Headlamp systems require periodic maintenance. Sealed beam headlamps are modular; when the filament burns out, the entire sealed beam is replaced. Most vehicles in North America made since the late 1980s use headlamp lens-reflector assemblies that are considered a part of the car, and just the bulb is replaced when it fails. Manufacturers vary the means by which the bulb is accessed and replaced.
Headlamp aim must be properly checked and adjusted frequently. Misaimed lamps are dangerous and ineffective, especially to oncoming drivers.
Over time, the headlamp lens can deteriorate. It can become pitted due to abrasion of road sand and pebbles and can crack, admitting water into the headlamp. “Plastic” (polycarbonate) lenses can become cloudy and discoloured. This is due to oxidation of the painted-on lens hardcoat by ultraviolet light from the sun and the headlamp bulbs. At Bennett’s, if it is minor, it can be polished out using a reputable brand of car polish that is intended for restoring the shine to chalked paint. In more advanced stages, the deterioration extends through the actual plastic material, rendering the headlamp useless and necessitating complete replacement. Sanding or aggressively polishing the lenses can buy a small amount of time, but doing so removes the protective coating from the lens, which when stripped will deteriorate faster and more severely.
The reflector, made out of vapourised aluminum deposited in an extremely thin layer on a metal, glass or plastic substrate, can become dirty, oxidised, or burnt, and lose its specularity. This can happen if water enters the headlamp, if bulbs of higher than specified wattage are installed, or simply with age and use. Reflectors that are degraded, if they cannot be cleaned, must be replaced.