Have your headlights turned slightly yellow or foggy? Over time, as polycarbonate plastic is exposed to UV rays from the sun, the outer layers of your headlights can break down, emitting a yellowish, less clear light.
UV damage is a common problem for vehicle owners. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do yourself to remedy the issue. We hope this list of ideas on how to clear up foggy headlights has been useful as you set out your own plan. If you would rather have your headlights cleaned by a professional, look for a qualified shop to do the job. They will buff and polish your headlights to restore clarity and shine, before applying a protective coating for long-lasting results.
While it is hard to save your headlights from sun exposure, thankfully, there are steps you can take to improve their appearance and light quality. With the right techniques, you can restore the condition of your car headlights. Here are six different methods on how to clear up foggy headlights:
1. Surface clean the headlights
Give the surface a gentle wash to remove dirt and debris. Use a liquid dish soap, a soft cloth and warm water to wipe away grime and environmental build-up. Removing dirt from the housings before cleansing will avoid scratching the surface of your headlights.
Once you’ve given your headlights a good cleaning, use a soft cloth to fully dry the area. Next, apply a gentle tape to your car, surrounding each headlight fully, so that only the housing of your light is exposed. Be sure to use a low-adhesive tape such as painter’s tape, to avoid damaging your paint. Some people prefer to tape off their turn signal lights, as well, given that fogging is usually less obvious over the coloured light.
Next, you’ll need to find a few tools to help you complete the job. Look for a gentle brush, to help you clean the housing of your headlights without scratching. If you don’t have a soft-bristle, hand-size brush, think about using a soft toothbrush. Other helpful supplies include soft rag. You will need plenty of them for washing, drying, cleansing and rinsing.
2. Use toothpaste to clear up the headlights
One of the least expensive methods of cleaning headlights is to use toothpaste, which is lightly abrasive and perfect for cleansing. Simply wet your headlight and apply a small amount of toothpaste to a soft rag.
Use gentle, circular movements to work a thin layer of toothpaste over the entire housing of your light. To finish, rinse with clean water and towel dry.
3. Combine baking soda & vinegar
As an alternative to toothpaste, try a combination of baking soda and vinegar to cleanse your headlights. Simply mix one or two tablespoons of baking soda with a small amount of white vinegar. Your mixture should result in a thick, white paste, which can be gently rubbed into the housing of your headlight.
Rinse with water and repeat, as necessary. Headlights with heavy yellowing may require this step to be repeated several times before you begin to see the clarity you want.
4. Try window spray & car polish
Another DIY home remedy for foggy headlights is likely in your bathroom cupboard. Simply tape off your lights, as described, apply window cleaner generously, allow it to soak for several minutes and wipe with a soft cloth.
Use another cloth, or even a rotary buffer, to apply car polish in small, circular movements. Wipe off any extra polish and give a final wipe with a fresh cloth.
5. Use sandpaper on the foggy headlights
If you are thinking of using sandpaper to restore clarity to your headlights, make sure you use a fine grit paper and plenty of water. Start by cleaning your headlights with soap and water, dry thoroughly and spray both your headlight and a fine grit sandpaper with water. Start slowly, sanding in one direction gently. Sand all the way to the edges of your light; continue until your surface has a uniform finish.
Some like to repeat this step with higher grit levels, proceeding from 800 to 1,000 and then 2,000. The higher your grit level, the more water you will need. Follow your sanding with an application of a rubbing compound on a buffing pad, polishing the whole headlight for a shiny, clear finish.
6. Get a restoration kit
If you are hesitant to try home remedies or have tried them without success, you can always use a restoration kit from your local hardware store or automotive shop. If you go this route, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, without skipping steps or improvising with your own ingredients. Many kits will provide sandpaper, with a protective sealant that takes several hours to dry. Be sure to give yourself as much time as you need to complete the job.