Routine vehicle maintenance protects drivers on the road while also protecting the often-considerable financial investment they make in their cars and trucks. Maintenance guidelines have changed thanks to technology, but drivers must continue to care for their vehicles to ensure the safety of themselves, their passengers and fellow motorists.
From the time they first get behind the wheel, many drivers recognize the need to periodically change their oil and have their tires rotated. But few drivers may understand the importance of maintaining their vehicles’ headlights, and just how compromised they and their passengers might be when driving with old, dimming or foggy headlamps.
Burned out lights greatly diminish driver visibility and may even draw the attention of law enforcement. But headlight bulbs don’t just burn out overnight. As bulbs age, their light output gradually reduces due to use and factors such as humidity, electrical resistance and filament fatigue. Drivers concerned about the efficacy of their headlight bulbs can take steps to improve their visibility when driving at night.
· Accept your own vulnerability. The human eye is not adapted for nocturnal vision. As a result, drivers’ visual acuity may be reduced by as much as 70 percent when driving at night. Cloudy, dim headlights only exacerbate that problem, further compromising the safety of everyone on the road. Avoid aggressive driving and always obey the speed limits, even when it’s late at night and roads are empty.
· Learn to recognize headlamp clouding. According to the automotive lighting innovator Lumileds, sunlight, ozone, road pollution, and even chemicals used in car washes can contribute to headlamp clouding. Clouded headlamps often appear hazed and yellow and reduce headlight output considerably. Routine headlamp inspection can help drivers discover clouded lamps that can greatly compromise nighttime visibility.
· Restore clouded headlamps. Clouded headlamps do not necessarily need to be replaced. There are restoration kits that may be purchased to improve lighting.
· Replace headlamps that are past their prime. While not all clouded headlamps need to be replaced, some aging or outdated bulbs are best replaced with new models designed to produce substantially more light output. Drivers whose vehicles are equipped with standard halogen headlights may be surprised to learn that such lights typically begin to break down within two to three years of installation, during which time light output might be reduced by as much as 30 percent.
Drivers’ visibility is dramatically reduced once the sun goes down, but maintaining headlamps can help drivers combat that loss of vision.