People don’t spend a lot of time thinking about headlights (unless someone else’s is shining directly in your eyes while you’re driving) but they’re critical components for safe driving. Your headlights need to work at all hours of the day. They need to work in the early morning before the sun rises and at night when the sun goes down. You need working headlights if it’s raining or foggy, or if the cloud cover is dark.
Today, we offer some suggestions on why you should maintain your headlights, and some information about when it’s time to replace them. We also offer some tips on other short-term, long-term, and seasonal car maintenance issues that are easy to ignore but could help keep you safe on the roads.
Do you really have to maintain your headlights?
According to AAA, car owners do need to think more often about replacing their headlights. A 2018 study showed that headlights that are cloudy or yellow only generate about 20% of the light that new headlights do. The reduction is caused by sunlight damage to the headlight’s protective plastic coatings. The sunlight damage causes the discoloration. Greg Brannon, the director of Automatic Engineering and Industry Relations for AAA, “Headlights on the road in the U.S., even when new, don’t produce a sufficient amount of lighting, so any reduction in performance is a real safety issue.” According to AAA, nearly half of all vehicle crashes happen at night making bright headlights a priority.
AAA conducted its study by testing the headlights of two popular sedans nearly 11 years old. The research compared the lighting of these old headlights to brand new headlights. The testing was done according to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 as set forth by the Department of Transportation (DOT). AAA found that replacing the headlights with original equipment manufacturer parts “is the most effective method to restore light output back to 100 percent.” Aftermarket parts worked well, but not as well as the original manufacturer parts. The aftermarket parts did produce some glare.
AAA recommends drivers look for the deterioration signs – Are they hazy? Are you struggling to see when you drive at night? Do you see cracks or scratches? – and buy new headlights when the deterioration is bad.
A few other practical maintenance suggestions for your car
Bridgestone Tires recommends car owners conduct the following car maintenance checkups:
- Oil and coolant levels. These levels should be checked every month or every several times you fill your car with gas. You should always check the levels before a long road trip. Improper levels can affect the performance of the engine. Oil “lubricates the moving parts, helps act as a sealant against debris, cools the engine, reduces wear and tear, and helps prevent engine corrosion.”
- Air filters. The filter helps keep debris and particulate away. A quality air filter helps “improve your fuel efficiency, decrease your emissions, and helps ensure the life of your engine.” Your owner’s manual should explain when and how to conduct this check.
- Tire pressure and the depth of the tire tread. The pressure should be checked before long trips and every several months. Make sure to check the spare. You’ll need a tire pressure gauge. In colder months, you should know that tire pressure drops. Check your car manual for the correct tire pressure. Many people check tire tread depth with a penny.
Your turn signals and parking lights should be in working order. Rotating your car’s tires helps balance the treadwear. Tire rotation also prevents vibration problems. Waxing your car does more than keep your car shiny. Waxing helps reduce the chance of rust. Waxing also provides a protective seal against sand, salt, and dust.
Here are some parts that should be checked regularly:
- The transmission fluid. You should check the transmission fluid whether you have a manual or automatic transmission. Transmission repair can cost a fortune.
- The transfer case fluid. A professional should check the transfer case fluid in four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles – using the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Shocks and struts. These parts are critical for steering and smoothness as your car rides over bumps. A professional should check them every 50,000 miles unless you notice a loss of control or a decrease in smoothness earlier.
- Coolant fluid exchange. “Having your coolant system flushed regularly will help get rid of contaminants that can build up inside as well as ensure that your radiator is filled to a proper level.”
- Spark plugs. These parts ignite the air and gas mixture in your engine. Faulty spark plugs can cause your engine to lose power. If you notice a decrease in power, have a professional check the spark plugs. You should also consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacement schedules.
You should also check the serpentine belt. This belt powers your car’s alternator, air conditioner compressor, power steering pump, and other devices. The belt should be free of cracks and wear and tear. Car owners should also check the front and/or rear differential. These devices “split the torque—or power—from the engine and allow it to send power to the tires.”
A few seasonal check-ups to consider include:
- Replace the windshield wipers about once a year. To prepare for the winter, you might consider installing winter wiper blades. To prevent winter ice buildup, pull your wipers from the windshield when you park your car.
- Check your battery. Extreme heat and cold affect how well your battery performs.
- Change your tires if you live or will be traveling to areas with a lot of cold and snow. Winter tires help with handling and performance.
You should also check the antifreeze levels in your radiator in the winter.
At the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, our Nashville car accident lawyers believe that having the right information about safety is important. Poor maintenance is never an excuse for a wreck. In each accident case, we work aggressively to determine the cause of the accident to show what steps should have been taken to avoid the crash including faulty maintenance. We demand compensation for all your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, vehicle damage, and other damage. To discuss any accident in or near Nashville, Hendersonville, or Clarksville, call us at 615-425-2500 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We handle car accident claims on a contingency fee basis.