Headlights: Drivers want to see better

Volvo V90 Cross Country

As we spring forward to Daylight Savings Time, I’d like to share readers questions sent to Ask the Auto Doctor about headlights. Drivers ask me how they can get better visibility.

Dear Doctor: I frequently drive at night and noticed that the oncoming traffic headlights are extremely bright and at times hinder my sight, including in my rearview mirror as well. Is there a government standard on light requirements or is it up to the automobile manufacturer? Jack

Dear Jack: There are government light standards regulated by the Department of Transportation. Headlight technology has changed over the years — and yes, newer headlights are bright and very white in color, such as the LED headlamps. There still some projection style halogen headlights used by some carmakers. And some vehicles have active headlights that swivel and move as the steering wheel is turned. It seems as we age, our eyes become more sensitive and vision is affected by headlights.

2018 RAV4

Dear Doctor: I’m very pleased with the purchase of a 2018 Toyota RAV4. But one issue is the headlights don’t do a good job lighting up the road ahead. Personally, I think part of the problem could be the body design with the headlights set too far back. I’m thinking I have three options: Adjust headlights to a point lower, install an LED headlight kit with brighter bulbs, or install foglights. What do you advise? John

Dear John: I get a lot of complaints from drivers who, like you, are not satisfied with the headlight illumination of the road ahead. A couple of options are not very expensive: You can choose from either LED or Sylvania high-output replacement lights, or mount small additional driving lights in the front fascia. If your vehicle has foglights – or a cut out for foglights – then these can make a great mounting area. You can sometimes replace the foglight bulb with the LED style. Whatever you choose, the bulb you purchase should be a direct plug-in, not the older-style LED that requires additional wiring. The LED bulbs are very bright in color and very cool in temperature.

 

Dear Doctor: I notice many motorists driving without their headlights on at night, and instead have on the daytime running lights. Manufacturers have made DRLs so effective that the driver is under the false sense that his headlights are on. Since most manufacturers make cars with automatic on/off headlights, wouldn’t it be best if drivers just kept the “auto” position on all of the time? Vincent

Dear Vincent: Yes, it would be best for drivers to leave the switch on automatic. Most vehicles have an automatic feature that turns on the headlights when they are needed. The multi-function headlight switch can also shut off the automatic lights and daytime running lights.

Dear Doctor: I have a 2009 Ram 1500 pickup truck with 79,000 miles. Recently, when I have the low beams on and put on the high beams, all the lights go out, even the fog lights. Is this a switch problem? The headlight bulbs are less than a year old. The headlights are very dim as it is. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Sandy

Dear Sandy: The fog lights will normally go out when the high beams are on. First, remove the bulbs and check with a new bulb or test light for voltage. If there is no voltage you need to check all fuses, followed by checking the high beam switch for voltage.

— Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician.

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