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Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit


The number of vehicles on our roads is burgeoning day by day. This is turn forced
almost all this vehicle manufactures to think about the extra safety instruments and
electronic controls to attach with these products for giving the users a safety derived in all
road conditions through a mass flow traffic. If asked, one should always mention that the
right driving is very cumbersome due to the dazzling light problems and the frequent
dipping of headlights by manual means that often causes fatigue to the driver particularly at
the time of peak traffic. So naturally to get rid of this perennial problem, an automatic
mechanism has to come up to dip the headlamp automatically whenever required. For
keeping a motor vehicle under perfect control and reins of the driver, different types of
controls and accessories are provided in an automobile around the driver’s seat, on the
dashboard and at the footboard. Simply, an automatic dipper is a unit, which can
automatically judge when the headlight beam needs to be lowered, and which dip the
headlamp from which beam to a dipped beam. As the dipper unit is well connected to the
lighting system of the vehicle, we have to look short into the type and construction of a
head light before discussing the wiring diagram or the construction of Automatic dippers.


The number of vehicles on our roads is burgeoning day by day. This is turn forced
almost all this vehicle manufactures to think about the extra safety instruments and
electronic controls to attach with these products for giving the users a safety derived in all
road conditions through a mass flow traffic. If asked, one should always mention that the
right driving is very cumbersome due to the dazzling light problems and the frequent
dipping of headlights by manual means that often causes fatigue to the driver particularly at
the time of peak traffic. So naturally to get rid of this perennial problem, an automatic
mechanism has to come up to dip the headlamp automatically whenever required.

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

For keeping a motor vehicle under perfect control and reins of the driver, different
types of controls and accessories are provided in an automobile around the driver’s seat, on
the dashboard and at the footboard. There are controls like clutch, brake pedal, accelerator
pedal, and sharing the same importance, the dimmer switch is changed with time, and its
pace in the filed of automobile safety is one of the uppermost.

Simply, an automatic dipper is a unit, which can automatically judge when the
headlight beam needs to be lowered, and which dip the headlamp from which beam to a
dipped beam. As the dipper unit is well connected to the lighting system of the vehicle, we
have to look short into the type and construction of a head light before discussing the
wiring diagram or the construction of Automatic dippers.


The modern lighting system consists of switches, lamps, wiring harness, and fuses
or circuit breakers. It may be mentioned that the primary purpose of the headlight design is
to produce illumination over considerable distance ahead of the vehicle and enable the
driver to drive at reasonable speeds at night with safety. But the provision should also be
made that the drivers of other vehicles coming from the opposite direction to not
experience a glare. For this purpose a dipped or meeting beam is also provided for
maintaining the reasonable speed with safety without dazzling the coming driver. To
prevent dazzle to the on coming driver during particularly misty or hazy conditions the
light about the horizontal should be cut off. This is called dipping of the head light beam.

In an average car, the lighting system consumes about 70 – 75% of electrical energy
when driven at night. In terms of amperage the consumption may be from 24 – 40 A at
night for al purposes including the radio, heater, and transmission controls.

Light Source

There are two kinds of light sources, namely, the one that emits light and the other
that reflects light. In the case of headlamp used in automobiles, both the things are
combines in A. The filament of the electric lamp is the primary source, while the reflector
is referred to as the secondary source. The intensity, colour and distribution are the
important characteristics of any light source.

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

The headlight is composed of three elements:

1. The light filament that gives off light when a current flows through it.

2. The parabolic reflector that reflect the light in front: and

3. The lens that refracts of distorts the light beam into an illuminating pattern.


The present day headlights are the outcome of a lot of research and development.
Earlier a single electric bulb of the carbon filament type was employed. The bulb was
placed at the focus of a parabolic silvered reflector in order to give a parallel beam of light.
The following figure shows a parabolic reflector with bulb, the lines showing light rays
emitted from the filament of the bulb in all directions. This type of headlight given a
parallel light beam, that saves greater illumination nearer the axis. It may be mentioned
that the bulb itself and the intensity of light fall off towards the outer portion of the beam
block a small amount of light.

From figure it may be seen that if the bulb filament is moved from position ‘d’, the
focus of reflector, to a position ‘a’, the light beam ‘abc’ will no longer be a parallel one but
will become divergent. On the contrary, if the filament is moved to position ‘f’ the beam
will take the course a shown by ‘fbg’ and will meet at a point on the axis of the bulb. It
may be mentioned that by a single adjustment of the bulb, the beam cane be concentrated at
a ore-determined distance ahead of the vehicle in order to give a spot light effect.

