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How do I keep my four-year-old car from developing headlight cataracts – i.e., going misty yellow? Yes, I know there are after-the-fact cleanup kits. But can anything be done proactively? – Ian

After some time, the polycarbonate lens covers reach a stage where the protective coating applied at the time of manufacture has given up the ghost.

The yellowing or clouding is caused by the sun's UV rays and this is exacerbated if the vehicle is parked or spends considerable time in the open.

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There are clear plastic coatings or covers available in the aftermarket for some popular lights, but you have to be careful as some of them will considerably reduce the amount of light that gets through, and also yellow or go off even quicker than the current light.

There are also a number of headlight restoration products on the market. Some you can do yourself and others are offered at a shop. The first step is to remove the current damaged outer or yellow layer. Then you apply a protective coating.

There are any number of products that remove damage, ranging from toothpaste to fine sandpaper with dozens of liquids and gels in between. The trick, having done that, is to prevent or at least slow down the degradation process that will follow.

Although I have not tried any of these systems I would recommend trying one from a trusted name. 3M, for example, markets a four-step Headlight Restoration System that claims to repair and protect. It utilizes an electric drill-based sanding system to remove damage, followed by different steps to polish and prepare for a protective coating. That product is not included in the 3M kit.

It recommends Wolfgang Plastik Surface Sealant available from wolfgangcarcare.com. I have used a variety of its detailing products and have no hesitancy in recommending Wolfgang products. You might notice on its site that this company also sells a complete lens repair kit.

Timing belt

At 80,000 kilometres and five years, my Acura dealer wants to change the timing belt and adjust the valves on my 2008 TL. The cost is $1,100. They don't change the water pump even though it seems to have been done in the past. Should I have the pump changed anyway? – Bob

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That seems a bit premature. Acura recommends changing the belt at 96,000 kilometres on certain older models, but generally 160,000 km or seven years is the recommended change point, unless the vehicle is regularly driven in very low temperatures. In that case, the recommendation is 100,000 km.

Age can be harder than mileage on rubber products such as your timing belt, so keep that in mind.

Do you know when the pump was replaced? The timing belt connects the driveshaft to the camshafts, ensuring the valves open and close at the correct time. On most vehicles that same belt also drives the water pump, which is why it is recommended to change belt and pump at the same time because of the amount of work necessary to get at those items. However, if the pump has been replaced recently, it might not need to go. If you are not sure, replace the pump at the time of the belt replacement – when that time comes.

Please send your automotive maintenance and repair questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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