Headlight Safety and Proper Restoration

By Richard “Rick” Lawson, Owner, Bright Lights Now | | 5.8.24

About half of all fatal crashes in the U.S. occur in the dark, and more than a quarter occur on unlit roads. Headlights have an obvious role to play in preventing nighttime crashes, but not all see it as the potential threat to the life of one’s self or one’s family that it is.

The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) assesses automotive vehicles for safety across the U.S. for crashworthiness. The IIHS uses a five-category testing method to evaluate cars and how safe they are.

When it comes to the areas of the testing that include the front of the car, the IIHS is very attentive to a vehicle’s headlights.

The headlight assessment is a serious part of the IIHS safety testing activities. That’s because headlights likely play a role in up to 50 percent of car accidents. About half of motor vehicle mishaps occur on dimly lit roadways.

Things that you do not neglect: Seatbelts, Brakes, Tires, HEADLIGHTS!!!

In times past, automobile manufacturers used glass which limited the manufacturers' ability to produce a more aerodynamic vehicle. It was also much heavier than modern material - polycarbonate (plastic). Plastic lenses can be shaped to just about any design and are much lighter.

That's why most modern vehicles have plastic headlights, and, with them, new problems. Plastic expands and contracts with temperature changes. While the lights are on, they generate heat, and sunny days also cause the temperature to rise. The material is porous so it traps various types of road material and chemicals used for cleaning and waxing. These factors, combined with the fact that over time exposure to the sun oxidizes the material, make it yellow or brownish in color, as well as dull, hazy or foggy in appearance. This problem can start to show in as little as 3 or 4 years and is common in many older automobiles.

This is not just an aesthetic problem - detracting from the overall looks of the vehicle and affecting the resale value. It is also a safety issue. Less light passes through the lens, and in extreme cases most of the light does not get through. Some people have reported changing their driving patterns by driving only well-lit streets or not driving at night because of these problems. (Could this be you?)

Until now many thought the only solution was replacing the old, unsafe headlights with COSTLY NEW ones, sometimes running into hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Things to avoid:

#1 The YouTube quick fixes, many of the things you see on YouTube (DEET Bug Killer, WD40, toothpaste) will damage your headlights making them harder if not impossible to fix.

#2 Putting a clear-coat on the headlights. This is not a fix. It will pill and flake off in short order and it turns yellow as fast, if not faster, than the headlight itself.

There is a time for a DIY project, but this may not be it. Headlight restoration is a profession that takes skill.

Bright Lights Now
Richard (Rick) W. Lawson

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