Tail lights won't shut off.

80

Asked by Feb 11, 2014 at 11:31 PM about the 2003 Subaru Forester

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

The running-tail lights will not shut off. The brake lights are fine. They shut off. It's the
automatic tail lights that will not shut off. I have read the manual, worked every switch and
dial and nothing turns them off (emergency brake, engine key) all of it. So...any thoughts?
(I undid the negative cable on the battery so I could go to sleep for the nite - what I am
about to do right now. I'll check for replies in morning. Thanks for your help.

57 Answers

6,915

Are you familiar with the switch on top of the steering column, between the steering wheel and the gauges? It is a forward / backward button and turns on "parking lights" mostly for legality over in the UK. Check that and make sure they're off, it's easy to hit and one that isn't common here in the states, I don't think anyway. Keep in touch :)

178 of 178 people found this helpful.
6,915

any updates?

19 of 19 people found this helpful.
100

Thanks for posting this was just about to disconnect the battery. Now I remember bumping it while vacuuming.

10 of 10 people found this helpful.
6,915

Certainly! I wish all questions could be answered so simply.

8 of 8 people found this helpful.
40

Thank you I had the same problem, I was about to disconnect the battery until i ran across your post! Thank you very mmuch, i was so irritated now all is good again.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.
80

Thanks internet and Waith. Washed my STI, wiped down the interior with armour all. Then as I am packing up notice the tail lights and front running lights are still on. They always go off when the engine is off. Damn did I get wiring wet....oh no. Pulled the fuse, so the car will still start, have been doing that everytime I drive, fuse in and out. But what a poor design. I was set to go to the dealership to fix this.

8 of 8 people found this helpful.
70

I just had my 2005 Subaru Outback detailed and had the same problem with tail and front running lights still on after I have left the car. The answer was in the switch on top of the steering wheel. Thank you, thank you, thank you to "With" for posting! Saved my bacon on this one. Now I can rest knowing my car will start in the morning! Thanks so much again!

6 of 6 people found this helpful.
70

That was supposed to say thank you to Waith for posting. Sorry, auto correct changed it. Thanks again!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
60

Ha Ha, this issue had me going too. I'm a 3 time Subaru owner and couldn't figure it out. Saved me money! Stupid switch! Like others probably just bumped it cleaning my steering wheel. THANKS!

6 of 6 people found this helpful.
35

Just want to keep this thread relevant. Top post fixes problem. Was treating my interior and afterward noticed my driving lights would not shut off.

3 of 3 people found this helpful.
6,915

Glad it helped MaynardW!

50

Lifesaver... After we had two neighbours and a random stranger knock on the door to tell us that we had left the lights on, this post helped us work out why, thank you very much....

5 of 5 people found this helpful.
40

THANK Waith we're saved! I had the same problem with my SUBARU FORESTER 1998. I used my windows phone for navigation and i put it in front of the gauges board. I must have bumped the switch (i never knew what it's for) accidentaly while taking my phone back to my pocket.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.
80

All of these answers are so specific to this question. I am amazed by the response and hope Subaru designers are watching this. Eegads, what a simple thing to fix. Thanks everyone. I'm posting another question about Subaru Foresters today, an idle issue. Thanks again.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.
6,915

Hi Sunny, This is actually a useful tool and is required in the UK as a safety feature, if I'm not mistaken. It's just something most mfr's don't utilize on vehicles here in the states, so people are unaware of it. I like the button because I can check my trailer lights or whatnot without the car running (since the lights are off with the key off). Anyways, take care and I'll look for your question later tonight. Gotta get to work. Additionally, to everyone reading this thread, I mark just about every response as helpful because it's great that this is helping so many people and it's great that everyone has come here! Best regards,

9 of 9 people found this helpful.
80

Thanks. Walth...I wouldn't have thought of that. Good application, but could be just a effective somewhere else, I guess. My other question is posted. It's about idle issues. Thanks again.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
10

Same prob 03 Forrestor but they remain on

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
6,915

Ah, okay. Just sent you a PM MrMatts78.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

I just want to say Thank you for you answers, you guys just saved me $90 for some electrical diagnosis which mean a push of a switch.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
30

OMG, I just bought a Subi. Battery was dead in the morning with lights barely on. I removed the fuse to have them off. Then read this and hit myself in the head lol. I thought that switch was for the hazard lights...stooopid, HA ! Hey, where are the hazard light ???

