Anyone that’s ever owned a car can tell you that there’s one type of visible wear and tear that seems to happen no matter how carefully you care for your vehicle. It’s that cloudiness or discoloration that begins to make your headlights unusable after a few years of environmental exposure. It’s an issue that not only robs your vehicle of its just-off-the-lot looks but can also pose a safety hazard when driving at night.
In the past, car owners that had this issue had few options to fix it, short of replacing the entire headlight assembly. Today, though, there are a few do-it-yourself fixes for the problem that are worth trying before you opt for more extreme measures. Also, there are some repair options that are less costly than a full headlight assembly replacement that could solve the problem at a much lower cost. To get you started, here are six car headlight restoration tips to get your headlights back into shape.
1. A Thorough Scrubbing
Believe it or not, sometimes the only thing that’s keeping your headlights from looking like new is a layer of road grime that has built up from everyday driving. That’s why the first tip to restore your headlights – and one plenty of people don’t bother with – is to give them a thorough scrubbing.
Start by mixing a bit of common dish soap into a bucket of soapy water. Then use an auto sponge to give your headlights a good scrubbing. Small, circular motions tend to work best to clean headlights. When you’re done, rinse your headlights well and see if they’ve cleared up. If you’re lucky, this is as far as you need to go. If not, keep trying using the tips that follow.
2. Clean With Toothpaste
If a good scrubbing didn’t do the trick, you’ll have to try some stronger measures. By that, I mean you’ll need to start using cleaning agents that are a bit more abrasive than plain dish soap. For the majority of headlights, baking soda toothpaste works quite well. To try this, wet your headlight and use a soft cloth to apply a small amount of toothpaste to the surface. Rub it in (again, in small, circular motions), and apply more as needed. When you’ve cleaned the whole surface, rinse well and dry completely.
3. Automotive Polishing Compound
Since your vehicle was designed for all-weather operation, manufacturers know you’ll have to clean their exterior to keep them looking good. This includes your headlights, too. The material they’re made of is designed to stand up to automotive polishing compound, and as it turns out, this is a great way to clear up your hazy lights. To apply it, follow the same procedure that you used for the toothpaste method. In cases where the cloudiness isn’t severe, polishing compound almost always does the trick. If not, you’ll need something even more abrasive.
4. Super-Fine Grit Sandpaper
Although you may fear trying this method, some clouded headlights can’t be cleaned without turning to some super-fine grit sandpaper. To be safe, you’ll want to use automotive sandpaper that is rated at 1000 grit or higher. That will remove any chance of damaging the plastic of the headlights. It’s important to use the same circular motions mentioned earlier and to make sure that you keep the headlight wet throughout the process. Once again, you will need to clean the headlight well when you’ve finished sanding. If you want your repair to last a bit longer, finish up by applying a coat of 2x cover clear spray to act as a protective barrier for your headlights to resist re-clouding.
5. Use a DIY Kit
If nothing else has worked, or if you fear damaging your vehicle with some of the other methods, your next best bet is a DIY headlight restoration kit. They’re available in auto parts stores and through online retailers, and many contain multiple steps made up of some of the same methods mentioned above. The good news is that they come with precise, step-by-step instructions, so there’s less chance you might make a mistake.
6. Call a Professional
As you may have guessed by now, cloudy headlights are enough of a problem that auto repair shops now offer headlight restoration as a standalone service. In most cases, it’s a repair that takes around 45 minutes and costs far less than replacing the headlights entirely. Some service providers, like Brisbane Mobile Roadworthys ASAP, will even come out to you and restore your headlights wherever you happen to be. At the end of the day, this is probably the most effective and simplest method here, so if it’s within your budget this is the way to go.
Clean, Bright, Safe
Whatever method you choose, keeping your headlights clean and clear is something you should never neglect. So if your headlights are cloudy or showing signs of degradation, try out these tips today to make sure your headlights cut through the night to keep you safe and get you where you’re going.