. These days, their primary function is to make a car more visible while on the road. This is where the consensus ends. Here onwards, parking lights may look different depending on the vehicle’s age and the car manufacturer. 

position lamps when visibility is reduced
A vehicle stopped or parked must be illuminated with position lamps at night and when visibility is reduced.

Parking lights, for starters, don’t have a universal placement. You can find these lights on the outer edge of the headlights on most cars although some are located on the inner edge. In some European or older vehicles, you can find these lamps in a separate lamp located at the front. The separate lamp can be found either below or above the headlight, either on the bumper or grille. 

Things can get even more perplexing because parking lights may also include the tiny rectangular or comet-shaped lights found on the side of the car. 

Position Light History

Can you try to guess the reason for inventing position lights? Maybe you’re assuming that these lights were originally meant as an extra source of light to simplify the parking process. 

Or maybe you’re thinking that these were the early turn signals particularly used if you wished to claim an open space for parking. 

You may also be guessing that these are solely for aesthetics and show because parking lights may look ornamental on some cars. 

Sadly, if your guess is any of the above, you’re likely wrong. Parking lights were originally used to keep your vehicle safe from a fender bender if it’s parked in a dark spot such as on a country roadside or a narrow alleyway. 

You may be taking those 24-hour city lights and street lamps for granted because you see them everywhere now. However, these upgrades are quite new. During the mid-20th century, even the busiest city streets can get quite dark once the sun sets. Since roads also used to be narrower in some areas, it’s common for cars to be side-swiped because other drivers can’t see your vehicle in the dark. 

To solve the issue, they developed a dim enough lighting system that won’t drain the battery but is still visible enough to alert other drivers where the vehicle was parked. Position lights are engaged before you leave and after you park your car. They will produce a small glow until you come back to disengage them. 

position lights make a car more visible on the road.
The primary function of the position lights is to make a car more visible while on the road.

You can also choose to engage just one side of your car depending on your parking position. Some vehicle manufacturers still provide this feature although it has already fallen out of practice. 

Another equally important function of these lights was to serve as a precursor to the hazard lights. You need to engage your parking lights to ensure safety if you ever need to pull over on the roadside to change a tire or check your engine. 

What changed since these lights were first introduced, then? After some time, with reflectors and street lights becoming more universal, there was a reduced need for parking lights. Vehicle manufacturers decided that it was a better idea to use flashing hazards instead of parking lights with their soft lighting. It seemed as if position lights will soon lose their position. 

However, things don’t end there. Although people ceased using these lights for both parking and emergencies, it doesn’t mean that they completely fell out of use. You can still use parking lights as a temporary replacement for burned-out headlights or to gain some visibility when it’s not necessary to use full headlights. This is before daytime running lights entered the picture. 

KIA LED Positioning Lights Daytime Running Lights

Daytime running lights, or simply DRLs, are somewhat dimmer lights located on the rear and front of the vehicle. You can use these lights during the day when it’s not necessary to use headlights. These lights were originally introduced in countries such as Canada and Scandinavian nations where they’re more useful because of the lower averages of sunlight. 

Not long after, car companies pushed for the standardisation of DRLs partly to help them cut down their manufacturing expenses. Some drivers repelled the idea and considered these lights as nothing but a distraction. Eventually, the safety benefits of these lights won out. 

Today, the majority of cars feature DRLs that automatically engage in broad daylight. These are perfect for weather conditions such as light rain and fog where it might not be appropriate to use full headlights. 

Considering this interesting history of patchwork functions of position lights, it’s safe to say that these lights didn’t have an easy time getting to where they are right now.

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