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I have 2011 Volkswagon Jetta 2.5 and have been having an intermittent issue where my lights seem to come on randomly in the middle of the night. This only seems to happen in the winter.

When I came out in the morning and I come outside, I notice that my lights are on. When I open the door, the signal dings like my lights are on but my switch is in the off position. I have to then switch the lights on and then back off to turn them off and to turn the dinging off.

I have no way to reproduce it. I purchased my car used from CarMax in December of 2012 and it started happening in early 2013 but stopped from about March to November. Then when the temperatures started dropping, it has started happening again.

I dropped the car off at CarMax to have them look at it last year. They kept it overnight (outside) but it did not happen and their only recommendation was to leave it with them until it happens which isn't feasible for me.

Anyone come across anything like this before or have any idea what I should tell a mechanic to investigate it?

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Is it the headlights or the interior lights that are coming on? – mikes Jan 22 '14 at 2:57
It's the headlights – njkroes Jan 22 '14 at 16:36
does it have auto start or remote start? – rogerdpack Jan 24 '14 at 21:05
I have the same problem, 2011 JETTA just started about two weeks ago. only happens when its really cold. Live in Tulsa. Have you figured out the problem yet? Please help... – user4394 Jan 29 '14 at 2:44
Even my 2003 corolla behaving the same way from two months..had the headlights with low intensity on at nights and have to start the engine and off to get the lights off. Tried changing the head relay but again had the same issue today. Going to take it to tayota service to see.... – user4413 Jan 31 '14 at 0:26
up vote 2 down vote accepted

A friend of mine had a similar issue with a BMW 5-series - in his case it turned out to be water getting into the lighting control unit through a perished seal. It might be worth checking that, although I wouldn't expect the seals to have failed on a car this new...

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Check the owners manual page for fuses and relays diagram. It is possible that you have a bad headlight relay (if Jettas have them). It may be for the headlights or the DRL also known as daytime running lights. You may be able to swap it with a similar relay that serves another function. Use a relay that is not safety related such as power windows rather than Antilock brakes. If equipped leave the headlights in the off rather than the Auto-on position and see if the problems resolves.

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In the end, the VW dealer ended up having it over a week. Initially they thought there was a parasitic leak because they had put a new battery in my car and nothing happened for a few days but then one morning the lights were on. They did some more research and ended up finding out that there was moisture in my dash that was causing the lights to trip, probably the water was freezing and expanding and that's why. They said it could have happened when someone was detailing my car and pressure washed it and somehow forced water in the dash.

They then replaced the headlight switch and along with a new battery, the problem seems to have been fixed. Thanks for all the feedback!

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You know you can accept your own answer, which will resolve this question. :-) – Nick Apr 1 '14 at 12:26

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