How to clean headlights: Freshen your car’s look and improve visibility

Headlights, like every other part of your car — or any machine or piece of tech, for that matter — will surely get dirty and begin to deteriorate over time without the proper upkeep. No matter how clear the polycarbonate plastic is when you purchase it, it will eventually begin to look foggy and obscure the brightness of your headlights. The fogginess results from a combination of general filth accumulation, and a natural chemical reaction the plastic has to long exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Tired of poor visibility and nasty-looking bulb housings? Let us teach you how to clean headlights. Your car — and other drivers — will thank you.

This buildup can make it more difficult to illuminate the road and your surroundings at night, which increases the risk of unfortunate incidents. Thankfully, there are a few simple strategies one can employ to restore clarity to your headlights, most of wthem from the comfort of your own home. Without further ado, let’s get into the prep, procedure, and products associated with cleaning your headlights.

Initial cleaning

how to clean headlights

You may want to get down and dirty with the headlight restoration, but giving your car a proper cleaning (or at least washing the front end of your car) before getting started will assure the best result. Wash the headlights themselves and all surrounding panels. Thoroughly dry the vehicle so no droplets or water runoff will get onto the headlights during your restoration.

Masking

how to clean headlights

Next up is taping/masking of the headlight perimeter. You’ll need some painter’s tape that isn’t crazy adhesive. Tape around the headlight, being careful not to put tape on any of the housing that needs to be polished. It will look weird if you have a line of foggy next to a line of clear on the headlamp. Typically, your turn signals (yellow lights) won’t haze as much as the clear headlight, so if you don’t want to go through the trouble of cleaning those, just tape them off. Any other surfaces that could be damaged while polishing/sanding should be protected.

Three ways to clean:

Additional preventative tips

Now that you’ve gone to the trouble of restoring your headlights, it would be a real shame if they became foggy just weeks or months after your labor. To prevent a quick return to ugly form, try a UV sealant, protectant, or film. These products will shield your headlights from the same combo of UV punishment and built-up filth that made them hazy the first time.