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The Eyes of Your Automobile

Published Oct 30th 2007, 9:01am by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

Headlightswater Are your headlights aimed correctly?

According to the National Safety Council, the number of traffic deaths is three times greater at night than during the day. Since 90 percent of a driver's reaction depends on visibility, it is extremely important that your headlights are aimed correctly, are clean and are working.

If other drivers are flashing their lights at you, it could be a sign that your headlights are not adjusted correctly. Another telltale sign is when you cannot see the full road with your high or low beams.

Even if your lenses are only slightly off the mark it still reduces your ability to see, increases night time glare, and throws off depth perception.

All the bouncing around your car does going over bumps and potholes will gradually throw your headlights out of adjustment. If you get into a small fender bender or are carrying a heavy load in the trunk, this will also throw off the aim of your headlights. Some high-end automobiles aim their own headlights and some you can aim yourself using a level driveway, a screwdriver, measuring tape, and patience. But most headlights need to be aimed at your local repair shop or dealer using their expensive, specialized headlight aiming equipment.

Why is night time driving more difficult?

It’s all about the light. Without sunlight you just can’t see as much during the night as you can during the daylight hours. Your headlights are the main source of light for your car, and this is the reason that having correctly aimed headlights that are clean and in working order are imperative.

Did you know that headlights lenses used to be made out of glass and now are made out of plastic?
Glass headlights only came in a limited number of sizes and shapes. If they cracked or broke, they had to be replaced. Approximately 10 years ago, automakers started using plastic headlight assemblies. The plastic material is easier to mold and the auto designers love it because the plastic lends itself to unlimited styles and reduce drag because of better aerodynamics.

Unfortunately the plastic headlight lenses become yellow and cloudy overtime. In only 2-3 years the light output can be cut by 75 percent, which may make it unsafe to drive at night. What happens is that the sun’s harsh UV rays, acid rain, harsh weather conditions, and chemicals all wear on the lenses. Plus, while driving, the lenses pick up dirt and grime. When the lights are on, the plastic gets hot and expands. After you are done driving you turn them off and the plastic cools and contracts. This can trap the dirt and grime on the lenses.

According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, "An average of 9 out of every 10 cars on the road today has dirty or yellowed headlights that greatly reduce vision and need to be replaced, cleaned, and/or repaired."

Headlightsmany Until recently, plastic headlights had to be replaced to correct this problem. The average replacement was on the average $200 each, not including installation and aiming. High end headlights can cost in excess of $350-$400 each.

When the headlights get cloudy and yellow, they will not pass the yearly Vermont State Inspection. Now a days, there are ways to repair cracks, repair leaks and even clean plastic headlight lenses. Consider having them restored at a fraction of the cost. When you have your headlights restored, you be able to see again! Plus, your car will pass state inspection, will look almost brand new, be safer to drive and give you piece of mind.

Can you do it yourself?

Sure you could. Would I? Nope. I do love to wash and clean my car inside and out on a beautiful summer day, but this is more then I want to do.

If you have a crack or leak and there is water inside the lenses, you need to get the water out and repair the crack. This involves removing the lens, drilling a hole to get out the water, drying out the inside, resealing the hole with a silicone seal, and reinstalling the light.

If the lenses are just yellow and grimy, you can purchase a restoration kit. They range from $19.95 to $49.99. Most of the kits have you do three steps that involve a drill or a sander. Step one is cleaning, step two is polishing and step three is applying a surface sealant. It can take anywhere from half an hour to an hour per headlight.

You can also ask your friendly repair shop to do it for you. It costs approximately $50.00 per side. So depending on how you want to spend your time, you can do it yourself or have the shop do it for you.

To help slow down yellowing and clouding of headlights you can clean the headlights once a week and more often if necessary. Don’t forget to clean the parking lights, back-up lights and turn signals too.






Happy Motoring
Amy Mattinat
Shop Owner and Author: “How To Buy A Great Used Car”

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