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Why are hazy headlights still a problem in 2024?




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John Paul, AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader wondering why hazy plastic is still being used today.

The Car Doctor answers a question from a reader wondering why hazy plastic is still being used today.
The Car Doctor answers a question from a reader wondering why hazy plastic is still being used today. Wieck/ American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Q. I enjoy your weekly column and recently you discussed hazy car headlights. I see a lot of cars with this problem. I just replaced mine (my shop was able to get replacement 1998 headlight assemblies the next day – imagine that). Isn’t this a safety issue? And, if so, two questions. Why has NHTSA issued safety recalls, and why are headlight housings still being made with this plastic?

A. Regarding why there is no recall, the hazing of the headlight lens is a maintenance issue, not a defect. As cars age, the headlights can haze. Periodic cleaning and coating with wax can extend the headlight life. Parts wear out and headlights are no different. Why plastic? Cost and weight saving. Car manufacturers look to save weight down to grams, and headlight housings are one of the weight-saving options. Also, plastic gives designers more flexibility in both aerodynamics and design.  

Q. Before I scheduled a dealership/service repair at the place I have been going for almost 14 years (and get charged a ton of money), I thought I would give this a shot. My vehicle’s AC (as of today) is not working properly, and by properly, I mean that it is blowing air (although not cold, definitely colder than just a fan would blow, setting it at 65 degrees using full fan force). Air only comes out from the two side ducts. The middle ones are not blowing anything at all. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated and helpful in saving me money. My car, although 14 years old, is in perfect condition as I service it twice a year, and it only has 51,000 miles. 

A. There is no simple answer. The first step is to see if the AC system is functioning properly. To do this the technician needs to look at system pressure and AC compressor operation. Once that is checked, the duct controls need to be looked at. There is a motor for the temperature blend door and another to control air flow. I suspect the blend motor or linkage has failed, but it will take a little more investigation to determine what is wrong. 

Q. I have a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I had my water pump and thermostat replaced and ever since the repair, I have been smelling coolant burning. I took it back to the dealer and they did a pressure test and could not find any leaks. A couple of weeks later, I am still smelling coolant and the level is low. Any ideas on what could be wrong? I still have a warranty and want to get it fixed before it is up.

A. I would ask the service department to add a dye to the coolant. It only makes sense that something did not seal correctly and that is why you smell coolant, plus the level is low. A pressure test will sometimes momentarily seal the leak rather than find it. Adding dye to the coolant and then driving the car for a few days will allow the technician to find the leak. The technician will use a ultraviolet light and follow the coolant trail to the source of the leak. 

Q. I am considering a new hybrid. What is the difference between the Lexus NX 350h and the Toyota RAV4 hybrid?

A. Both vehicles use the same driveline although the Lexus has about 20 more horsepower. The Lexus is quieter due to overall construction and more sound deadening. The Lexus weighs about 400 pounds more, but interestingly has less cargo space. With the Lexus you get more features standard such as heater mirrors, blind spot monitoring, and more available options. For some people, spending $12,000 more on nicer features and the Lexus nameplate is worth it. For me I would take the same MPG and more room and put up with a little more road noise. But ultimately this is the only decision you can make. 

Q. I just read your answer to the person that had a problem with their air conditioning on a 2012 Kia Sorento. I have a similar problem with my 2012 Chrysler 300C. The air comes out fine then all of a sudden switches to warm and vice versa. You said it could be the temperature blend door. Is this possible on my car and if so, is it expensive to fix? 

A. This is certainly a possibility since most vehicles today use some sort of blend door. These doors could be vacuum operated or, as in the case of your car, small electric motors. A technician with a bidirectional scan tool could test to see if there are fault codes as well as command the blend door to open and close. 

Q. Within the year, I plan to buy a new SUV. I currently drive a 2017 Ford Escape which I like a lot. I have a single car garage that is narrow, Therefore, the new car needs to fit comfortably. I really like the Cadillac XT4, but I am considering an Infiniti QX55 or possibly a Honda CR-V. I do not like unexpectedly expensive car repairs such as $1,000 to replace a headlight. I hope that you can give me some advice.

A. You are looking at two luxury vehicles and one more traditional vehicle, the Honda CR-V. Luxury cars typically have more features and use higher-end materials, but there is no guarantee of better quality. The Honda CR-V has been shown to be the most dependable and has less complicated features. The Cadillac has shown to have just average reliability and the Infiniti QX55 crossover coupe is an interesting vehicle and only slightly wider than your Escape, but overall Infiniti vehicles rate below average in reliability, according to most studies. Also worth looking at are the Kia and Hyundai compacts – great warranty with good reviews despite engine issues with earlier vehicles. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your Car Doctor question to [email protected]. Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at johnfpaul.podbean.com.





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