Lights behaving oddly

Hello everybody again, as you may recall I have a 1999 Kia Sephia with 126,000 miles.

One night as I got into my car I turned on my headlights, which illuminates the instrumentation panel as well as the lights for the AC knobs. I notice the lights flickering on and off then after a while they stay on as normal. During that time all the indicator lights function normally, like the rear defrost indicator, parking brake indicator etc.

This happened a few times, in some instances I do not even turn on the headlights and the instrumentation panel is very dimly lit, and when I do turn on the headlights those lights become fully lit.

I’ve checked to make sure that the illumination is set on the brightest setting, and I figured it was some kind of loose wire in the dash because as time progressed it would stay off unless I hit a speed bump.

I was planning on opening up the dash to take a look at this, but today I notice the brake lights (the ones in the tail lights as well as the center brake lights) are illuminated even without pressing the brake. When I press the brakes they light up a bit more. I turn off the headlights and all those brake lights function normally (that is they are off and only go on when I press the brake).

I some how thing these two issues are related an it comes down to the switch that turns on the headlights. Maybe some wires are crossed or something, not sure. The bulbs are all good so its not that.

I was wondering what you guys would do if you were interested in fixing this problem yourself, what would you look into before raising the white flag and giving it to a mechanic that deals with electrical systems.

I believe what I typed might be a bit confusing, if anyone needs some clarification let me know.



P.S. The headlights function normally.

I suspect that you aren’t getting any answers because your post is a little hard to follow. What I think we have is:

  1. The dashboard illumination lights are dim and flicker sometimes. On most cars most of the time that is due to a poor contact in the control that sets the light level and can sometimes by fixed by rotating the illumination level control back and forth a few times – if there is a control and if you can find it which isn’t always easy.

  2. Lights that shouldn’t be on sometimes are on including the brake lights and dashboard lights. I’m inclined to discount the likelihood of a wiring problem. Wiring issues and bad grounds usually result in things not being on when they should be rather than their being on when they shouldn’t. More likely a bad switch I think.

I doubt it’s the problem, but you might check the turn signals and hazard flashers. I once owned a car where the hazard switch design allowed it to stop in a not quite on-not quite off state that did odd things to the exterior lighting behavior.

I don’t think they are related. For the brake lights I would check the brake light switch.

As for the panel lights, I would suspect the dimmer switch or maybe a bad panel ground.

Yeah I thought a long post would deter people from answering, but I just wanted to be thorough.

Thanks for both of yours opinions, I’ll check that stuff out when I get a chance today or tomorrow. I’ll keep you guys updated.


When the lights are switched on and the brake lights turn on also the common trouble is due to one of the brake light filaments is tied to the running light filament. By removing the brake lights one at a time you should be able to find out which one is causing the trouble or just look at the filaments inside the bulb to see if they are crossed.

The other problem with the AC lights is just a loose connection to them.

Thanks Cougar for your input. I did recently change one of my brake bulbs and one thing I did notice was that there were two filaments in the one I was replacing and only one in the one I replaced it with. I will take out that bulb and give it a try to see if that is what is happening.



Well that bulb was the problem with the brake lights, I must have read the book wrong when I went to buy the bulbs. I am glad this happened though since I learned something new!

Now its time for me to get into the dash and re-secure the connections in there and see if that helps with that. Thanks for everyone’s help!

You’re welcome for the help and glad you found the problem. You discovered the second reason why this problem happens. Using the wrong bulb. They look the same, for the most part at least.