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Extinguishing lights in modern cars

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#1 DenverGreg

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Posted 13 May 2022 - 07:54 PM

At our local dark site, it's more and more common that astronomers are unable to prevent their cars from lighting up for all sorts of reasons. Since a modern car is basically a computer on wheels, it's no longer a matter of just flipping a switch. Are there any resources out there that collect information on how to turn off the lights in various cars? Or do we just put red tape over every possible light? It would be nice if the car makers included a "dark site mode", but I don't foresee that happening any time soon...lol.gif


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#2 Dobs O Fun

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Posted 13 May 2022 - 08:11 PM

At our local dark site, it's more and more common that astronomers are unable to prevent their cars from lighting up for all sorts of reasons. Since a modern car is basically a computer on wheels, it's no longer a matter of just flipping a switch. Are there any resources out there that collect information on how to turn off the lights in various cars? Or do we just put red tape over every possible light? It would be nice if the car makers included a "dark site mode", but I don't foresee that happening any time soon...lol.gif


I am in the process of buying a car to replace my older one.

The only resource I could point you to is the owners manual which should highlight instructions on the use of the lights.

Now-a-days the are putting lights under the cars, I would guess to illuminate the area if you dropped something.

Although cool, the lights are a nuisance to those in this hobby. Perhaps it may take a considerable hike from the parking area to the observing area.

#3 RLK1

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Posted 13 May 2022 - 08:11 PM

While some makes may have a method of disabling various lights in their vehicles, it's probably not worth the effort or hassle to potentially damage a system to do it.  

As a related issue, see:   https://www.nbcnews....right-rcna21042



#4 John Rogers

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Posted 13 May 2022 - 08:56 PM

The best way is to identify the fuses to the problematic lights and remove them when you arrive at the dark sky site.



#5 Richard O'Neill

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Posted 13 May 2022 - 11:00 PM

  For what it's worth, the instruction book for my 2008 Chrysler minivan did list a dashboard switch for disabling interior lights but nothing about front and rear exterior lights. When a side door is opened on my van, front and rear lights on that side of the van blink continuously, a safety feature to alert passing motorists that a passenger may be exiting.

 

  A youtube search for a solution revealed unlisted owner accessible program features in the car's computer system that allow one to easily disable, in software, those lights when a side door is opened. No other functions are affected. Needless to say, the info has been very helpful to me when observing solo or with others.


Edited by Richard O'Neill, 13 May 2022 - 11:12 PM.

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#6 George N

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Posted 14 May 2022 - 05:54 AM

  For what it's worth, the instruction book for my 2008 Chrysler minivan did list a dashboard switch for disabling interior lights but nothing about front and rear exterior lights. When a side door is opened on my van, front and rear lights on that side of the van blink continuously, a safety feature to alert passing motorists that a passenger may be exiting.

 

  A youtube search for a solution revealed unlisted owner accessible program features in the car's computer system that allow one to easily disable, in software, those lights when a side door is opened. No other functions are affected. Needless to say, the info has been very helpful to me when observing solo or with others.

What happens if you leave the side door open for hours? Do the lights keep blinking until the battery dies?



#7 Richard O'Neill

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Posted 14 May 2022 - 03:00 PM

No, they time out but are most annoying to myself and others while on. I was fortunate in that someone posted the procedure on youtube. However, I was prepared to install panel switches. Not something I really wanted to do.


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#8 DenverGreg

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Posted 14 May 2022 - 05:46 PM

Thanks for the input all. Maybe I should start a website devoted to cataloging how to darken various vehicles! lol.gif



#9 jupiter122

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Posted 15 May 2022 - 09:11 AM

Pull the fuses?
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#10 Rickycardo

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Posted 15 May 2022 - 09:28 AM

My 2020 Jeep Cherokee is pretty good at turning off the external lights when I turn the light switch to Off instead of leaving it in Auto. I carry a roll of duct or painters tape to cover the interior lights and anything external that keeps coming on when I open a door. That said I usually either the hatch open and windows down or leave a door open when I'm set up. After the lights time out they don't turn back on when I open a door if I need something.



