You know how important your headlights are when you’re driving at night. Even on well-lit roads, those comforting beams extending from the front of your car help keep you safe. They make you visible to other cars as well as increase your ability to see in front of you in the dark. That’s why checking your headlights is such an important part of car maintenance.
Check the Glow
How many times have you started driving at night and taken for granted that everything is A-OK with your headlights? How about your turn signals? You should regularly leave your car in park, turn on your headlights, and get out of the car to look at them. Try your brights while you’re at it, too (just don’t look directly at them or you’ll end up with a headache!). Switch on your turn signals one at a time to ensure they’re blinking properly.
Newer cars indicate when you’re having headlight and turn signal problems, but it’s always best to do a check on your own. You never know when a problem will crop up, and the police will pull you over for having a headlight out since it makes you much harder to see at night.
Are Your Headlights Aligned?
Headlight alignment is something few car owners think about, but it’s an important part of whether your headlights will help you see at night. If they don’t aim in the correct direction, you decrease your ability to see well at night. Driving at this time is hard enough, and dangerous enough, even with properly aimed headlights.
The first time you aim your headlights, you should probably have someone help you for the sake of accuracy. It’s an easy job, but if you’re not comfortable, you can always have a professional take care of it instead. What you want to do is park on a flat surface right next to a wall or garage door. Use tape to mark the center of your beams in both the horizontal and vertical direction. You’ll end up with a four-pointed star.
When aiming your headlights, back up 25 feet completely straight. When your lights shine on the wall or door, you’ll see bright spots in the center of the beam. Those spots should be just two inches below and to the right of your tape marks. If they aren’t, you can adjust them yourself with a screwdriver.
Things That Cause Headlight Alignment Issues
As your car gets old, your headlights can fall out of alignment for a number of reasons. Suspension problems may cause your headlights to align incorrectly. Putting heavy things in the back of your car or truck will temporarily point your headlights too high, which you should fix each time you carry a heavy load. Sometimes replacing the bulb of a burnt-out headlight will change the alignment.
You need your headlights to work correctly and point in the right direction for safe night driving. Even headlights that are only aimed slightly inaccurately decrease your ability to see the road in front of you.