It’s dangerous enough just trying to fumble your way to the refrigerator in the middle of the night without lights to guide you, but the danger becomes very real very quickly when your car’s headlights aren’t functioning up to snuff.
Thankfully, making sure your headlights are in optimal condition isn’t that difficult. Here’s a quick, handy guide to making sure your headlights are equipped to keep you and your family safe on the roads at night.
1. Replace your headlights before they burn out
“Once they burn out” is the typical time most car owners replace their headlamps. Since it’s not something you check for regularly, a burnout might be the first time you even think about replacing a bulb.
However, even high-end headlight bulbs dim before they burn out. Dim headlights reduce a driver’s ability to see what’s in front of them and their visibility to other drivers coming from the opposite direction. This poses a risk to everyone.
Typical modern bulbs last anywhere from 500-2,000 hours with the average right in the middle. This means that bulbs should last two to three years of normal driving. It’s probably a good idea to replace your headlamp bulbs every two years at a minimum, and more often if you drive at night regularly.
Over time, especially in more humid climates like down here in North Carolina where we’re located, your light covers might fog up. This reduces how powerful your headlights are and can seriously limit your nighttime visibility.
Fortunately it’s pretty simple to restore your headlamps by yourself. A number of companies make cleaning kits that make it simple, easy and effective to clear up your lights. Most of these kits have an additive in the cleaning product that protects your lights from UV rays. A good restoration job can increase the amount of light that actually makes it out of the headlights and onto the road by up the three times!
3. Replace in pairs
While headlights typically don’t burn out at the exact same time, it’s best to replace them simultaneously. They will tend to wear out at about the same rate so chances are if one has burned out or dimmed significantly, the other is not far behind.
In addition, uneven light coming from your headlights can create an uneven field of vision which can be a tremendous distraction and safety hazard for driving at night.
4. You can upgrade
Most people tend to think that a headlight is a headlight is a headlight and don’t know that they have options. However, manufacturers these days make a variety of different bulbs using different materials for filaments or bulb construction. Many of these vary greatly in the amount of light they put out.
Your vehicle, especially if it’s a little older, likely came with standard headlights. Any improvement on that standard bulb is going to make a world of difference. Do a little research online and see which bulbs offer the greatest downroad visibility for your vehicle. While they may cost a few more dollars, the extra stopping distance they afford you at night could be the difference between a wreck and arriving home safely.
5. Aim your lights
Minor accidents or even going over a big pothole can change the alignment of your headlights. It’s a good idea to check where your lights are pointing once every couple of months, or immediately after any kind of collision.
Make sure that your lights are pointing down at the road ahead and not too far down or so high up that they are pointing other drivers’ eyes. This is also a simple quick and easy fix to do at home.
At Strutmasters we are all about the DIYer. Replacing headlight bulbs yourself is one of the easier jobs for the home mechanic and will save you quite a bit of money over taking it to the mechanic.
Here’s a handy general guide for replacing your headlamps at home, but YouTube has hundreds of videos that are specific to the make and model of the car. With a little patience and proper safety equipment (gloves and goggles always!) you should be able to install a new bulb in no time at all.
Keeping your car’s safety equipment in optimal condition benefits everyone. By properly maintaining your headlights, you are not only keeping you, your family and your car safe, you’re keeping everyone else on the road safe too.
Stay tuned to the Strutmasters knowledge base blog for more car care tips and explore our inventory if you’re giving some thought to replacing or repairing your suspension.