Using Automatic Headlights on Your Toyota RAV4

Over the past few years, automatic headlights have become a staple with many vehicles, including the Toyota RAV4. This advanced feature ensures you always have the visibility needed in low-light situations. If you don’t know how to use automatic headlights on your Toyota RAV4, my guide can help.

I show you which RAV4s include automatic headlights and outline how to use this feature. I go on to explain the vital differences between automatic headlights vs. auto high beams.

toyota rav4 prime driving under lights

Model Availability

Automatic headlights are considered a premium feature in most vehicles. For that reason, you won’t find it included with every RAV4 SUV.

Still, the majority of Toyota RAV4 models include automatic headlights. It’s only on the lower trims, such as the LE, where you may not find these headlights as standard equipment.

If your RAV4 contains automatic headlights, there’s an AUTO option on the turn signal control. Instead of just offering an ON, OFF, and High-Beam setting, this AUTO option will be thrown into the mix.

How to Use

When the automatic headlights are activated, the beams turn on based on the light situation where you are driving. You don’t have to adjust the settings to turn the headlights on or off. You only need to activate them the first time.

To turn on the automatic headlights feature, do the following:

  1. Find the turn signal stalk dial.
  2. Rotate it until the stalk reaches the AUTO setting.

If you want to turn the automatic headlights off later or control the lights on your own, you can choose another setting at any time.

How It Works

Automatic headlights rely on a photoelectric sensor to detect the current light level. With the Toyota RAV4, this sensor is located near the windshield, towards the center of the dashboard.

circled ambient light sensor toyota rav4

This sensor uses the ambient light level to determine when to illuminate the headlights. For this reason, it may seem that the lights come on more than what the human eye thinks is necessary. On the other hand, they may not activate every time they should, requiring drivers to manually turn on the lights.

It’s not a flawless technology, but it usually performs very well. As with any automated technology, the systems get better with newer model years. As technology advances, even simple innovations such as automatic headlights become more responsive.


Auto Headlights vs. Auto High Beams

Very often, the terms automatic headlights and automatic high beams are used interchangeably. However, the two features are very different.

With the Toyota RAV4, it’s possible to have automatic high beams but not automatic headlights. The LE trim offers the perfect example of this exclusion.

I’ve already discussed the basics of the automatic headlight setup. With this feature, the headlights automatically turn on or off based on the ambient light situation. These are the low beam headlights.

According to most state laws, the low beam headlights should be on in these conditions:

  • Between sunset and sunrise
  • In inclement weather, such as rain, snow, sleet or hail
  • Any time the windshield wipers are running
  • When visibility is lower than 500 feet ahead of the vehicle, such as in smoky or foggy conditions

It’s important to research your local laws to determine when to turn low beam headlights on. The automatic headlights will turn on in most of these situations without input from the driver.

The automatic high beams turn on the brighter bulbs for situations when visibility is even worse. The sensors indicate when the coast is clear for high beam headlights. At the first signs of another vehicle, the high beams turn off automatically.

These sensors adjust for oncoming headlights and taillights. Because of the automatic adjustments, other drivers are less likely to be blinded. Additionally, if the RAV4 slows down below 17 mph, the automatic high beams will turn off.



With so many things to think about while driving, it’s nice to take one unnecessary task away from the driver. Many RAV4 models come with automatic headlights, so you don’t need to think about when the lights should be on or off.

This feature offers just one more way the RAV4 is partnered with you for a safer drive. Pair it with other safety features for a comprehensive package that makes you feel more secure.

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