CC Outtake/QOTD: The Lights Are (Barely) On But Nobody’s Home/Why Did Manufacturers Allow One To Leave The Lights On Without The Key?


There’s just the faintest bit of light coming from the headlights of this VW Squareback that moved into my neighborhood a couple of blocks away recently. It’s going to need a jump to get it started.

So the question that’s been burning in me for almost fifty years, since the first time I had to give a car a jump start for this reason, is why the hell were cars designed so that one could leave the headlights on without the key turned to ON or ACC?

There’s absolutely no reason why anyone would want to leave them on and walk away, right? So why wasn’t the headlight circuit tied into the ignition switch? It would be easy enough to have a non-keyed parking lamp circuit, since in Europe, that used to be required. But nobody used parking lamps in the US anyway. I shudder to thank of the total value of manhours lost over the decades because of dead batteries from lights left on.

Did the battery industry pay off the car industry? Every time a lead acid battery goes dead, it loses like 15-25% of its life span, or so I remember reading once. I can’t think of any other reason. Can you?