Having a Headlight System Malfunction in Your Toyota? Here’s Why.

So that dreaded warning has appeared on the dashboard of your Toyota. You don’t want to make the call to schedule an appointment at your local dealership, and maybe you’re here because you’re asking yourself, “Is it really all that serious, anyway?”

The short answer is yes, it could be, and it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment as soon as possible, especially if your dealer is backed up and you can’t get in for a while.

I’m going to dive into some key factors, like what the light could mean, how dangerous it is, and what I recommend you do if you’re waiting on an appointment.

toyota rav4 adventure with headlights on

What Does This mean?

When this message on your screen, it doesn’t specifically tell you what it could be wrong with the headlight.

Here are some possibilities:

  • The most common issue is a burnt headlamp. On average, your headlamps should last for approximately 1,000 hours. If they do not, there could be an electrical problem.
  • Your car could have previously been in an accident that impacted the headlight system. It’s common for malfunctions to occur after accidents.
  • It could mean your headlight system is not activating or working at all. For example, the feature that automatically turns your lights on in the dark could be damaged and cause you to drive without headlights in the dark.
  • There is an electric issue that is causing your headlights to be dim. A connection could be loose, or there could be another problem.
  • Your turn signals could be malfunctioning.
  • It could be mud or debris getting behind the headlamp cover.

If you came here to find a diagnosis, I’m afraid I can’t tell you precisely what is going on with your vehicle.

As you can see, it can be caused by several different issues, and it’s best to have it looked over by a mechanic you trust.

Is It Dangerous to Drive?

As you wait for your appointment, you need to answer the question: “am I safe to drive my car?” I’m not going to say yes because it could be dangerous to drive with a headlight system malfunction.

Let’s imagine your light has been on, but you are driving in the dark despite the danger. Your lights have been working just fine, and you think it’s no big deal.

driving at night

You’re on a long dark road, and suddenly, your headlamps turn off, and it’s pitch black.

That could potentially happen, especially if the warning is being ignored.

I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty scared to drive on those dark country roads with no headlights. You should not attempt to drive in the dark with burnt-out headlamps. Not to mention, it’s illegal to do.

Another malfunction could be your high beams coming on and staying lit without you asking them to. It doesn’t sound all that dangerous for you, but it could be for oncoming traffic.

Some people’s eyes are very sensitive to bright light, and it could be blinding to them. Not to mention it could cause road rage. It could also be illegal, depending on what state you live in.

Not that I want to scare you, but to some, it might seem like a small nuisance and not worth seeing a mechanic. The fact is, in some circumstances, it could be a life-threatening mistake to drive after that warning light has come on.

How to Fix

Now that you understand some potential dangers, how can you fix the problem?

My number one tip to fix a headlight system malfunction is to go and visit your local dealer. Yes, they can be a bit more expensive, but the technicians there are expertly trained on your specific vehicle’s malfunctions. Oftentimes, they are able to diagnose the problem sooner than other shops.

However, a local trusted mechanic is also a great option and better than not taking action at all. They could also be significantly less expensive.

Still wanting to take action before visiting a dealer? I understand. I have two helpful things for you to try, or at least check on to eliminate concern.

Two things to try before your service appointment:

  1. Check your headlight to see if it’s burnt out. If so, you can get replacement bulbs and do it yourself. It is recommended to replace both headlights at the same time. Most of the time, they are sold as a set, and it’s a good idea to give them matching lifespans.
  2. If your headlight looks discolored and dirty, you can remove the headlight cover and clean the bulbs and sensors. If you live in a humid area, your lamps may get water droplets under there often, so be sure to keep an eye on that.


I know I keep repeating myself, but please don’t ignore the warning messages that come on your Toyota. I know it’s a pain to go to the dealership and have to go through that whole process and expense. But your safety and the safety of other drivers is worth it every time.

I hope this information was helpful, and that you now have a full understanding of what that tricky warning light could mean. If you still have questions, of course, feel free to reach out to me here.

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One Comment

  1. Sten Friberg says:

    I have a 2015 Toyota Auris. After I had my windshield repaired 6 months ago, I keep getting the following warnings. “Check Pre-Crash Safety.” “Check RSA system.” “Headlight system malfunction. Visit your dealer.”
    The three warnings always come on together, about 1-3 minutes after I start driving, only and always after sundown, when the sky is dark. Not when the sun is out. But always when it’s dark.
    I took my car back to the workshop that had replaced the windshield, but they couldn’t fix the problem. They weren’t able to reproduce the problem, since they were open during daylight hours. The electronic log only indicated that there had been a lack of charge for the camera, or something like that.
    After they tried to fix the problem three times, I took the car to my Toyota dealer. They were also unable to recreate the problem after several visits. By now it was winter, and in the morning when they opened up their workshop, the sky was still dark, so I was able to reproduce the problem, and take the car to the Toyota workshop with the engine still running.
    This time they said the camera was badly fitted and I should have the windshield replaced. I had the windshield replaced with a new one, and the problem is still there. After seven months and 8 visits to the windshield workshop and my Toyota dealer.
    Any idea what might be wrong?
    I then