Every function inside your vehicle is controlled by a switch in some way. Some switches require a high current capacity, while others are low voltage. Low voltage switches usually control the electrical position of a relay, which directs a much higher current to the function being operated.

What are rocker switches?

Rocker switches are electrical switches that are equipped with a spring-loaded button. When the button is pressed in one position, a circuit is completed. If the button is released, the spring-loaded operation pushes the button back to its resting position and the circuit is open.

Some rocker switches operate more than one circuit on the same button. An excellent example is a power door lock switch. When the lock button is pressed, the power lock actuator is commanded to lock. When the button is released, the switch springs back to the resting position and power no longer is sent to the lock actuator to lock the door, though it remains in the locked position. The other end of the rocker switch is the unlock button. When it is pressed and released, the same function occurs with the lock actuator for the unlocked position.

Some rocker switches activate a timer and when the button is released, the function continues to operate until the timer turns off, such as a rear window defogger grid button.

How are they used in cars?

As noted, rocker switches are used in some models as power door lock switches. Other uses include:

  • Heated seat switches
  • Rear window defogger grids
  • Power window controls

Rocker switches are popular in many kinds of systems because of their ease of use. Because the function usually turns off when the button is released or when a timer automatically turns off, they don’t require the same attention as other switches, such as a toggle switch.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What Are Rocker Switches and How Are They Used in Cars? and was authored by Jason Unrau.


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