Having both forward driving lights illuminated after dark is a key element of road safety; one most automakers nailed long ago, at least until their vehicles start really getting on in years. Even then, a new bulb should be all a driver ever needs to keep the path ahead well lit.
Not so for some Kia Sorento owners. Enough consumer complaints have rolled in to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the federal agency has opened an investigation.
While Ram’s holdover 1500 Classic isn’t about to earn any top safety awards, its current-generation successor just did. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety bestowed a coveted Top Safety Pick + label upon Ram’s strong-selling full-size pickup, making it the first vehicle in its class to ever earn the accolade.
Lots of pickups are plenty safe, lording over the road as they do, but a new addition to the IIHS’s testing regimen prevented the awarding of top honors to any member of these open-trunk, half-ton family sedans — headlights. Thanks to a tweak in May of this year, the Ram 1500 crew cab now qualifies for the top podium.
A collective groan must have echoed through the automotive industry a couple of years back, after the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began testing headlight performance. Early results showed that most headlights, even those on expensive vehicles, fell well short of optimal performance. Most fell short of acceptable performance.
Since then, improvements have begun — slowly, but surely. It’s in an automaker’s best interest to slap a couple of bright peepers on the front of their vehicles from a PR and marketing perspective, but there’s cost issues to be considered. Still, no vehicle can take home that coveted Top Safety Pick+ rating without good headlights.
In its 2018 testing, some 32 models offered standard or available headlights worthy of a “good” rating. That’s out of 165 models.
Unless you’re still tooling around in a hand-me-down rig donated by your grandfather, chances are good you’re not in possession of a car outfitted with sealed-beam headlamps. That car might also have real 5 mpg bumpers, further insulating you from lofty repair costs.
For owners of newer cars, plenty of pain awaits after a fender-bender, though advances in passive restraints have relegated most of that pain to your wallet. After smashing through potentially thousands of dollars of camera and sensor gear housed in your bumper and grille, the next thing damaged in a low-speed, front-end impact is your headlamps. New figures from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveal what you’re likely to pay for a replacement. (Hint: it’s a lot.)
However, if you’re one of the few people who shelled out for a new Lincoln Continental this year, there’s good news here.
Apparently the ears of noted lighting consultant Daniel Stern begin to burn whenever Piston Slap discusses lighting upgrades. While I gave an analysis of the current LED-landscape to the best of my knowledge, I am honored to publish his insights on Jeep JK headlight upgrades.
And those of us with old-school halogen reflectors get a little feedback, too. Stick around for that.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced earlier this month that it was willing to considering changing the rules that govern automobile headlights. Now in a comment period before its official review, the proposal would permit automakers to install and enable adaptive driving beam headlights on new cars sold in the United States. While some automakers are preparing themselves for the change, most have been ready for ages.
One one hand, this proposed change should help lousy drivers from burning out your retinas on a lonesome country road. But, by the same token, you may no longer have the delicious opportunity to blast them with the brights once they’re within a few feet of your car to let them know to lower those damned high beams.
Just kidding, that would be illegal. Federal mandates require all drivers to dim their headlights when approaching within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or when approaching a vehicle less than 300 feet ahead. Of course, nobody we know has ever witnessed this law being actively enforced — even though it’s probably as dangerous as moderate speeding infractions. Regardless, it’ll gradually become a non-issue if the rules change.
I’ve read with great interest your columns on aftermarket HID conversions for various cars that have composite headlights. I have a similar, related question that hopefully has enough daylight (pun intended) between those responses and this question that it’s worth your time to answer.
I’ve recently married into a Jeep family. It’s a 2016 Wrangler Unlimited Sport that’s basically stock… for now. Eventually it will be getting the typical steps, wheels and tires and some cosmetic alterations. For now, it’s used as a daily driver and rarely sees terrain much rougher than a poorly maintained dirt road. It’s fine and my new wife loves it. The biggest problem is the headlights. When we go out, I typically drive and it’s getting to the point I dread taking her vehicle if there’s a chance the sun will set before we go home. As noted basically everywhere, the headlights are atrocious and border on dangerous.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration might soon grant automakers a long sought-after wish. On Thursday, the agency put forward a proposal to allow adaptive driving beam headlamps on U.S. passenger vehicles.
ADB lights would solve two problems at once: insufficient roadway illumination, as well as headlight glare. Despite the existence of automatic high beams, automakers currently have to find a happy medium in the amount of low-beam light thrown ahead of the car to prevent blinding oncoming motorists. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which recently added headlight performance to its ratings criteria, plenty of new cars fail to find the right balance.
Love the column, it’s one of the things that keeps me coming to TTAC daily. I recently purchased a 2017 Ford Edge SEL AWD with the 2.0-liter Ecoboost. I love it so far but there is one glaring issue. The projector beam halogen headlights are simply awful, I can’t believe they left the factory this way. What are my options? Brighter Halogen bulbs, LED Bulbs or an aftermarket HID kit?
Help! I’m almost totally in the dark here!
Truly, this is a momentous year for trucks. Not one, not two, but three completely revamped or wholly new domestic pickups greeted us in Detroit last week, ready to capitalize on America’s unyielding hunger for vehicles that can haul, tow, ford, climb, traverse, and commute daily with a single occupant.
While we haven’t yet had an opportunity to put the 2019 Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, or Ford Ranger through their paces, we’d hope to find an increase in refinement and capability in returning models. Over at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, however, there’s a different testing regimen planned. Let’s just say it’s a hard-hitting one.
And if Ram or Chevy wants to get into the IIHS’ good books, those trucks had best perform better than their so-so predecessors.
Even though headlights have evolved from uniform circles illuminating the roadway in largely the same way to diverse units that look and function very differently, their overall performance has improved immensely. Nobody is going to jump from a 1955 DeSoto to a 2018 Dodge and think “Wow, these headlamps are just terrible.”
However, the International Institute for Highway Safety has been on a two-year mission to make modern headlights look bad and there are two possible explanations as to why. Either the IIHS genuinely believes the current offerings from manufacturers are unsafe, or it’s trying to promote competition within the industry to produce a better bulb. The truth, as usual, is likely somewhere in the middle.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been systematically tearing apart every segment over inadequate headlights for the past year. In its most recent study, midsize SUVs took a beating, with only two models garnering a “good” rating for their illumination capabilities. The other 35 continued a trend of providing lackluster performance from a safety standpoint — especially non-luxury offerings.
Lousy headlights are something the IIHS seems hellbent on calling out, especially after years of avoiding any heavy scrutiny. This is the fourth segment the institute has evaluated since it began rating headlights in 2016. Its newly established headlight ratings have resulted in fewer cars being awarded an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, as headlights must rate in the “good” or “acceptable” range to even be considered.
TTAC commentator idesigner writes:
Last night during my drive home I saw something I see all too often: In the year is 2017, there are still cars and trucks that don’t have all their driving light on! Instead, they’ll only illuminate their front lights (and I can imagine dash light as well) but not tail or side lights.
What’s up with this? Aren’t auto manufacturers smart enough to fix this phenomenon? Why isn’t there a sound like the seat belt chime that tells you your lights are not on?
Following a raft of complaints, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has once again turned its attention to the headlights of pre-bankruptcy era General Motors vehicles. Apparently, the first two recalls for the exact same problem might not have culled all of the automaker’s wonky low beams.
The 312,000 vehicles involved in the NHTSA investigation span a fateful period for the automaker. While GM’s future at the time wasn’t bright, neither were its low beams. Owners have complained the lights can shut off unexpectedly, sending one driver on a date with a creek.
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