Have you ever been driving late at night? Or maybe in heavy rain? How grateful you are for having working lights! Every time a car in front of you slows down, you’re aware of what they’re doing because of their brake lights.
Every car that’s been manufactured for road use, is fitted with lights. All of these lights need maintenance. These checks are very easy to carry out, and nearly all of them you can do yourself. If you’re not sure how, then read on, we’ve got just the thing for you. . .
Why so important?
Vehicle lights are used to communicate to other road users. They tell others what we’re doing and what we’re about to do. We use them to tell others that we’re stopping, turning, reversing or even broken down.
Checking your vehicle’s lights is just as important as checking your tyre wear and pressures. They can be vital if you find yourself driving when it gets dark outside or if the weather turns bad. One of the main things preventing you from having an accident when driving in such conditions is your lights.
In many parts of the world, it is a legal requirement to have all of your lights working on your vehicle, and you can often be given a fine if you haven’t checked them. Checking your lights properly is therefore incredibly important for both your safety, and the safety of other drivers. There is good news though . . . It’s really easy to check them for yourself!
List of Lights to Check
We thought that it would be a good idea to create a list of lights that your vehicle will have that will need checking. Feel free to use this as a checklist to work through as you go about your maintenance.
- Side lights (front, rear and lights for rear number plate)
- Dipped beam (front)
- Main beam (front)
- Front fog lights (not fitted to every car)
- Indicators (front, rear and side repeaters)
- Hazard lights (Same bulbs as the indicators but uses a different switch)
- Stop lights (rear)
- Reverse lights (rear)
- Rear fog lights (rear)
Clean lamp lenses - To ensure your vehicles bulbs can shine as brightly as possible, you need to make sure that your lamp lenses are clean. Simply use a wet cloth with some car soap and give the lenses a wipe to remove any dirt. Make sure you give the lenses a thorough rinse to remove any dirt and soap that’s left behind.
Check Bulbs - Another important way to make sure your lights are working as they should is to simply check the various bulbs on your vehicle are working. Here’s how to check them
if you’re not sure :
- Switch on the ignition.
- Switch on your side lights.
- Get out of the vehicle and make sure your front and rear side lights are all on
- Repeat this process for the rest of your lights.
- When checking the brake lights, you may need someone to operate the foot brake whilst you check your brake lights at the rear.
- Make sure you switch all the lights off as well as your ignition once you’ve finished your checks to prevent draining your vehicle’s battery.
Check Colour - It’s also important to make sure that your various lights are illuminating to the colour that they are designed to. For example, some indicator bulbs turn from orange to white over time, if this is the case for you, they will need replacing. Bulb colours can vary depending on the manufacturer of your car, so always consult the vehicle’s handbook if you’re not sure.
Headlamp Alignment - Many people don’t realise that your front dipped beam headlamps actually have a pattern to light they produce. This makes sure that your lights don’t impair the vision of other road users, including people in front of you, as well as people traveling towards you. This alignment check usually has to be carried out by a garage with the appropriate equipment. It’s a simple check however and often very cheap to have done.
Operations Check - This check simply makes sure that your lights switch on and off when they’re supposed to. A common fault can be when someone’s reverse lights remain switched on all of the time despite the vehicle being out of gear, this can cause drivers behind them to become dazed by the bright white light constantly shining at them. Again, it’s a very simple check, but also very important.
Bulbs not working - So, what happens if you find a bulb that isn’t working? This is where you may need to consult your local garage. You can always try removing the actual bulb to check the condition of it, provided that you feel comfortable enough to do so. If the bulb’s element has blown then simply replace the bulb. When replacing a bulb it’s good practise not to touch the glass surrounding the element. Your skin can create hot spots on the surface of the glass that will cause the bulb to blow when it heats up.
But again, if you’re not sure what you’re doing, consult your garage. If the bulb’s element looks intact, then the fault may lie somewhere else and will require further investigation.
All of these checks should only take around 10 minutes to carry out (not including headlamp alignment), it may take you longer the first couple of times you do it but just like everything, the more you do it, the easier it will become. They should also be carried out every two weeks, increasing to every week as it gets close to winter time. By carrying out this simple check, you’re also protecting yourself, anyone with you in the vehicle and other road users from potential accidents.
You’ll also be protecting yourself from potential fines for having a bulb that’s not working.
There really is no excuse then for carrying out such a simple and straightforward maintenance routine on your vehicle’s lights. It’s a skill that you will be able to keep for life as every car you’ll own will have lights that need maintaining, so start right here.