By on March 16, 2015

backup lights. Image: Shutterstock user ARENA Creative

Jon writes:

Sajeev,

I read this column on lighting, thanks for the information! That leads me to a question…

What is up with Chevy/GM truck and SUV reverse lights!?!?!?! Why do they come on when their drivers use their lock remotes?????

It is crazy going through parking lots these days with all the SUV reverse lights coming on for no good reason. Help me understand please.

Sajeev answers:

Reversing lights, just like headlights, can be used for anything when parked. And headlights also remain lit on these vehicles, which has been a safety feature since at least the mid 1970s. Knowledge Drop time!

Peep the rheostat (Off, Max Delay) on an old automatic headlight system. There was about a minute (max) of headlight safety for a dimly lit parking space. Considering how many dimly lit streets there are at night, even in urban areas…considering how many 1970s cop shows had some seriously heavy shit go down in a dark parking garage, you better believe your 1977 Continental Mark V needs this system.

Maybe Starsky and Hutch would still be on TV if their damn low-brow Ford Torino had this Lincoln’s feature.  You think long and hard about that, Son!

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

While this notion is a safety feature for the vehicle’s owner, you aren’t the only outsider complaining.  I’m annoyed by them when looking for a spot, or looking to ensure someone won’t back into my ride.

So do this: slow down while approaching AND be on the lookout for the brake lights.  Most of these vehicles are automatics, and most people crawl out of a spot while riding the brakes. So no brake lights, no driver inside the GM product.

[Image: Shutterstock user ARENA Creative]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

53 Comments on “Piston Slap: Reverse Light My Way Home, General Motors!...”


  • avatar

    No one sweats the details like General Motors.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Or as we used to say inside the walls: “nobody sweats the recalls like GM”

    • 0 avatar
      Marone

      They can sweat the detail on this feature, but that doesn’t mean it is a good feature. I don’t even own GM and I feel this is a bad idea.

      • 0 avatar

        Please explain why this is a ‘bad’ idea…

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          I cant believe it needs explaining. Very well:

          Youre driving through a crowded parking lot at a large store such as Walmart. As youre carefully driving down a lane, a parked Yukon’s tail/brake and reverse lamps come on just as youre approaching it. Almost immidiately, the tail/brake lamps go out but the reverse lamps stay on.

          It looks as though the driver hit the brake pedal just long enough to allow shifting out of park and into reverse. When the brake/tail lamps go out, your first thought is the driver has released the brakes and is now backing out. You slam on brakes and perhaps sound the horn to alert the driver that theyre about to hit you or someone else if they continue.

          Only, there is no driver, just an owner casually walking up to put their items in the vehicle. Since the parking lot is full of people walking to or from their vehicles, and the “privacy glass” on the Yukon makes it impossible to see if there actually is a driver (especially at night and/or when surrounded by other vehicles that block your view), you dont realize whats really happening until after your heart jumps in your throat and thoughts of your precious Plymouth Acclaim being smashed and totalled by a careless driver race through your mind.

          Its happened to me and to other people I was riding with, sans the Plymouth of course.

        • 0 avatar
          Rnaboz

          I also believe this is a pain to deal with but never complained,until I saw children playing behind one of these SUV’s with the reverse lights on. So they clearly had no idea the truck may back into them. That is when i filed an official complaint with NHTSA.

          • 0 avatar
            PonchoIndian

            Rnaboz…so your theory is that these children have been conditioned, like dogs, to not recognize that reverse lights mean a car is backing up? Maybe this is a conspiracy by GM to recondition the public so people get hurt?

            Maybe the children were just morons or have parents who haven’t taught them to smarten the heck up and pay attention?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Just because reverse lights are on doesn’t mean your going to get run over. Those lights are extremely useful, getting home in the dark if I forgot to leave on the lights just click the unlock and I have several seconds to open the door.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Right, because nobody assumes that reverse lights actually indicate that the vehicle is reversing.

      Your (sic) the reason that libs hate SUV drivers, and Hummer drivers in particular. While I dont subscribe to their methods or reasoning (if you can call it that), the “whatever is best for me and damn anyone else” attitude does make you a grade A, USDA-choice asshole.

