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Turning off Automatic Headlights Function

I have a 1988 Ford Thunderbird LX which seems to have automatic headlights. The second the the engine starts, lights go one, and the second the door opens after the engine turns off, lights go out, no matter where the setting on the headlight switch is.

Me being old school enough and use a switch (especially having vintage autos which keep headlights on and will not alert that they are on), I would rather have the switch function as normal, without an automatic function at all.

Is this even doable with this car, and something that is easily changeable (like a relay or something), or is it borderline with we wiring the car. Anyone have knowledge of this?

This system is using the headlights, probably at a reduced voltage, as “daytime running lights” (DRLs).
Being a safety system required in some countries even back in 1988, it may not be able to be disabled. The Ford dealer should be able to look up the BCM programming options for you and tell you if it’s doable. Your owner’s manual is worth checking, but seeing as how DRLs are mandatory in some countries I doubt if that will tell you.

I assume you have not had this vehicle very long. I don’t think it had DRL so someone may have rewired the lights for some reason. Personally I would leave it alone because lights on is a safety factor just like DRL. If you don’t have a manual search the web and you might find one.

I think you can just pull the fuse for the automatic light feature. At least that’s what I did with one of my Rivieras when it developed a short.

in the under hood fuse/relay box, remove the Auto Headlight relay.


I found the fuse panel, which is under the steering wheel. It is Fuse 18 which also runs the indicator lights, low oil relay, flash-to-pass replay, throttle solenoid positioner, low fuel module, warning chime, tachometer, and washing fluid level indicator, something I don’t feel like messing with.

Reading the owner’s manual (which I just found), it says the system is an option. It can be switched between automatic and manual but none of it sounds like something that my car has. I will check it out tonight and report back.

On one of my previous cars (sorry, can’t remember make), the position of the interior/dome light brightness control made this function work or disabled. I can’t recall if almost all the way bright or dim - play with that and see if you get any results.

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OldcarsRbest, that’s exactly what did it. Found it in the panel dimmer switch. If you turn it all the way to off, it will set a relay one way or the other. Then you can return the dial back to normal brightness with either the Autolamp on or off.

Thank you Car Talk Community!!!

Great to hear!