Going for a drive after dark? When you’re hitting the road for a nighttime ride, it’s vital to your safety—and the safety of those you’re sharing the road with—that you can clearly see where you’re going and what’s ahead of you. If you can’t see far ahead of you, if your headlights aren’t illuminating a wide area, or if you’re having to keep flicking your high beams on and off to get a better view of the road, it’s quite possible that your headlights need maintenance or even replacement. Fortunately, dealing with headlight issues is affordable and relatively simple, and it’s a great way to ensure you’re driving safely at night.
Make sure you know about the different options you have when choosing headlights, the best ways to keep them clean and well-maintained, and how to know when it’s time to replace them.
The Different Types of Headlights
There are various types of headlights, and they all have different properties. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for, and you’re much more likely to have powerful, long-lasting headlights in a new luxury SUV than you are in an older, used car. The good news is, once you become an educated headlight consumer, you can choose to upgrade.
The cheapest, most common headlights are made with halogen. The light they emit usually has a yellow tint, and they don’t shine as bright or reach as far as other, pricier headlights.
High Intensity Discharge (HID) and Light-Emitting Diode (LED) headlights are more bright and have a whiter color to their light, and they can provide greater visibility when you’re driving in the dark. They use less energy than halogen lights, but they’re more expensive. Sometimes, the glare from these brighter headlights can be distracting or uncomfortable for oncoming drivers.
Optimal Headlight Maintenance
There’s a few simple habits you can get into to help keep your headlights shining bright and lasting long. Make sure you give them a good scrub whenever you wash your car or wipe down your windshield—dirt and road dust that builds up on them can reduce visibility and increase glare.
Check your bulbs regularly. If they’re cracked or cloudy, it’s time to replace them. Make sure you include your brake lights in your bulb inspections.
You also need to make sure your headlights aren’t out of alignment. Rough roads, impacts, and sudden stops can cause your headlights to become misaligned. Your auto mechanic can get them pointed in the right direction and ensure you’re safely lighting up the road ahead of you.
When It’s Replacement Time
Over time, halogen bulbs will naturally start to grow dimmer. If you’ve noticed this occurring, or if you’re having difficulty clearly seeing the road before you at night, it’s time to replace your headlights—don’t wait for them to burn out.
When one bulb needs replacing, you should go ahead and replace both of them. This way they’ll both be at the same level of bulb life and brightness. Uneven lighting can impair your visibility.
Replacing headlight bulbs on your own is a manageable do-it-yourself project for most auto enthusiasts, but you can always visit a mechanic or dealership you like to have it done for you.
Driving at night with dim or burned out headlights is extremely dangerous, and the consequences can be devastating. Make sure you practice good headlight care and maintenance so that you can get them replaced before you find yourself in a perilous situation.