It’s late at night, you’re towing over an unfamiliar stretch of two-lane blacktop toward a new campground, and your nerves are on edge because the headlights just don’t seem to be lighting up the highway like they should. You aren’t alone. Many RVers face the same situation when they hit the road and find themselves driving after dark.
Some drivers chalk up not being able to see the road as a result of tired eyes, which is probably true. But that may not be the primary cause. Reduced night vision can actually be the result of two factors: the natural aging of the eyes that brings a reduction in acuity of vision, and the natural aging of vehicle headlights that reduces their effectiveness. There isn’t a lot we can do about improving the night vision of our aging eyes. The rods and cones that process light into electrical signals allowing our brain to “see” slow down and lose their efficiency with age. In fact, studies show a 50-year-old’s eyes have about half the night-vision acuity of a 20-year-old. But there is something we can do about aging headlights — replace the bulbs.
An even better fix is not only replacing the OEM bulbs but also upgrading them with brighter, more efficient bulbs. I recently upgraded a 2011 GMC Sierra’s high- and low-beam bulbs by switching to higher-performance Sylvania SilverStar ULTRA headlights. SilverStar bulbs are available at most auto parts stores and automotive retail outlets. The ULTRAs cost a little more than standard replacement bulbs, but they produce a much whiter, brighter and wider beam that significantly improves the view down those dark roads. They are also 50-state legal, unlike HIDs (high-intensity discharge lamps). Changing headlight bulbs is easy on most pickups and SUVs, typically requiring only a simple twist-and-turn to remove/replace.
Getting to the bulbs can be a challenge on some newer trucks and SUVs. For example, late-model GMCs require the grille and headlight assembly be removed to get at the bulbs. Check your tow vehicle to see how easy (or difficult) it is to change bulbs. If it appears difficult, have an auto body shop or dealer do the work. Either way, the time and money spent on the SilverStar ULTRA bulb upgrade is a good investment for anyone who drives a lot after dark — especially if towing a trailer or traveling country roads. When brights are needed the SilverStar bulbs project the light considerably farther down the road than the stock headlight bulbs.
The improvement in light output is even greater on older vehicles. According to Sylvania, the ULTRAs add 40 to 50 percent better distance and side-to-side coverage than the worn halogens found on pickups that are several years old.
So, if improving your night vision — and reducing the stress of not being able to see as well down the road as you’d like sounds like a good plan — consider upgrading those headlight bulbs.