How to Clean Your Foggy Headlights

At Steve’s Detailing, we know how to clean your foggy headlights the proper way so that you can see clearly in all weather conditions and on any terrain. We are also superb detailers for every type of vehicle, be it a motorcycle, RV, antique car, hobby car, or just your everyday to and from work vehicle.

If you don’t mind spending a good chunk of your weekend tending to your vehicle’s needs, there are a few methods for cleaning hazy, oxidized headlights. The first step is to do a thorough inspection of your headlights and look for the best solution to cleaning them. If you are unsure, always get a professional’s help. If there are extensive chips and cracks, it may be a good idea to replace them all together.

Now, let’s look at the procedures for how to clean your foggy headlights.

STEP 1, CLEAN WITH SOAP AND WATER: Use a good quality car soap to get off the road grime and debris. From here you will get a much better idea of the damage.

Look for signs of hazing. This will happen when the hard coating has worn off the headlights, and the soft polycarbonate is exposed; the light will start to absorb scratches that create hazing. The lens will also be covered, if it isn’t already, in a rough dark yellow crusted surface.

Yellowing is a sure sign that the all of the hard coatings is beginning to thin out and lose its adhesion to the polycarbonate lens. Peeling and cracks will need to be dealt with by a professional detailer or replaced. You may see flaking, peeling, and spotting. These may just need a resurfacing. Once you have concluded the level of damage, here are the options you can choose from to help repair the issue.

STEP 2, SANDPAPER: You will need a few different grades of wet/dry sandpaper. 3M is a good starting point and a courser grade such as 1500 or 2000. Tape off the areas of paint around the headlights to avoid damaging the paint and clean the lights once more with rubbing alcohol. Wet your sandpaper using the course grit first and start to sand in a circular motion, paying attention to areas where the coating may be lifting and flaking off. Use a good amount of pressure until you have an even, dull finish. Now you will change to a finer grit and continue sanding until you get a satin-like finish.

STEP 3, CHOOSE A POLISHING COMPOUND: Now you will determine the buffing compound that will best suit your needs. You can run to the auto parts store and pick up McGuire’s, M105, or others. Aluminum compounds are the best for headlights, or you can use a more natural and cheaper approach by opting for bath and sink cleaners or even blue toothpaste without whitening additives or peroxides.

When it comes to how to clean your foggy headlights, here are some other natural options to choose from for you DIY-types:

  • Baking Soda: Yup, just like your mom told you…. this stuff works for almost everything. Just rub it on and rinse off.
  • Vinegar: Besides its great cleaning qualities, it works like a charm on headlight covers. Just take them off and soak for a few minutes and watch the crud crumble off.
  • Bug Spray: Good old “OFF” brand will work wonders in taking off bug grime and the UV plastic that is yellowing on your headlights. The chemicals in the spray do a great job.
  • Joy Dish Soap and Salt: Mix the two together for double duty cleaning and removing power.
  • Denatured Alcohol: Be sure to clean your headlights well with soap and water first, then dab some denatured alcohol on a rag and rub in a circular motion. Rinse and dry, and add some car wax for added protection to finalize.

STEP 4, POLISH: Get a nice clean microfiber cloth and add your choice of cleaning compound to it, about the size of a quarter to start. Use small circular motions and a small patch to start. Then you will repeat this cycle until the whole light is done. You can also use an automatic buffer for faster results. Keep buffing and polishing until you get the clear results you are looking for!

STEP 5, PROTECT: To prolong the life of the hard work you have just accomplished, there is a product called Bulldog, which is a plastic adhesion protector that will aid in keeping your lights protected. It is kind of like applying a top coat on your nail polish to add long-wearing shine and coverage. This procedure is something Steve’s Detailing can most definitely help with.

The environment is the major issue in the deterioration of your headlights. The UV light exposure from the sun is probably the worst culprit, followed by road grime and chemicals. Road debris causes pits and marks in the lenses, water vapor trapped inside the lens also causes damage over time. So, what can you do to protect these precious and delicate lights? Well, it is wise to try and park your vehicle in the shade or a garage to avoid as much sun exposure as possible, and the second-best option is to have a professional tend to your lights quarterly to clean and protect them.

There are also several products on the market that can help prevent the damage that UV rays cause to your light system. These products have created a unique co-polymer & acrylic resin shell over headlight lenses to prevent their oxidation and fading. Your headlights remain clear and sharp and improve your nighttime visibility and your vehicle’s aesthetic appearance. Of course, this is a maintenance task that you will need to adhere to for best results. But one popular brand on the market is called Optimum Opti-Lens Headlight Coating.

A word on headlight covers: These are a great way to not only protect your lights from harmful UV light, but also from chips and grime that wear down the hard plastic coating. Of course, you can’t use them at night, but most definitely during the day is a great idea.

Knowing how to clean your foggy headlights is just one of the steps in a long list involved in keeping your vehicles looking good and running like new. Count on Steve’s Detailing for all the latest technologies, quality products, and experienced detailers to make your car feel as good as the day you bought it! Stop in today and adhere to a regularly scheduled maintenance plan for optimum results.

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