Here's why older headlights pose a risk for motorists, pedestrians

AAA reveals new test results

By Daniel Dahm - Digital Manager

ORLANDO, Fla. - New test results from AAA reveal that clouded or yellow headlights generate about 20 percent of the amount of light that new headlights do, potentially creating dangerous driving conditions.

AAA on Tuesday urged drivers to check their headlights for signs of deterioration.

"Clouded or yellow headlights are a safety issue," said Matt Nasworthy, Florida public affairs director for AAA. "In some states, motorists can be ticketed for headlights that significantly reduce visibility."

AAA said it examined the effect deterioration can have on the amount of light produced by conducting research using an accredited laboratory to test headlights from two popular sedans, about 11 years in age.

Results from the degraded headlights were measured against new headlights to quantify the amount of light produced for each, the auto group said.

Research revealed that deteriorated headlights, when used on low beam, provided just 22 percent of the amount of light a new headlight does when operating at full capacity. AAA also examined the effects that replacing or restoring a headlight can have on improving the amount of light produced. Replacing headlights with original equipment manufacturer parts is the most effective method to restore light output back to 100 percent.

More than a dozen auto repair or auto cleaning services across Central Florida offer to clean headlights. Most charge anywhere from $40 to $200. Some will guarantee the cleaning for one year.

All of the professional headlight restoration services utilize a similar process: cleaning the headlight first, sometimes with an abrasive pad or sandpaper, using a chemical to restore the clarity of the headlight, and then spraying a sealant onto the headlight cover.

One professional recommends using a pad with abrasion to remove the top layer of oxidized plastic.
He also suggests coating the headlight with an oil-based lubricant, such as WD-40, monthly to maintain clarity after cleaning it.

There are also numerous do-it-yourself headlight restoration products that can be purchased at any auto parts store or even a retailer with an automotive section.

Products cost anywhere from $12 to $25.

News 6 tested the $11.99 Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer kit on a decade-old SUV using the supplied abrasive pads and cleaning solution.

Within minutes, the headlights became noticeably clearer.

Some do-it-yourself restoration kits promise to keep headlights clear for at least a year. Replacing an entire headlight assembly can cost hundreds of dollars per headlight.

AAA recommendations for nighttime driving

  • When driving at night on unlit roadways, use high beams whenever possible.
  • Monitor and adjust driving speeds when traveling on unlit roads at night to allow enough time to detect, react and stop the vehicle in order to avoid striking pedestrians, animals or objects in the roadway.
  • If your car’s headlamp lenses are not crystal clear, have them restored, this will provide a noticeable increase in visibility, and reduce the glare from other motorists.
  • If you are 60 or older and headlight glare is an issue, have your eyes checked by a medical professional. Cataracts that cloud the eye’s lens may be contributing to the problem.
  • Unlike batteries or tires, most drivers are not in the habit of routinely inspecting their headlights. AAA suggests drivers check their headlights for changes in appearance such as yellowing or clouding and if the bulb is difficult to see, it is time to have the lenses replaced or restored as soon as possible. AAA recommends replacement since this method offers the most improvement in the amount of light produced. Both replacement and restoration services are provided by many repair shops.

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