Motorcycle Headlight Switch: The Beginner Guide

Headlight switch on a motorcycle

The headlight switch is used to turn ON the headlight – be it the low beam, the high beam, or the pass light on a motorcycle.

With modern motorcycles doing away with the headlight OFF option, there are far too many headlight switch variants now.

So, in this guide on motorcycle headlight switches, let’s deep dive into:

  • What the headlight switch does and where it is located
  • Purpose of high beam, low beam, and pass lights
  • Headlight switch types
  • When to use what light

Without further ado, lets dive right in.

What does a headlight switch do?

The headlight switch on a motorcycle – turns ON and OFF the headlight. Duh!

If the low beam is mandatory, then the headlight switch turns ON and OFF the high beam light.

Headlight switch on a motorcycle

Again, there are lots of variations within the motorcycle headlight switches.

First variant. The headlight can be switched OFF. And then you can also switch between the high beam or low beam. This configuration will have three buttons. Headlight OFF, low beam ON, high beam ON.

Second variant. The headlight will always be ON and cannot be switched OFF. You can only switch between a low beam and a high beam. This configuration will have two buttons: low beam ON, or high beam ON.

A similar variant is only one button. You press it, high beam is ON. You press again the button, the low beam is ON.

Third variant. The low beam will always be ON and cannot be switched OFF. You can only turn the high beam ON and OFF. This configuration will have a single button to switch ON and OFF the high beam.

No matter the variant, the features are the same.

Broadly, the headlight button will have these features:

  • Headlight ON/OFF
  • Low beam – high beam
  • Pass light

Now that the headlight ON is mandatory in most regions, most modern motorcycles have done away with the headlight ON/OFF feature.

You will only find high beam, low beam, and pass light features in modern motorcycle headlight switches now.

Where is the headlight switch located?

The headlight button is located on the left side of the motorcycle handlebar. Usually, right above the turn indicator switch.

Headlight switch on a motorcycle

The headlight button comes in various forms and shapes. It can be a push button, toggle button, or a rocker switch.

The motorcycle rider can easily reach the headlight button through his left thumb with the left hand clutching the left handlebar.

High beam – Low beam switch

A motorcycle headlight has two beams – low and high. And hence, the switch has two buttons – one for the low beam and one for the high beam.

Motorcycle high low beam switch - with labels

The low beam is designed as a spread beam where the light falls close to the motorcycle and is wide in the pattern.

The high beam is designed as the long-distance beam which is narrow in the pattern but lights up the distance far away.

Motorcycle high beam vs low beam - illustration

Your motorcycle by default should be in low beam. It helps when you are navigating the traffic.

When you are traveling at night on a long highway road, high beams come in handy. They illuminate the long road ahead of you.

One key thing to note about the high beam. They are dazzling and obstructive to the traffic coming towards you. So use them sparingly.

Pass light switch

The pass light is nothing but the high beam light switched ON momentarily.

The pass light switch is used to flicker the high beam to notify the bike’s presence to other vehicles.

Pass light switch on motorcycle

The main uses of pass light include:

  • To notify the vehicles coming toward you
  • To notify the vehicles you are overtaking

That’s not all.

You can also use the pass light switch as an alternative to the high beam switch sometimes. If you want to see the road bit more clearly but only for a moment, the pass light comes in handy.

As for where the pass light switch is, it is either added to the headlight switch, high-low beam switch, or even a separate switch too. Here is what a separate pass light switch looks like.

Pass light switch on motorcycle

Types of motorcycle headlight switches

Motorcycle headlight buttons come in different forms on different motorcycles. Here are the four common types:

1. Push button

Push headlight switch on motorcycle

Push button headlight switches, although not the most popular, are still found in many modern motorcycles.

The push button is used to switch between the low beam and the high beam.

For high beam light, you need to push the button. For the low beam, the button has to be in pushed out position, which you can achieve by pushing the switch again (lots of pushing there ;)).

Since the push button only allows to toggle between high beam and low beam, there usually is another switch for the pass light.

If it is an older motorcycle, the push button comes with another slider switch for the headlight ON, OFF, and pass light.

2. Rocker switch

Rocker headlight switch on motorcycle

Rocker switches are another type. Most commonly found on modern motorcycles.

The headlight ON/OFF switch will not be there here. By default, the low beam headlight is ON whenever you start the motorcycle.

The rocker lever can be used to switch between the low beam and the high beam. And also press down for the pass light.

Rocker switches are the most common type nowadays and are extensively found in most modern motorcycles.

2. Slider switch

Slider headlight switch on motorcycle

Slider switches are another common type on modern motorcycles.

In the above image, the motorcycle has a horizontal slider. You can easily find vertical sliders in many motorcycle models.

You can switch between the low beam, the high beam, and the pass light.

Again, in this type of switch, there is no headlight OFF button. The motorcycle headlight will always be ON.

4. Slider and Rocker switch

Slider and rocker headlight switch on motorcycle

The slider and rocker switch combination is usually found in old motorcycles. Where you can switch OFF the headlight.

Typically, the slider switch is used to switch OFF the headlight, switch ON the headlight, or use the pass light.

And when the headlight is turned ON, then you can use the rocker switch to choose between the low beam and the high beam.

This type of headlight switch is not usually found in modern motorcycles nowadays. Since modern motorcycle switches do not have the headlight OFF button, there is less need for two separate switches.

But, this type of switch was common on older motorcycle models.

When to use what light?

Headlight switch on a motorcycle

It can get confusing with all these lights and their configurations. Here is a quick guide on when to use what light.

1. When to use the low beam?

First, the low beam on your motorcycle should be ON by default. It is the baseline situation at any time.

Second, the low beam is useful when you are traveling in traffic. Stick to low beam in traffic. And do not switch to the high beam here.

Lastly, stick to the low beam during the daytime completely. Don’t go for the high beam during daylight. And use the pass light when required. Else the low beam it is.

2. When to use the high beam?

First, use the high beam sparingly and only when necessary. If you want to see the road ahead, then switch it ON, else nope.

Second, use the high beam if you are traveling at night on a long highway road. This is where the high beam comes in handy. Helps you illuminate the road for easy navigation.

Lastly, use it cautiously on foggy roads. Cautious is the keyword here. The low beam can become useless while riding on foggy roads and you might have to stick to the high beam. Just keep in mind that high beams are dazzling and obstructive to the traffic coming towards you.

3. When to use the pass light?

Pass lights are simple.

First, use the pass light to notify the vehicles coming toward you. The pass light helps in making your presence known.

Second, use the pass light to notify the vehicles you are overtaking. This is not mandatory. Use it when necessary to avoid any overtaking mishaps.

Is a motorcycle headlight always ON?

Motorcycle headlight ON

Many regulations across regions and countries mandate that the motorcycle headlight should always be ON. Preferably the low beam.

As a result, many modern motorcycles have removed the headlight button altogether. You can only find a switch button to opt between high or low beams now. Or the low beam is a constant and you can switch ON or OFF the high beam.

Before you go…

The headlight switch is one side of the coin. The other side is the headlight itself on your motorcycle.

Read our detailed guide on different headlight types here:

Halogen vs HID vs LED Motorcycle Headlights: Which Is Better