Lights are like tires and batteries. They don’t give us any warning when they are being neglected. Unlike tires and batteries, they may not cause any trouble when they finally fail. No trouble except your vehicle is harder to see at night, your night driving vision may be impaired, and driving at night with any light out is illegal just about everywhere; even a burned-out license light or side marker light can subject you to a traffic ticket!
Checking your vehicle’s lights is a simple process. You should start your inspection by walking around the car with the headlights turned on and checking each light to make sure it is lit. Don’t overlook the license plate lights, parking lights and side marker lights. Please note: This procedure may require that your vehicle’s ignition be on.
Next, turn off the headlights and turn on your four-way hazard flashers. Check all four corners again. Since most cars use the same bulbs for turn signals and hazard flashers, you have now checked the turn signal bulbs as well. To be sure the turn signal flasher is OK, turn the ignition “on” without starting the engine and check each turn signal once more, front and rear. Now, with the ignition still on and engine not running, make sure the parking brake is set firmly, then shift the transmission into reverse. If a helper is available, depress the brake pedal and have them look at the reverse lights and brake lights. If you don’t have a helper, you can use a stick between the front seat and the brake pedal or a heavy object, such as a brick, to depress the brake pedal slightly while you go back to check the brake and reverse lights. It normally takes only about an inch of pedal movement to turn on the brake lights.
Replacing the light bulbs on some late model cars can be tricky. A special tool may be required to disassemble a lens or pieces of trim to gain access. Many bulbs can be replaced by locating the rear of the light assembly, removing the socket, and then removing the bulb. Most light bulbs are removed by pulling the bulb straight out of the socket, or by pushing in gently and twisting slightly counter-clockwise.
Late model halogen headlights also are replaced in a similar fashion, with the addition of releasing a retainer ring from the rear of the lamp assembly. Follow installation instructions carefully. Replacement bulbs and the tools you may need to remove them are readily available at most auto parts suppliers. Avoid touching the bulb, particularly halogen bulbs. The oil from your hand can adversely affect the life of the bulb. Follow installation instructions on packaging.
Checking and maintaining your vehicle’s lighting system regularly is easy and can go a long way toward making your car safer.