      • 0 avatar
        PonchoIndian

        Classy how you jumped right into politcal name calling. Ignorant people only hate other people based on their choice of transportation. Unfortunately ignorant people cross all political lines, the libs just seem to be more vocal and moronic about it.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          This is a real thing, and it cuts both ways.

          I own a Prius, which has outlasted several other vehicles. The Prius tends to bring out the intimidating behavior on empty roads in a way that my minivan, my Ford Escape, my sedans, and my pickup trucks did not. As you can imagine, I don’t think much of drivers who try to push me around when I’m in the Prius, or their bumper stickers.

          But the Prius is so dependable, so paid-off, and and has such low marginal running costs that I’ll happily put up with that kind of b*llsh!t until the doors fall off (or until I can replace it with an EV with similar attributes). It’s started every morning for 11 years, and it’s probably only about half used up.

          This is a real thing. I try to take the high road, because I’ve been conservative and liberal, green and not-so-much as I’ve learned more over my lifetime. D!ckish behavior only deepens the divide and hurts your cause, while empathy is the road to wisdom.

          Back to those GM backup lights. I find that that, as I adapt to them, it reduces the saliency of the “this person is about to back over you” signal, which only hurts safety in the long term in my opinion.

          Like driving a giant vehicle than everyone else, this is something that only helps an individual — and the benefit is neutralized or turned negative as soon as everyone else does it. And GM sells enough cars that it counts as “everybody is doing it”.

          So, I think these backup lights may provide a short-term safety benefit to the owners of GM vehicles — at the expense of everyone, including the owners of those GM vehicles, in the long term. The analogy of turning vehicle ownership into an SUV arms race does hold water, and I want nothing to do with either.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    This was one of my most hated features from Doug’s post last week. Argh.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    My GM truck has this feature and I’m a big fan of it. I park in the back of lots and I’d like as much illumination as possible when returning to my vehicle. Its also extremely helpful to see when you’re somewhere without street lights and need to load stuff in the back of the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      All the backup lights in the world won’t help if your truck’s rear end is so high you can’t see anything closer than six feet behind it. My car was rear ended in a parking lot by a backing-out F150 with a bed so high, the driver said he never saw my car. He also forgot he’d had a dock bumper installed. That was in broad daylight, so backup lights made no difference, but even at night, lights won’t help if you can’t see past your own vehicle’s bed/trunk.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        That’s what the reverse camera is for.

        (e.g. in my F250, which, when loaded with gear in the bed and canopy, literally has zero native rear visibility immediately behind, if I didn’t have a camera.

        Which never, of course, stops pedestrians in rest areas from blithely walking across behind the truck while I’m *actually reversing*.

        Backup lights do matter, in any case, for telling other people, and for illuminating for the camera, and to the sides which you CAN see in your mirror.

        The guy who hit your car, well… unless you were somehow not sticking out to the side at all, he was too lazy to use his side mirrors.)

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Combine the poor visibility with the less-useful too-high load-floor on the bigass monster trucks that everyone buys, and it looks like a pair of design flaws that could be fixed by lowering the load to me.

          But, what do I know, I grew up on a small farm and have owned 3 pickup trucks, one compact, one midsize, and one fullsize — and I used 2 of 3 of them mostly for hauling heavy objects.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    It doesn’t help that the Envoy has unnecessarily gigantic reverse lamps either. This has caused me to wonder if the Ascender got different reverse lamps.

    …yep. Much better. More Oldsmobiley looking.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/2005_Isuzu_Ascender.jpg

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    This is one of those love it/hate it things for me. I appreciate the extra light at night when using a GM product, but it can be annoying if you’re looking for a space in a crowded lot. I enjoyed the puddle lights under the mirrors that seem to come and go from Ford products and a few other manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I like those too. Some cars (I think the last Montero) put some lights in the running boards that come on too when you unlock.

      Also, I love the flashy nature of the new Range Rover puddle lamps, which cast RANGE ROVER onto the pavement. So unnecessary.

  • avatar
    NotFast

    Dumb. I’ve been in a crowded garage looking for a spot and have come across this more than once.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    On my 2004 GMC it’s called perimeter lighting and frankly I like it. A lot! In fact I have it programmed to stay on as long as possible once i hit the unlock/lock button. Good feature and I’m glad I also have it on my 2007 ‘Hoe.

