That foggy film that develops over your car’s headlights isn’t just a cosmetic issue. That hazy, cloudy layer can prevent your headlights from shining as much light as they should at night, which is hazardous for both you as a driver and the other drivers you pass on the road!
But luckily for all of us, there are a couple of methods you can use to clean your headlights and restore them to full brightness. But before we dive into the how-to of DIY headlight restoration, let’s talk about why and how our headlights turn hazy in the first place.
Why Are My Headlights Hazy?
There are two main factors that contribute to hazy headlights: road debris and UV rays. Brand new car’s headlights have a protective coating on the lens that helps keep them clear, but damage from road debris and sunlight eventually wears away the coating and causes them to become oxidized and cloudy.
But the problem has a fairly simple solution—remove the damaged coating on the headlights, then put a new protective coating in place. And as you’ll see in the next section, there are two easy ways to accomplish the task of cleaning headlights.
How To Clean Headlights
Method #1: For Slightly Foggy Headlights
If they are only slightly foggy or hazy, you can clean your headlights using toothpaste and some good old fashioned elbow grease. For the toothpaste method, you’ll need an abrasive toothpaste (look for a tube of toothpaste with baking soda), a couple of soft polish cloths, a spray bottle full of water, and a headlight sealant or coating product.
- Start by cleaning any grime off the headlights with soap and water.
- Next, use a soft cloth to apply a fingertip amount of toothpaste onto the wet headlight. Scrub the toothpaste around the headlight in a circular motion, adding more toothpaste as needed and spraying water as needed to keep the surface wet. Spend about five minutes using the soft cloth to scrub each headlight to achieve the desired effect.
- Rinse the toothpaste off the headlights and then let them dry for one to two hours.
- Finally, apply a clear headlight coating according to the instructions on the package. This will help protect your headlights and keep them clear and bright.
Method #2: For Very Foggy Headlights
If you’ll be cleaning headlights that are badly fogged, you’re better off purchasing a headlight restoration kit online or at an automotive supply shop. Look for kits that contain more than one grit of sandpaper, a plastic cleaner, polishing cloths, and a protective coating. (One kit should be sufficient to restore both of your car’s headlights.)
- Your first step should be thoroughly reading the instructions including in the headlight restoration kit. Make sure you understand each step, and be prepared to spend up to 20 minutes on each headlight. (After all, you’ll be removing years of oxidation plus the original coating!)
- Start by wetting the headlight with a spray bottle and then begin sanding. As you sand, feel the headlight with your hand to detect any remaining rough spots, and sand them until smooth. (Be careful not to scratch your car’s paint during the process of sanding—it may be helpful to tape around the lights with masking tape to help protect it, but be aware that even masking tape may remove the paint from old cars.)
- When you’re done sanding, allow your headlights to dry completely before proceeding to the next step. The headlights may still look hazy after you sand them, but don’t worry, they’ll clear up once you apply the coating.
- Apply the protecting coating or sealant to your dry headlights, then allow it to dry for several hours or overnight before driving the car (or else you might end up with bugs or dirt stuck to the coating!)
That’s everything you need to know about how to clean headlights! Regardless of which method you use, the new protective coating you apply will help keep your car headlights clear for up to one year, which means one year of bright, clean headlights and safer driving! :-)
Have you ever restored foggy headlights on your own?