How to clean your headlights

Tuesday 21st June 2022

Your car headlights are exposed to dirt and grime on a daily basis. They can become clouded and yellow over time due to oxidation, as well as picking up dirt and grime from the road’s surface. That’s why it’s important to keep your headlights clean to ensure you have full visibility at night and to ensure your headlight beams shine brightly.

Headlight clouding causes

So, what are the causes of headlight clouding?

  • Oxidisation - headlight lenses are coated in a clear layer to help prevent acrylic from oxidising. When this coating wears off, the UV light oxidises the casing, turning it yellow.
  • Wear and tear - the coating is prone to scratches from debris on the road – this can reach beyond the protective layer, giving it a cloudy appearance.
  • Dirt - layers of dirt and chemicals from pollution can gather on headlight casing which dims the light.
  • Water vapour - headlights come with a watertight seal that can break through wear and tear – when this happens, water can collect inside the casing.

How to clean your headlights

Things you will need:

  • Microfibre cloth
  • Sanding discs
  • Soap
  • Headlight cleaning products
  • High-speed drill
  • Sponge
  • Tape

5-step process for cleaning headlights

  1. Firstly, wash your headlights with warm soapy water – to remove all the excess residue and gunk. After you have done this, you will want to ensure the headlights have been thoroughly dried with the microfibre cloth.
  2. Now it’s time to tape around the light – avoid using a strong adhesive tape so you don’t damage the cars paint. Make a perimeter of tape around your headlight highlighting the area that needs to be cleaned.
  3. Gently sandpaper your headlights – use sandpaper that has been specifically designed for cars. Rub on the headlights until all defects have come out. Follow manual instructions for the best results.  
  4. Apply your headlight cleaner – this may come as either a liquid or powder form. Using a sponge extension, add this to your high-speed drill to buff the product into the headlight. If you don’t have a drill, you can just use a sponge.
  5. Rinse – now your headlights should be sparkling clean. Rinse off any residue with a damp microfibre cloth, remove the tape and your headlights should be good to go.

Can you clean your headlights with toothpaste?

Toothpaste is a mild abrasive and could be used a budget-friendly way to clean your headlights. However, you may not get the best results. Its best to use products designed specifically for headlight cleaning.

If you find that your headlights are clean and clear, but your beams still aren’t as strong as they should be, this probably means that your bulbs need replacing. Check your headlights for hazing or flickering and book your vehicle in for a car service now at your local Formula One Autocentre to ensure your headlights are working as they should.

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