Consumer Reports: Make dim headlights clear again

You might not think much about your car's headlights, until they burn out or appear less bright as your car gets older. But as Consumer Reports explains, headlights are an important safety feature that needs maintenance just like the rest of your car.

Of all of the tests that Consumer Reports performs at its auto test track in Connecticut, this one might be the most unusual. Consumer Reports tests the headlights, analyzing things like brightness indoors and how well they light the road ahead on moonless nights.

"We're looking for things like how do the low beams and high beams give you visibility straight ahead are they bright enough, is the pattern uniform or streaky and will they cause glare to an oncoming driver or someone that you're following?" said Consumer Reports Car Expert Jennifer Stockburger.

But if your car isn't new, you might have realized your headlights aren't in tip-top shape. Sun and the UV exposure can cause the plastic coating to become clouded or yellowed, giving off far less light that they had when you first bought the car!

"You may find cars are more susceptible to this clouding if you are in an area where there is a lot of sun, a hot state," Stockburger said.

So, what can you do?

"You have kind of two choices. You can replace the headlight," Stockburger said.

But it can be expensive and can cost over $200 per headlight on some cars.

"A more temporary fix: you can use these headlight restoration kits," Stockburger said. "They kind of using different levels of abrasive clear that clouding off of the lens."

Consumer Reports applied a restoration kit on one side of one car. It took only about 15 minutes and... the results were illuminating.

The restoration kits restore brightness for about a year but most kits are less than $25.

And Consumer Reports says all that light, will make you a whole lot safer on the road.

Before using any restoration kit, it's a good idea to watch the manufacturer's instructional videos online if available. Now if the lenses are clear but the lights appear to be dimmer than they used to be, Consumer Reports says you may just need new bulbs. All bulbs dim over time and should be replaced after a few years!

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