Poet Sarah Williams famously wrote, “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
There are lots of things to love about nighttime, but driving after dark presents its share of dangers.
Your car’s headlights provide invaluable assistance when the sun sinks beneath the horizon, delivering the illumination you need for safe travels. But it’s important to remember that headlights need proper care and maintenance to function effectively.
Below are five tips for maintaining your car’s headlights.
1. Clean Them Regularly. If dirt or grime builds up on your windshield, you’ll likely pull into a gas station and wipe it clean because it’s harder to see through. Though they’re less obvious than a dirty windshield, messy headlights also can hinder visibility. They make it more difficult for light from the bulbs to illuminate the path ahead.
Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down your car’s headlights every week. That will help make sure dust and dirt aren’t preventing the headlights from keeping you safe.
2. Address Clouding and Yellowing. Headlights that are yellowed or cloudy will give off less light. Sunlight is one factor that causes yellowness, and it can wear down the plastic in the headlight structure and cause it to become cloudy and dull. Smog and chemicals from your car’s engine also can yellow headlights.
In addition to creating safety concerns, cloudy headlights can affect your car’s value. Anything that ages your vehicle hurts resale prices, and yellowed headlights give your car a jaundiced look that won’t do it any favors if you plan on selling it.
Headlight restoration systems do a decent job of returning yellowed headlights to their former glory. If all else fails, stop by your local dealer and have the headlights replaced.
3. Check Illumination. Sometimes one headlight goes out before the other. If you’ve got one less headlight in use, it means you’re working with less illumination, and that can compromise visibility.
Even though a blown headlight will reduce visibility, it’s not always easy to tell if you have this problem from behind the wheel. That’s why regular checks are necessary.
To test illumination, park your car, turn on the headlights and get out and do a walkaround to make sure both headlights are working. Another option is to park in front of a wall or garage door and check the surface to make sure both headlights are performing as they should.
4. Check Alignment. Most people know that misaligned wheels can cause problems when driving a car. But it may surprise some folks to learn that headlights can become displaced, causing safety concerns for drivers and their passengers.
Headlights are built to aim their beams in the same direction, but jolts caused by potholes and rough road surfaces can misalign them. Accidents, whether minor or major, also can displace lamps.
If your car’s beams are misaligned, they won’t provide proper visibility. Think something is off? Try the wall or garage door trick again. If one beam is higher or lower than the other, you likely have an alignment issue. Take your car to a trusted mechanic.
5. Replace Bulbs in Pairs. Sometimes one headlight will go out before the other. In cases like this, it’s a good idea to replace not just the dead bulb, but the working one, too. If one bulb has failed, the other likely will soon follow, so be proactive. Replacing bulbs in this manner will prevent you from driving with just one functional bulb.
Whether you’ve got tried-and-true halogens or newfangled LEDs, effective headlights are essential for incident-free nighttime travels.
The tips listed above will help you give your beams the care they need to shine brightly.