DRL Warning Light [What Does It Mean, Causes, and How to Fix]

It’s a good day! The sun is up, and you are heading out to meet some friends. All of a sudden, something flashes on the dashboard. You see the DRL warning light. Then you start to wonder, what is a DRL light? What made it turn on, and what can be done to fix it? 

When the DRL warning light turns on, the daytime running lights are off when the vehicle is in motion. It is not working as it should. Several factors can cause this, including a faulty bulb, burnt socket, defective ambient light sensor, blown fuse, and loose electrical connector. You can fix this by changing the bulb, socket, and fuse, cleaning the ambient light sensor, and tightening the electrical connector. 

Read on to learn more about the DRL warning light, including its meaning, causes, and fixes. 

What Does The DRL Warning Light Mean?

what does the drl warning light mean

Part of a Vehicle’s Safety Measure

DRL or Daytime Running Lights are part of a vehicle’s safety measure, making it more visible, especially in low-light environments. It is an automatic system that instantly turns on as soon as you turn on the engine. It also stays on while the vehicle is in motion.

After starting the engine, the DRL warning light will turn on. This will remain on for a few seconds or until after releasing the parking brake.

However, after the system has verified that everything is working fine, the DRL warning light should immediately turn off. If the warning light remains on, it is a sign of a problem.

Legal Prerequisites for Cars Built After February 2011

For cars that have been built after February 2011, the DRL is a legal prerequisite. Hence, your dashboard will also have a DRL warning light if you have a vehicle made after a year.

Reduced Possibility of a Daytime Frontal Collision

With the DRL, there is a reduced possibility of a daytime frontal collision. You will become more visible, and hence, there is a lower chance that a driver will get in your lane. It also avoids rear-end collision. Such is also helpful when you are driving in poorly lit environments.


In the past, the standard for DRL is low-powered halogen. In most modern vehicles, however, the norm is LED. This means that they will produce minimal heat.

Even better, they also consume minimal power, which is important since they are on while you are driving during the day. They will not be drawing too much power from your battery. 

DRL Warning Light is On – What Are the Causes? 

If you are driving and the DRL warning light turns on, the first thing to do is to evaluate the potential causes of the problem. By doing so, it will be easier to determine the most effective solutions:

1. Faulty Bulb 

The most common reason is that you have a faulty bulb. When the DRL warning light turns on, the light is not working.

Burnt Bulb

It is a warning to let you know that there is something wrong. Hence, it could be that the bulb itself is not functioning as it should or is burnt, and that is what the dashboard light is trying to communicate to the driver.

One Side of the DRL Works Fine

If a faulty bulb triggers the problem, only the left or right side of the DRL will work most of the time. The bulbs on both sides will rarely burn or wear out simultaneously. 

Today, most DRL bulbs are LED. They are long-lasting and efficient. Meaning it will take a long time before they will wear out. So, if you have a new car and the DRL warning light turns on, it is almost impossible that the problem is because of a burnt bulb. 

Can Be a Part of the Headlamp or a Separate Unit

A DRL bulb can be a part of the headlamp or a separate unit. It will be easier and cheaper to replace if it is separate since you can install a new one without getting rid of the headlight. 

2. Burnt Socket 

If the bulb is not the problem, another possibility is that the issue is with the socket. It could have burnt or melted, which is especially common if you have an old car.

The best way to check is to disassemble it and see if it has brown marks or any other visual indicator of damage. Test the bulb on another side, and if it is working, then there is a high chance that the problem is with the socket. 

3. Defective Ambient Light Sensor 

Tiny But Crucial Component

The ambient light sensor is a tiny but crucial component in your car’s dash. It is connected to automatic lighting functions. However, it works as if it has a mind of its own. This is what will determine if the DRL should be on.

Automatically Turns on the Headlight When Necessary

It also automatically turns on the headlight when necessary. It usually looks like half a dome, which you can find in the middle or outside the dash. 

