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For the Long Road Ahead: How to Keep Your Headlights Properly Maintained

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 Since 1898, when the first headlights were introduced, drivers around the world have appreciated the convenience and extra time that driving at night can provide. As a feature which is present on literally every vehicle, headlights can tend to be overlooked and ignored. About the only time you even think about your headlights, is when you notice a dimly-lit view unexpectedly facing you, indicating that one of your bulbs has finished what it came to do. In the times in between, though, it’s good to think about your headlights every now and then, to ensure they are clean and properly maintained. Doing so ensures you will maintain a bright, clear view, alerting you to any obstacles which may be lurking in the night.

Keep Them Clear

In the winter, when the snow comes down, it can be easy to just give a quick scrape to your car’s windows, and then hop in and take off. No one wants to be standing out in the cold longer than they have to, so cleaning off as little as possible is certainly preferred. However, before you set off on your journey, ensure that your headlights are free from snow, as well. Even a thin layer left on the headlights can greatly diffuse the light put out buy the bulbs, resulting in reduced visibility, or even no visibility at all. Additionally, snow can throw light to unexpected places, potentially distracting or momentarily blinding other motorists. Another thing to check for is leaves on your headlights. This can actually be easier to forget, since leaves typically don’t present a major hazard by blocking a vehicle’s windows, at least to the point to cause visibility issues. Due to their thickness, however, even one or two leaves in the wrong spots can severely hamper your ability to see what’s ahead at night.

Keep Them Clean

When washing your vehicle, pay special attention to the headlights. As one of the leading edges of your vehicle, headlights can have a tendency to collect more than their fair share of bugs, dirt, and other contaminants. Additionally, at least in units using halogen bulbs, the heat from the bulbs can evaporate water that collects on the surface of the headlight, resulting in increased water spotting. Taking a few extra minutes to make sure all of this is removed will pay big dividends in improved safety while driving in the dark.

Additionally, many headlight lenses can become cloudy over time due to windswept dust and debris being pushed over the lens surface at high speed, resulting in thousands of tiny scratches. Similar to snow, these scratches can cause the lens to diffuse the light incorrectly, dimming your view of what’s ahead. There are many different headlight restoration kits available if you want to tackle the problems yourself. For serious issues, however, you may want to seek professional assistance, as the more abrasive work required to restore the lenses could result in permanent damage if done incorrectly.

Be Proactive

Replacing the bulbs in modern headlights is a fairly easy and inexpensive project to tackle. Given this, and given the supreme importance of properly functioning headlights, it’s a good idea to stick to a regular schedule of headlight bulb replacement. There are many factors that determine how long a bulb will last, including, of course, how often you use the headlights, the voltage running to the headlights, and even the types of roads you drive on. Additionally, the brightness of even the best bulbs will diminish over time. All that to say, do your best to understand the expected lifespan of your vehicle’s headlight bulbs, and then replace them before you reach that milestone. This ensures you won’t be stuck on a long, dark road, with only one headlight to light your way.

It Might be Time for an Upgrade

Having existed for over 100 years, as you might imagine, the headlight has seen many improvements over the course of its existence, as have the bulbs inside the headlight. Today, there are essentially three options when choosing what type of bulb to install in your car’s headlights: halogen, xenon high-intensity-discharge or HID, and LED, which stands for light emitting diode. Each of the three bulbs mentioned is in order of brightness, cost, and lifespan. Many new vehicles come equipped with LED headlights as standard, but with the correct wiring, older vehicles can accept LED or HID lights, instead of the halogen bulbs they most likely came with. Upgrading your bulbs allows for increased brightness, longer visibility, and less-frequent replacement. The only requirement is that you must make certain your vehicle’s electrical system can handle the different load, and that the sockets have been wired correctly to accept the new type of bulb. Not doing so could create problems that cost far more than any savings you might achieve by switching bulbs.

For anyone driving at night, or even desiring more visibility during the day, headlights are an essential component to getting you where you’re going safely and efficiently. With the right planning and a few moments’ time, you can ensure your headlights operate at their peak capability, illuminating the road ahead, no matter where you roam.

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