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Headlights!

Flashback to the 90’s when it was hard to tell whether or not bellbottoms and platform shoes were in style… When grunge ruled… When the “M” in MTV still actually stood for “Music” and when headlights were all still sealed beam headlights . Anyone born after 1990 is probably scratching their millennial head wondering what kind of sorcery is this. Sealed beam headlights are made up of an assembly consisting of an enclosure with a bulb in front of a lens that is made completely out of glass. The entire unit is SEALED (here’s your sign). Good? Yes and no? But mostly no… Since the entire unit is sealed it makes repair quite the affair. None of the parts can be independently replaced. If one part malfunctions or is otherwise inoperable, you would have to replace the ENTIRE thing. Almost thirty years ago this was a generally affordable part and it still remains that way for many cars to this day. So other than general affordability why was this such a popular choice? Well since the lens was made completely out of glass there wasn’t any discoloration from being left outside exposed to the elements. Another contributing factor to its “popularity” would be the the fact that for quite some time the Government set specific guidelines in place when it came to the size and shape for the headlights when in production, limiting the design possibilities. However as the automotive industry progressed so did the ability for automotive manufacturers to create and utilize their own design specifications for headlights . However that all changed allowing car manufacturers to create and use their own composite headlights assemblies with replaceable bulbs. Cue the headlights we all know and love.

Today most headlights are made from a polycarbonate plastic. This specific material gave auto manufacturers the ability to truly create their own headlights design since it is such a versatile compound with vast amounts of moldability. Designs started to bring together positioning for optimal light projection and aerodynamics. The polycarbonate plastic proved to be durable against the test of time with little to no scratching. Though scratches on polycarbonate are few and far between discoloration and clouding is extremely common. Ultraviolet (UV) rays break down and degrade the outer layer of plastic which can cause discoloration. Oxidation (which is a surface condition and not considered damage) can cause the headlights to look old and weathered. From UV rays to oxidation, flying debris, rocks, pebbles and dust, your headlights will eventually show signs of wear. While how your headlights look is important, the real importance this plays is safety. Having cloudy headlights can reduce the amount of light that is projected outward thus impeding your vision considerably. When I said considerably I meant it. Cloudy or hazy headlights can lower the amount of light that is projected by up to 75%. That’s like closing one eye and only opening up the other only half way. Not the best idea right?

FEAR NOT!!! For today there are many different solutions for the different levels of this problem out on the market. Researching restoration solutions can drive you crazy with all the “quick how to’s” and the “diy” kits or even the “all natural solutions” for the varying levels of damage. They have everything out there from simple wipes to full on kits that can take up quite a bit of your time. For medium to heavily damaged headlights simple “maintenance” products will simply not help. For damage that severe the worn factory UV coating must be stripped from the existing headlights in order to fix the underlying issue. This is done with a series of techniques with abrasives followed by a wipe on or spray on sealant. Just by sanding and polishing your headlights will not solve all of your oxidation and discoloration problems. Headlights can repeatedly fall victim to the same demise as time goes on unless properly finished with a sealant or protectant. Depending on the product, some may need constant maintenance and reapplication while some offer a more semi-permanent solution. Protectant or UV coatings are typically offered in different variances, conventional or hybrid aka photo initiated formula. Conventional coatings are self leveling and typically require air or heat for drying. As the solvents in the conventional coatings evaporate they begin to cure until the process is complete. The hybrid or photo initiated coatings need to be fully cured with a UVA light, without which will simply be left unfinished. These hybrid formulas combine the conventional coating’s self leveling characteristics and evaporative solvents with the curing properties of the photo initiated solution. Although many DIY kits say to use the sun’s rays to “cure” the solution it is important to note that only UVA lights can cure the solution all the way down through to the lens. UVA lights will also cut down the curing time by a considerable amount. Keep in mind that just because the solution is dry, does not mean that it is properly cured which can result in suboptimal results. AKA you would have to do it ALL OVER AGAIN. Handling this “procedure” with care is of utmost importance, as I’m sure you wouldn’t want to add any damage to any surrounding surfaces… After all we are trying to fix an existing issue.

In all honesty when it comes to the safety and quality of a job like this it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Lucky for you, we here at RC Autoglass have plenty of experience in this particular subject. From keeping your ride looking clean and pristine, to making sure you’re as safe as can be out on the roads we are here to make sure you’re set. With winter on its way making our days shorter and shorter it is better to fix any headlight issues sooner rather than later. We want to make sure we do what we can to keep you and your family safe. Give us a call today for a quote so we can get you back on the road.