You may think that you’re in good shape as long as your headlights power on when you need them, but that’s only partially true. Sure, working headlights are preferable to the alternative, but riddle me this: Are your headlights bright enough? Is your visibility impaired?
Allow me to enlighten you with a few headlight maintenance tips (and yes, I’m afraid this article is probably going to be full of light-related puns). Bear with me, though, the heart of the matter will, um, outshine them.
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, which not only impairs your visibility, but makes you harder to see too!
In this case, a headlight restoration kit may do you a whole lot of good. Consumer Reports recently tested a range of headlight restoration kits from makers like Sylvania, 3M and the infomercial darling, Fast Brite.
Your headlights may work but, because they naturally dim over time, you may be due for a replacement pair nonetheless.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to check. 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 nice and bright white. If they seem yellow or dim, it’s time to yank those bulbs and replace them.
When you’re checking for brightness, you’ll also want to consider if the beams are aimed well: They should be hitting the same height on the wall. If they’re aimed too low or too high, your headlights are likely to create a blind spot for other drivers, hindering their ability to see you and the road. Potholes are a common cause of misaligned headlights: ask your mechanic to adjust them.
If one headlight goes dim and you replace only that one, you’re going to have one bright headlight and one dimmer one. Avoid this trouble and replace both lamps at the same time, to ensure even illumination while you’re on the road.
Of course, headlights aren’t the only lamps on our 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.
In closing, one more thing: If there’s any doubt about whether you should have your headlights on (even during the day), turn them on. Remember, they’re not only there to help you see—but to help other drivers see you! Drive safely out there, and may all your road trips be bright!