#11 George N

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Posted 15 May 2022 - 09:28 AM

Install a 'cut' switch on the battery cable? No battery = no lights. Need emergency start? "Flip" the switch - start the engine.

 

I always wonder about people who lock up their vehicles at major star parties? Do 'astronomers' really raid other peoples' cars?


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#12 RLK1

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Posted 15 May 2022 - 12:14 PM

Install a 'cut' switch on the battery cable? No battery = no lights. Need emergency start? "Flip" the switch - start the engine.

 

I always wonder about people who lock up their vehicles at major star parties? Do 'astronomers' really raid other peoples' cars?

"I always wonder about people who lock up their vehicles at major star parties? Do 'astronomers' really raid other peoples' cars?"

I've seen this far more than I want to remember up at Mt Pinos. I think I've even yelled out a couple of times that nobody is going to steal your (expletive deleted) car... 


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#13 FirstSight

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Posted 15 May 2022 - 01:13 PM

…That said I usually either the hatch open and windows down or leave a door open when I'm set up. After the lights time out they don't turn back on when I open a door if I need something.

At least in the southeastern US, leaving your windows down and rear hatch open is many nights an invitation for dew formation on interior car surfaces. Granted, under those sorts of conditions, you may also struggle to keep your optics from dewing up, which anti-dew attachments may successfully hold off. at least for awhile, but you probably aren’t keeping your car’s defrosters running all night, especially with the windows open.

Not saying your method doesnt work well for you in your local climate. or that it wont sometimes work on drier nights in my prevailingly humid climate.

But to tie back to the subject of coping with auto-on car lights, not sure any method of mitigating them that involves keeping windows etc open is worth the tradeoff of a dew-soaked interior..

#14 RLK1

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Posted 15 May 2022 - 01:20 PM

My Subaru Forester has two bright lights that come on around the side mirrors on both sides of the car. I wrap a small black garbage bag around each and remove 'em in the morning. No biggie. The interior lights have a switch that turns them off or on. If it didn't I'd tape a bag or pad around them. Beats pulling fuses or installing a battery-kill switch...



#15 Rickycardo

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Posted 16 May 2022 - 06:33 AM

At least in the southeastern US, leaving your windows down and rear hatch open is many nights an invitation for dew formation on interior car surfaces. Granted, under those sorts of conditions, you may also struggle to keep your optics from dewing up, which anti-dew attachments may successfully hold off. at least for awhile, but you probably aren’t keeping your car’s defrosters running all night, especially with the windows open.

Not saying your method doesnt work well for you in your local climate. or that it wont sometimes work on drier nights in my prevailingly humid climate.

But to tie back to the subject of coping with auto-on car lights, not sure any method of mitigating them that involves keeping windows etc open is worth the tradeoff of a dew-soaked interior..

I've not had dew settle in the car but I can see how that might be undesirable. I have had frost form one night. It took a bit to warm everything up when I left for the night. Being a Jeep the interior's pretty rugged so I don't worry much about things like mud, dust, dirt or moisture.
 



#16 Wyphy

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Posted 16 May 2022 - 04:29 PM

For lights that cannot be turned off, you could replace them with red lights.

Can find decent LED replacements for around $2 each.

 

I did trunk and lights on the door bottoms, none of which can be turned off for my car.


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#17 gfamily

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Posted 16 May 2022 - 04:51 PM

Thanks for the input all. Maybe I should start a website devoted to cataloging how to darken various vehicles! lol.gif

IME - if you leave the doors and boot (trunk) open, the lights will turn themselves off after about 5 minutes. 

Get there early, set up while it's gloaming and they're out by the time it gets dark, 


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#18 Richard O'Neill

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Posted 17 May 2022 - 09:51 AM

Removing battery power will reset the car's computer, eliminating stored values, stop the car clock and wipe out radio presets. A big PITA if you're due for an emission check anytime soon.


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#19 DenverGreg

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Posted 18 May 2022 - 12:00 AM

"I always wonder about people who lock up their vehicles at major star parties? Do 'astronomers' really raid other peoples' cars?"

