Some people like a beautiful sheen. Others have a soft spot for killer wheels. And of course the engine, transmission and brakes also need to work on a used car. Because problems with these components can mean expensive repairs. Unfortunately, the same goes for lights; they rarely get a prospective buyer’s full attention though. Let me give you a few tips.

Check all functions. And I do mean all of them. Because even though you hardly ever need the rear fog light, it has to be fully functional to comply with regulations. And unfortunately, very often replacing just the lamp won’t do. In the rear fog light no lamp reaches the end of its life. It’s a similar story for reversing lights.

Headlight leveling. It’s one of the most common problems in car lights. The reason is that when it comes to the manual version with a control on the dashboard it’s also hardly ever used and is therefore stuck. Repairs can be very expensive. Automatic headlight leveling of xenon or LED headlights doesn’t cause as many problems because it’s constantly in motion. Faults are usually displayed on the instrument cluster and should be taken seriously. Again, repairs can be very costly.

Headlight washer system. It’s often overlooked in inspections and test drives, especially because it’s difficult to check from the driver’s seat whether it’s working properly. Ask the seller to operate the washer system while you stand in front of the car, for example while doing a check of all the other lighting functions. But switch on the lights; in many cars only lights that are turned on are cleaned.

Cornering lights. Checking them can prove tricky. Real cornering lights usually only work in the dark, and not at all when the car is stationary. A test drive in the dark would be a solution; driving through tunnels would be another. The swivel range of cornering lights isn’t big so you have to look more closely.

Lenses. In headlights, it’s not just the sheer shine that counts. Strikingly shiny lenses – called diffusers in older models with glass – could be indicative of polishing. That could have resulted in damage to the thin layer of coating on the plastic covers, though. In other words: the headlights are likely to go dull again soon. It’s better to accept a few small visual impairments. But that does not apply to cracks or holes. They will let in water sooner or later.

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