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HomeTips & GuidesAutomotive Accessory Switches: Types, Benefits, Considerations, and Installation Steps

Automotive Accessory Switches: Types, Benefits, Considerations, and Installation Steps

We’ll look at the types, advantages, considerations, and installation steps of automotive accessory switches in this article.

Cars can be too basic with only the standard controls, but you can enhance their performance and appearance using accessories like light bars and aftermarket sound systems.

If you upgrade your vehicle with these systems, you’ll need automotive accessory switches to regulate power access. Read on to learn more about this device!

What are Automotive Accessory Switches?

Also known as car auxiliary switches, automotive accessory switches are specialized buttons or switches that enable car users to control extra features beyond the standard vehicle functions.

They can also control aftermarket features used for vehicle customization to enhance functionality.

Typical Automotive Accessory Systems

Automotive accessory switches control these systems or devices.

  • Entertainment systems (aftermarket subwoofers, gaming consoles, additional trunk speakers, etc.)
  • Lighting (light bars, interior ambient lighting, fog lights, puddle lights, and underbody lighting)
  • Off-road accessories (winches, diff locks, and air compressors)
A steel wire rope winch

A steel wire rope winch

  • Security and safety (reverse cameras, car immobilizers, and alarm systems)
  • Convenience/comfort features (remote start, seat massagers, heated seats, etc.)
  • Communication devices (CB and 2-way radios)

Manufacturers and technicians usually install switches for these accessories on easily accessible surfaces in the cabin for the driver or passengers.

Types of Automotive Accessory Switches

Automotive auxiliary switches come in various configurations to suit the electrical application area. They include the following.

Toggle Switches

Automotive toggle switches are simple on/off devices that regulate power to devices like LED light bars, fog lights, and cooling accessories (fans).

Rocker Switches

Rocker switches are similar to toggles in basic functionality but have a flat rocker actuator that makes it easy to differentiate between the on and off positions. 

You can use them to control lighting accessories or winches.

Rotary Switches

These devices can have multiple states by controlling the power intensity flowing through.

 For instance, car AC or blower/heater fan-switch speed adjustments require multiple settings to regulate the intensity. 

Audio systems also need rotary switches for volume control.

A rotary volume knob

A rotary volume knob

Push Button Switches

Accessories like car horns and winches require momentary control, a function you can get from automotive push-button switches.

Key Switches

As the name suggests, a keyed switch requires a key to activate. The typical one is the automotive ignition switch, and the key adds a security feature.

An ignition switch

An ignition switch

Dimmer Switch

A dimmer switch operates like a rotary switch because it has varying intensity levels or settings. 

It is typical in controlling the brightness of the interior, accessory, and dashboard lights.

Illuminated Switch

This electrical switch has a built-in LED light that shows whether the connected accessory device is on or off.

The LED turns on when you close the circuit, meaning power reaches the end device. 

It turns off when you open or disconnect the power, meaning the current flow is off. 

Alternatively, the LED color can change depending on the switch state.

Touchscreen Switches

Although touch functionality is no longer new, these switches have a more futuristic appearance compared to the others. 

Additionally, you can customize them to give a personalized user experience.

Push-Pull Switches

These switches feature a push or pull mechanism, where you can use either the former or the latter to activate the circuit and the other for deactivation. 

Typical automotive applications include headlight controls and windshield wipers.

A car wiper control switch

A car wiper control switch

Benefits of Using Accessory Switches

These devices give you the following benefits.

Enables Convenience

Accessory devices are add-on features that enhance a vehicle’s performance, and accessory switches allow you to control them to make your vehicle more convenient. 

For instance, you can use a push button or toggle switch to activate a winch to pull your car out of the mud.

Enhances Safety

Some accessory switches control safety or driver-assist features, such as reverse cameras or LED light bars when driving off-road. 

Such systems give you better visibility to navigate through demanding driving conditions.

An LED light bar mounted on a vehicle

An LED light bar mounted on a vehicle


These switches enable you to customize your vehicle by installing extra functionality to suit your lifestyle. 

Some prefer loud audio systems, others accent lighting, or even interior comfort features, such as massage seats.

