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Parking lights: What are they and when should you use them?

March 11, 2022 by

Parking lights are small lights you’ll find at the front of the car. You may have heard them referred to as sidelights before.

These are usually housed within the same cluster as your dipped and main beams but can be an often overlooked part of your car.

However, the Highway Code does require you to use them. When should you, and how do you turn them on? This guide explains.

When must you use parking lights?

According to section 249 of the Highway Code, all vehicles must display parking lights when parked on a road or a lay-by on a road with a speed limit greater than 30 mph.

On roads under 30mph or under, you don’t need to use parking lights on a car if:

  • You’ve parked at least 10 metres (32 feet) away from any junction, close to the kerb and facing in the direction of the traffic flow
  • You’re in a recognised parking place or lay-by.

However, if it’s foggy, you should leave your parking lights on regardless.

How to turn on parking lights

In the vast majority of modern cars, you can turn your sidelights on with the same control as your headlights. This is usually a stalk on the steering wheel or a small dial to the side.

The parking lights symbol is usually two small semi-circles facing in opposite directions. Each will likely have three lines coming from them to symbolise light, too.

Automatic headlights won’t leave parking lights on, as they only control the dipped beams. You’ll need to set this yourself.

Parking lights vs headlights

While parking lights are designed to make your car visible when parked, they won’t provide sufficient light when driving in the dark.

You’ll need to use your dipped beam headlights when driving. These are designed to light the road ahead when you’re on the move.

FAQs: parking lights

What colour are parking lights?

Parking lights will be the same colour as your headlights in most cases. Halogen bulbs tend to have a warm yellowish glow, whereas LEDs will have a brighter, whiter tone.

Do all cars have parking lights?

Practically all modern cars will be fitted with parking lights. If you’re unsure, look for the symbol on your light controls — usually two opposite-facing semi-circles.

Do parking lights drain a car’s battery?

Parking lights are designed to consume a very small amount of energy without draining your battery. Providing your car’s battery is in a healthy condition, leaving them on overnight should be fine.

Is it legal to drive with parking lights on?

It’s not illegal to drive with parking lights on, but they provide insufficient light to drive safely at night. You may be stopped and fined £50 for driving without your dipped or main headlights on in the dark.