Formerly the headlight was provided with certain means of adjusting the bulb
holder with respect to the reflector along with the bulb axis in order to focus it. It had to be
done up every time the bulb was changed. This was essential, otherwise it would cause
increased dazzle to other motorists. The filament is encased in an airtight bulb in order to
prevent burning up of the white-hot filament because of oxygen in the air. The reflector is
generally of polished metal and it throws all the light rays into a cylindrical beam.

The lens is made up of a number of glass prisms molded together and they bend the
beam of light into an oval pattern which is aimed ahead of the vehicle and somewhat in the
downward direction. A part of the light is spread out in front of the vehicle for providing
local illumination, whereas the rest of it is focused into a hot spot that provides distant

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

The first major advancement in headlight design took place with the introduction of
pre-focused bulbs. It has two filaments, one for normal driving and the other for city
driving or for overtaking. These days even two sets of headlights are used for the above
said purposes. Generally a foot selector switch is provided, which enables the driver to
select either the normal driving or the passing beam.

The parabolic reflector showing light

rays emitted from the filament of the bulb

The effect of changing the position of

filament on the nature of the light beam

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

Sealed-Beam Headlights

In a sealed beam headlight, the filament and the reflector along with the lens are
sealed in an airtight unit. The front face of the sealed beam unit is a lens, which is fused to
the reflector after the two filament units, has been inserted through the center of the
reflector and sealed in position. The complete unit is then evaluated and filled with inert
gas. With these units the only service required is to aim them. This type of headlight
introduced in 1940 in the U.S.A.

Sealed beam headlights have the following advantages:

1. The glass unit is self-contained with accurately focused filaments.

2. Dust, moisture, etc. are prevented from entering from the back of the lens
and the reflector.

3. A greater amount of light is provided in the beam because, of the absence of

a filament bulb and

4. The beam of light obtained is greatly improved due to the pre-focused

filament and permanently bright reflector.

It is essential to have a provision for horizontal and vertical adjustment of the beam
by titling the sealed beam unit in its body housing. Two adjusting screws, as shown in the
following figure, generally do it. Fig. shows an improved version of a selected beam unit
with the provision of a metal mask or shield in front of the upper filament to prevent stray
light rays from escaping upwards and reflecting back to the eyes of the driver. This type of
headlights gives a brighter beam pattern and further reduces the repair and maintenance
time. Such type of units are, however, more expensive or replace than plain or pre-focused
type of units. Recently headlights of 50-60 W for the lower filament and 40-45 for the
upper filament have been used, thus increasing their light output.

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

Control of Headlight Beam

The circular beam can be spread horizontally to any desired extent with the help of
prisms, molded in the inside of the headlight cover glass, as shown in the figure. The
horizontal light intensity can be controlled in any desired way by a suitable design of the
headlight. The circular beam can also be controlled in the vertical direction with the help of
prisms molded in front of the glass, thus redirecting the light rays in the downward
direction. This way the downward reflected beam does not obstruct the vision of the other
road users coming from the opposite side. With these two combinations, any required main
beam illumination, combined with side illumination nearer to the vehicle can be produced.


Technology improves day and day in the field of automobile headlamp construction
and it left out the earlier single electric bulb of the carbon filament type and in place
modern sealed beam headlights are using nowadays. The light circuits of today’s vehicles
can consist of more that 50 light bulbs and hundreds of feet of wiring. Incorporated within
these circuits are circuits’ protector, relays, switches lamps, and connectors. In addition
more sophisticated lighting systems use computers and sensors. The lighting circuit
consists of an array of interior and exterior lights, courtesy lights and so on. Federal laws
largely regulate the lighting circuits, so the systems are similar between the various

Halogen lamps

The halogen lamps are mostly introduced and consist of tungsten filaments in the
atmosphere of some halogen element such as chlorine, bromine, or iodine. The tungsten
evaporated from the filaments reacts with halogen gas to form tungsten halide, which is
decomposed back into halogen and tungsten due to high temperature at the filaments, thus
causing the tungsten to get redeposit on the filaments. In this way the life of the bulb is