I've seen this far more than I want to remember up at Mt Pinos. I think I've even yelled out a couple of times that nobody is going to steal your (expletive deleted) car... 

I have heard at least one story of eyepieces walking off at a major star party. So, while the car might not be stolen, I can understand being worried about belongings going missing. Also, at the star party I attend (Rocky Mountain Star Stare), it's necessary to keep food locked up in a hardsided vehicle. Bears generally can figure out how to get into unlocked cars (although they sometimes have trouble getting out). A few years ago at RMSS, a bear hit the jackpot on a cooler filled with tasty sausage and salmon. Nobody saw it happen, but the tooth and claw marks gave it away.



#20 George N

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Posted 18 May 2022 - 09:52 AM

I have heard at least one story of eyepieces walking off at a major star party. So, while the car might not be stolen, I can understand being worried about belongings going missing. Also, at the star party I attend (Rocky Mountain Star Stare), it's necessary to keep food locked up in a hardsided vehicle. Bears generally can figure out how to get into unlocked cars (although they sometimes have trouble getting out). A few years ago at RMSS, a bear hit the jackpot on a cooler filled with tasty sausage and salmon. Nobody saw it happen, but the tooth and claw marks gave it away.

I guess I can understand the concern - but I've been going to major, regional, and small star parties every year since 1995 - and the closest I've heard to possibly stolen items is - a meteorite vendor at one of the Cherry Springs based star parties claimed that an expensive 'rock' was missing from his display table. Last year or so a fellow reported getting up and finding two people uncovering his expensive APO/imaging rig - and who claimed that they thought the scopes were for 'public use'. I've found some minor items left in the grass - never anything like a 31mm Nagler! I'm far more worried about locking my keys in the vehicle than I am of someone stealing astro stuff. However I do not leave out small expensive stuff - eyepieces, NexusDSC, etc when going to bed at the end of a night - and I do lock up my vehicle during the daytime if I'm away from the general area - plus I'm almost aways with a group of friends and we watch each other's stuff.

 

Bears at star parties? Really?  cool.gif 
~
 

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#21 jcj380

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Posted 18 May 2022 - 11:09 AM

One question is how to kill LED running lights.  I've seen a few suggestions like pull back slightly on the parking brake, etc., none of which work on my car.

 

I've identified the fuse for the DRL, but I've also read arguments about whether or not pulling it could require a chip reset.  I'm not inclined to risk needing a tow in the boonies, so I'll go with masking the lights with tape or driving my second car.  But that one's 14 years old and I question how long it will be before something major-major goes on it and I need to trade / scrap it.

 

Another option is to just arrive before dark and plan on staying until dawn - not always practical though.


Edited by jcj380, 18 May 2022 - 11:10 AM.


#22 Wyphy

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Posted 18 May 2022 - 12:53 PM

While I don't have experience with a lot of vehicles, for the one's I have seen, the headlight switch has an off position which turns off running lights.

Unfortunately they always go off>auto>parking>full.  Auto is sometimes labeled as DRL.

Maybe switch to parking before starting if you need some lights to get going?  Slightly better than full headlights, though not much.

 

I always park strategically at the local astro site so I can pull straight out and with tail lights towards the people, but ours is laid out so this is possible.


Edited by Wyphy, 18 May 2022 - 12:54 PM.


#23 Napp

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Posted 20 May 2022 - 09:32 AM

For a lot of newer cars there does not seem to be an easy fix.  I have a 2015 F150.  There are all kinds of lights that come on when the truck is unlocked or a door opened.  I have been warned that pulling fuses can result in a visit to the shop.  Apparently, some dealers can be convinced to put the truck in police mode but then none of the lights come on.  That’s great for dark sky sites but not for general use.  My solution is to arrive during daylight and set up.  Everything else goes in the bed under the tonneau cover.  Opening/closing it does not trigger any lights.  I leave the tailgate open as it can trigger lights.  If I think I may need access to the cab I leave a door open.  For the Texas Star Party I left the truck by my scope at the edge of the observing field.  I only ever opened/closed the tonneau cover during observing hours.  One thing I miss about my old 2000 Expedition - pull one fuse and all the lights that automatically came on were disabled.


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