Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Headlight Door Motor

retractable headlight lamp
Whiteaster /

Headlight door motors are an electrical component that is found on vehicles equipped with retracting or “pop up” headlights. While headlights with retracting doors and motors are no longer common place among manufacturers, headlight door motors are still found on certain older vehicles found on the road. The motors are controlled by the driver and serve the purpose of mechanically extending and retracting the headlights. When the motors fail it can cause issues with opening and closing the headlight doors, which can prevent the headlights from providing proper illumination. Usually bad or failing headlight door motors will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential issue.

1. Headlight doors do not open

One of the most common symptoms of bad or failing headlight motors is headlights that do not open. If the headlight door motors fail, the headlights will not be able to extend and open. This will be an issue, as retracted headlights will not be able to provide suitable illumination for the driver. Some headlight motors can be manually extended by turning a knob, however any time they need to be opened or closed it will have to be done manually.

2. Headlight doors stuck open

Another symptom of a bad or failing headlight door motor is headlights doors that remain stuck open. If the headlight door motors fail when the headlights are extended or opened, they may remain stuck in the open position. Headlight doors that are stuck open may still be able to provide adequate lighting to drive at night, however they will require service to restore proper operation.

3. Headlight doors operate erratically and open or close on their own

Erratic headlight door operation is another sign of a possibly faulty headlight door motor. A bad or failing headlight door motor can cause the headlights to malfunction and behave erratically. The headlights may extend and retract on their own intermittently, which may interfere with their ability to provide light. Electrical issues can also produce similar symptoms so having the vehicle properly diagnosed is highly recommended.

4. Grinding noise

Another symptom of faulty headlight door motors is grinding noises from the motors. If the motors make any sort of grinding sounds when they are in use then that may be a sign that they may be damaged and need to be replaced. Usually motors that produce grinding noises will also have problems retracting and extending the headlights.

While headlight door motors are not found on the majority of road going vehicles, they are still a component that can fail and cause problems for the vehicles that they are equipped with them. If you suspect that your vehicle’s headlight door motors may be having an issue, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to determine if the motors should be replaced.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Post a question and get free advice from our certified mechanics.


More related articles

How Long Does a Throttle Return Spring Last?
Not all vehicles on the road feature an electronic throttle control (ETC), which is also called drive-by-wire. For vehicles that don't offer this system, they have a throttle cable instead that...
P0121 OBD-II Trouble Code: TPS "A" Circuit Range Performance Problem
P0121 code definition Throttle Pedal Position Sensor/Switch (TPS) A Circuit Range Performance Problem What the P0121 code means P0121 is a generic OBD-II code which indicates that the Engine Control...
Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...

Related questions

Q: The car suddenly couldn't start, it cranks well

When a fuel pump fails, it is known to happen randomly and can give the same symptoms you are describing. My first recommendation would be to have your fuel pressure checked by a certified professional to determine whether or not...

Q: How do I manually unlock the doors from inside the vehicle?

The door lock system is a closed system in your car; there are no knobs to pull up or push down. However, you can still unlock the vehicle manually. To unlock a door from the inside, pull the door handle...

Q: How do I turn on the high beams?

The high beams are extra-bright headlights that can give you added visibility when it is dark out. To turn on the high beams, push the turn signal lever towards the front of the car until it locks into position. To...