Shorter days mean it's time to repair hazy headlights

Consumer Reports News: October 15, 2012 09:38 AM

As the calendar creeps toward winter, darkness is falling sooner and the days are growing shorter. The rate of injury and death from motor vehicle crashes is higher at night. Now, more than ever, it's important to make sure you're getting the most out of your headlights.

Maintaining your headlights means more than keeping them clean. Most car headlights use polycarbonate lenses that can oxidize and develop a foggy appearance over time, greatly reducing their effectiveness. The change happens so slowly that you might not even notice it, and the deterioration can be more prevalent in sunnier areas with increased UV exposure.

With most of us keeping vehicles longer than ever, there is a fair chance that your headlights may be due for a freshening. Replacing your lenses or having them professionally cleaned are options that can easily cost $200. A cheaper alternative is to try one of the much-less-expensive cleaning products for do-it-yourselfers that have come on the market in the past few years.

We recently did just that, purchasing four headlight cleaners for testing: the 3M Headlight Lens Restoration System 29008, Fast Brite Auto Headlight Restorer Kit, Sylvania Headlight Restoration Kit, and Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer. All promise to restore faded lenses to their former glory for $21 or less, as long as you're willing to also contribute a certain amount of elbow grease.

Results varied, but we found even the poorest performer of the bunch made a big difference in headlight effectiveness. If your car is more than a few years old, you might want to give one of our tested products a try. Fall is an ideal time to tackle the job, especially if you live in a region that'll be slipping into shorter and darker days soon.

Read our complete report "Shine up your hazy headlights."

Jim Travers

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