    Pretty easy for most people to figure out the vehicle isn’t on and about to move if nothing but the back-up lights are on. See picture above. If it scares people in a parking lot, good. They are probably driving too fast and need to slow down/stop anyways!……LOL

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I also like the fact these lights come on when locking/unlocking the car. Like others have noted, there are plenty of times your car ends up in a not well lit area, extra lights sure can’t hurt.

      Agreed on the slowing down in the parking lot/deck. Folks are in way too much of a hurry in some of these places…

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      There are other ways of illuminating around the vehicle than using a light that is only supposed to indicate that the vehicle is backing up. An LED strip down on the lower part of the vehicle (angled towards the ground to light your path) could/would do the same job without making other drivers think that youre reversing.

      My parent’s 2012 Taurus lights up like a Christmas tree when you hit unlock, but not the reverse lamps. Surprisingly, none of us who regularly drive it have been swallowed up by a sasquach because the reverse lamps didnt come on.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        “Surprisingly, none of us who regularly drive it have been swallowed up by a sasquach because the reverse lamps didnt come on.”

        Bravo.

        • 0 avatar
          PeriSoft

          “Surprisingly, none of us who regularly drive it have been swallowed up by a sasquach because the reverse lamps didnt come on.”

          It’s the Grues you really need to worry about.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        While your parents’ relatively new Taurus may light up like a Christmas tree, there have been a couple of generations worth of styling changes since the cars/trucks in question were released. 10+ years ago, I was grateful for all the lights that come on in dimly lit mall parking lots, while my wife and children were out Christmas shopping. I can’t say for certain they were not accosted or harmed, I sure know that folks who would do harm won’t do it in near brightly lit vehicles.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I experienced this just yesterday while walking through a parking lot and stood there waiting for a Chevy Uplander to back up since the reverse lights were on. Then I realized that there was no one in the vehicle.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    With all the regulations in the world, we now have to decipher tail light messages which differ by make and model?

    My fave are busses and other large vehicles with all sorts of silly lights going on.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I wish I had something this insignificant to worry about!

  • avatar
    sproc

    Sorry, still hate them, and think they should be triggered by shifting into reverse, period.

    I’m a mariner by trade, and one of the international navigation rules we live by states in part, “…no other lights shall be exhibited, except such lights as cannot be mistaken for the lights specified in these Rules or do not impair their visibility or distinctive character, or interfere with the keeping of a proper look-out.” I don’t feel the least bit different about automobiles. Don’t make me unnecessarily (and potentially dangerously) question what your vehicle is going to do. Those two white lights have a very specific meaning and shouldn’t be used for anything else.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Hear, hear!

      It’s enough that most operators refuse to correctly use indicators, head lights, fog lights, etc…

      How can assigning reverse lights additional duty as ambient lighting be regarded as good?

  • avatar
    redav

    I’m much more concerned by trucks’ bed light (white) which can stay on while the vehicle is in drive. I would have thought the typical laws against white light emanating from the rear of a forward moving vehicle would have caused automakers to have the light be overridden by the gear selector.

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    Wow, I’m impressed that people are actually taking time to complain about this.

    I guess this is one of those features like glaring HID’s. Until you have them and see how nice it is to have all you can do is complain about it.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’ve owned and driven several cars with the feature and can’t say they improved or worsened the experience with the vehicle at all. As an operator, I’m 100% indifferent to the feature.

      When I’m the driver of another vehicle, they make me rage because reverse lights on every other car mean the car is backing up. It causes a needless false reaction.

      • 0 avatar
        PonchoIndian

        I like the extra light and can honestly say I’ve never been enraged because I’ve seen it on other cars. Maybe I’m just too laid back?

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          Or you never had the situational awareness or consideration to worry about what people around you are doing?

          If someone is about to back up out of a space, I am preprogrammed to care. Can’t help it. I don’t want an accident, nor even to cut them off.

          Now, let’s just get rid of reverse lights because they no longer have meaning and see how many people have negative experiences ranging from frustration to loss of life. Or, we could be just conservative enough to think that maybe the rules were put into place for a reason before we go about skirting them.

