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Dangers Of Old Headlights And How To Deal With It

  • October 3, 2019

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Dangers Of Old Headlights And How To Deal With It?

When you are a car owner, it is a given statement, that you are bound to take certain parts of your car for granted. One such is the car headlights that increase the visibility of your path and helps to be seen. The only time you’d probably ask yourself a question about the performance of these indispensable parts is when you are winding down a long dark road and you have to squint your eyes. Headlights and it’s relevant light sources are components of the vehicle that are related to safety. These contain light bulbs with plastic or other casings. Often, they require official approval and must not be altered. But do car headlights dim over time and do they need regular checks? The answer is most definitely a yes. There are dangers associated with it that should not under any circumstance, be ignored.

Why are headlights so important?

The primary function of headlights is to illuminate the path you are driving on. They ensure you can see other cars clearly while also be seen by other vehicles. This is critical to avoid accidents especially when visibility is compromised due to poor weather or when darkness falls. Automobile owners must ensure headlights, both low and high beam, are working properly by getting them checked as part of regular car maintenance. According to Jennifer Duffield from Dent Busters, you should never take your car in for a damage repair estimate without first cleaning the outside of your vehicle. Statistics prove that major car accidents are due to poor headlights.  Driving with old headlights that are dangerously dim or produce only 20% of light is a major risk to both the driver and pedestrians or animals on the road.

Related: 6 Ways To Cut The Cost Of Car Repairs

What causes Headlights to dim?

The reasons headlights get dimmer, sometimes even yellow or foggy, are varied. While some of it is due to natural wear and tear, others may be specific. Your headlights need to get checked regularly especially for yellowing. There are plenty of solutions available to rectify these problems, however, it’s important to identify the main cause for dimming headlights. Here are some causes:

Dirt and other Chemicals

When your car is on the road, over time, it develops a layer of dirt and chemicals. Sometimes not visible to the naked eye, this thin layer is opaque and can dim the lights of your car making it hard to see the road.


Water vapor forms inside the headlight due to high levels of moisture in the trapped air. These tiny droplets are culprits to scattering light creating a diffusion on the road.

Flying debris

A very common possibility, whereby, small rocks, road salt, and other debris hit the polycarbonate lens of the headlight when driving on uneven roads. The gravel creates tiny dents, scratches, and pits on the lens that evidently affect headlight performance.


Headlight lenses usually come with a clear top coating that eventually wears off. When this happens, exposure to sunlight even causes the plastic to become yellow and hard causing it to be cloudy insight. Lenses develop cracks when exposed to UV radiation too.

Whatever the cause, identifying there is a problem is the first step.

What are the dangers of Old headlights?

Unfortunately, old headlights don’t alarm or signal drivers to take immediate action as a failed engine or battery does. However, the dangers can prove fatal if ignored and routine check-ups need to be in place to ensure headlight health. If your headlights are dangerously dim, it’s time to look at how those can be repaired or restored, saving you heavy costs in the future. While most people would see a yellowing headlight issue as a cosmetic problem, headlights getting hazy or oxidized too can seriously affect light output causing accidents. The beam that should cover the ground with light gets weakened tampering with visibility owing to compromised headlights. Not getting immaculate clarity of road owing to foggy or old headlights can lead to fatal accidents that could have been avoided.

Steps to clean your car headlights:

  1. Carefully remove the top casing of the car headlight and clean it with sandpaper
  2. Sand the lens by masking the headlight with masking tape
  3. Polish the headlight lens with a simple polish using a microfiber cloth to prevent scratches

It is also advisable to use cleaning agents that do not wear off the clear coat of headlights. There are other DIY headlight cleaning options that can be used. Ensure to cross-check these on reliable and official automobile reviewers online before using them.

Other preventive measures: 

Prevention is always better than cure. Your headlights need to get checked regularly for yellowing especially if you drive a lot in the wintery dark nights. Whilst wear and tear is inevitable with the increasing use of your car on the road and in different weathers, some measures can be taken for the general welfare of your car.

  • Park your car in a shaded area or a garage with the headlights facing away from the sun. This prevents damage caused by UV rays.
  • If you wish to wash your headlights, use automotive soap, every three months. The advantage of this is that it prevents the build-up of acids and dirt that contributes to yellowing.
  • Polish your car using the non-abrasive polish medium. Ensure to use a microfiber cloth which can help remove early signs of yellowing.
  • Take your car for evaluation and maintenance. Get a professional to check your headlights to see if it needs repair or if bulbs need to be restored. Before you do, get it cleaned thoroughly first before you take your car in.

Although a yellowing car headlight may not pose an immediate threat like a worn off brake pad, it is not something that should be put off indefinitely. Get your vehicle headlights checked by a thorough automobile professional who can inspect the bulbs, light source, and casing and advise if any need to be repaired or restored. Keep your car headlights sparkling in good health and avoid any potential hazards or accidents owing to low visibility.