Monday, September 22, 2008

Car Safety - What about Headlights?

Sylvania 9003 SilverStar Ultra Headlight

When people think about car safety, they immediately think of seat belts, air bags, and properly inflated tires. But they hardly ever about their headlights. Considering that 42% of fatal accidents occur at night, this should be number one on the list.

Those that know us know that we are car fanatics. Doug meticulously maintains all our cars to ensure that they are always safe. In our high end cars, we have HID Xenon lights which are great for our aging eyes. But in our 2001 Toyota Echo, we have an old pair of headlights sitting behind pitted plastic lenses (145k of mostly highway miles).

When we heard about the Sylvania SilverStar Ultra headlights, we thought we would give them a try. Supposedly, they have the brightest, whitest, street legal lights which increase down-road viewing up to 25%, as well as sideroad viewing. You don't need to wait until your headlights burn out to replace them. After time, the light output from headlights simply fade until they are no longer safe. We found SilverStars at our local Wallyworld (Walmart) and picked them up. They weren't the Ultra version, but should still be a marked improvement over our factory bulbs. After installing them and taking them for a test run, my first reaction was, "Whoa, are you sure these aren't aimed too high?" It was much brighter than the old headlamps and I could definitely see further down the road.

There is a small price to pay for the extra white light however. Looking at Amazon's customer ratings, many complained that the life of the SilverStar Ultra was much lower. There is probably some "conservation of light output" law at work here. The brighter the light, the less the life. But it is a small price to pay for safe driving at night. People raved about the SilverStar Ultra for high beam usage. Make sure to check the bulb type against your owner's manual. Amazon seems to have a good system for checking compatibility.

Mothers 5140 PowerBall Polishing Tool

Meguiar's PlastX Cleaner & Polish

We didn't stop at just the bulbs. Doug wanted to polish the lenses so that the bright light could actually get out of the cloudy lenses. We picked up a polishing ball and Meguiar's PlastX Clear Plastic Cleaner and Polish for the job. Doug said that it would probably cost several hundred dollars to replace the lens assemblies, so this was a great low cost alternative. The lenses came out much clearer (I was asked to do inspection after one lens was done for comparison). And just our luck, we had to drive home in the rain that very night to test our complete setup. It was fantastic. I'd say that this setup was just as good as our HID lights. We could clearly see the edges of the road in the rain at night without trouble. No need for adding extra fog lights either.

So if you're concerned about safe driving at night (which you should be but I'll try not to guilt you into it) check out these products.

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