The ambient lights sensor might be old, and hence, it is not properly detecting the functionality of the DRL. For instance, even if the DRL is on, the sensor might be unable to detect such, and hence, it can send a wrong signal to the system, which will trigger the warning light. 

4. Blown Fuse

The DRL fuse is located in the engine compartment. In most cars, you will find it behind the battery. The fuse is responsible for the functionality of the DRL.

If the fuse has any problem, such as when it is blown, the DRL will not illuminate. In turn, this can activate the DRL warning light in your dashboard. 

5. Loose Electrical Connector 

Many vehicle owners often ignore electrical connectors. One of the things that can happen when they loosen is that the light won’t function as it should, including the DRL.

Especially if you often drive on bumpy terrains, the connectors can loosen over time. These connectors will connect the light to the power source, and hence, when they are in the wrong position, the light won’t work. 

How to Fix DRL Warning Light

DRL Warning Light

Below are some of the solutions that can work if you are clueless about how to fix a DRL light. The process can vary whether you have a Volkswagen DRL light, Honda DRL light, or DRL light in any other car brand:

1. Change the Bulb 

As earlier mentioned, a flashing DRL warning light can be because of a faulty bulb. Such is most common in old cars with lights that are long due for a replacement. If that’s the case, then the easiest solution is to change the bulb, which will prevent the triggering of the warning light. 

Easy DIY Task

Changing the bulb is an easy DIY task. You do not need to pay a pro to do the job. Even better, it is affordable. Most will cost between $14 to $26. Meanwhile, the labor can cost up to $85, so you can save money by replacing it yourself. 

Here is a quick step-by-step guide on replacing the DRL bulb:

  • Remove the upper lens in the headlight assembly. There can be screws or pins holding the lens in place. Grasp the lens and remove it from the mount.
  • This time, you will already have access to the DRL, but it is still connected to the headlight system. Disconnect the wiring connectors using a pick or screwdriver. Release the clip and gently pull outward.
  • Remove the lens that covers the DRL, then pull the bulb out. You can do this by turning the bulb counterclockwise. Although, such can vary depending on the model and make of the car you are working on. 
  • Put the new bulb on the socket. Secure it in place by turning the bulb clockwise. 
  • Return everything that you have earlier removed, including the wiring and lens. 

2. Change the Socket 

Does the bulb work? Is the DRL warning light still on? Then the issue would be with the socket. It could be that it has burnt or melted, which prevents it from turning on during daytime and when the vehicle is in motion.

You might need to remove the old socket and install a new one to prevent the DRL warning light from activating. 

3. Clean or Change the Ambient Light Sensor 

If the problem is with the ambient light sensor, the easiest fix is to have it cleaned. Over time, the exposure to dust and dirt will make the sensor incapable of detecting the external environment.

Remove it from its current position and use a clean cloth to wipe the sensor. If this does not work, you might need to have a replacement. 

4. Change the Fuse 

When the fuse is blown, the DRL won’t turn on. In turn, the warning light will activate. If you are sure that the problem is with the fuse, then the quickest fix is to change such.

No Need for a Mechanic

You do not need a mechanic to do it for you. Plus, a fuse is inexpensive, so you can easily buy one. To replace the fuse as a DIY task, here’s what you should do:

  • Start by turning off the engine and opening the hood. Find the fuse box in the compartment. The specific location can vary from one vehicle to another. In most cars, however, you will find it at the back of the battery. 
  • Take off the cover of the fuse box. Consult the manual if you are unsure of the specific location of the fuse box. 
  • Remove the fuse that connects to the DRL. Replace it with a new fuse and return the cover. 

5. Tighten the Electrical Connectors 

You do not need to replace the electrical connectors to fix the DRL warning light that has been consistently on. You might be able to fix the problem by simply tightening the connectors.

