Using your vehicle’s instruments and driving aids

Before you set off, make sure you know what the dashboard warning lights in your car mean. Check your vehicle handbook and see the instrument panel section for more information.

Learn where to find the switches and controls you’re likely to need while you’re driving, such as the controls for the windscreen washers and wipers, demisters, indicators and headlights. You’ll need to be able to use these without losing control of the vehicle while it’s moving.

Common switches and controls


Modern vehicles may be equipped with manual control headlights or adaptive headlights (AH). Manual headlight controls are usually on a panel or an arm near the steering wheel. Drivers must operate the controls to switch between full and dipped headlights.

Adaptive headlights automatically switch between full and dipped beams when they sense oncoming traffic. Make sure you know:

  • where to find the AH controls
  • how to adjust them if necessary.

Using your headlights

You MUST use headlights at night, except on a road that has street lighting.

You MUST also use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, even during the day. Generally this is when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet).

Fog lights

You may use fog lights when visibility is reduced to 100 metres (328 feet) or less. Do not use them at any other time because they can dazzle other drivers - see Highway Code Rule 226.


Indicators are usually located on the side of the steering column near the steering wheel.

Windscreen washers/wipers

Windscreen washers and wipers are usually located on a control arm near the steering wheel. However, some manufacturers have separate controls to operate the washers, while others combine washing and wiping speeds in one place.


Most modern vehicles are equipped with climate controls that use air-conditioning technology to regulate the temperature inside the vehicle.

The controls could be usually operated from a touchscreen built into the vehicle's dashboard or from more traditional dials on the console.

Remember: Vehicle controls differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Make sure you get a clear understanding of how your vehicle's controls work by consulting the manual.

Flat and convex mirrors

Most interior mirrors and some exterior mirrors are made of flat glass: flat mirrors give a ‘true’ reflection of what is going on behind you.

Many exterior mirrors have convex glass. This means that they are:

  • slightly curved
  • have a wider field of vision.

However, this also makes it harder for you to judge the speed and position of vehicles in the mirror. A car behind you will look smaller in a convex mirror so it could be closer to you than you think.

Make sure you practice good observation by scanning all around your vehicle and signalling before you make any manoeuvres.

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