Q. I find it harder to see at
night in my car with the shorter daylight hours of autumn. Why so? I
keep my headlight lenses clean. – E.F., St. Louis
A. Plastic headlight lenses have been a cost- and weight-saving improvement for cars over the last 15 years, but may not hold up to weather and time, growing hazy and clouding visibility. With the average age of cars about 10 years old, the problem is growing. Hazed headlights reduce visibility for drivers and make their car less visible to other drivers. Lenses yellow gradually, so many drivers don’t know they have a problem. It’s common to both domestic and foreign models, from economy to premium vehicles. So what can be done? Replacing the lenses can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,500, depending on the model. Consumer repair products in the past just polished the lens, but didn’t repair the damage, remove the hazing or improve the clarity. However, a new category of repair kits are said to make it easy for car owners to do the repair themselves at a reasonable price. For instance, the 3M Headlight Lens Restoration System and 3M Lens Renewal Kit allow car owners to do the job themselves in less than an hour, with a cordless drill, for less than $30, 3M Car Care says. There’s also a new, low-cost Headlight Restoration Kit from Sylvania.
Q. I just bought a 1957 Continental Mark II. The car’s VIN number indicates it is a 1956, not a 1957. Far fewer Mark IIs were built in 1957. – H.W., via Internet
A. You’ve got a great classic. The low-volume Mark II was a successor to the original Continental of the 1940s and was built by a separate division of Ford Motor Co. Many mistakenly call it a “Lincoln” Continental, but it wasn’t in the Lincoln line. It was the most expensive car in America because it was close to the then-breathtaking $10,000 mark, and Ford Motor reportedly lost $1,000 on each one. But its price discouraged many potential buyers. And then, not be be outdone, Cadillac introduced its flashier, costlier, limited-production 1957-58 Eldorado Brougham. Your best bet is to contact a Continental owner’s club, which should have detailed information on the 1956 and 1957 Mark II. Both cars were virtually identical, and collector car price guides give them the same value.
Q. What most influences a car-buying decision? – E.A., Harrisburg, Pa.
A. Most Americans say quality is the factor that most influences their car-buying decision, according to a recent telephone survey of 1,000 adults conducted for CarMax, a large, national used car retailer. Quality (37 percent) was followed by price (28 percent) and safety (22 percent). Environmental or green factors totaled only 6 percent.
Q. I’m picking up a new
Acura and want to know if I should spend more than $500 for a
paint-protecting product. – J. Z., via Internet
A. Don’t waste your money. Just keep the car clean and wax it several times a year. If possible, keep it garaged.
Q. I’m kicking around the idea of buying a 2005 Corvette to use as a daily driver, but also to take occasional cross-country trips. I recently drove from Chicago to Columbia, Mo., (about 6 hours) in a 2000 Porsche 911, but its ride was pretty rough and the car was loud. How would the Corvette compare? – V.R., via the Internet
A. The Corvette would be more comfortable.
Q. You once published an article listing autos you thought would become classics. If looking at cars from the 1980s and 1990s, which do you think will become true collectibles? – L.H., via Internet
A. The most likely collectibles would be cars that stood out when new, such as sports cars, high-performance models and certain convertibles.