Your headlights may be fogged over. Maybe they’ve been this way for a while and you’ve grown used to their clouded appearance. Take a step back and note if they need more than a good scrubbing.
If so, we have prepared this guide on how to clean even the foggiest headlights without exposing your vehicle to damage.
What Causes Clouded Headlights?
Before we cover how to clean them, here’s a little background on how headlights become fogged over.
Back in the day, headlights used to be made out of glass. Now, they are made from thick glass composed of polycarbonates.
These new plastic lenses are much more durable and resistant to scratches. However, long-term exposure to the sun’s rays causes these lenses to degrade. This degradation causes the lenses to absorb blue light. As a result, yellowish light is emitted that isn’t as strong as it should be. This creates the effect of light that’s blurry and less bright.
Thankfully, foggy headlights are relatively simple to clean.
Are There Kits I Can Purchase?
If you don’t want to purchase the required equipment individually, there are kits available. This top list of headlight restoration kits references the different kits you can buy, including medium- and heavy-duty, depending on how hazy your lights are.
A pre-bought kit works just as well as buying the equipment yourself. It all depends on your personal preference and how much money you want to spend. Buying the parts is typically cheaper, especially if you already have some of them on hand in your garage.
How To Clean Clouded Headlights Yourself
If you choose to forgo purchasing a kit, be sure to purchase the following materials:
- Sandpaper. Purchase several different grits (ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 grits) of wet and dry sandpaper. With several different swatches on hand, you can experiment with which kind works best.
- Blue painter’s tape.
- Microfiber towels.
- Wax paste.
- UV sealant.
- Polishing compound.
- Car wash soap and water.
- A sponge.
- Paper towels.
With your supplies gathered, you can begin the cleaning process with the following steps:
1. Clean Your Headlights
Give your lenses a basic cleaning with soap and water to remove any stuck-on dirt. Also, wash the surrounding area so your tape will stick on in a later step.
2. Break Out The Tape
Use the blue painter’s tape to protect your headlights. This way, you won’t accidentally sand the surrounding trim and paint. Don’t skip this step even if you are confident in your abilities. It’s worth taking a few seconds to tape around your lenses to preserve your car’s paint.
3. Start Sanding
Begin with using the most abrasive sandpaper option you purchased. The lower the number, the more abrasive the sandpaper will be. So if you have a 1,000-grit and 2,000-grit swatch, start with the 1,000-grit option.
Wet your lens and the sandpaper. Make sure the lens remains wet while you work. Failing to do so can result in bad scratches.
Sand the lens in straight, horizontal strokes. Repeat this process twice more with less abrasive sandpapers. During the second time, use diagonal strokes. For the final sanding, use the opposite diagonal stroke from the second time.
4. Polish And Wax
Pour some polishing compound on the microfiber towel. Rub it on your lens using circular motions.
After the polishing compound, you can similarly apply the wax paste.
5. Apply The UV Sealant
When you sanded, you inevitably took off all of the old oxidized sealant.
Use a wet paper towel and broad strokes to apply the sealant. Let the sealant adequately dry, as it is the layer that will prevent your lenses from clouding over again.
Admire your work. If you don’t see an improvement, you may have to repeat steps 1-5 and focus especially on the sanding process.
Don’t Put Off This Chore Any Longer
While it may seem tedious, cleaning your headlights is essential to your safety on the road. Clear headlights improve what you can see and lets other drivers better see your vehicle.