Improves Fuel Economy

All electrical car accessories consume power from the battery or alternator.

 This power comes from the engine, which turns the alternator to recharge the battery or run the accessories. 

So, the more the load, the more fuel the engine will consume to spin the alternator.

And even if driving an EV, accessory switches enable you to switch off some functions when not in use to reduce the load and conserve battery power.

At the same time, you will lengthen the accessory’s lifespan by keeping it off when not in use.

Prevents System Overloads

Some accessories draw tons of power and can cripple critical driving standard controls. 

For instance, a powerful subwoofer and speaker system can limit the electric current getting to headlights and front windshield wipers when driving on a rainy night.

A vehicle with a powerful audio system

A vehicle with a powerful audio system

You can use an accessory switch to turn off the sound system, leaving the core features with enough power.

Simplifies Troubleshooting

Accessory switches regulate separate circuits for the auxiliary devices. 

Should something go wrong in your vehicle’s electrical system, you can shut off the accessories to help pinpoint the issue faster.

Makes the Car Flexible for Future Upgrades

Once the automotive switch panel and wiring are in place, you can install new accessories or modify the existing ones easily with minimal effort.

How To Select The Correct Accessory Switches

Consider the following factors to ensure you pick the most suitable accessory switches.

  • Identify your vehicle’s accessory switching needs
  • Ensure you get switches compatible with your vehicle
  • Find the most appropriate switch type for the specific accessory
  • Determine if you want illuminated or non-illuminated switches
  • Think of the number of switches you need to control the accessory system
  • Check the switch’s electrical ratings (current and voltage) to match them with the accessory device
  • Look for the most aesthetically pleasing switch units that match your interior
  • Think about ease of installation and use
  • Check the cost

Installing and Wiring Accessory Switches

You need the following electrical components to complete this installation.

  • Accessory switch and correct-gauge wires
  • Inline fuses
  • Wire stripper and crimper
  • Cable connector
  • Car wiring diagram

Step 1: Layout the Installation Plan and Wiring Route

Determine where to install each switch while considering accessibility and non-obstruction of other controls.

Also, decide the most optimal wire route while avoiding heat sources, sharp edges, and moving parts.

Step 2: Disconnect the Power Source

Loosen the negative battery terminal or turn off the battery disconnect switch to cut the power supply to the vehicle’s electrical system.

A car battery disconnect switch

A car battery disconnect switch

Step 3: Prepare the Wires

Cut and strip the wires to match the location of the switches along the planned route.

Install the switches in their installation pockets or brackets, then attach the cables to the integrated wire leads. 

You might need connectors for this task, and remember to make ground links accurately.

After that, mount the switches on an accessible surface and create a firm installation. Try to follow the installation instructions to get it right.

Step 5: Connect the Inline Fuses

Install inline fuses to the 12V power wire running from the power source to the switch and ensure its rating matches the load.

Step 6: Route the Wires to the Accessories

Route the wires from the power source to the accessories via the switch.

Step 7: Test the Accessory Switch

Reconnect the power supply briefly to test this system before wrapping up the installation. 

If everything looks good, proceed to the next step.

Step 8: Secure the Wires and Label the Switches

Use zip ties and cable clamps to secure the wiring harness to the vehicle’s body. 

Remember to use rubber grommets on metal surfaces to prevent chafing.

Several cables tied together using zip ties

Several cables tied together using zip ties

Step 9: Reconnect the Power Supply

Reconnect the battery to the electrical system and test the system again for certification. That’s it.

Wrap Up

Automotive accessory switches are must-have devices for fitting auxiliary systems in your vehicle because their benefits are more on/off control. 

And there are a variety of switches to suit the accessory or installation environment.

Read more about heavy-duty toggle switches in this article to learn about these vehicle devices. 

We would also appreciate your feedback, so share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Hi I am Christa, sales manager of Cloom.

I have extensive expertise and experience in wiring harnesses and I believe I can help you.

And we have a very professional technical team who can clearly understand the customer’s needs and give professional suggestions and solutions after receiving the drawings.

If you also have wiring harness needs, please send me the drawing so that we can give you our quote and start our business.

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