Car Care: See and be seen
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According to the NZ Transport Agency, issues with vehicle lighting contribute to about seven deaths and 88 injuries on our roads each year.
Inadequate lighting can make it difficult for a driver to see and for their vehicle to be seen at night. However, lights that are too bright, incorrectly fitted or poorly aligned can be just as dangerous.
So, how do we give ourselves the best shot at seeing in the dark without annoying traffic that’s in front or oncoming?
A good place to start is in the lens.
Take a visual check of the headlight lens and ensure it is clean and clear. Glass lenses cause few problems but polycarbonate (plastic) lights can become cloudy or have a tarnished yellow tint.
In this case, it’s always worth giving them a clean first with a light polish but, failing that, you may require a full headlight replacement.
Another overlooked part of the headlight is the reflector as, over time, the chrome reflective material can flake off reducing the effectiveness of the light output.
Many methods of cleaning a polycarbonate lens have been tested and some products that have been trialled are Silvo, Brasso and cut-and-polish products. We’ve even heard of people using Jif and whitening toothpaste.
Though these all work to some extent, there are now automotive suppliers who stock products specifically designed for the job — Headlight Doctor by CRC is effective and reasonably priced.
If your vehicle headlights aren’t bright enough, you may want to consider upgrading them, But, be warned; it’s not as simple as replacing the old bulbs with higher wattage or LED bulbs. It requires a bit of homework.
Bulb upgrades must be with the same wattage but you can get some that are designed to give an increased percentage of light (plus 120 per cent) and brighter colour (cool blue, arctic white).
If you make the mistake of upgrading your light bulbs for higher wattage output, you risk the headlight lens, the bulb holder and the wiring melting and potentially catching alight.
The chrome reflective material can also be damaged by the fitment of higher wattage bulbs because of the excessive heat.
Aftermarket HID (high intensity discharge) kits are available to fit into factory headlight units, but it’s important to note that these are super bright, high-voltage lighting systems that should be installed only into vehicles that were originally equipped with this system or vehicles designed for off-road purposes.
It’s illegal to retrofit an aftermarket HID kit to a vehicle that didn’t have it in the first place.
The majority of new vehicles are now equipped with LED front, rear and daytime running lamps and some main headlight beams also incorporate LED technology combinations.
Manufacturers are switching to LEDs for their lamps because of their bright light output, longevity and low power consumption. But there is an important factor to consider before blinging out your car (just like aftermarket HIDs) — these types of lights are unlikely to meet the vehicle manufacturers’ standards and could fail a WoF.
We are now starting to see the next best thing in automotive lighting — laserlight. Laserlight headlights have a beam distance two times longer than that of conventional systems.
This system can be used only for high-beam applications and is available as an upgrade option on a few luxury vehicles in our market.
If you’re packing up your car for a long weekend with all the family, you may also need to adjust your headlights to avoid blinding other drivers.
Some vehicles have automatic adjusting headlights so when you load the vehicle up, the beam height should adjust itself.
For those with a vehicle that has a manual adjustable system, there’s often a small thumb scroll switch numbered 0-4; zero being the highest setting for your lights.
You can then lower the headlight height from the “standard” position, but don’t forget to switch it back after unloading.
This is still effective only if your headlights are aimed correctly to start with, and is a required check as a part of every warrant of fitness.
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