          When it comes to stuff like this I say we should care. Maybe I’m just to uptight? Somewhere between blind obedience and blind disregard is a nice place where we thoughtfully change the rules instead of scoffing.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            I think they’ve had the experience, but rather, they don’t freak out over it. I know I experience plenty of times when someone puts their car in reverse and then doesn’t move. It’s honestly not a big deal to me.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Had the experience?freak out? Not sure what you are talking about. Are you freaking out about the fact we object?

            Besides that, your example is a single person being inconsiderate. This discussion is about a bunch of people deciding to create a feature on a car that is counter to safety for no good purpose. Just on this thread people have suggested better ideas than these lights. No one is freaking out, we are just aggravated.

          • 0 avatar
            PonchoIndian

            Landcrusher
            Lets not start throwing darts and questioning someone’s “situational awareness” over the internet. Lets also not start playing the bleeding heart and pretending that you care either.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            I put out an either-or. You may have good SA or you may be considerate, but, unless you offer a third alternative, not both. I’m happy to learn that I missed something. Reading your comment though, that’s my conclusion. Don’t take it badly. You seem to be part of the majority.

            As for caring, ARE YOU SERIOUS? Even a sociopath cares about avoiding accidents. No bleeding heart required to care there. Please think before you insult.

          • 0 avatar
            PonchoIndian

            Landcrusher
            I did think before I insulted, that is why it was weak and generic. I have no reason to specifically insult you. Unlike some around here who have huge brassy internet balls, I’d happily say the same thing to someone’s face that I’d post on here.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            I don’t get it. You would stand in front of me and toss out an insult that has no basis in fact rather than point out an actual flaw in something I said? You find this somehow admirable on your part because you are consistent with it as well?

            I understand what you are trying to get at, but it just doesn’t work in this situation.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        It’s an issue even outside of parking lots. I come down my residential street into a “T”-intersection with another, and inevitably, depending on when I come by in the morning (especially in the colder months), a GM SUV parked in one of the driveways across the intersection is all lit up (including the reverse lights), probably on remote-start for warmup.

        Although, I do occasionally see the driver inside, BACKING THE CAR out of the driveway!

        No matter what, I do a double-take. Every! Time!

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      I wonder when word will reach Detroit that 99.9% of their customers now carry a magical light-emitting device with them at all times, rendering this feature useless at best? Probably about the same time as they notice that the same device can be used to summon emergency assistance, just like OnStar.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    What about a compromise- they still turn on, but flicker twenty or thirty times a second? If you don’t vomit at the sight then at least you’ll know it’s not moving.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    Like “Carlson Fan” mentioned, these lights are part of the perimeter lighting feature, first used on the 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora. One time at, of course, Wal- Mart I was leaving my Rainier and an idiot customer asked me if I was still backing out of the parking space.
    I was standing four feet from the SUV at the time. . .
    Like Danio might say, you don’t want to be “The Last In Line” to recognize a “Holy Diver” in the Wal-Mart parking lot when your reverse lights can be like “Master of the Moon” illumination!
    Try not to visit YouTube videos of Wal-Mart customers.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Those reminder honks on GM cars are more annoying than the backup lights. I still don’t understand how and why design engineers chose the honk over beeps.

  • avatar
    Trichobezoar

    Easy solution: back into your parking space.

    For everyone else, hey! I hear it’s open season for ramming GM cars for the insurance! “Those lights? Yeah I ignored them since they’re always on on those SUVs!+

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      The legal bill will be in the hundreds of millions from the class action, and everyone who has an accident and claimed confusion will get a coupon for ten dollars off of a pair of Chevette floor mats while supplies last.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • CoastieLenn: I honestly think my favorite is the 64 Conti with the suicide doors, but then followed closely by this...
  • dukeisduke: Is the name “Super Stock” supposed to bring to mind the Super Stock class of drag racing from...
  • -Nate: I owned a ’63, ’64 and ’65 Lincoln and all were stellar cars if not suited for anything I...
  • JMII: Agreed. The stock market made little sense before but these days its way too high given the conditions...
  • Chocolatedeath: Those actually sell rather well, so well in fact Honda, VW and Chevy copied the 5 passenger mid size...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber