What are dipped headlights and when should you use them?

February 15, 2022 by

Dipped headlights are the ones you’ll likely use most commonly. They’re named as such because the beam faces down towards the road.

These are the second-brightest you’ll have — more so than sidelights, but less so than full beam headlights.

When should you be using dipped headlights, though? This guide explains.

When to use dipped headlights

According to the Highway Code, you must use headlights at night and “when visibility is seriously reduced”. This is generally considered when visibility is restricted to 100 metres or less and includes fog and heavy rain.

On top of that, it suggests to “use dipped headlights, or dim-dip if fitted, at night in built-up areas and in dull daytime weather, to ensure that you can be seen”

It also states you must not “use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders”.

Essentially, this means using dipped headlights rather than full beams when oncoming traffic is nearing or if you’re close to other road users ahead. You should also keep them dipped while overtaking.

How to turn on dipped headlights

In most cars, turning on your dipped headlights will be as simple as twisting a knob or a switch.

You’ll see a dome-like shape with lines directing downwards on the stalk to indicate low beam headlights are on. This should also show a matching green or yellow symbol within your instrument cluster.

If this shows as blue with the lines pointing straight on, this means your high beam headlights are on. Switching these to dipped headlights will typically require you to pull the stalk on the left towards you.

Dipped headlights vs main beam headlights

Main beam headlights are designed to improve visibility even further at night by projecting light higher. This is ideal if you’re driving on a country road with no street lighting, for example.

However, main beam headlights will dazzle other road users and impact their visibility as a result. Because of this, you should switch to dipped headlights when oncoming traffic is approaching or if you’re following another car.

When to use dipped headlights:

  • At night in built-up areas with street lighting
  • In dull weather conditions
  • When approaching other road users at night

When to use main beam headlights

  • When driving in rural areas with little to no street lighting, with no nearby road users

FAQs: dipped headlights

Can I get pulled over if one or both of my dipped headlights are out?

If you’re driving with a headlight out, police can pull you over and hand out a fixed penalty notice of £100.

Can I drive with my main beam headlights on if my dipped headlights are out?

If you have a dipped headlight out, it’s best to avoid driving until you can replace the unit. You can still be pulled over and using main beams will dazzle other road users.

How are fog headlights different from dipped headlights

Fog lights are separate from dipped headlights. They’re designed to illuminate the road below the fog with a short but high beam, as well as making you more visible to other road users.