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

Besides, the filament can operate at still higher temperature, which increases its
light intensity. However, the halogen attacks metals at cold temperatures. Thus other
metals within the enclosure, viz. the metal shield and the second filament, which is not
being used, are attacked by the halogen. To avoid this happening, pure halogen is replaced
by dibromomethane gas, which does not cause deterioration of the cold metals. With these
headlamps quartz glass is used since ordinary glass tends to crack due to higher operating

Composite headlights

Many of today’s vehicles have a halogen head light system using a replaceable
bulb. This system is called composite headlights. By using the composite headlight
system, vehicle manufacturers are able to produce any style of headlight lens by desire.
This improves the aerodynamics, duel economy, and styling of the vehicle. Many
manufacturers vent the composite headlight housing because of the increased amount of the
heat developed by these bulbs. Because the housing is vented, condensation is not harmful
to the bulb and does not affect the headlight operation. When the headlights are turned on,
the heat generated from the halogen bulbs will dissipate the condensation quickly. On
systems using non-vented composite headlights, condensation is not considered normal.
The assembly should be replaced.

HID Headlamps

High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps are the latest headlight development.
These headlamps put out three times more light and twice spread on the road then
conventional halogen headlamps. They also use about two-thirds less power to operate will
last two to three times larger. HID lamps produce light in tooth ultraviolet and visible
wavelengths. This advantage allows highway signs and other reflective materials to glow.
This type lamp first appeared on select models from BMW in 1993, Ford in 1995, and
Porche in 1996.

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

These lamps do not relay on growing filament for light. Rather light is provided as
a high voltage bridges an air gap between two electrodes. The presence of inert gas
amplifies the light given off by the arching. More than 15,000 volts are used to jump the
gap between the electrodes. To provide this voltage, only about 80 volts is required to keep
current flow across the gap. The great light output of these lamps allows the headlamp
assembly to be smaller and lighter. These advantages allow designers more flexibility in
body designs as they attempt to make their vehicles more aerodynamic and efficient.


The dazzle effect is one of the major problems faced by a driver in night driving.
So one has to stop the high intensity light from the eyes of the incoming driver or road
users to prevent the dazzle effect. Automatic Dipper is one such mechanism, which is
employed for safety night driving without the intense dazzling effects. Without much
efforts from the driver which otherwise has to dim the lights every seconds by manual
means may lead to fatigue to the driver especially during peak traffics. So it will be better
to know ‘what is meant by dazzle?’ and ‘what all devices are often used in preventing
dazzle effect?’ before mentioning the advantages and uses of an auto dipper.

The problem of headlight dazzle is linked with many factors of which, the human
eyes is the most important. In fact, it is the final judge in respect of dazzle and
illumination. It may be mentioned that for driving, bright illumination is essential. In
short, condition of illumination, should be such that there is clear vision for all motorists.
Dazzle is nothing but brightness, which causes interference with vision. The various
factors, which govern it, are: brightness, contrast, and the angle subtended by the bright
area on the eye. It is the contrast between the bright and dark areas, which is one of the
main causes of dazzle. However, it is difficult to lay down in terms of quantity the fixed
ratio of the brightness of the two areas which is likely to produce or eliminate the effect of
dazzle since it is controlled by the brightness of the lighter of the two areas. The ratio
between the absolute black area and a dimly lit area may be quite great but there will be no
dazzle effect. Further, an intensity bright area with very dark surroundings, does not give a
dazzling effect.

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

The dazzling effect can be prevented by,

• Reducing the brightness of the headlights of the vehicles.
• Stopping high intensity light from entering the yes of on-coming drivers or road
• Reducing the contrast between the surrounding area and the headlight of the


When the vehicle is driven on the highways, it is required that light beam should be
of high density and should illuminate the road at a distance sufficiently ahead. However
when a vehicle coming in the opposite direction approaches a vehicle fitted with such
headlights, driver of that vehicle will experience a glare, which will blind him. To avoid
this, a separate filament is fitted at such a position that that light beam from this filament is
deflected both down and sideways so that the driver of the oncoming car is not blinded.
Some of the ways in which this can be achieved are shown in the following figure.

