Why is my indicator flashing faster than usual?
It may come as a shock to a certain kind of driver, but all cars are fitted with a set of amber lights known as indicators.
Whether you operate them with a stalk on the steering wheel or buttons, they all pretty work the same – blinking away to tell other drivers you're about to turn or change lane.
Yet sometimes, they flash a little faster than usual. Why?
What causes car indicators to flash fast?
Since the actual indicator lights are on the outside, you can’t see if they’re working properly when you’re driving. Fortunately, carmakers came up with an easy way to indicate (pun intended) if you have a problem.
If the dashboard indicator light is flashing faster than usual, something isn’t right. In most cases, it’s simply that one of the bulbs has blown and needs to be replaced.
Here are some things that might be causing havoc for your indicators:
1) Blown Bulb
If the rapid flashing only happens when you indicate left, then the blown bulb will be on the left-hand side. If it only flashes when you indicate right, then – you've guessed it – it’ll be on the right-hand side.
With the car safely parked, flick the indicator on and you can get out and determine exactly which bulb has failed – or ask a friend.
If all the indicators are working then it’s possible that the cause of the rapid flashing is down to an incorrect bulb being fitted or perhaps a problem with the wiring, which would most likely mean a trip to the garage.
2) Poor ground connection
Another reason why your indicators could be kicking up a fuss is if the ground connection has gone wrong. If the wires in your car aren’t doing their job properly through age or other issues, this could lead to your indicator malfunctioning.
Doing a quick health-check of your wires is a good idea to see if they’re looking in good shape. A garage can help you diagnose and fix any issues with the wiring, and get your indicators functioning properly.
3) Lack of proper voltage
It could also be an issue with the voltage supply from your car’s power system if your indicators suddenly start blinking faster than usual.
This might mean that the connection switch of your vehicle needs some attention, so it’s a good idea to get it checked out.
Indicators and the law in the UK
If your indicators are not working correctly, you can be pulled over by the police and given a Fixed Penalty Notice.
Your car would also fail its MOT test as indicator lights should flash between 60 and 120 times a minute to meet regulations. Too slow or too fast and your car may not pass.
Should you be involved in an accident as a result of failing to fix a faulty indicator, you could even find yourself in court and with penalty points added to your licence. If you want to drive in Europe you will need to carry a spare bulb kit by law and fix any issues immediately.
In other words, it’s not worth the risk of driving with malfunctioning indicators and you should get them fixed at the earliest opportunity.
Is it easy to change an indicator bulb?
The ease of replacing a faulty indicator bulb varies from car to car, and also depends on which bulb has failed.
Older cars usually have relatively easy access to the front and rear indicators through opening the bonnet or the boot.
The bulbs will likely be behind a plastic or rubber trim piece that keeps water out. Once you’ve got access, it’s just a case of carefully removing the old bulb and swapping it with a new one.
Ideally, you should wear gloves as touching the bulb with your bare hands can leave oil on it and lead to uneven heating of the glass and premature failure.
Side repeaters can be harder to get to, and if the indicator is in the wing mirror or your car has sealed light units, a trip to the garage may well be wise.
Check your car’s handbook for the correct specification of replacement bulbs and instructions. You’ll also find YouTube to be full of car-specific instructional videos.
Is it expensive to fix?
Replacement bulbs cost as little as a pound apiece for conventional items, while fancy LED bulbs can cost more than 10 times that.
If you don’t want to get your hands dirty then any garage or fast fit centre will be able to do it for you, and you won't be charged an arm and a leg as it really is a matter of a few minutes work.
Essentially, there’s no excuse for not getting a faulty indicator repaired – especially since your car will have warned you about it with its fast-flashing behaviour.