Car Headlight Restoration vs. Replacement

Rain, snow, sleet, fog, plus longer nights and shorter days…in winter, your headlights are more important than ever.

Keeping this part of your car in tip-top shape is important for your safety—not to mention key to avoiding an expensive traffic ticket!

Today, we’re talking car headlights, including restoration and replacement. When can you restore your headlights? When is it time for a replacement? And is there a major cost difference? Keep reading to learn what you need to know about this important (and often neglected) part of your car!

Car Headlights 101

When you need to restore or replace your headlights—and how much it’ll cost you—depends on a few factors, like the type of headlight, road conditions, and even where you park your car.

Type of Headlights

Today, manufacturers use one of three types of headlights: halogen, xenon, and LED.

Halogen headlights are the most popular headlight type on the market. They’re the least expensive to manufacture (and replace). However, the downside is that they don’t last as long as other types, so they need to be replaced more often. Halogen headlights emit warmer, “yellow-looking” light, so they’re not quite as bright as the other types.

For halogen lights, road conditions can also impact the life of the headlight. Halogen headlights rely on filaments. If you drive on rough, bumpy roads a lot, or even go over a particularly brutal pothole, you can damage the light’s filaments. This results in more frequent bulb replacement.

Xenon headlights are becoming more common. They emit a brighter, whiter light and last longer than halogen headlights. However, they are more expensive. Also, it takes them a few moments to reach full brightness when you turn on your headlights.

Finally, LED headlights are the newest type of headlight of the three. They last the longest and use less energy. However, they aren’t very common yet; they’re used mostly in luxury cars.

Other Factors Affecting Your Headlights

When it comes to illumination, the age of your headlights matters. All headlights emit less light over time—so while your headlights might “work” (as in, they turn on), they might be emitting far less light than they did new.

Time also affects the materials surrounding the bulbs.

The plastic coating covering your lights can eventually become dirty, scratched, or cloudy. (This is where your car’s parking location can matter: sunlight degrades plastic over time, so cars parked in a garage will see less headlight degradation than cars parked outside.) When the headlight lenses become cloudy, they obscure the light emitted by the bulbs.

A study by AAA found that headlights can start to deteriorate in as soon as three to five years.

When to Restore Your Car Headlights

Car headlights are a crucial safety feature in your car. They help you see while driving at night and in low-visibility weather. (In fact, when you’re traveling at 60mph, you need to be able to see 300-350 feet in front of you to react in time.) Having car headlights in need of restoration or outright replacement can leave you vulnerable to serious accidents.

Yet most people don’t think about their headlights until the bulb burns out. Not good! As we mentioned above, headlights deteriorate over time—whether it’s the bulb or the plastic.

Instead of letting your headlights go kaput, take some time for car headlight restoration. We recommend checking your headlights yearly. (Before winter hits is a good time.) Make sure your headlights are clean and free of dirt with household glass cleaner.

You can often restore your headlights when the bulbs are fine but the plastic is turning opaque. A headlight restoration kit can cost as little as $25 and help clear the lenses. (Some kits require power tools, so be sure to check before you buy.) Restoring your headlight lenses can add to the lifespan of your headlights.

A few notes about restoration: first, make sure the lenses actually need it. (If they’re clear, the restoration can actually end up scratching them and making them cloudier than before). Second, make sure you read and follow all instructions for the restoration kit.

When to Replace Your Car Headlights

Car headlight restoration isn’t a permanent solution. Eventually, the bulbs will burn out (or dim to unsafe levels) or the plastic will degrade too much to restore.

Obviously, you’ll need to replace the bulbs when they burn out. We recommend replacing both when one burns out. (It might seem like overkill, but that way you get even light in front of your car—important for safety). The cost for new bulbs depends on the type. Common halogen bulbs, for example, generally run about $20.

You’ll also need to replace the lenses when restoration can’t fix them.

Need Help with Car Headlight Restoration or Replacement?

If you don’t have the time or inclination to restore or replace your car’s headlights by yourself, you can always count on Jack’s Glass!

We’re here to help you get back on the road safely. Call us today for a free quote.