Being able to clearly see where you’re going is important in life, especially when operating a motor vehicle.
Not having sufficient headlights leads to serious car accidents, and 62% of all pedestrian fatalities occur at night.
Generally speaking, accidents are unavoidable. However, there are things you can do to minimize chances of being involved in one, and being able to see – and be seen – is a good place to start.
Different Types of Headlights
There are four common types of headlight bulbs. They are: halogen, LED, Laser, and Xenon/HID.
Halogen bulbs feature filaments that produce bright and dim headlight function.
The light is created by a pressurized inert gas and a tiny amount of iodine or bromine. This combo results in a bright light, one that doesn’t blacken the inside of the bulb.
LED lights are extremely popular, and used in a variety of appliances, household lights, and other things that require illumination. Through a process called electroluminescence, they emit energy as photons – particles of light.
Laser is the most recent addition to headlight innovation. They produce more light for less energy. Through chemiluminescence – light produced through a chemical reaction – laser beams move through a chamber causing the phosphorous inside to glow.
Xenon/HID lights are commonly used in luxury vehicles. Xenon and argon gasses mix with vaporized metals, which results in a bright light.
Check this article out for a more in depth look at the different types, including pros and cons of each.
Common Headlight Malfunctions
A burnt-out headlight is one of the most common (and least expensive) reasons why one of your headlights may not be working. Replacing the headlights is pretty straightforward for most vehicles. However, you need to first identify which type of bulb your particular model uses.
This can be determined through the owner’s manual, or – more conveniently – your Google search bar.
Some people choose to purchase two bulbs, assuming that the second one may burn out soon. Keeping the additional replacement on hand for immediate installation, stowed in the glovebox where it won’t get lost.
For many car models, the bulbs can be replaced first by removing the wire clips that hold the old bulb in place, and unplugging the wiring. Then installing the new bulb in its place.
If you replace your bulb and the headlight is still not working, something else is the culprit. A bad alternator, a battery that needs to be replaced, corroded ground wires, those are all common issues that lead to headlight malfunction. In cases such as these, it’s best to bring your car to a mechanic and have them diagnose and fix the issue.
Cleaning the Cover Lens
Over time, the grit and grime from the road and weather can cloud the cover lens of your headlights causing the light that gets through to be dim.
Some auto detail places use special solutions to restore clarity, but there are tricks you can do as well to get them sparkling clean.
For instance, take a magic eraser dipped in water and use it to buff out any discoloration. You can also use toothpaste, vinegar and baking soda. Products like Rainex are known to work well, too. There are headlight restoration kits available from auto repair stores or Amazon.
Check your stockpile of cleaning products, and go from there.
How to Properly Operate Your Headlights
Daytime running lights have become the norm. When driving on a two-lane highway or narrow country road, they can be a saving grace. Alerting a car wishing to pass a slower driver ahead of them to hold off – there’s a car coming in the opposite direction.
Most headlights come with two settings, high beams and low beams. Low beams are used for general driving after dark when there are other vehicles and light from street lamps providing additional visibility. High beams are used in extremely low light situations, but must be switched off when other drivers appear. High beams are so bright, they blind other drivers, and can cause serious accidents.
Each state has their own laws regarding headlights, and how and when they should be used.
If you do a lot of driving at night – perhaps you work in the rideshare industry – it is especially important to make sure your headlights are in working order, as you do not want to cause, or be the victim of an accident.
Accidents happen, there’s no way around that. There are however preventative measures you can take, and we all have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to operate as safely as possible.