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Thursday, 4 June 2015
Long Dark Nights - Time to check your lights
The little known headlamp setting that could make a big difference.
The long dark nights are upon us. This is the time of year when you see folk driving around with either no lights on or defective lights. I have a theory that older drivers who've gotten used to the dash lights only coming on when they switched on their headlights unwittingly drive without headlights in modern vehicles. This is especially the case when they leave a well lit garage forecourt. It goes without saying that it is especially important to regularly check your lights are working and set properly. I've often been dazzled by poorly set lights. You would hope that most drivers are able to tell you which headlight setting they should use and when, but if you've ever noticed this little known icon somewhere on your car's dash, you may have been wondering what it is for. It usually has a number of settings anywhere from "0" through to "4"
Internationalised ECE Regulation 48, in force in most of the world outside North America, currently specifies a limited range within which the vertical aim of the headlamps must be maintained under various vehicle load conditions.
The majority of vehicles don't have self-levelling headlamps (under these regulations vehicles with Xenon lights must) and it is the responsibility of the driver to set them correctly. With one or two people sitting in the front seats without any luggage, the leveller should be set at "normal" or "0". This prevents glare from your headlights dazzling oncoming drivers - and vice versa.
You might be forgiven for wondering so what? What difference does it make?
Well here are two pictures to compare with the headlights on dipped beam. Picture 1 has the headlamp set correctly at "0" and picture 2 is set incorrectly at "4"
"In terms of safety this could mean the difference between hitting a pedestrian or missing them or even seeing a bend in the road too late."
The white posts in the pictures are about 3 metres apart and the difference is evident. With the headlamp level set correctly you can see 9 posts ahead and the centre line, but incorrectly set you can see barely 4 posts and no centre line.
Check your owner's manual to find more information about the correct settings for your vehicle - it's not always the big things that count, it's sometimes the small things that make all the difference.