Try This Trick to Help You Drive Better at Night

Kneeling on the cold parking-lot asphalt was the last thing they wanted to do that winter's afternoon...

But my researchers are always in pursuit of new tips to share with you. And I'd asked them to go outside to work on my Hyundai. Specifically, I wanted them to focus on my old, cloudy headlights.

We've all seen them... Maybe some of you also have them... And not only are they ugly, they are downright dangerous.

A new study from AAA finds that the average 11-year-old vehicle's headlights generate just about 20% of the illumination as new headlights. This is an alarmingly low percentage.

Two culprits contribute to foggy headlights: road debris and UV rays from the sun. Both wear away at the protective coating on the plastic. Cars that experience a lot of sunlight are most vulnerable. For example, if you own a car parked mostly outside in Florida or Arizona, you will likely begin to see headlight deterioration in about three years.

Because headlights degrade slowly over time, you aren't likely to notice that they aren't performing as well as they used to.

AAA is advising owners to replace their headlights for maximum performance. But before you spend hundreds of dollars buying new ones, you should consider restoring them.

I have an older car... I still drive the same 14-year-old Hyundai Santa Fe. It serves me well and I don't have to make payments on it. Instead of laying out money for a new BMW that won't make me happier, I can spend the money that would have gone to a car payment to treat myself to a couple of really nice dinners each month.

But my headlights have that same foggy appearance, and I know they aren't working as well as new ones would. Especially this time of year, with the snow and salt we have on the roadways around Baltimore, the last thing I need are dirty headlights reducing my eyesight when I'm driving at night.

I've seen ads for products that will remove this headlight film, as well as some do-it-yourself methods. So I asked my staff to bundle up in coats and venture out to the parking lot to conduct some hands-on field research... I put them up to the challenge of seeing what works best for cloudy headlights.

They tried three options: Turtle Wax headlight cleaner, baking soda, and toothpaste. Toothpaste was the clear winner.

You need just a few household items to clean your foggy headlights: toothpaste (any kind), a soft cloth, and some water. Scrub the headlight using a damp cloth with toothpaste and wipe it off with water. This method should remove about 75% of the film. If this doesn't work, replacing the headlight's plastic is your next-best option.

Working on your headlights is one way to stay safe on the roads this winter. As a reminder, there are a few other things you should do as well...

Throw an old blanket in your trunk. Even better, keep an old pair of gloves in there, too. You know I like to prepare for the worst... Having a blanket and gloves with you in case you get stranded can make a big difference in your safety.

Keep your tires full. Air contracts in the cold, reducing your tire pressure. This keeps you from having the best traction on slippery winter roads. Many gas stations offer free ai-refilling stations with built-in pressure gauges.

If you want to fill your tires wherever you are, you can buy your own pump. Our franchise manager, Laura, recently bought the EPAuto Portable Air Compressor Pump. This pump plugs right into your car's 12-volt outlet and only takes a few minutes to fill up the tires to the right pressure.

Check your car battery and connectors. Car batteries more than three years old are more likely to die in the cold. You can pick up a battery tester to check them. Also, make sure you have jumper cables in your vehicle.

Check your exhaust. If your car's exhaust pipe gets clogged with snow or ice, you risk filling the inside of your car with deadly carbon monoxide.

Do you have any other winter safety tips to share? Send them our way at [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
February 7, 2019