Poor visibility is always a problem, however during the winter season it gets more perilous than ever. According to DOT, around 24% of weather-related accidents happen in the winter season alone. And bad weather conditions along with decreased visibility in snowfall definitely contribute to the statistics.
Bright headlights allow you to notice obstacles and dangers way ahead of your vehicle and leave enough time for a proper reaction. So, here are some tips on how to maintain their efficiency in harsh winter conditions.
Protecting your headlights from condensation
Not every state has to deal with heavy snowfalls and icy roads in winter. However, frequent temperature fluctuations are very common during a cold season no matter where you leave. A freezing night can be followed by a warm sunny day, and moisture trapped inside the headlight assembly will condense and evaporate continuously.
This issue is not as harmless and trivial as it may seem at first. Moisture prompts oxidation on the light bulb and deteriorates the plastic lens from the inside. Ignore this issue for a while and your headlight bulbs will start to fail eventually, forcing you to go check what bulb fits your car as a replacement.
No need to freak out whenever you notice a thin veil on the inside of your lens. Headlights usually have small “breathing” vents to even out the air pressure inside and outside the assembly. Since the average humidity throughout the states is 70-80%, your headlights are never completely devoid of moisture. And it will inevitably condense when the temperature drops low enough.
That said, too much condensation is a tell-tale sign that something is not right. Water can easily get inside the headlight if the sealant breaks in some places or deteriorates with time. It is normal to have a little bit of moisture inside. To prevent any problems caused by excessive moisture, inspect your headlights from time to time. And if you see water starting to pool inside, act immediately. The only solution for this problem would be disassembling, cleaning, drying, and then resealing the headlights with silicon or vinyl-based products for headlights. Before you reseal them, make sure that there are no signs of oxidation on the bulbs.
Fighting the headlight oxidation
Oxidation is usually the main culprit behind foggy and yellowing lenses. Each headlight comes with a protective layer on top, that doesn’t let the harsh environmental conditions affect plastic. Once that thin shield wears off, the lens becomes exposed to the air and oxidizes. Tiny cracks form on its surface and cloud the otherwise clear plastic, dimming your headlights.
Ben Collins, the content editor of LightningLab project, warns against DIY polishing methods. “Toothpaste, baking soda and WD-40 can give you some fast results but they won’t last more than a week or two. And cooking oil will not help much.” DIY methods can only be effective for polishing off the damaged layer. It still doesn’t give the necessary protection. Now, special films and products formulated for headlights are a different thing. They will create a new protective layer on top of the polished lens that will actually last. Even regular car wax will yield better results.
Your car’s eyes also need protection from the UV light
UV light is one of the reasons your headlights can become foggy without proper protection. These pesky rays can pierce through the clouds and deal damage regardless of the season. And don’t forget how reflective the snow can be on a sunny day. It is still dangerous for both your eyes and the car’s lenses.
To protect vulnerable plastic from its detrimental effect you don’t need to do anything special. The same protective film is usually enough to do the job. And it is always a good idea to check whether the products you normally use for protection include UV-resistant components.
This constant maintenance may seem like a dreadful chore, but in fact, it will help you save money on restoration in the long run. Just make sure your headlights are squeaky clean and dry before you apply the product. Besides, these protective accessories and products often serve more than one purpose.
Protect LED headlights from freezing
Many car manufacturers opt for OEM LED headlights because of their versatility and efficiency. And one of their most advertised features is that they use less power than halogens and produce brighter light. However, their technology allows them to burn at much lower temperatures. It prolongs their service life, but in winter this low heat emission can cause more harm than good.
Snow, chilled rain and slush from the road can stick to the lenses and freeze on top of them blocking the light. The frozen crust can become really thick and hard to clean off. And doing so on the road can be very dangerous in poor visibility.
The cheapest way to solve this problem is a hydrophobic spray for headlights or a bit of car wax to repel moisture. Just let the water and snow slide off the headlights on their own. No need to install tiny heaters for the assembly or even small wipers like the ones you can see on some luxury cars. keeping headlights clean and prepared for the weather is more than enough.
Dealing with dirt and harsh chemicals
The icy glaze on the road is the most dangerous thing in winter. And strong chemicals used to melt the ice are the most dangerous thing one could get on the headlights. They eat away at any protective layers, baring the lens completely. The best way to tackle this problem is to gently cleanse the surface while you are still outdoors. Chemical reactions usually speed up when the temperature rises, so waiting for the contaminated snow to just melt away inside the heated garage is not the best idea.
Dirt in the slush is less dangerous to the plastic, but it can get stuck in car wax or leave scratches on the headlights. Always be careful not to drag the dirt across to avoid leaving more scratches. Regular maintenance can still save you from problems associated with dirt. You can protect the headlights by removing the old and dirty layers of film, car wax or other product and reapplying them once it is cleaned and prepped.