Shine On, You Crazy Headlight

September 15, 2011

We may not think about our headlights during the summer, with its long days and bright sun, but as the days draw shorter it's time to take a good look at your headlights and ask the big question--are they keeping you as safe as they should?

You may think that as long as your headlights are in working order that you're in good shape, but that's only partially true. Sure, working headlights are preferable to the alternative, but riddle me this, dear reader: Are your headlights bright enough? You probably don't know the answer, and that's okay. Allow me to enlighten you with these headlight safety tips--and yes, I'm afraid this article is probably going to be full of light-related puns like this. Just bear with me, and the heart of the matter will outshine them.

Check Your Lenses: The first thing you should do when checking your headlights is look at the lenses. Are they crystal clear, or do you see some fogginess and yellowing? Headlight lenses naturally become cloudy over time and diffuse the beams of your headlights--this impairs your visibility, and makes it harder to see you, too! In this case, a headlight lens restoration kit (available at most auto parts stores) will do you a whole lot of good.

Check For Brightness: Even though both your headlights may be in working order,  you may be due for a replacement pair nonetheless. Headlights naturally dim over time, and there's an easy way to check for this. Park on a level surface five feet from a building wall or your garage door, and turn your headlights on. The pools of light from your headlights should be a nice bright white--if they seem yellow or dim, it's time to yank those bulbs and replace them.

Check for Focus: While you're shining your lights at the wall, make sure they're aimed well--they should be hitting the same height on the wall, and when you're driving, you should be able to stop inside the illuminated area. If they're aimed too low or too high, you're creating a blind spot and hindering other drivers' ability to see you. If you've hit a couple of potholes your headlights could need to be aligned a little--ask your technician to help.

Don't Forget The Other Lights: The headlights aren't the only lamps on your car that need to be in proper working order. Check out those taillights, brake lights, turn signals, running lights, and any other points of illumination on your vehicle to make sure everything's nice and bright.

Always Replace Lights In Pairs: Most lights on the exterior of your vehicle come in pairs, and they should be replaced in pairs too. If one headlight dies and you replace only that one, you're going to have one bright headlight and one that's dimmer--avoid this trouble and replace both lamps every time. This will ensure even illumination while you're on the road.

In closing I want to add one thing: even during the day, if there's any doubt as to whether you should have your headlights on, turn them on. Remember, they're not only there to help you see-they're also there to help other drivers see you! Drive safely out there and may all your road trips be bright.

Einstein's will gladly inspect all your lights FREE of charge any time and offers replacements when needed.  Light inspection is also part of every 'Nobel' Full Service Oil Change.

The above was written by Kaeli Gardner of askpatty.com and was published in the Fall 2011 edition of Vehicle MD.