Twilight Sentinel Headlight Problems


The Twilight Sentinel feature is a practical and convenient device. When it works the way it is designed to, a car's headlights will stay on briefly after the ignition is off. This useful feature provides light for drivers when leaving the vehicle. It was meant to add an element of safety, especially in dark parking garages. Unfortunately, the Twilight Sentinel feature has experienced problems that can make it a safety hazard, instead of a safety feature.


  • General Motors (GM) first made the Twilight Sentinel headlight feature available in 1964 on several Cadillac models. GM later included the feature on selected Buicks, Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs. The company emphasized a popular aspect of the Twilight Sentinel feature. Automatically turning on the car's headlamps in various low light conditions was a big selling point. The feature also enables the lights to shut off after sunrise.


  • The Twilight Sentinel feature was not designed to override the driver's choice of turning on the headlights manually. Older versions of the General Motors' feature weren't even made to activate exterior lights in heavy rain or foggy conditions. The feature still proved to be beneficial when it worked correctly. But consumers regularly complained of a problem with headlights.


  • The manufacturer's report provided on September 26, 1994, resulted in a recall. Twilight Sentinel headlights on the 1995 Oldsmobile 98 and the 1995 Pontiac Bonneville were found to be defective. According to the Office Of Defects Investigation Campaign ID Number 94V190000 summary: "These vehicles were assembled with lighting control modules which can experience excessive current leakage...This can cause loss of head lamps and parking lamps." Drivers reported additional headlight problems that prevented them from turning off their headlamps.


  • The malfunctioning Twilight Sentinel feature can cause reduced driver visibility from a sudden loss of illumination. Lights that remain on indefinitely when the car is parked will result in a low battery and possibly the inability to restart the vehicle.


  • The NHTSA issues Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations. Its mission is to "Save lives, prevent injuries, reduce vehicle-related crashes." Manufacturers are required to conform to standards outlined by the NHTSA. Dealers have been instructed to replace Twilight Sentinel headlamp modules free of charge. Consumers who present their vehicles on an agreed upon service date, but do not receive a remedy in a reasonable time can contact the dealers or get information by calling the auto safety hotline NHTSA has set up.

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  • Photo Credit Image by, courtesy of sookie
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