When Should You Change Your Headlights? 1A Auto Blog
Fog’s drifting in. There’s ghosts and monsters creeping down your street. Dark days lie ahead. Soon, the world will be engulfed in gloom.
Or it’s just Halloween and it’s about to start getting dark a lot earlier. In the next couple weeks, we get the one-two punch of Halloween and the end of daylight saving time. On November 5, we’ll all turn our clocks back (at least as long as we remember to – you’ll recognize the people who didn’t when they show up an hour late for work on the sixth).
There’s nothing we can do to make the days any longer or your evening commute any brighter, but, by checking your headlights, you can at least make sure you’ll be able to see and be seen on the road. You might even want to check up on your car’s lights sooner rather than later. After all, you’ll have to be on the lookout for all the trick-or-treaters on your block this Halloween.
Here are some scary signs that your headlights have about as much life in them as a zombie.
Faded/Cloudy Headlight Lenses
Are your headlights cloudier than a dark and stormy night, or scratched up worse than a werewolf’s latest victim? Road debris and salt can scratch up headlight lenses over time. The lenses can become discolored and turn yellow. That not only makes your car look bad, but it decreases the distance and brightness of your beams, making it harder to see.
You might be wondering if one of those headlight cleaning solutions can bring your lenses back from the dead. They work for a little while, but sooner or later it’s right back to where you started. You’re probably better off just replacing the light from the get-go.
Fogged Up Headlights
Another problem that cuts down your light’s brightness is moisture creeping inside the lens. If it gets really bad, you might even notice water droplets inside your headlight. The biggest problem with fog inside your headlights is that the moisture will make your bulbs burn out more quickly. If you’re killing bulbs quicker than a slasher film, you should check if your headlights have been letting moisture in. If so, you’ll have to replace the whole headlight.
Headlight Bulbs Keep Dying
There may be other reasons your bulbs are dying at an extraordinary pace. If the oil from your skin gets on the headlight bulbs, it can cause the bulbs to burn out more quickly, so be sure to handle your bulbs with gloves on. There could also be voltage problems from loose connections or corroded bulb sockets. A bad alternator can also cause your voltage to spike up and down which can be bad for your bulbs.
Is your car haunted like Christine? Probably not. Flickering headlights are usually a sign that either the bulbs are going bad or you have a wiring problem. If your wiring is loose, that could cause flickering. Check all your headlight electrical connections for tightness. It’s also possible for the circuitry inside the headlight to go bad. In that case, you’d have to replace the whole light. As we noted above, spiky voltage from a bad alternator can cause headlight problems, including flickering lights.
Cracked/Chipped/Broken Headlight Lens
If your headlight lens gets cracked, chipped, or broken, you’re going to have to replace the light. At least it’s not seven years of bad luck like a broken mirror.
The Lens Fell Off
If the lens falls off, then your headlight has given up the ghost and it’s time for a replacement light.
Old Sealed Beams
Into the early 1980s, cars used something called sealed beam headlights. Once the bulb went out, it was time for the whole light to rest in peace. If you have an older or classic car with a bulb out, you’re looking at a headlight replacement job.
Neither Headlight Works
You’re cursed! Just kidding. You’re probably just having electrical problems (although some people might say that’s even worse). First, check your bulbs. It’s uncommon for both headlight bulbs to burn out at the same time. Before wasting time on more complicated work, rule out the possibility of that happening before you continue. Then check your headlight fuses and relays. If you have any burnt-out fuses or relays, replace them. Otherwise you might want to test your headlight switch with a voltmeter. If the switch isn’t working, you’ll have to replace the switch.
Did You Know You Should Aim Your Headlights?
Your headlights may be bright enough but aren’t efficiently lighting your way. In that case, all you need to do is adjust your headlight aim. That’ll give you a better view of the road, without blinding oncoming traffic. This video can show you how to aim your headlights.
The Good News
Of course it’s not all doom and gloom. A dead headlight doesn’t have to be a bad omen, and replacing one doesn’t have to be scary. Actually, headlight replacements are pretty easy and most do-it-yourselfers can tackle the job with basic hand tools. This video will show you how easy it can be for even a novice do-it-yourselfer to replace a headlight assembly.