A Guide to Installing Automatic Headlights in Older Cars

Did you know that most new cars come with automatic headlights? If your car is not equipped with this feature, it can be difficult to drive at night. Automatic headlights are designed in a way that they turn on when it’s dark outside and automatically switch off when the sun comes up. Let’s figure out how to add these lights onto an older vehicle, so you can finally get some relief from driving in the dark!

Installing Automatic Headlights in an Old Car

Older cars may not have automatic headlights, but that doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade them. Installing automatic headlight bulbs into an older car is quick and easy to do with the right tools. These lights work when a photoelectric sensor is around the windshield area. The sensor alerts a control unit about the lighting situation outside. Depending on that message, the control unit turns on and off the headlights.

There are plenty of aftermarket automatic headlight kits that make it easier to install this setup into an old car. A good kit will be around $50 and you can set it up at home to keep the cost down. Let’s walk you through how it’s done in just a few steps!

automatic headlights in older car
Many aftermarket lighting kits are available. (Credit: Dreamstime/TNS)

Set the photoelectric sensor up

You have to find a suitable spot that gets the most amount of sunlight. It could be the windshield’s base or near the rearview mirror. The sensor works when it’s exposed to sunlight. Once you have the right location, attach the sensor using some double-sided tape or even a bit of adhesive glue if needed. If it comes with a mounting stand, then you can just use that.

Mount the control unit

You have to find a suitable spot and it could be the center console or underneath the dashboard. The backside of the glove compartment is also a good place for mounting this control unit.

For installation, use the mounting hardware that comes with the kit. You can also use glue or double-sided tape.

Do the wiring

You will need to wire both the sensor and control unit. Wire them with power and ground cables and crimp tightly. The connections have to be tidy and safe as much as possible. Then, do the wiring between the control unit and the factory light switch.

If you are doing this without any expert’s help, don’t forget to take help from the car’s wiring diagram. Otherwise, there could be a mistake in joining the wires.


Test the lights

The last step is to test the automatic headlights. With the lights turned on, place your hand over the photoelectric sensor and make sure it turns off when you block out sunlight. If everything works as it should, then congratulations are in order!


If you are worried about whether it is possible to add automatic headlights onto your old car, don’t be. It’s a quick process that can be done in under an hour if you have all the right equipment and tools close by. Have fun with your newfound lighting system!