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Maintenance Matters: Visibility Is The Top Safety Concern

It doesn’t matter how much emphasis you put on the condition of a vehicle’s components – if the driver can’t see what’s in front of him or her, safety will absolutely be compromised.

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It doesn’t matter how much emphasis you put on the condition of a vehicle’s components – if the driver can’t see what’s in front of him or her, safety will absolutely be compromised.

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The most important safety system in a vehicle is the driver’s vision and in the winter visibility is especially critical. 

Road salt, brine, ashes, beet juice – whatever  messy road treatments are used across the country get thrown onto the windshields and headlights, reducing light output and the driver’s ability to see down the road.

Windshield Washer Fluid

Windshield washer fluid solutions are more than just water and methyl alcohol or glycol, and they do more than just clean the windshield. Many solutions use detergents and solvents to remove ice and road spray from the windshield. 

Windshield washer fluid also protects the windshield and pump. The solution is formulated to act as a lubricant so the wipers will not scratch the coating on the glass. Plus, it helps to lubricate the pump in the reservoir and keep the electric motor cool. Proper windshield washer fluid also acts as an antibacterial agent to prevent bacteria and algae from growing in the reservoir.

There is a difference in seasonal wiper fluids – using a premium washer fluid is a good practice for your shop and excellent advice for your customers. Winter formulations are designed with higher alcohol contents to keep from freezing in solution under the hood, however remember that alcohol evaporates faster than water. In the winter this can mean that what’s left on the windshield is simply water with cleaning solvent, which can freeze at highway speeds.. 

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Wiper Blades

Wiper blades are subjected to torture on a daily basis. Sun and exposure to ozone can cause them to lose the ability to keep the blade’s edge in contact with the windshield. Cold temperatures can compound the problem by making the blade stiff.    

A sure tool to measure the performance of a blade is a spray bottle filled with water. When a car is in for service, spray the windshield to see if the blades can remove the water without streaks or chatter.  

The main challenge for a winter wiper blade is snow and ice. On regular frame-style wiper blades, snow and ice can clog the frame and prevent the wiper from making even contact. Winter blades may use a rubber boot over the frame to prevent snow/ice buildup, and newer frameless-style wiper blades do not experience this problem.

If the blades are frozen to the windshield, it’ll be in your customers’ best interest to loosen them from the icy grip before using them. The rubber will last longer and the wiper motor will experience less stress.

Better Bulbs

Headlights aren’t what they used to be, and replacing them may not be a DIY operation. Many headlight replacement procedures today require the removal of the front fascia or bumper cover. Know your bulbs! 

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Halogen Headlights: The halogen bulb is the type of headlight most drivers are familiar with, as it has been used in production since the 1960s. Characterized by its warm yellow glow, halogen bulbs are still popular with car manufacturers due to their low cost and reliable brightness. However, halogen bulbs simply don’t last as long as some other options and aren’t as bright.

HID Headlights: High-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, sometimes called Xenon, are brighter to enhance visibility and make peripheral objects such as street signs and pedestrians easier to see. The downside to the brighter output of HID headlights is that these bulbs can cause glare problems with oncoming drivers. These bulbs are also more expensive than their halogen counterparts; however, they do last longer to make up for some of the cost. 

LED Headlights: Light-emitting diode (LED) headlights have been available since the mid-2000s. Thye are smaller in stature than halogen and HID headlights and can easily fit where other products may not. They offer energy efficiency and brightness but are commonly the most expensive option on the market. 

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