3 of 3 people found this helpful.
6,915

Your hazards button is most likely in the controls area (center of the dash) with the radio / temp switches or up between the top vents in said section. Just depends on the Subie.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
60

For the last 2 months my husband has been disconnecting/reconnecting the battery of our '06 forrester. He was saying someone told him it was a universal switch. Finally, today, after scouring the inter webs trying to get a ballpark figure for what that will cost to replace and coming up empty, I googled the problem and this answer popped up. I immediately ran downstairs, told him about it, and we marched outside. I could see the disbelief in his eyes, and sweet victory was mine when those gosh darn lights turned off when he hit that button. He also thought that was the hazard lights button, so didn't think twice about it causing the problem. Thank you! Who knows how much we would have spent at the shop having it diagnosed and "fixed" and who knows what!

6 of 6 people found this helpful.
6,915

WOW!! Well, don't feel too bad, we all start somewhere / make mistakes / live and learn. Glad to hear you found the source. It's better than the one tail light situation I tried helping with that turned out to be the radio harness ground connector. He figured that out through a friend.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
80

I am so glad to keep reading replies where this question I posted so very long ago has helped. Don't all of you think that Subaru could weigh in on the subject, that maybe they should-rewrite the owner's manual to accommodate the possibility that this problem will arise? I hope so. I am still at issue with the Idle Control Valve, mostly because it is so expensive, according to local mechanics, to get to it. I'm about to leave the Subaru fan club.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
6,915

I would just buy one from Ebay for 9.99 (from china) or 14.71+ in the US. Same part number as the $222.00 units on RockAuto (and probably 300- 350+ from the dealer). Ebay search for:: 22650-aa192

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
6,915

So are you having trouble with it starting / running? When you come to a stop does it idle REV idle REV idle REV?

30

Hey all. Just got a 2008 Subaru Legacy. I thought my issue was the same as everyone else's, just flicking the switch back to normal. It turns out I have a more farfetched issue. My issue is with the inner headlights. So I'm parked outside of the bank late at night and noticed when I had my lights switched to "off", there were these very dim inner headlights that would remain on - all other parking lights were off except these 2. Then when I set the car's back to normal, those 2 inner lights turned off and the normal, outer more headlights turn back on... In other words, my headlights will never shut completely off. I think the car may think they're off when they're on, and on when they're off, or something of the sort. When reading multiple sources on the web on the issue, only issues related to this parking light switch would appear. So, I decided to post to one of the forums about my issue to see if anyone may know what I'm dealing with here. It may seem like a stretch but hopefully someone with more car expertise will lead me in the right direction. Thank you.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
6,915

Have you read the thread with the radio ground? Have no idea if it is related. Electrical gremlins are just that!! Read:: http://www.cargurus.com/Cars/Discussion-t26437_ds585679

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
30

Hello walth - Thank you for the timely response. I am by no means a car expert, so I don't really know what you mean by a "radio ground". I took a look at the thread and saw something about a radio ground; but it did little, as i did not know what to look for really. Is there some menu on my car's radio that gives me control what lights are on or off? Sorry i am untrained in the world of cars my friend. I may just have to take it in to the shop. Thank you for your help.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
6,915

I would recommend asking around, people familiar with imports and/or a good reputation, honesty, etc. Don't just assume that a dealer will be the best place, or vice versa. I kind of agree on the shop as I would not want this issue to be my first lesson with fixing cars.. And if you'd like, start a new question, combine your posts and then keep updating it with what is happening, etc.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

Mahalo plenty for first answer to this query! Just had daughter's 2004 Forester detailed - pulled car into garage - bleeding tail lights were on, WTF??!! Read this answer, flipped switch, all good! I'd have had a dead battery and a ton of angst if I hadn't seen/googled issue. Next beer on me :)

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
30

Hazard switch is in off position and lights are still on. Any Ideas? 03 Subaru Legacy

3 of 3 people found this helpful.
10

For months I have been pulling out the stupid fuse everyday!!! I was finally bringing the car in Friday to get fixed and wanted to check on cost.. and found this. I so wish I would have looked it up a long time ago. I feel like such an idiot.. Thank you!!!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
10

Thank you for your spot on response! I was getting pretty steamed at the car repair shop. I picked up my 2004 Forster and then this "problem" develops. Of course, I had taken the car to get it cleaned after its new R&P, and valve cover gasket. No doubt the detail guy hit the switch in his cleaning zeal! Saved me a great deal of heartache. You are my hero today!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

THANK YOU!!! I had sat my phone up there to use my GPS and must have clicked the switch. Problem solved! THANKS SO MUCH!

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
6,915

Rock On Mazie and Jodi!! No problem! I'm glad the OP asked!!

