Headlights started off basically as gas lanterns and have progressed a lot over the years.
The first headlights that most of us can remember were sealed beam headlights. They first appeared on vehicles in the 1940s and they were the standard for decades. They were a sealed assembly with the bulb’s filament and lens all built into one. If one of these burned out, you removed the entire headlight and replaced it with a new one. You didn’t have much style choice with the early sealed beams, they were all round. In the late 70s, some vehicles started using rectangular sealed beam headlights, just to give the front of the vehicle a different look.
Composite headlights started appearing in the 80s and have been used for years. They could be molded into just about any shape, which allowed automakers to change the look of the front end of their vehicles. One major problem with plastic composite headlights is that they dull over time. Not only is that kind of ugly, but it really cuts down on the amount of light coming out of the lens.
The best way to restore these types of lenses is through a sanding and polishing process that really makes them much clearer and brighter. If the bulb burns out in a composite headlight, you don't have to replace the whole thing.
Smaller halogen bulbs are usually used with composite type headlights and you should only have to replace the bulb if your light goes out. Getting them out is usually not that big of a deal, if you can get at the back of the headlight housing. In most cases, you simply twist them about a quarter turn and pop them out. Make sure that you don’t touch the glass part of the replacement bulb, because the oil from your skin can cause it to burn out prematurely.
A newer style of headlight is the HID light. HID stands for High Intensity Discharge. They are more complicated than regular headlights with a special gas inside of them that’s ignited when you turn them on. These create a light that is much more like daylight, but that technology isn’t cheap. Some of these lights cost well over $1,000 to replace.
Multiple LED lights are the latest craze and they can be configured into all kinds of different variations and shapes within the headlight housing. Plan on seeing these used more and more in the future.
No matter what type of headlight you have, take time to make sure that they are working and aimed properly at least once a month. You can usually just pull up to a garage door or a wall with them on and flash the brights for a quick check of all of the headlights.
Keep those lights bright to help your night sight.