Does Headlight Restoration Really Help Nighttime Visibility?
This is an important question because headlights are an integral—yet often neglected—part of driving safety. To understand the importance of headlight maintenance, let’s take a look at the effects of lens condition on nighttime visibility. Here are a few startling facts you may not know:
1. Forty percent of all fatal car accidents happen at night. And reduced visibility contributes to many of them. This is a problem that can affect young and old people, alike. Fifty-eight percent of all crashes involving teens occur after 9 p.m., and recent studies show that the average 50-year-old drivers needs twice as much light as the average 30-year-old driver to safely see nighttime road hazards.
2. Hazy headlights can cut visibility in half. So that’s a 75 percent light reduction for the average 50-year-old! But clear headlight lenses make a huge difference, at any age.
3. Motorists traveling at moderate to high speeds in darkness can give themselves up to four seconds of additional reaction time by restoring foggy headlight lenses.
Prevention of Reduced Nighttime Visibility
Headlights are obviously a crucial driving safety feature, but headlight maintenance extends beyond the changing of a light bulb from time to time. Keeping your headlight lenses clear is as crucial as keeping your windshield clean. Most cars spend much of their lives exposed to UV rays, rain, snow, debris and atmospheric pollution. Over time, these conditions cause yellowed, hazy headlight lenses.
How Headlights Work
Headlight illumination is produced using one of two designs: projector or reflector technology. Projector headlights focus light by directing it through a lens into the right pattern on the road. Reflector technology uses a smaller light source that is “bounced” from a surrounding, reflective housing. In either case, foggy lenses diminish the intensity and projection pattern of the light.
Types of Headlight Bulbs
There are several bulb types on the market, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Halogen lights are the most popular. They are composed of a filament surrounded by halogen gasses encased in glass. They are usually cheaper than other bulbs, but they often last longer than other designs.
Xenon bulbs, also known as High Intensity Discharge (HID) bulbs, produce the brightest light of all the designs, and they do it at lower temperatures than halogen. The distinct blue color is a product of the xenon gases used to create the illumination. They typically cost more than other bulbs, but they’re brighter and more energy efficient than halogen.
LED or Light Emitting Diode headlights are made up of hundreds of small light light sources. LEDs are very bright and need very little power to operate. However they require electronic control systems to function, and a component failure in the control system can result in complete headlight failure.
Why Headlights Discolor
The lenses that cover headlight bulbs are commonly made with high-tech plastic. But even these materials breakdown and discolor over time due to heat and all the environmental factors mentioned above, reducing the amount of light available to illuminate the road during nighttime driving.
Professional Headlight Restoration
Replacing old bulbs may restore some headlight brightness, but it won’t help with the primary cause of light loss: hazy lenses. Refurbishing the lenses can restore headlights to up to 95 percent of their original clarity. APR offers professional headlight restoration services using industrial-grade tools and polishing media. After restoring the headlights back to a clear finish, our professionals apply a waterproof, UV-protective, weather-resistant coating to battle the extreme conditions that the headlights will continue to encounter under normal use.
Do-It-Yourself/DIY Headlight Restoration
There are ways to restore your own headlights, but they’re generally less effective than professional methods, and they can damage surrounding paint, chrome and the lenses themselves.
One popular method of DIY headlight restoration is to rub insect repellent on the lenses. It definitely clears the lenses, but it does so by slightly melting the plastic surface, compromising its integrity and ultimately causing more dust and contaminants to stick to the lens.
Toothpaste is another solution that uses at-home materials to clean up the haziness. Again, it does the job, but the abrasives used in toothpaste are not designed for headlight use, and the results can be varied. This method can also dull any chrome or paint around the headlights. Professional technicians use strictly specified polishing media, and they meticulously mask off surrounding hardware to avoid damage.
DIY headlight restoration kits provide polishing compounds, buffing pads and sanding media, but the procedures can be difficult to perform correctly, and the process is time consuming.
How Often Should You Inspect Your Headlight Lenses?
You probably perform a number of regular maintenance tasks on your car or truck: you change the oil, replace the air filter, rotate the tires, and so on. But even the most conscientious drivers often neglect the headlights in their maintenance schedules. The best policy is to put a reminder on your calendar to inspect the headlight lenses once a year, maybe more, if you drive a lot of miles. When they start looking dull—and they will, eventually—give us a call at APR. Headlight restoration costs a small fraction of the price of a replacement assembly, and it can make a dramatic difference in your nighttime driving safety.