10

Thank you Walth you saved me from having to disconnect the battery !!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
10

I have a slightly different problem where the dashboard lights stay on after shutting off the engine and turning off lights. Any ideas?

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
6,915

Craigy, is that turning off the engine from "on" to "acc" or is that from "on" to "off and pulling the key out"? I don't like electrical gremlins.. it could be a ground issue or melted/nicked wire or something. This might be something for your models forum (impreza/OB/forester/etc) where there are tons of gurus. The subie forum here is really quiet and unless one or two others chime in, idk that I'll be much help. I would like to know what it turns out to be though.

10

Thank You, My son and I went on a vacation and then suddenly started having the "lights on" problem. I was looking for relays under the hood and we were camping and did not have internet access in the boundary waters near Minnesota/Canada border so for the next two days I unhooked the battery every time we stopped for a long time. That resulted in ruining the cable clamp. Now I see this thread and sure enough I had asked him to wipe the dust down on the cars dash board and never thought there would be a lights switch that does such a damn thing as that. Thanks.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
6,915

Glad it helped Kerry. If you ever have another issue with sometime staying on and draining the battery, you might try pulling a fuse instead of disconnecting the battery each time. Fuses are probably in two spots, under the dash behind the coin tray and then under the hood.. just depends on the car. Best regards

10

I had this problem a couple years ago and forgot the fix, but remembered finding the solution online. Thanks! Flipped the switch accidentally while cleaning my interior. Which apparently I don't do often enough to remember that switch

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
10

Omg....just went insane removing fuses and bulbs and tail lights. My mind was fried. Had an appointment this morning for a diagnostic check. Figured I'd check the internet and found this post. THANK YOU!!! Now I feel like an idiot....a relieved idiot....but PHEEEEWWWWWW!!!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
10

thank you most sincerely

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

I have same problem with my lites staying on so I though I have a short and took car to a Saab dealer fortunately the technician was out of state for a conference so I went and got my car back and start checking again on Internet til I finally read from the right person.Thankz. PS dealer fee for just diagnostic was $ 120.00 saved.

3 of 3 people found this helpful.
20

Hi im have the same issue with my rear taillights staying on they wont go off i played with the switch on top of the steering wheel but it doesnt matter what position it is in taillights still stay on

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
6,915

Noya, I posted a link about a year ago regarding the radio ground. Scroll up to find it but I have never looked into what the real issue is. For now I would pull your coin tray and remove the fuse every night until you figure it out.

10

what if you have the column switch in either position and the lights remain on?

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
6,915

Could be something in the radio ground, read above - I think it's mentioned twice and one of those has a link to the radio ground taillights on issue. No promises though

10

I had this same issue last night so I pulled the fuse so it didn't kill my battery figuring I'll look it up today. So glad I hit on this first thing. I'll go fix that switch as I bet that's what happened. Thank You so much- I thought it was really odd. You've helped a great deal.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
10

Thanks Waith... same problem with running lights and license plate lights staying on . I had been to the car wash -- and the person cleaning my car must have bumped the switch on the steering column. Sad thing is that when I called and talked to the service manager at Subaru, he could not give me any advice except to have it diagnosed (of course for a fee). A big thank youi

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
10

Thanks man - Cleaned the dash etc - something I never do -!!!! next day dead battery. I had already pulled the battery terminal in preparation for service tomorrow. Very humbling experience. Bob in Canada

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

Thanks Walth, you saved my vacation....... was doing all the right things before heading out ... car serviced,check, clean the car,check.... didn't know there was such a switch on top of the steering column, after sometime of the lights being on I was headed out to pull the battery and kiss the vaca goodbye, I read your post and issue resolved. I will raise a cold one in your name while camping at the beach, Peace and thanks a million.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
10

Thank you so much for this advice. Gave my car a deep cleaning today and the running light and rear lights would not go off. Just went out and found the switch as you described and turned the lights off !!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
10

As a 69-year-old "former" mechanic my wife had to tie me to my rocking chair and lock my tool box to keep me from pulling relays, ripping out wires, and lighting up my old mutli- tester to figure out what the hell was wrong with the tail lights. Probably mice in the glovebox.... What a relief to find so many folks had had the same problem as I, the expert. Many thanks and now I can concentrate on the two burned out front running/parking lights. I can still change a bulb. I think.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

Thank you so much!! Three years later I have this happen & that was the solution!! Thank u Wrath!!

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
10

Walth...you are a genius! 2017 and you're still a life saver. I was stumped because it made no sense that the battery was dead yet the taillights were lit. My son has the same make and model and I'm telling him right now just in case it happens to him. Such a simple fix!!! Thank you!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

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