ASK GARY: How Should I Maintain My Headlights?
October is National Headlight Safety Month, and one of the best ways to prepare for the highly unpredictable New England weather is to properly maintain your vehicle’s headlights. It is also one of the easiest ways to stay safe on the road by being able to see and be seen by incoming traffic.
Headlights are one of the most easily overlooked and underappreciated elements of vehicular safety. Most drivers only think about their headlights once they burn out, and while this does not affect the overall performance of the car, this attitude can negatively impact you as the driver.
Studies show that 90% of a driver’s reaction time depends on vision, with proper illumination being crucial to awareness. 49% of accidents occur at night (a startling number given that most driving occurs during the day), with the most dangerous time being the hours between 6 PM and 9 PM. Very often, people fail to notice one of their lights is out –a dangerous and fineable offense. One of my favorite maintenance tricks is to check your vehicle’s reflection when waiting behind someone at a stop to make you can see both lights against his or her bumper. Since lights don’t burn out very often, you only need to remember to do this once or twice a month.
For the astute driver who notices his or her headlights seem dimmer than before, a headlight restoration kit should be used before any plans to replace the bulbs themselves. The casing for the headlights can get steadily caked with dirt, and many do not realize that the average car wash is not enough to clean this off.
If you’re in the market for new bulbs, there are three types to consider: incandescent, halogen, and xenon. Incandescent bulbs are like the run-of-the-mill light bulbs found at home, only much larger. They are less energy efficient, and have the shortest rated life of typical bulbs. Halogen bulbs are a step up in energy efficiency, rated life, and illumination. Finally, we have xenon bulbs, which are lit with a bluish tint. These lights are extremely bright and very energy efficient, but should be installed properly to reduce glare, and to avoid blinding other drivers.
So remember don’t overlook your headlight maintenance because your visibility on the road is everything!