Automotive Lighting Maintenance Reviewed

Have you ever taken notice to a vehicle with multiple exterior lights out while driving down the highway. Some motorists are grateful when you point out unlit bulbs on their automobile. Sometimes your generosity is not appreciated and you’re told to mind your own business. It’s not really the job of other drivers to make sure all your bulbs are working.

It is however the job of your auto repair shops or if you do your own maintenance the responsibility lies with you. As a rule of thumb automotive lighting maintenance should be performed at every oil change, but a walk around is also recommended before longer trips. This article will discuss how this is accomplished and provide some tips so you can perform a proper inspection without an assistant.

Why Do a Pre-trip Inspection

An inspection is really important when you are going on a longer trip, especially out-of-state. Some say police officers are more likely to write a ticket to an out-of-state driver because they’re less likely to fight the charges and just mail in the fine or payment. A bulb that is not lit is also a great excuse for law enforcement to pull a driver over and check for additional violations. This can be disruptive to anybody’s road trip. Professionals with a commercial drivers license (CDL) are required to perform a pre-trip inspection on buses, tractor-trailers and delivery vehicles before departure.

How to Perform a Proper Light Inspection

Getting into a regular routine and starting at the same place on the vehicle can help prevent missing problems. The walk around is performed with the engine running and all lights turned on. For safety reasons it is recommended the shifter be locked in Park and the emergency brake set firmly. Professional drivers will often throw a set of tire chocks around the tire, to remove the chance of injury when standing in front or behind the running automobile.

The walk around begins with a headlight inspection on the low beam setting. Next checking the front parking lights and fog lamps, if equipped can be done at the same time. As you begin walking clockwise around the vehicle you can check any front and then rear fender marker lights. As the walk around continues you check the taillights, license plate lamp and then the marker lights down the other side. Then it’s time to check the turn signals, both front and rear, left and right. Engaging the high beams and then sending them back to low beams should also be performed along with a brake light inspection.

Automotive Lighting Problems

When a blown bulb is located it should be replaced with the same exact part number. These are almost always imprinted on the bulb itself. If it has worn off the local parts store can look up the number by application. Before installing the new part it’s a good idea to perform a thorough inspection of the socket and contacts. Poor connections from corrosion can cause premature failure of the replacement.

In a situation where you find yourself replacing the same one multiple times, dig deeper to uncover the root cause. Housings with moisture inside of them promote the development of corrosion and an unhealthy environment for the electrical contacts. In this scenario, either replacement or resealing the housing may be necessary to restore that bulbs reliability for the long-term.

Verifying Correct Operation Solo

Checking brake lights, daytime running lamps and turn signals can be difficult by yourself. Positioning the vehicle in front of a wall or door will often provide the visual feedback needed to verify the bulb is lighting. Even another vehicle parked behind the primary one can provide a visual verification as the lit bulb reflects off the windshield and other shiny parts of the car behind. Mechanics will often pull up to a wall to check headlight operation, beam alignment and front turn signal operation all in one shot.

In the end you are responsible to verify all the bulbs are working on your car. Police officers have the right to issue a citation if you’re not compliant although, many will let you off with a warning for a first offense. You don’t need help to check your lighting, but it’s nice when you have a partner for turn signals and brake lights. This assistant should never stand directly behind or in front of the vehicle for safety reasons. They will be able to see everything needed without putting themselves in harm’s way.