The "Works Every Time" method for car Automotive Driving Light wiring.


I frequently see wiring diagrams for Driving Lights that just don’t work in many cars.

Toyota nearly always and Nissan often use a what is known as “switched earth” wiring for their headlights. They do this so that each headlight can have it’s own 12v supply and fuse, meaning in the event of a problem, you only lose one light.

In a switched earth headlight, assuming you are using a H4 bulb with 3 pins (very common) the power is switched twice. +12V is fed through a relay or switch to the common pin, and then either one of the other pins (one for High, one for Low) is alternately connected to ground through another relay or switch. If you go looking for +12V to power your driving lights or their relay in this system, you wont find it easily.

A far easier method is to always wire the trigger for your relay ACROSS the high beam bulb circuit, instead of from +12v to ground. This means that regardless of the vehicle wiring, positive or negative switched, the driving light wiring is the same.

There are several other benefits to wiring in this manner.

a) It works with either positive of negative switched headlights

b) It avoids problems with the relay not dropping out. The high beam indicator inside the car can trickle enough power through to not let the driving lights drop out. It takes about 8-9V to trigger a 12V relay, but only about 4V to hold it in.

c) It avoids problems with the relay not dropping out due to a poor contact on the headlight connection. This common fault can setup a circuit through the other filaments and cause enough voltage to be present on the high beam filament to hold the relay open. This voltage is far less across the filament than in relation to ground.



So how do you wire it?

It’s easy really. I have gone with text, as many people have trouble with electrical diagrams.

Power CCT (Heavy wire)
Battery – Fuse – Relay (Pin 87) – Relay (Pin 30) – Driving Lights – Chassis (Ground)

Switch CCT (Light wire)
Headlight Common Pin – Switch – Relay (Pin 85) – Relay (Pin 86) – Headlight High Beam Pin

Simply tap into the headlight wires / pins with vampire taps.

Presto – I guarantee it will work.

If you don’t have H4 bulbs, even easier, simply go straight across your high beam bulb wires for the trigger.

10 Responses to “The "Works Every Time" method for car Automotive Driving Light wiring.”

  1. Hi is this the same for HID spotlights cheers

  2. Daniel says:

    Works Like A Charm Thankyou

  3. arthur says:

    used your wiring diagram to wire my 100 series landcruiser driving lights perfect result .thanks .arthur

  4. Greg Timmins says:

    Thank you so much. I don’t know where you are…..but here in Australia General Motors make a Holden Commodore.

    I have a 2007 model and I have tried four different wiring set-ups to try and get driving lights to work.

    This is the most straight-forward method and the only method that worked.

    Thank you so very much.


    P.S. I would believe that the question for the HID lights would be answered as YES. The cicuit would be the same….just with the HID components in their required order and place.

  5. Ward says:

    Will this work on H7 head lights and then to H1 high Beam ?

  6. joshua chu says:

    The Headlight Common Pin (+12V) that according to the text, connects to Relay Pin 85. Won’t it fry a relay with a diode (but ok without diode)? Should it be connected to Relay Pin 86 to be consistent with the “common rule”?

  7. Lance says:

    Hi Paul
    Six years after your initial posting and this info is still helping. Driving lights working as they should on 2009 Hilux – great!. Be wary, however, of some OEM driving light switches which run the led’s in the switch: one for night illumination and another for driving lights ‘ON’. With this simple wiring you may have to disable the driving lights ‘ON’ led within the switch to stop the night light led displaying even with ignition off due to the 12v that is always present at the headlight globe. I just opened up the switch and cut out the appropriate resistor off the little cct board.
    thanks again

  8. jas says:

    power to pin 87 ground to pin 30 headlight common pin 85 high beam wire from H4 connector to pin 86 turn high beam on blows fuse

  9. Jay says:

    Just wanted to drop in and say a massive thank you for this information. I spent several hours yesterday going through the wiring diagram and putting a meter on the connections and being completely dumbfounded by not finding a feed from the lights to trigger my lightbar relay.

    A google search brought me here and your method worked a charm so thank you again for putting this out there and helping me get my lights running.

    All the best,


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