Monday, August 15, 2022

Before and After: The Headlight Edition

BEFORE: Driver headlight, 12 years old


Plastic headlights tend to have a few problems as they age; don't we all? This weekend I broke out my headlight fixer-upper-polisher kit and went to work on the 2011 Toyota Camry headlights. Not wanting to read all the directions, or maybe I should say not wanting to FOLLOW all the directions, I skipped two of the three sanding type discs, and just used one with some water, then went to the spongy ball on the electric drill and got the following results. 

                                    AFTER: with blue tape to keep the polish off the paint.

The process isn't hard and doesn't take a ton of time. It cleaned up the plastic lenses nicely, but to be honest I never noticed if the headlights weren't as bright, or projecting as much as they did when they were new. Maybe there's some myth-busters or YouTube video stars out there that address this topic, so feel free to check that out on your own. I'll settle for having nicer looking headlights. That's pretty much all there is to improving your headlights, another world's-easiest-car-repair. But wait, there's more! 

I got my awesome headlight polishing/restoring kit as a gift, and it's great, but what other options are there for fixing junky looking headlights? I wonder how much it would cost to just buy a  new headlight assembly? Good thing we have the Internet, because here's what I found out from 3 sources:

SOURCE ONE: Your local Auto Parts Store

I only looked up prices at one store, and maybe some other stores have cheaper prices, but for this category, I found  headlight assemblies starting at $256. That's 256 dollars each, so for both headlight assemblies it would cost you over 500 bucks. Notice I said it would cost "you" because I'm not paying that much! We love to support our local auto parts store, but in this case, Hmm, could there be a cheaper source?

SOURCE TWO: Online Auto Parts Store: Rock Auto

Harnessing the power of the Internet (using this power for good and not evil) I found headlight assemblies (same Toyota Camry) for as little as $90 each, so 180 dollars for the pair. That's much cheaper than the auto parts store down the street, even with any extra shipping. For just about anything you need, NMS loves Rock Auto.

SOURCE THREE: USED Auto Parts: Pull-A-Part

By "used" auto parts, here I mean specifically Pull-A-Part, which is one of several businesses that has car lots filled with crashed cars. Visit one near you, and you can pay a small fee, walk in with your toolbox, and then liberate the parts you need from a donor car. OK, you have to do a little work to get the part, but it might save you some big bucks. The generic Pull-A-Part price for the same Camry headlight assembly is $37 with an environmental fee included, so  maybe add a couple bucks for walking into the yard, and let's call it $80 for the pair. Of course these are used parts, and you'll have to research the donor year and/or part number to make sure it fits your vehicle, but odds are a car like the Camry will use the same parts over multiple years, and since they're a top selling model you'll always find Camry parts in the "used" category. 

SOURCE FOUR: Dealership   

OK, I didn't look up this price, and odds are that your local Toyota dealer could get any part too. They generally will have the highest prices, since like all businesses they need to make money, and I want everyone in the auto industry to make money and pay their bills, but I have to look out for my budget too.

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