Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

I can't drive at night! No Working Headlights?

I drive a 2001 Toyota Corolla and NONE of my headlamps work (high or low beams)? I tried replacing the relay switch, that was not the problem. I’ve visually checked the fuses, they seem ok. Is it possible that both bulbs went out? What else should I check? All of the tail lights/turn signals/etc are working just fine. I recently had battery issues and had to jump my battery a few times, could that have blown something? Help!

It’s possible…Doubtful they both went out at the same time…However one might have gone out and you didn’t notice it until the other one went out.

If it’s not the lights…or relay or fuse…have you checked the switch??

The switch? (You mean what is inside the car, that turns them on and off?) I assume it is ok if I can hear the relay clicking?

You said the tail lights were working. Wouldn’t the relay click to turn on the tail lights?

You might want to check the switch.

And the bulbs.

Mike’s explanation, that one bulb went out and was unnoticed until the other went out too, is actually quite common. I too would suggest starting with the bulbs.

And I have good news for you. The headlight bulbs on this vehicle are really easy to change. It’s a twist-pull light+socket with enough space around it to remove it. The bulb/socket assembly simply unplugs from the wiring.

Bought bulbs. Wish me luck!

Let us know how you make out. We do care.

Both sides of the car, and both low and high beams? It seems pretty unlikely this is a coincidence of two headlights gone out – completely, both filaments. It’s possible, could happen, but unlikely.

Assuming replacing the bulbs doesn’t fix it, I’d refocus on the fuses and the headlight relay and associated connectors. You can’t in general tell if a fuse is good just by looking at it. Also, just because you hear clicking when you turn the headlights on doesn’t necessarily mean the headline relay is working or even that it is the relay doing the clicking. I think there are separate fuses for both left and right, so two bad fuses seem unlikely. But it is easy to remove and double check the fuses. Look at the wiring diagram and go through it point by point with a test light and DVM. I’d start at the headlight connectors. Is voltage getting there? If not, then you know it’s not the headlight bulbs. Then work your way back towards the relay. It could just be a loose or corroded connector somewhere between the relay and the headlights. And it still could be a bad switch where you turn the headlights on, at the steering column.

I dislike electrical stuff so after a look see for a while, I’d be going to a shop. That said, the high beam and the low beam should be on two separate circuits so if one goes out you still have the other. If they are both out, that is quite a hint for troubleshooting. It means its not the individual circuit breakers or relays or bulbs. So there must be a common ground wire or positive wire feeding the headlights or the switch itself. You really need to have the wiring diagram though.

if you have a volt meter see how far roughly 12 volts goes in the circut. or if you have an ohm meter measure the wires to see if one is disconnected/broken the bulbs should have a little more resistnece than wires if yiu see resistence of the bulbs betyween 0-10 ish they are good if no current is passed or you have like 12312 ohms bulb is bad. it will be distinctly one or the other. long story short test each section of wire to see if proper power can pass it should be 12 volts when on. i would bet it is a disconnected wire/ broken wire

Not the bulbs. I didn’t realize the high and low beams were separate bulbs, all four did not burn out simultaneously. (You can tell I’m not a knowledgeable car chick.) I’ve got a friend with a volt meter, he’s going to check it out. If no luck there, looks like I’ll be taking it to a shop. Thanks for all of the great info!!!

You stated that you first tried replacing the relay switch. Are you talking about the relay for the headlights under the hood that is in the panel along with the fuses? There is more than one relay involved with the headlights. If so, that was a good spot to check first. I would have checked it first myself since the relay provides power to both sets of lights. There is also a 40 amp fuse in the panel that supplies power for the relay contacts going to the lights. Many folks miss a bad fuse on the first check thinking it is good. I suggest you verify that power is getting past the the relay using a meter or test light. Power should be getting to pin G3 of the panel which ties to red and black wires that go to the lights, and all lights have individual fuses tied to them. If that relay isn’t turning on then I suggest you jumper the contacts and see if you can manually force them on. If that works then I would look into a problem with the daylight control module and verify connections to it are working before saying the module is at fault. The lighting circuit is fairly complicated and you really should have a wiring diagram to help guide you with this trouble if the relay or main fuse isn’t the problem.

If you are going to keep this vehicle for some time I suggest you purchase a factory service manual for it to help you with problems like this. They are well worth the money if it saves you from having to pay a shop to fix problems like this. This repair alone could justify the cost of the manual(s). Ebay is a good source for them, at reasonable costs.

Let us know when you figure it out! It’s like a Sherlock Holmes mystery now!

