Buy New Headlights to See Road Better?

Dear Driving for Dollars,

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I recently drove a newer car that has new headlight technology, and I noticed that the headlights were much brighter than on my current, older car. In fact, the difference was so dramatic that I think it made night driving on the roads in my area -- where we have lots of wildlife -- much safer.

My current car is great in all respects, and it's paid for, but this seemed so much better. Do I need to buy a new car just to get better night driving visibility, or is there another alternative?


Dear Phillip,

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Your observation has brought up an important safety issue that can be improved at almost no cost. While technology advances such as LED bulbs or xenon high-intensity discharge headlights are brighter than the conventional bulbs in your older car, chances are your lens covers are the problem. Over time, these covers, which are plastic pieces that protect the bulb itself, become discolored, dirty, or get foggy or hazy.

The good news is you can remedy this problem yourself in about an hour and for just a few bucks. The process involves using some sort of abrasive or deoxidizer with elbow grease or a power tool to remove the outer layer of discolored or oxidized plastic.

Methods vary, ranging from toothpaste to deoxidizing liquids to special kits created by car care product manufacturers. The method you choose depends on the material your headlight lens cover is made of and the problem at hand, such as discoloring, hazing, pitting or scratches. To determine the right approach, Google "headlight lens restoration," and read the details for the process you are interested in. Consumer Reports also tested several of these kits and reported the findings in its March 2012 issue, available for free on its website.

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