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Exterior Lights and Safety

Years ago when there were "full service" service stations, the better ones greeted you promptly, took your order for fuel and cleaned all the windows on the veheicle, inspected and cleaned the lights, checked the fluid levels and condition and some even checked the air in the tires. This service was expected and if the motorist did not recieve it they usually complained to the station operator or to the oil company customer service.

Today when the concentious mechanic is servicing a car, if he does his job properly and inspects the vehicle it is far too often viewed as "trying to sell someone something that is not needed." It can not be denied that he is looking for sales opportunities for his shop, but at the same time he is really performing a service by his inspection. If most motorist were surveyed a large percentage rarely IF ever perform the inspection services that was a part of a refueling years ago. This is one of the biggest reasons for vehicle breakdowns.

See and be seen. Inoperable lights is a safety concern and an extremely large revenue collection for local governments from the fines (taxes) and court costs. The typical fine (taxation) is about $50 plus the court cost which could be in the hundreds of dollars. For simply having a lamp out!

It takes the mechanic just a few minutes to visually inspect the exterior lighting on a vehicle. IF during the inspection a tail lamp, stop lamp, marker lamp, or headlamp is out, should the mechanic reccomend just that bulb or all the bulbs in that particular set (tail, stop, marker, or headlamp)?

This question has been a source of disagreement for years. I would suggest that he reccomend all the bulbs in that set as they all have the same amount of wear or amount of time providing illumination. It seems that the manufacturers agree with this thinking as they market them in pairs. However this point is rendered moot as the customer is the one that makes that decision based upon their needs.

When it comes to the subject of headlamp replacement another item should be considered and offered as an option. Unless the vehicle is just a few years old at most it probably has halogen headlamps. These headlamps do a better job than the old incandescant lamps, but are not even close to the new "blue" headlamps. As governments reduce street and highway lighting and the population ages the requirement to see at night becomes even more important.

The "blue" headlamps improve upon the lighting so much that the mechanic should suggest them as an upgrade replacement to everyone, but especially his older customers. These lights are available from many sources and the cost is really not that much greater than the halogen lamps.

Another area that the mechanic needs to consider is suggesting that the headlamps lenses be cleaned and reconditioned. The plastic used in them is constantly being attacked by ultraviolet radiation and they discolor and age. Some get so bad that very little light makes it through them. This reconditioning should be done as necessary, but at least every two years and a protectant should be applied every 6 months.

Finally, is the mechanic that inspects your lighting doing this for extra sales or for your protection. The answer is a little bit of both, but IF he saves you from a traffic ticket because of a lamp out, then he has saved you the additional expense of legal cost which would be in addition to replacing the bulb. So is he hero or villian?

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