The main filament may be placed at the focus with the dipper filament slightly
above it or the main filament and the dipper filament may be placed slightly below and
above the focus respectively, with the reflector tilted. Another popular method is to place
the main filament at the focus and the dipper filament slightly in front of the same with a
mental shield placed below the dipper filament. In this only this upper half of converging
beam comes out of the reflector. Thus it prevents the other rays from setting reflected from
the lower half of the reflector and emerging in the upward direction to cause glare. The
beam (main or dipper) are selected by the driver y means of a foot operated or steering
column mounted stick type dimmer switch but in case of automatic dippers the light from
the oncoming vehicle will trigger the dipper unit. The illumination of road by main bam
and the dipper beam is shown in the above figure.

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

Bifocal Bulb

In the earlier days, a dipping reflector was used as one of the popular anti-dazzle
devices. In this case, the movement of the reflector within the headlight casing dipped the
headlight beam. The solenoid, mounted at the back of the reflector, controlled the
movement of the reflector.

The bifocal both is an extensively used anti-dazzle device in the U.S.A and the U.K
this type of both has two filaments, one being either in front of or above the other filament.
The following figure shows this type of a bulb.

It will be seen that a metal shield is provided below the forward filament. Its main
purpose is to prevent the light rays from the filament striking the lower half of the reflector.
Switching over from one filament to the other may provide the normal and dipped beams.
The figure & shows the manner in which the headlight beam is dipped while changing
over the normal to the dipped beam. The bifocal bulb is simple in installation and is also
an effective method of dipping the beam of the headlight.

Two Filament Bulbs

In two filaments modern headlights there uses a two-filament bulb with a fixed
reflector. In this case, one filament is meant for the dipping beam and the other main beam
filament is beneath it and it is located at the focus of the reflector. The nature of the dipped
beam can be controlled by the help of prisons and lenses provided at the front cover of the

Anti-dazzle Devices
Most of the modern anti dazzle devices depend upon the redirection of the light
rays. This can be achieved by various ways as by lenses, by specially designed reflectors,
by bulbs of special design or by dipping reflector mechanisms. Now it is common practice
to control the beam from the driver’s seat, as and when required. If the initial focusing of

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

the lamp is correct, the dazzle effect is considerably reduced and at the same time it
provides sufficient illumination for the driver.

In the case, the upper and the lower levels of the reflector are displaced by an
amount equal to the filament length. It results in projection of light rays parallel and
downwards and not upwards. It may be noted the correct focusing of the filament with
respect to the two halves of the reflector will greatly help in the elimination of these
upward rays.

Methods of getting
dipped beams
Bifocal bulb and
the manner
in which the
headlight beam is

A double – filament lamp

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit


Autronic dipper

An autronic dipper is a unit which can automatically judge when the head light
beam needs to be lowered. The auto dippers are basically switches, which dip the
headlamp from high beam to a dipped beam if a certain amount of light falls on its photo
sensor. This is a system, which electronically selects the proper headlamp beam for
country driving. It holds the lights on upper, or high, beam until a car trigger the system so
that it shifts the headlamps to the lower beam. When the other car had passed, the system
electronically shifts the headlamps back to the upper beam.


As the operation of the auto dipper trigger out only when the light from the on-
coming vehicles falls directly on the photo sensor unit, it has to be ideally located in a place
where the light beams can freely entered without any obstruction. Commonly auto dipper
meters from the ground. The suggested position for passenger cars is in the place between
windshield and rear position f cabin rear view mirror.


Some American manufactures have first used photoelectric cells for automatic
dipping of headlights. In the ‘Autronic Eye’, the photoelectric cell senses the intensity of
light from the oncoming vehicles and dips the heedful accordingly; the driver does not have
to control the headlights. This type of system is very successful on American roads. But
on Indian roads with frequent curves etc., especially in case of rural areas and with non-
uniform light intensities automatic dipper has got not much use. But in high way driving
through level straight roads having a large number of vehicles and without having sharp
turns etc., the automatic dipper helps the drivers in eliminating the fatigue of operating the
dipper switch intensity level will always be there for satisfying he minimum intensity
needed for the system to function even on small breathing turns which is often seen in high

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

Possibility of Manual Override

As the automatic dipper is particularly designed and good for the high way driving,
but the vehicle is meant for all type of roads, and for facing some particular situation where
the driver needs more light to see by etc., manual override is also fitted with the automatic
dipper unit by which the driver can operate the heedful becomes manually leaving out the
auto system inoperative. The driver has a sensitivity control, which allows adjustment of
the system to the surrounding light.

