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Why is my repair bill for a minor fender bender so high?

I was in a minor fender-bender the other day. It was so minor, no fenders were bent. But my front bumper is pushed in slightly. It does not cause any problems with the lights or radiator yet the appraiser put the repair cost at more than $1,700. Why do cars have such flimsy bumpers? – Eric

Actually they are not bumpers, they are pieces of plastic covering all the important absorbant materials beneath. You might harken back to the day when a big, thick piece of chromed metal sticking out at both ends could take a licking and keep on ticking. It took a serious hit to damage more than the bumper, which could be bent back into shape or replaced easily. No longer. A modern vehicle has been designed from the first step to absorb energy from a crash rather than have the occupants play that role. These vehicles buckle, bend and generally act like a big cushion when they strike another surface or vehicle, deforming and changing shape .

That carefully-engineered crush zone is not attractive or aerodynamic, so designers cover it with a pretty piece of plastic or similar material. The costs incurred in your repairs are not only for the plastic "cap" but for the materials beneath. If the plastic "bumper" is only slightly bent or dented. you can sometimes pop it back into shape by applying heat, from a blow dryer. If deeper than that, it's time to pay up.

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Oncoming headlights are too bright

I have been driving for more than 50 years without an accident or insurance claim. I have learned to adapt to changes over the years, but am having difficulty with these bright new headlights. My corrected vision is excellent, but the glare from these white lights make night driving something to be avoided. That is difficult because I live outside a major city and have to drive 25 kilometres each way for everything from supplies to medical appointments. Is there something I can do to my windshield, mirrors and glasses to lessen the glare from these lights? – Paula, Fredericton, N.B.

Unfortunately there is not. Anything applied to any of those surfaces will reduce the amount of light reaching your eyes, affecting how soon you will see situations down the road.

Granted, the new generation of HID and LED headlights produce a light that is close to daylight in colour than the yellow light from the old halogen bulbs. The issue is probably not these lights, it is probably from vehicles trying to mimic these new-generation headlights. Factory-installed HID or LED headlights include a complex self-leveling system and a sharp cutoff on low beams to prevent the light from shining above waist level.

High beams can be an issue for oncoming motorists and the headlights from tall vehicles like pickups and big SUVs shine their lights directly into your rear view mirror from close behind – but this happens regardless of the type of light source. Unfortunately, the regulations do not address this situation as they do for big commercial trucks where height from the road surface is dictated.

I would bet that the vast majority of situations where you are being blinded by bright white lights are those where the offending vehicle is equipped with aftermarket bulbs installed in the original light. While the intent is to look "cool" or like a more expensive vehicle, the more powerful light is reflected forward through the same standard lens the vehicle came with, a lens that is incapable of properly directing the light, leaving much of it scattered in all directions, including in your windshield. All you can do is avoid looking into those lights and keeping your glasses and windshield clean.

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