Interior Car Lights Won’t Turn Off – Causes and Fixes

A guide to understanding why your car's interior lights won't turn off, with tips on how to fix the problem without visiting a mechanic.

Interior Car Lights Won’t Turn Off

You get into the car for that next drive and you are ready to get on the road. So, what do you do when the interior car lights won’t turn off and you can’t get moving yet? In some cases, the fix is easy, while other times, you might need to take a few extra minutes to resolve the problem. Either way, leaving the light on can get distracting and causes danger when trying to see what’s ahead of you at night. 

Most often, the interior car lights are on because there is a door that’s cracked open. There could also be an electrical malfunction with a switch. However, you don’t want to overlook the possibility that the switch is in the wrong spot because of a user error. 

In this guide, we look at the most probable causes of an interior light fault. We also show you the best fixes, helping you get back on the road quickly.

Causes of Malfunctioning Interior Car Light

1. Door Not Closed

Car Door Not Closed Properly

The interior lights of the car are all connected to the doors. In some models, the lights are also connected to the trunk. When the doors or trunk are opened, the lights will turn on. When everything is closed, the lights should be off.

For this reason, the most common reason that the lights are on has to do with an open door or trunk. Thankfully, it isn’t difficult to figure out what door is open, especially on newer cars that will tell you which one to close. 

If you are unlucky, it can also be a faulty door switch causing the car to think a car door is open, even if it’s closed.

2. Faulty Switch

Dome Light Switch

The dome light in your car has a manual switch on it. When it is set to automatic, it will turn off when the doors are shut and stay on when they are open. 

However, there’s also a manual setting. If you turn the dome light to the off setting, it won’t turn on no matter what the doors are doing. On the other hand, the dome light can be set to the on setting, leaving the lights illuminated in any situation. 

There’s also the chance that an internal switch in the light is damaged. With wiring running to the switch, there’s always the possibility of a fault. 

3. Wrong Setting on Switch

There’s also a way to control the lights from the headlight switch in some car models. Typically, there’s a setting on the left side of the wheel that allows you to manually turn on the interior lights. If the setting has been bumped, it’s possible that the interior lights have been turned on when you don’t want them to be. 

Again, this is a simple fix. It’s just a matter of changing the setting back to where it should be. 

Fix Inside Car Light That Won’t Turn Off

1. Adjust Dome Light Switch

Your first step is to look at the dome light switch. Every model contains some sort of dome light switch. If the switch is located on the light itself, you want to make sure it is in the right position.

Start by turning the light off to see if that works. Then, set it back to automatic to narrow down what might be causing the issue. If it is left at the on setting, it will not shut off no matter what you do.

2. Check Headlight Switch

If you can operate the dome light from the headlight switch, you need to check these settings as well. Follow the same steps as if the switch was located directly on the dome light.

Turn the light off to ensure it can work. Then, adjust it back to the manual setting so you can tell where the problem lies. If adjusting the knob doesn’t change the lighting display at all, there lies your problem. 

3. Check Doors

An open door will cause the light to remain on when it shouldn’t. This important safety feature ensures you don’t drive away with a door that’s not secured. To troubleshoot this issue, you need to physically check every door. Walk around the car to ensure each door is shut properly.

If your trunk also runs the interior light, take a look at it as well. You can open and close the trunk to see if it resolves the situation. 

Some newer cars will show you what door is open. This diagnostic feature cuts down on the time needed to hunt down the problem. 

If all of the doors and the trunk are shut, you can take this a step further. Open the door and manually push on the door switch, tricking the system into thinking that the door is shut. If the light deactivates, the door might not be making contact properly. If there’s excessive play in the switch or you don’t hear it click, this part could be defective.

Some vehicles will leave the interior light on for a minute after shutting the doors. To rule this normal operation out, run the car engine to force the lights off. 

4. Inspect Wiring

If there’s nothing obvious causing the problem, you need to get a closer look at the wiring. If you have a service manual, you may be able to do this yourself. 

You must trace the wiring from each door to the vehicle frame. Each one should end at the wiring harness found behind the dashboard. There will be a junction point where they become one section of wiring to operate the lights. 

If you notice any physical damage to any of the wiring, it needs to be replaced. Additionally, you should take a closer look at the wiring harness to ensure there’s no damage. Depending on how much wiring needs to be replaced, this fix can get a little expensive. 

5. Seek Help from a Professional

If you have trouble figuring out the wiring yourself or you don’t have a service manual you feel comfortable with, you should seek out help from a professional mechanic instead. They have more experience dealing with these electrical issues, so you can rest easy knowing it will be repaired correctly.

Until you get to the mechanic, consider taking the bulb out of the dome light. Allowing the light to run all of the time ensures that the battery is drained of all its power. Some people prefer to pull the fuse to the light, but that’s not always the best solution. This fuse could control several interior systems, so it could lead to other problems.