Pro Tips for Cleaning and Restoring Foggy Headlights
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When the sun sets or dark clouds roll in, your headlights light the way so you can see the road ahead.
And aside from providing an essential function, your car headlights also make your car unique, adding to the visual aesthetic and style of its front profile.
Over time, the plastic lenses on the headlight assembly may become discolored and foggy, not only lessening function but also your vehicle's visual appeal.
The good news is you can combat hazy headlights by restoring your vehicle's lenses with the many headlight restoration kits available for purchase.
What are some ways of restoring headlights? What do you need for cleaning headlights?
Let's look at the subject of how to clean headlights and how, with a little bit of elbow grease, you can make yours look new.
Headlights consist of two principal elements: housings and bulbs.
Though headlights may seem simple due to their easy on/off nature, they're more than just simple light bulbs, and many types exist.
Two pieces make up a headlight on a modern vehicle: the bulb and the headlight housing.
The headlight housing is the clear plastic enclosure surrounding the bulb. Headlight housings give particular cars their own unique appearance, with various shapes and sizes on display.
Some headlights may be narrow and sleek, while others are large and round.
Aside from styling, the headlight housing also helps to radiate the light produced by the bulb. Two types of headlight housings exist: projector and reflector.
Standard headlight housings use a reflector design. In a reflector headlight housing, mirrors direct the bulb's light forward and outward for optimal visibility. The mirrors form a bowl shape around the bulb, and a clear plastic lens covers them.
Projector headlight housings magnify and focus the light from the bulb through a lens. Some manufacturers combine a low beam projector housing with a high beam reflector housing for an extra touch of style.
Reflector housings are present on most vehicles, but projector designs continue to gain in popularity due to their excellent function and sophisticated appearance.
The bulb inside of a headlight housing produces the illumination so you can see the road. Several types of headlight bulbs exist with differing technology and performance.
These days, many vehicles on the road have halogen bulbs because of their economical pricing and good performance. A halogen bulb uses gas sealed inside of the bulb, along with a filament. When you turn on a halogen headlight, the filament heats up, and the halogen gas further enhances its brightness. Although halogen bulbs are popular, they usually have the shortest service life.
High-intensity discharge bulbs (HID) use electrodes, vaporized metals, and xenon gas to produce a brighter illumination than halogen ones. HID bulbs also cost more than halogen versions, but they're safer and more efficient.
Light-emitting diode (LED) headlights are becoming more and more popular because of their excellent efficiency, high illumination, long service life, and superior design. Because of LED bulbs' small sizing, they fit a greater range of styling applications or into smaller spaces. And since they're supposed to last up to 50,000 hours, LED bulbs are a wise choice for long-term performance.
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What makes a headlight foggy?
Over time, oxidation from the outdoor environment makes a headlight foggy or yellow, lessening its effectiveness and lowering your vehicle's visual appeal. Additionally, UV rays cause the plastic headlight covers to degrade and become cloudy.
The plastic cover on a headlight housing reacts with oxygen in the outside air, gradually causing the formation of a hazy film. Other causes of a foggy headlight include high operating temperatures, age, or faulty seals that allow moisture and dust inside the assembly.
How to clean headlights that are foggy
You can find specific products for restoring headlights at your local auto parts store. These DIY products typically come in a kit with all the materials you need to make your headlights look new.
Or, if you're in a pinch, you can also use toothpaste or baking soda for cleaning headlights. These household items have enough abrasive material to polish away some of the haze from a headlight.
But if you want the best results, purchasing a kit designed for headlight cleaning is the best bet.
Here are the steps to cleaning your cloudy headlights with a restoration kit:
- First, wipe down the headlight's outer layers with a mild cleaner to remove any dirt or grime, and dry with a towel.
- Cover the surface of the headlight with the polishing compound from the kit, making sure to leave it on for a few minutes and become slightly dry.
- Using a soft-bristle brush, work the compound into the polycarbonate surface with circular motions. It's important to be gentle because the compound contains abrasives that can scratch the plastic cover. As you do this, slowly but surely, your foggy headlights should become clear.
- After polishing, use a spray bottle with clean water and a soft cloth to remove any residual compound. Your headlights should be clean and clear.
With your headlights cleaned and restored, you now have enhanced visibility and safety in dark conditions and are free to drive where and when you please.
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April 15, 2022
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