Shining a light on headlights
It’s not uncommon for vehicle owners to check their tires or batteries, but how about the headlights?
Most headlight covers are made of plastic, and exposure to sunlight breaks down the plastic coating, producing discoloration that obscures the amount of light put out.
A communiqué put out by AAA on Dec. 11 suggests that clouded or yellowed headlights generate only 20 percent of the amount of light that new headlights do, leading to dangerous nighttime driving conditions.
Rod Koons of Rod’s Tire and Repair in Hillsboro said clouded lenses are common on vehicles, especially when they get to be 10 or more years old.
“There’s a car in the shop today that could use new headlights,” he said.
Sometimes customers come in complaining that their headlights are not working right.
Lens replacement is the best solution, but headlights now come in one solid assembly, so the whole unit has to be replaced. Replacement, including labor, might cost anywhere from $75 to $200 depending on the vehicle.
“It’s a tough sell because of the expense, and a lot of people driving older cars might not have the money to replace lights,” Koons said.
If a customer doesn’t want to spend the money or can’t afford the expense, lenses can be cleaned and polished. Koons doesn’t recommend that, however, because the fix is only temporary. The problem will recur in six months, he said.
Most replacements done in his shop are because of broken lenses from hitting a deer or some other accident.
Dave Leith of Leith’s Service in Marion said a person could tell if a vehicle needs new headlights just by looking at the cover.
“It’s obvious,” he said.
Another good way to check them is by sitting in the car on a dark night with no other lights around and seeing how well the headlights illuminate the scene.
He changes out a lot of light bulbs but not many headlight assemblies.
“People don’t like to spend that much money,” he said, ‘but if you have trouble seeing things up ahead, it’s time to replace them.”
By not maintaining headlights, drivers are unknowingly operating in dangerously dim conditions. AAA urges drivers to check their headlights for changes in appearance. If the bulb is difficult to see, it is time to have the lenses replaced or restored.
Last modified Jan. 17, 2019