Photos by Justin Pritchard and Sylvania

There used to be a weathered old fence running along the side of my driveway. It was probably colourful and beautiful at some point, though years of exposure to the elements, especially the sun, left it looking dried up, cracked and grey. It had been there forever, and I was sad to see it torn to bits and hauled it off to the dump.

The sun is just as hard on your eyes as it was on my old fence, especially in wintertime. Damaging UV rays are blasted into your peepers every day, moreso in winter when ice and snow reflect this cosmic radiation your way from numerous angles. And it’s not just UV rays that are hard on the eyes, since reduced daylight and the increased likelihood of driving in inclement weather will lead to more squinting, straining, eye fatigue and even, potentially, long-term vision damage.

So, to keep your retinas fresh, working properly, and protected against looking like weathered planks of cedar, be sure to bear a few tips in mind before hitting the road for this year’s upcoming winter driving season. Remember: anything you do to make life easier on your eyes will make you more comfortable, more safe, and more confident at the wheel, especially after dark.

Reducing Eye Strain with Upgraded Lighting: Drivers need the best lighting possible to guide them through hazardous nighttime driving, and many products are available to help them see better in the dark. Sylvania is one such manufacturer of upgraded lighting products, including drop-in bulb replacements that you can see in masses at your local auto parts store.

I professionally aimed my trusty old Honda Fit’s headlamps and evaluated both the factory-spec bulbs, as well as a set of Sylvania’s Silverstar bulbs to check out the differences. Key among them? The OEM bulbs, as I often note in new cars, tended to show typical weaknesses. Their light output, comparably, is on the dull, yellow and dim side. The light spread in front of the vehicle is patchy, with darker and lighter spots appearing throughout the pattern.

After a few minutes in the garage to install the Silverstar bulbs, the differences were apparent quickly. Most noticeable initially was the amount of light directed out to the sides of the car and into the roadside foliage. This is great news if you live in an area where hiding Bambi’s or Bullwinkles may not look both ways before crossing the street. The colour is also more crisp and vivid, enhancing visual detail up the road. The patchy dark spots were virtually eliminated, and the lighting was more powerful at the far edge of the pattern, too.  Improvements like these, several hours into a late-night highway drive, will leave your eyes less strained, fresher, more awake, and more energetic.

Of course, bulbs are only part of the equation when it comes to reducing strain on your eyes via lighting system optimization. If your headlight aim is out of whack, even a new set of upgraded bulbs could appear dangerously dim. Is one or both of your headlights illuminating the ditch or flagging down aircraft overhead? Check with your dealership or owner’s manual for proper aiming procedures. It’s generally a quick and easy job that can be tackled in a few minutes with a screwdriver. Properly-aimed headlights put light where it’s needed most, making things easier to see, and reducing dangerous eye strain.

Honda Fit with factory headlightsHonda Fit with Sylvania Silverstar Ultra lights, notice crisper blue colour and increased visibility farther down the road and to the sidesSylvania Silverstar Ultra
Honda Fit with factory headlights and with Sylvania Silverstar Ultra lights, notice the crisper blue colour and increased visibility farther down the road and to the sides; Sylvania Silverstar Ultra retail packaging. Click image to enlarge

Yellowed, pitted, hazy or cloudy headlight housings are another concern.

Solution? If your housings are in decent shape but looking a little aged, consider resurfacing them. They can be buffed or treated with special products that intend to bring their transparency back. In your writer’s experience, these treatments aren’t permanent, though websites like sell OEM and aftermarket headlight housings, brand new, for cheaper than you might think. I bought a set for my mother’s 2000 Honda Accord for under $120, shipped to my door. The improvement from this alone, even without upgrading the bulbs, was massive.

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