The override system can be used when the oncoming driver does not dim, the driver
needs more light to see by and also on rural road where not much vehicles are there at night
and also sharp turns are there.


Automatic headlight dipping automatically switches the headlight from high beam
to beams when light from oncoming vehicle strikes the photocell or phototube (Photo
amplifier) of the vehicle. Thus we can select the proper headlight during country driving
and it saves the driver from the trouble of depressing the foot switch for lowering this
headlight beam. It holds the lights on the upper beam until the vehicle approaches from the
other direction. And also the moment the other car passes by, it shifts automatically the
headlights back to upper beam. The auto dipper is a device, which is highly immune to
lights from street lamps, roadside light sources and other manual sources of light.

Modern automatic dipping systems use solid-state circuiting and electromagnet

relays to control the beam switching. Most systems consist of the following major
1. Light sensitive photocell
2. High-low beam relay
3. Sensitivity control
4. Amplifier

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

5. Dimmer and auxiliary foot switch

6. Wiring harness.

We can analyze the working of the system by considering the following schematic
circuit diagram of the auto-dipper.

The phototube is a variable resistor that used light to change the existence. The
phototube amplifier is usually mounted behind the front grill or on the one side of the
dashboard or in the rear view mirror support where it will be in limn with the light from the
vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. The sensitivity control sets the intensity
level at which the photocell amplifier will energize. This control of set by the driver and is
located next to, or is a part of, the headlight switch assembly. The sensitivity control is a
potentiometer that allows the driver to adjust the sensitivity of the automatic dipper
(dimmer) system to surrounding ambient light conditions. The driver is able to adjust the
sensitivity level of the system by rotating the control knob. An increase in the sensitivity
level will make the headlights switch to the low beams sooner (approaching vehicle is
further away). A decrease in the sensitivity level will switch the headlight to low beams
when the approaching vehicle is closer. If the knob is located at full counter clockwise
position, the system enters manual override. The high-low rely is a single pole, double
throw unit that provides the switching of the headlight beams.

When the light from the oncoming strikes the light sensitive plate provided in it, an
electric current is released. When the oncoming vehicle is nearing, its strong light sets the
amplifier unit into operation. A special electronic tube is contained in the amplifier unit
know as thyraton, which amplifies the current entering its grid. The thyraton greatly
amplifies the current provided by the phototube. It becomes strong enough to put the
power relay unit into operation.

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

Schematic Circuit Diagram of an Autronic Eye

The windings of the power relay are connected to the thyraton. There are two sets
of points provided when the upper contacts are closed, the high filament of the headlight is
connected to the battery. When the lower contacts are closed, the low filaments are
connected to the battery. Depending upon the strength f the current from the thyraton, the
points open and close lighting the upper or lower beam.

An auxiliary foot switches also provided in addition to this arrangement which this
the driver can hold the upper beam on, even though the auto-dipper has operated, this
shifting the headlights to the lower beam. This switch is used when signaling to the other

The above figure shows the simplified schematic diagram of the auto-dipper
(autronic eye). The switches, resistance units, and other components are not shown. The
curve in the phototube indicates the light sensitive plate. The dotted line in the thyraton
unit indicates the grid.

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit


Newer and better technologies always come with time and it will help in reducing
the manual labor and difficulties in the sectors where it is made use. And in our case, the
auto dipper can perform a great deal in reducing the manual efforts and fatigue of drivers in
dipping the headlamp frequently while driving through highways full of moving vehicles.
However, vehicles employed with automatic dippers are not very often seen in our cities,
and it may be due to lack of information about the system and also because of giving
attention to the people saying that it is not at all practicable in our highways. Yes, of
course it has got some drawbacks like that one which is most common, when we drive the
vehicle fitted with automatic dippers on a road in which different types of vehicles and
hence varying light intensities cause frequent flickering of the headlight. And also the
operation of the system eliminated or reduced by devising newer methods and
technologies. The one nowadays available is only useful in highways and straight width

Truly speaking, auto dippers are devices, which will attain more and more
importance in the forthcoming years. In short, it is a device with a very bright future. The
number of vehicles and the condition of the roads are improving very fast and the day is
near, when the driving regulation, nature of traffic etc., are growing up to the levels which
is already their in countries like America who successfully using auto dippers in their

Automatic Headlight Dipper Unit



- Barry Hollem Beak