Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood

I’ve long held that North American headlight standards are inherently dangerous because they don’t allow brightness levels to match the speeds we travel. It’s just too easy to “over-drive” your lights, meaning you can’t see as far ahead as it will take you to stop. You just don’t see obstructions until it’s too late.

Until a decade or two ago, my own first step upon getting a new car was to make lighting upgrades, but modern cars – and most trucks – make that very difficult and/or expensive. There’s nowhere to find a solid mount for driving lamps when “bumpers” are plastic, for example, but long-range driving lamps are essential for me. Nowadays I’m outta luck.

Headlamp bulb changes are easier, and I usually go the H4 halogen route. I have yet to try the LED option, but I recently asked for comment on it and several folks chimed in.

“Poor headlights have been a sore point for me for all of the 37 years I have been in this industry as a fleet manager,” one fellow told me. “Unbelievable how you buy new trucks and the headlights do not give adequate lighting.

“About 15 years ago I discovered all the common lights in semis can be upgraded from the standard halogen to ‘high-output’ halogen for about $5 per light. They made a huge difference.

“In the last two years I’ve purchased 15 Navistar trucks with LED headlights. Wow! Every driver had positive comments. Less fatigue and less eye strain. The lights are brighter and there’s much more side visibility. I’m also testing LED replacement lights on my older units.

“The bad news is it now costs about $500-600 a truck for the sealed beams. I think this cost will go down as demand increases. The only negative on LED lights is that until the public gets used to them, the driver gets flashed on low beam once in a while. We adjust them a little bit lower and still get excellent light.”

LED lamps found favor with others, I learned, but a driving school operator offered good advice that doesn’t involve buying much of anything in order to see better.

“How about cleaning the film that builds up on the covers?” he wrote. “A few minutes of elbow grease can improve things immensely. There are excellent cleaners on the market.”

And on top of that, he asks, “How clean is the windshield? The headlights may be fine, but the window on the inside might be horrible with tar film from smoking, dirt, and grease smears. Has the windshield on the outside been cleaned recently of road film?”

He finished with an idea that would get my support 100%: He wants to see full-time tail lights.

“Turn on the ignition, the tail lights are on,” he suggested. “In low sun, for example, it’s very easy to lose a vehicle with lights off. Bad-weather road spray and fog, same thing. How foggy does it have to get before the lights come on? Now many vehicles have dash lights on, making the driver think [external] lights are on too, but they’re not.”

I seem to have struck a chord with this subject, and I’d be very interested to know what HDT readers think. Can your drivers see well enough?