How to clean car headlights
You can wash your car every day, but it doesn’t mean your dirty headlight lenses won’t become a safety hazard or eyesore over time. When most people think about headlight maintenance, changing the bulbs first come to mind. However, unless you keep your car inside or covered at all times, accumulated filth and the chemical reaction of exposed plastic to the sun’s ultraviolet rays create a cloudy haze in the car’s lenses.
Although new bulbs will restore some headlight brightness, Business Insider says that foggy lenses will potentially cause safety issues in nighttime driving and low-visibility conditions. “Most headlight lenses are treated with a UV-blocking, clear coating from the factory, but over time, they can become corroded. The corrosion causes a dull and hazy overlay, which drastically diminishes light output— and no matter how bright your bulbs are, you won’t be able to see well,” Car Enthusiast Amir Ismael stated in his Business Insider article.
A 2015 AAA research found when used on low beam, headlights that have declined in efficiency provided only about 22 percent of the amount of light new headlights did when operating at full capacity.
“Walk through any parking lot and it is evident that deteriorated headlights are a problem for most vehicle owners,” Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations, said in a statement. “Headlights on the road in the U.S., even when new, don’t produce a sufficient amount of lighting, so any reduction in performance is a real safety issue.”
Before putting yourself or other drivers at risk, you can save a few bucks by restoring them following these steps.
What you will need
There a many DIY projects involving car restorations and repairs. Some simple and cost-efficient items include soap and water, a soft cloth and a rag, painter’s masking tape, a power drill, a clear sealing coat, and toothpaste. But if you want to spend an extra few bucks, there are plenty of headlight restoration kits available at local auto stores including Auto Zone, O’ Reilly Auto Parts or Walmart.
Clean slightly foggy car headlights with toothpaste
If the headlights are only slightly foggy, Today reads using an abrasive like toothpaste it the easiest and least expensive method for quick fixes. Using toothpaste with non-crystals or particles will scrape away dirt while filling in any scratches. It is recommended to use Tom’s or Arm and Hammer for this method.
First, clean the headlights using either Windex or soap and water. Using a soft cloth or rag, apply preferred toothpaste on the headlight. It is best to keep the surface wet while scrubbing in the toothpaste. For the best outcome, apply a sealant after.
Clean foggy headlights using a DIY headlight restoration kit
A lens restoration kit lets you take matters into your own hands by giving you the tools to repair your lights without needing a professional. Not only is it convenient, but it also saves time and money.
When choosing the right restoration kit you first need to figure out your budget and how dirty the lenses are. They are a number of kits under $10 that will get the job done, depending on the brand and overall quality of the project. However, to ensure you get the best results the first time, it’s suggested to invest a little more.
The Drive listed three top brands under $15 on amazon, including 3M, Turtle Wax, and Rain X.
The 3M headlight lens restoration kit is considered a professional-grade product. Its production description states it’s specifically designed for removing cloudy, yellowed haze that builds up in the headlight lenses. This kit contains masking tape, light sanding discs and wax protectant. This kit is good for people who do not own or wish to use a drill. The only con with this product is that it does not come with a clear sealing coat.
The Turtle Wax is a complete kit with all the tools and treatments needed for headlight restoration. This kit includes three restoration pads, spray lubricant, lens clarifying compound and lens sealing wipe. However, since the pads are small, this product is ideal for vehicles with smaller headlights.
The Rain-X headlight restoration kit removes haze and discoloration with three grades of sandpaper and spray lubricant. No other tools are needed for this kit.
Choosing the professional route
Instead of taking personal time clean the headlight yourself, professionals can make the headlight look brand new. Based on research, professionals charge between $80 and $150 to restore or detail both headlights. Benefits for spending the money includes no effort on the owners part, no risk of further damaging the headlights, professional tools, and high-class products will be used and the outcome will last longer.
Features to consider
If wanting to divert from paying the extra bucks to hire a professional, one can easily find a kit or use household projects. Home products typically consist of a cleaning solution only, which will typically fall under the $10 budget range. While cleaning solutions will work, it is only meant for minor restorations.
Car owners using multiple step kits will notice a difference in the quality and longevity in results. Multi-step kits contain an abrasive, requiring a bit more work. While some kits will include everything you need, others will require or suggest a drill or sander on hand for best results. A power tool or sander can be used with any kit and will produce stellar results.
The extra work and money ultimately come down to how much damage and dirt the headlight sustained.