How To Clean Your Headlights

Cloudy or foggy headlights is fairly common among older vehicles and is caused by the exposure of UV light upon the plastic lenses. However, it’s fairly easy to rectify and in this article, we show you exactly how to clean your headlights with ease.

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How To Clean Headlights
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Headlights that are cloudy, yellow or foggy can be an MOT failure or advisory (section 4.1.4 (b)) and also ruins the appearance of your car. Although there are many methods to clean your headlights, we highly recommend investing in a high-quality headlight restoration kit. As shown below, we used the very popular Autoglym kit to achieve our results on a pair of neglected foggy headlights.

Methods of Cleaning Your Headlights

By far the most popular method of cleaning your headlights is to use a dedicated restoration kit. This usually includes a number of sanding discs, backing plates, a drill attachment and a compound. Alternative methods include using an abrasive cutting compound, WD40, baking soda or even toothpaste, which may work but aren’t advised.

How To Clean Headlights

For our guide to cleaning your headlights, we use the Autoglym restoration kit, which includes four levels of sanding and a compound. In order to use this kit (requires an electric drill), follow the steps below:

  1. Thoroughly clean your headlights using car shampoo.
  2. Ensure the headlights are completely dry.
  3. Mask the area and ensure all plastic and bodywork panels are protected.
  4. Attach the supplied backing plate to the drill.
  5. Place the P800 sanding disc on the plate.
  6. Use medium pressure and begin sanding the surface of the headlight.
  7. Wipe down the surface and ensure the defects are removed.
  8. Attach the P1500 disc and sand the surface (leaves behind a “milky” finish).
  9. Attach the P2000 disc and use a spray bottle to dampen the disc and headlight.
  10. Begin to sand down the surface until the “milky” appearance begins to clear.
  11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 but with the P3000 disc.
  12. Attach the foam pad to the backing plate.
  13. Add a small amount of the compound onto the foam pad.
  14. Before turning the drill on, spread the compound around the lens surface.
  15. Begin to buff the lens until a gleaming finish is achieved.
  16. Wipe clean any residue with a microfiber cloth to reveal the finished results.

Although there are quite a few steps, they are relatively straightforward and involve replacing the sanding discs regularly. Below are some pictures of a recent case study where the headlights were clouded over.

how to clean plastic headlights

how to clean foggy headlights

During the sanding phases, if you notice that the sanding discs are becoming clogged up, you will want to replace the disc. This will ensure the surface is completely flat in order to achieve the best possible results.

It’s also worth pointing out that the headlights may appear more foggy as you sand them but this is what’s meant to happen. Once you begin to get to the finer sanding discs, you will see the foggy headlight begin to clear up.

As you can see from the before and after photos (main photo), the results are pretty clear. Not only will the headlights now pass an MOT but they also improved the appearance of the car. The car headlight bulbs will also perform better at night because the light output isn’t being restricted by any product on the lens.

Conclusion

Considering the small cost of a restoration kit, we highly recommend investing in one for superior results whilst cleaning your headlight. Although there are multiple steps involved, it’s all relatively simple as long as you own an electric drill. If you attempt to use household items, they may cause even further damage to the headlight lens.

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