4 Steps To Prepare Your Headlights For Winter

The winter is coming. And now is the perfect time to ensure that your vehicle is ready for the cold season before it fully kicks in. Usually, the first thing people think about in this regard is that it’s time to put on winter tires that suit the weather conditions much better. As important as that is, tire change is not the only thing you need to get prepared to drive safely. 

A significant number of car crashes occur after dark or in poor visibility conditions. And winter has both in abundance. The key to safe driving in such conditions is better visibility. Bright headlights allow you to see further and spot the danger in time. But don’t forget about the rear lights as well since they help the other drivers see you on the road and react accordingly.

Check If Your Headlights Are Working Properly

Even though your headlights are designed to last for years, some types deteriorate and dim over time and burn out due to harsh conditions and extensive use. This happens most often to halogen headlights. “Halogens have fragile filaments that can be damaged and become less effective because of overheating,” explains Ben Collins, the content editor of the LightningLab project. 

This type of lamps is still the most popular choice for headlights thanks to its affordability and decent illumination. Some car enthusiasts argue that they are the best option for poor weather conditions. Halogens produce warm yellow light that doesn’t get reflected off the water too much. This allows the beam to get through fog, rain and snow more effectively than any cold white light could. 

Unfortunately, their lifespan is the shortest among all the available options today. If the light output is not enough in a warm season, imagine how much worse it can become in poor visibility, obscured by snow and rain. So if you feel like your headlights are getting dimmer than you would like, maybe it’s time to replace them. Just look up car bulb size according to your car’s make, model and year and choose the best suiting option.

Inspect The Headlight Lenses 

Faulty car bulbs are not the only reason for dim light. Look closely at the lenses for any signs of deterioration. The lenses are made of plastic, not the most reliable material, and they have to withstand constant collisions with small debris, stones, sand and water. The anti-ice chemicals applied to the road surface in winter eat away at the outer layer, adding to the damage. All that culminates in cloudy yellow lenses that lose their efficiency by trapping a portion of the light. As you can deduce, this will shorten your visibility range in any conditions, let alone a sudden blizzard. 

There is plenty of ways to prevent and treat this condition. First of all, proper car care may take extra time from your schedule and it costs money, but it actually saves money on professional detailing and repairs in the long run. Special coating, car wax and films protect the lenses from the most damage and help postpone any maintenance. They can even help with keeping the headlights clean during slush. Just don’t forget to remove them in time, clean the surface and apply the new layer or the effect will be quite the opposite.

If the lenses are already yellowing and losing their opacity, there are also special products that help you restore them by polishing the outer layer. We would advise against using baking soda and toothpaste as DIY cleaning methods. They may produce some results, but commercial products have much smaller grains that can polish the plastic surface without leaving deep scratches. They are specifically formulated to be less harsh on the surface and provide long-lasting results.

How To Prevent Freezing On LED Headlights

Sometimes advantages may turn into drawbacks, and that is precisely what happens to the LEDs in winter. They are quite durable, efficient and burn at a significantly lower temperature than their halogen counterparts. However, that makes them less reliable because they cannot produce enough heat to warm up the headlight lenses, and the precipitation can freeze directly on top of the headlights, blocking and distorting the light.

Snow, dirty slush and cold rain can all cause a lot of trouble on the road, and stopping along the way just to clean them up is dangerous and unpleasant. Fortunately, there are ways to tackle that problem. They vary in complexity and price tags. The most expensive option is to replace the assembly with special heated smart LED headlights. They work in a similar way to heated windshields, relying on sensors to measure the temperature and using electricity to heat up. 

The other more affordable but still efficient option is hydrophobic coating. If water or snow cannot stick to the headlights, they won’t freeze to them. It can be anything from your favorite car wax to special anti-freeze products for headlights. Some people recommend DIY solutions like cooking spray and oil, but their reliability is questionable. They will repel water to some extent but will not protect the lens from dirt that can stick to the oil instead.

Protect Headlights From Moisture

Make sure that your headlights are sealed properly. As time goes by, vibrations, small impacts, heating and cooling can cause leaks. When moisture gets inside the assembly, it creates all sorts of problems, including cloudy lenses and dimming bulbs. 

Winter poses an even greater threat to your headlights. The water that gets inside will eventually freeze and expand, creating damage in its way and prompting corrosion and oxidation. So inspect your headlights carefully the next time you drive through rain or wash your vehicle. And if you notice an unusual amount of moisture inside. Some minor condensation is a common thing, the severity relies on how much water you see there. 

The best way to deal with this issue is to take your car to the shop. But if you have enough time and the necessary tools at hand, you could do that yourself.


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