Vw Headlights: Illumination in Function and Design

By: Miranda Restelle

Contrary to the popular belief, headlights do not necessarily refer to the part that is attached on a vehicle like the ones made by VW. Rather, it more or less refers to the beam of light projected by a headlamp which is the more correct term. However, the term headlight is loosely interchangeable with the word headlamp, as far as inform discussions go.

The use of headlights was introduced way back in the 1880's, albeit a primitive version, this early incarnation was fueled by acetylene or oil, with the latter being popular due to its resistance to wind and rain. It wasn't until 1898 that electric headlights were put into production. A century has passed and vast improvements have been added to device, however the function has always remained the same, a light source that guided motorist during low visibility conditions.

While there is not much debate left for function due to the fact that most headlights across all makes and models (since the difference is barely noticeable), the design component has been given special attention, as it highlights a car's personality just as much as its body. VW headlights for the Beetle for example, have round headlights to compliment its appearance. And it can be argued that this was due to the fact that round headlights were easier to produce because at that time headlights used a parabolic reflector. However, the VW New Beetle retained the round shaped headlights that have been associated with its predecessor. On the other hand, the evolution of headlight design is evident on two of VW's other successful platforms, the VW Golf and VW Passat, which both started with spherical headlights in earlier generations to rectangular-shaped ones during the 80's, and currently, sporting elliptical headlights much like modern sedans. Customization has allowed for different color of the beams and styles, with the help of headlight covers. While most tuners of North American cars opt to "copy" the Euro-style lights, modern VW owners, with the exception of VW Beetle and classic VW owners have the style by default.

Maintenance for is minimal, but will eventually need replacement much like any electronic or mechanical part. Models that use sealed beam headlights must replace the entire module once the filament burns out, while most post-1985 models, however, use lens-reflectors assemblies that allows for bulb replacement rather than changing the entire lamp. As time goes by, the front lens is subject to deterioration, due to accumulated road dirt and debris. Headlights made of polycarbonate can turn cloudy and discolored, mostly due to oxidation of paint hardcoat by ultraviolet light, either from sunlight or the bulbs themselves. This can be remedied by simply cleaning the front lens, however advance stages would mean that a replacement is in order. Should cracks somehow occur, there is a of high possibility of water to enter the module and burn the reflectors making them useless due to the lose of its specular reflective properties. Reflector malfunction is also possible if the wattage is higher than the specified range or through wear and tear. The only solution to reflector-related problems is to replace the headlight entirely.

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