Most drivers need to do at least some driving at night, and with the days getting shorter, the time spent behind the wheel during darker hours will surely increase. While properly functioning and properly aimed headlights are always important, this season, they’re necessary.
Whether on a road trip or driving around town, drivers should recognize that when the sun goes down risks on the road go up. The reason for this is that driver vision is compromised at night, negatively impacting depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision. According to a 2016 survey at night, 28 percent of motorists have difficulty seeing hazards and 62 percent of drivers try to avoid driving.
Before hitting the road, drivers should be sure their vehicle is ready for nighttime driving. The following headlight maintenance tips will help travelers better prepare for the open road ahead, and improve vehicle safety year-round.
Headlight Maintenance 101
- Replace before burnout: Headlights can dim over time, so replacement before burnout is suggested. Vehicles with burned-out headlights often can be found traveling on dark roads, posing a risk to both the driver, and others on the road. If a vehicle owner cannot remember the last time headlights were changed, it’s probably time to replace them.
- Always swap in pairs: It’s very important to replace headlights in pairs. Since headlights dim over time, a new bulb paired with an old bulb creates an uneven field of vision for drivers, which can be a major distraction on the road.
- Upgrade: It’s no secret – better headlights can help increase further downroad visibility, which in turn can help nighttime drivers feel safer and more secure. If there is an object on the road, headlights help drivers react sooner. Many consumers don’t realize they have options when it comes to headlights, but they do. And any upgrade above a basic headlight replacement helps to create a better, safer experience for the driver. Look for headlights that offer greater downroad visibility with a whiter light for maximum clarity. Whiter light improves contrast, allowing a driver to better distinguish objects on the side of the road.
- Consider DIY: Changing a vehicle’s headlight bulb is a simple process that doesn’t require a mechanic or service professional. Various online guides and resources exist to help consumers swap out headlight bulbs in a matter of minutes. Consult the vehicle’s owner’s manual for bulb/headlight replacement procedures, needed tools and safety precautions. Always wear safety glasses and work gloves as well.
- Restoration as an option: The average age of vehicles on the road today is 11 years old. Many of these vehicles have faded, cloudy plastic headlight lenses. This cloudiness, caused by degradation from the sun’s bright rays, reduces and diffuses the light going through the lenses, making it difficult to see when driving in the dark. Consider DIY restoration kits that restore clarity and remove the hazy yellow appearance on headlight lenses. These kits also provide a UV Block Clear Coat, which protects headlights from UV ray damage. A good restoration kit can enable up to three times more light to shine on the road from behind the same, once cloudy, headlight lens.
- Properly aim your headlights: It’s important to properly align and aim your headlights to ensure that the light is projecting down the road, and not into the eyes of oncoming drivers. If your headlights’ aim is off, it can drastically decrease nighttime visibility. This simple DIY fix can make a tremendous difference and improve safety.
It’s important to remember that headlights are an active safety item and are often a driver’s first line of defense on the road. Like other vehicle systems – brakes, engine, windshield wipers – headlights must be maintained in order to work properly. But what is a relatively inexpensive item to replace provides immeasurable safety benefits to the driver, passengers and others on the road.