Over time, exposure to the elements – sun, hail, and salt, can cause headlights to become damaged or less resistant. Make sure yours stay effective this winter! Here is our guide to headlight maintenance, common repair procedures, and replacing bulbs.
Headlight Maintenance How-To
Regularly check that headlights are working properly. Turn on lights and walk around the front of the vehicle to see that both bulbs are on, and check headlight alignment – sometimes, car headlights get crooked or light doesn’t shine straight ahead like it’s supposed to.
It’s important to keep headlight lenses clean. Dirt and debris can accumulate on the surface, which can lead lenses to grow yellow with age and lessen the quality of light coming out. Follow these steps to keep your headlights clean.
- Using tape, mask off the area around the headlight to avoid scratching the paint.
- Clean the surface (using car soap) to remove dirt. Dry the surface and look for hazing, yellowing, or cracks. This will determine if you need to make any repairs.
- Wet the surface and sand the lens with 1000-grit sandpaper. Sand in one direction. Wipe off with a shop towel or microfibre cloth.
- Seal the lens with a wax sealer. Squeeze a quarter-sized onto a micro fibre cloth, apply to the lens from left to right. Let it soak in for a few seconds. Continue buffing until headlights look clear.
Headlight Replacement Procedure
When replacing a headlight bulb, the first step for any car owner should be to consult your car’s manual and make sure you are able to accomplish the process. In many cases, the only tools necessary to change a headlight are a pair of pliers and a pair of latex gloves.
Step 1: Remove the defective bulb
Open the hood of the car to locate the bulb connector sticking out of the back of the headlamp. The connector will be held in place by one of three types of retainers: a plastic ring, which can be removed by unscrewing, a metal tab, which must be pulled off with pliers, or a plastic tab in the connector itself, which needs to be pushed toward the centre of the connector while pulling the connector out.
Remove the retainer, pull out the connector, and change the bulb, careful not to touch the glass.
Step 2: Clean the retainer
This can be done using a clean cloth or a wire brush. It will help your new bulb last longer.
Step 3: Insert the new bulb
Making sure you’re holding the new bulb at its base, snap it into place in the connector and insert the retainer back into the vehicle.
Common Repair Procedures
Cracked headlight lenses: There are both liquid repair solutions and repair patches that can be used to repair cracks in headlight lenses. While these repairs won’t make the crack invisible, they will effectively seal it, preventing the crack from widening, and moisture from entering.
Headlight housing: The entire headlight assembly usually includes the turn signals and parking lights. These are all replaced together as one unit. Remove the connectors and bulbs, as you would to replace the headlight bulb. For smaller bulbs, such as the turn-signal bulb, the socket is usually removed from the housing by a quarter turn.
Aligning headlights: Whenever the headlight housings are replaced, they should be aligned by a qualified mechanic. Some headlight housings have bubble levels on them, allowing for easy adjustment in the vertical direction. The adjustment screw, which is usually located next to those levels, needs to be turned until the bubble is between the two lines. Be sure to have the car parked on flat, level ground when setting the vertical alignment of headlights.
Keep in Mind …
Safety First! When repairing or replacing your headlights, be aware of hot objects and sharp instruments. Don’t substitute tools unless you’re sure you won’t compromise your safety or the performance of your vehicle.
Keeping your headlights in top condition is of utmost importance in winter, when visibility tends to be low for drivers. Find out more ways you can keep your line of vision clear in winter months.