The importance of well-maintained headlights

Fall is here and drivers should be especially careful this time of year, deer crossing the road. If your headlights are dim, it may be more difficult to see these potential hazards as they cross roads at night or at dusk and dawn.

A light in the dark

Last year, engineers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began evaluating the headlight systems of various vehicles and discovered that not all headlights perform the same. In fact, more than half of the headlights of the midsize SUVs tested were rated marginal or poor. With about half of all fatal crashes in the United States occurring at night, and more than a quarter on unlit roads, it is evident that the role that lighthouses can play in the prevention of these accidents.

IIHS engineers measured the range of light from a vehicle’s headlights, with a brightness of at least five lux (the unit of measure for the amount of light falling on a surface), when a vehicle travels in a straight line and in turns. Based on a hypothetical ideal headlight system, these vehicle systems are tested as is by the manufacturer for both visibility and glare.

The last IIHS group tested for the headlight rating this year were mid-size SUVs. Of the 27 vehicles of the 2017 model year, both luxury and non-luxury, only two received a good rating: the Volvo XC60 and the Hyundai Santa Fe.

For the 19 models in the non-luxury category, only four were considered acceptable: the Honda Pilot, the Jeep Cherokee, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Toyota Highlander. Of the remaining vehicles, six were rated marginal and nine were rated poor.

Know your lights

In recent years, the lighthouse Technology has made great strides. Today, traditional halogen bulbs used for headlights have given way to high intensity discharge and LED lighting systems. In addition, many automakers are now offering more advanced headlight packages, which include features like curve-adaptive headlights and automatic high beams.

Something as simple as misdirected lights can affect the amount of usable light available. Other factors, such as bulb type and headlight technology, may also play a role. Knowing how your headlights work and how to improve them can help you stay safe as the days grow shorter. As deer and fog become more common in the fall, it’s important to do everything you can to improve your chances of seeing objects in time to avoid a collision.

These headlight maintenance tips can help:

  • Replace bulbs – Headlights darken over their lifetime, which can lead to impaired night vision. When a light goes out, you also halve the lighting. Remember to replace bulbs in pairs, as changing just one will create an uneven field of vision.
  • Adjust as needed – If your bulbs are new but you aren’t getting enough usable light to drive at night, check your headlight settings. Most can be adjusted vertically for proper positioning.
  • Brightness improvement – Another thing to try if your lights seem dim is to restore and polish the plastic headlight lens housing. Most auto parts stores and big box stores sell polishing kits which can help if the plastic looks cloudy or degraded.

The bottom line

When it comes to safety this season, don’t take any part of your vehicle for granted. If it’s time to switch to a vehicle with more standard safety features, but bad credit is putting you off, don’t despair. Auto Express Credit wants to help you connect with a special finance broker in your area. Our nationwide dealer network has the lending resources to help people with difficult credit. Just fill out our auto loan application form to get started today!