No power getting to the headlights. They are checking the headlamp and the drl relays. This is no fun.

Thanks for all of your comments though!! I appreciate the input.

Tried the relay. It does not work in the headlamp relay spot, BUT, the guys “jumpered” it with 2 wires and the headlights work just fine???

They tried all 3 relays in the drl spot and all 3 worked fine with the wire/jumpers.

Why would two wires make the headlights work but a perfectly fine relay won’t make them work?

Is it safe to drive around with the jumpers in my fuse box?

I think it is the headlight switch. What is happening is that 12 volts is fed to the DRL box from the headlights. That, 12 volts is always on the headlights, they turn on when they find ground.

The relays have 4 or 6 terminals each. Two of the terminals are for the coil, one hot and one ground. The other 2 or 4 terminals are the switch or switches. For simplicity sake, lets look at the 4 terminal type. That means the two terminals are attached to the switch (technically called contacts) and two for the coil. One terminal of the coil is always attached to 12v, technically known as B+. The other terminal goes to the light switch. When the light switch is turned on, it connects this other terminal to ground, completing the circuit so that the coil energizes.

When the coil energizes, it makes contact between the other two terminals. B+ goes to the head lights, then to the B+ terminal on the relay. When the coil energizes, it completes the path to ground through those contacts and the headlights come on.

When your mechanic put a jumper wire on the two terminals in the relay socket, he made it so it would be like the relay was always on. You will have the headlights on in what ever position is selected whenever you turn on the ignition switch, you will have no control.

If its not the headlight switch, then it could be the high/low switch. It is in series with the headlight switch, often built into the same assembly. It could also be a broken wire inside the DRL box, but I don’t think so. It could be the ground wire from the headlight combo switch to its ground that is broken because that is where all these things come together when you have daylight running lights.

This maybe a little late, but were the daylight running lights working? If so, that kinda narrows it down to the high/low switch.

The day time running lights were not working at all; only the tail/side lights worked. No high or low beams.

With the wires in the relay’s place, high and low beams work and I can switch between the them and I can turn them off or on with the car on and off.

Basically: put in the relay and no lights at all. Put in two jumper wires and everything works like normal.

Now what? So confused!

(Is it safe to drive with the jumper wires in for the time being?)

Like Keith was trying to explain to you a relay is an electrical switch that is contolled by suppling power and a ground connection to the relay coil. When the coil is energized it closes the relay contacts which then supply power to the lights. The relay coil in your case isn’t being activated for some reason so it doesn’t matter how many good relays you put in there. The light switch usually supplies power to the relay coil or it could complete a connection to ground to energize the relay. It depends on how the control circuit for the relay coil is designed. I suggest you purchase a service manual to help you with this and it will show you how the circuit is designed to work so you can track down the trouble.

Well, I have a couple more questions. Does your “brake” light come on when you pull up the parking brake lever? Is the “brake” light on all the time. This is the “brake” light on your dashboard. The reason I ask is that the ground for the headlight relay goes through the DRL relay and then this switch. It appears that this is a latching system, once the DRL relay activates, it stays on until the ignition is turned off.

If the switch doesn’t close, then the word “brake” should be lit on the dash. If this light does not come on, then there could be a defect in the parking brake switch or this switch has a bad ground. Even if the “brake” light is working properly, the switch might still have a problem. If it is not in this switch, then it is in the DRL relay itself.

If you don’t normally use the parking brake, try activating it a couple of times. It might clean off a contact. Another test is to ground terminal 11 of the DRL relay. If the lights do not come on, you will need a new DRL relay.

1 Like

I have a UK, 2000, toyota corolla lift back 1.6 LS auto and am also experiencing problems with my head lights, neither work in high or low beam.
I checked the fuses, no issues.
I checked and replaced the relay (Brown one under the bonnet), in case it was not functioning properly.
I replaced the indicator stalk / headlight switch with a brand new one from ebay.
That is the extent of my abilities.
I know all the lights work because when I pull the stalk towards me to flash the lights, all 4 come on, as does the high beam indicator on the dash.
However if I switch on the headlamps in the conventional way, first click, sidelights and tail lights come on but when I turn the next click nothing changes. If I select high beam still no lights even the high beam light on the dashboard stays dark. Very weird.
Going to go and check out the handbrake switch now as advised above by Keith. Maybe that is the source of my problem.
I should say that every so often about 1 in 20 times I try, the lights come on as normal. Then I park and switch off and nothing again. Very frustrating.
Not the handbrake switch though, works correctly