This will ensure a solid link to the DRL and power source. Tightening the electrical connector is easy by following these steps: 

  • Turn the engine off and get on the hood. Locate the DRL assembly. In most cars, you will find this in front of the engine compartment. 
  • Access the DRL assembly. Some cars might have a separate line for the DRL, while in others, you can find it in the same assembly as the headlights. 
  • Pull the electrical connector from the end of the assembly. If it feels loose or it comes out, tighten the assembly.
  • Tug it again and see that it is already in a secure position. The connector is not the problem if the DRL warning light is on.

Again, what does the DRL warning light mean? When the DRL warning light is on, your car’s daytime running lights are currently ON and properly operating. Note that when your headlights are ON, the DRL indicator light should be OFF.

Frequently Asked Questions – Problems with DRL Warning Light

why did my drl light come on

What Is a DRL Light? 

DRL stands for Daytime Running Lights. It is a standard safety feature in today’s vehicles. It is installed in front of the vehicle, either at the top or bottom of the headlamps. Upon turning the ignition on, the DRL will also activate.

In some models, the light will turn on when the vehicle is in gear or once you release the handbrake. You must turn off the headlight so that the DRL will turn on. They cannot be lit at the same time. 

In most instances, the DRL is a LED strip that you will find inside the same enclosure that houses the headlamp. It isn’t as bright as the other lights.

Note that the DRL’s purpose is not to illuminate the road you’re traveling; instead, they let other drivers see you while on the road. 

What Are the Symptoms of a Failing DRL? 

The most obvious symptom of a failing DRL is that the light won’t turn on, even when the vehicle is in motion. It can also stay on even when the engine is off.

It is also possible that it will flicker. Plus, you might notice a burnt smell, especially if the reason is a burnt socket or burnt fuse. In all of these instances, the DRL warning light can turn on. 

Is It Safe to Drive with the DRL Warning Light on? 

It is still safe to drive if you see the DRL warning light on. As long as the regular headlights of your vehicles are working, you can drive with confidence, knowing that you won’t be a hazard to others on the road.

Nonetheless, once you reach your destination, you should diagnose the problem and implement the necessary fix. 

What Does the DRL Warning Light Look Like? 

The appearance of the DRL warning light in your dashboard can vary depending on the make and model of the car that you are driving. It is a light with three solid lines or dotted lines radiating in most cases. It is also common that it is a light with three letters – DRL.

What Does It Mean If the DRL Indicator Light Is on? 

It is normal for the DRL indicator light to turn on after starting the vehicle. Nonetheless, it will turn off after a few seconds. If it remains on throughout your drive, then it means that there is a problem.

It indicates that the DRL is not working. This can be because of a faulty component, including the bulb, socket, ambient light sensor, fuse, and electric connector. 

What Can I Do When the DRL Indicator Light Is on? 

If the DRL warning light remains on for a long time, check several components and see if there is a problem. In most cases, you can fix the issue by changing the problematic part, including the bulb, socket, ambient light sensor, and fuse. You can also solve this by tightening the wire connectors. 

Can I Fix a Faulty DRL Warning Light Myself? 

Yes, fixing a DRL warning light can be an easy DIY task. There is no need to bring your car to a mechanic and pay a pro to do the job. It starts with diagnosing the root cause of the problem. You can determine what part you need to replace or fix.

It can be because one component has worn out, such as the bulb. But, it is also possible that there is just something wrong with the assembly, such as a loose wire. 

In Closing – DRL Warning Light [What Does It Mean, Causes, and How to Fix]

The DRL or Daytime Running Lights is an important safety feature of modern vehicles. It turns on after firing the ignition while the vehicle is in motion. It is in the same assembly as the headlight. If it is not working as it should, then the DRL warning light in the dashboard will turn on.

The most common causes of the DRL Warning Light include the following: faulty bulb, burnt socket, defective ambient light sensor, blown fuse, and loose electrical connector. You can fix it by changing the defective parts, such as the bulb, socket, and fuse. Tightening the connectors can also do the trick.

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