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Maintaining safe and legal headlights

Maintaining safe and legal headlights

It goes without saying that headlights are an important safety feature of any car and we all know they need to be functional to remain road legal. Despite this, many motorists pay no heed to their headlights until it’s time for the MOT or a light goes out.

Here are a few tips that can be applied at regular intervals to get the most out of your headlights.

Check the alignment

Park your car on a flat surface facing towards a wall to check the alignment of your headlights. The car should be as close to the wall as possible with the lights switched on. You can now locate the centre of the low-beam lights and mark the centre horizontally with tape or chalk. Once done, reverse the car around 25ft. Checking one at a time by blocking one headlight with your body, check where the beam of light now lands. For low-beam the top of the most intense part of the beam of light should be at or below the marking you made. For full-beam, it should be dead centre.

If you need to make adjustments, you can do it yourself by referring to the car’s user manual. However to be safe, we’d recommend taking your car to a mechanic. Alignment usually costs around £10.   

Check the clarity

The headlight lens (glass) should be clean and clear. Quite often over time, the lens can become cloudy and opaque.  This is even common in newer cars that use a polycarbonate plastic cover rather than glass. Should this happen, you can purchase a headlight restoration kit to restore the clarity of the cover. These kits contain all that you need including cleaning fluid, polish and sealant and can be picked up for around £15.

If you don’t want to pay for this, a common life hack is to remove the lens, cover it with toothpaste and use a cloth and water to clean the lens. Make small circular motions with the cloth until the lens becomes clear before drying it off and admiring your clear minty fresh headlight lens!

If 1 goes buy 2

If one of your headlights needs replacing, you should replace both. Bulbs lose strength as they age so by only replacing one you might be left with one headlight appearing duller than the other. This might distract you whilst driving and confuse other road users and pedestrians, especially at a distance. You might also want to replace both out of convenience as the bulb that didn’t go out will probably fail soon anyway. By not replacing both, it means another trip to the shop sooner rather than later.

Carry a spare

It’s illegal to drive without working headlights. If one goes out midway through your journey you should stop at the nearest retailer that stocks new bulbs or visit a mechanic. If you regularly make journeys late at night, especially if they’re long, you might consider carrying a spare headlight bulb in the boot of your car for emergencies. Although police can be understanding at times, it’s never worth taking a risk when you could face a fixed penalty notice of £100.


If you have an accident on the roads that wasn’t your fault then we can help. Click here to learn more about our services or contact us for a free no obligation discussion with a solicitor.

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