When it comes to driving at night, or in conditions of limited visibility, one of the most important safety precautions a driver can take is making certain that his or her headlights are in optimal working order. But did you know that these precautions extend further than just making sure that your headlight bulbs aren’t burned out? In fact, your headlights’ effectivity can also be hampered by fogging of the headlight lenses. Let’s take a closer look at what causes foggy headlights and how to clean your headlight lenses if it’s necessary.
What Are Foggy Headlights?
If you notice that the light emanating from your headlights is a lot less clear than it once was, chances are your vehicle is suffering from foggy headlights. Sometimes drivers will also notice that their headlights are not only a lot less bright, but also that the light has a yellowish, dingy tinge to it. This is also caused by headlight fogging.
The reason for headlight fogginess is a bit scientific. Most headlight lenses these days are made from a thick plastic comprised of polycarbonates. Unlike the glass lenses that were used in older cars, these plastic lenses are much more scratch-resistant and durable. However, over time, as this polycarbonate plastic is exposed to UV rays from the sun, the outer layers begin to break down and degrade. These changes cause the lenses to absorb blue light from the bulbs and cause a less potent, yellowish light to be emitted. The good news, however, is that cleaning foggy headlights is fairly easy.
What Products to Use When Cleaning Headlights
Most auto supply stores stock at least a product or two that are designed specifically for cleaning headlight lenses when they’ve become fogged up from UV exposure. Look for products marked as “headlight restoration kit” or “headlight lens restoration.” Using these products is a straightforward way to clean your vehicle’s foggy headlights.
When in a pinch, people who need to clean foggy headlights immediately have a few other options that can also get the job done. Toothpaste and baking soda can be effective cleansers for cleaning headlights. Both products are abrasive enough to take off the fog without scratching or damaging the headlights. Polishing compounds such as Rain-X might also be effective enough to remedy UV damage. In general, it’s worth having a cleaning kit in your garage or home!
How to Clean Foggy Headlights
You don’t need a lot of supplies a lot of supplies for cleaning headlights on your vehicle. Here are a few things you’ll probably want to have on hand:
- Cleansing kit, baking soda, or toothpaste
- Old rags or towels
- Latex gloves for sensitive skin
- Water for rinsing
- A soft-bristled brush
- Mild cleanser
Let’s take a look at the steps required to clean foggy headlights.
1. Clean the surface of debris
Before you begin, you’ll want to make certain you’re working with a clean surface. Spritz your headlights with a mild cleanser and gently wipe away any dirt, particulate, dead bugs, and gunk that may have accumulated on the surface.
2. Towel dry
After cleansing, wipe down the surface with a dry towel or rag until it’s moisture-free
3. Apply headlight restorer
Distribute a fair amount of cleanser - this is the product from your headlight restoration kit, toothpaste, or baking soda - fairly thickly over your headlight lenses. If you’re using baking soda, you’ll want to have mixed it with a small amount of water first to make a thick paste. Leave your cleanser on the lens for a few minutes to allow it to dry just a bit.
4. Remove cleanser with brush
Using circular motions, work your way around the surface of the headlight gently with your brush. Remember, the cleanser you’re using is abrasive, so be careful not to gouge into the plastic surface. You should see the yellowness or fogginess disappearing from the lens as you work your way around it.
5. Clean off excess cleanser
Using your clean rag or towel, buff away any residual cleanser from your lens. Spritz any stubborn, dried on bits with clean water and then polish until dry with your towel.
It’s as simple as that. Once you’ve cleaned up your foggy headlights, you should immediately notice increased visibility and brighter, whiter headlights!