How to Clean Foggy Headlights

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Car Headlight Cleaning

Unlike dirty headlights, foggy headlights are the result of minor scratches and abrasions building up on the headlight covers over time. This can give your headlight covers a translucent, opaque or “foggy” appearance and means the light won’t shine through as clearly.

Foggy headlights can greatly limit your visibility on dark roads and in driving conditions like rain or fog. By limiting your visibility, they can quickly become a safety risk. They can also make your car more difficult for other drivers to see.

Since foggy headlights are the result of the accumulation of minor damage to the headlight covers, they can’t simply be washed clean. They can, however, be quickly and easily fixed at home.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bucket or spray bottle full of water
  • Car soap
  • Sponge
  • Paper towel or microfibre cloths
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sandpaper (1000, 2000 and 3000 grit)*
  • Car polish*
  • Car wax*
  • UV sealant*

Many car headlight cleaner and restoration kits include these items, but you can purchase them individually too.

Headlight Cleaning

Step 1: Clean the area

Start by giving your headlight a thorough clean. Combine car soap and water and apply the solution with a clean sponge. Clean around the headlight too so when you use the painter’s tape in the next step it sticks properly. Dust and dirt can make tape less effective.

Step 2: Tape

Put painter’s tape around the headlight since you’ll be using sandpaper in the next step. You don’t want to accidentally damage your car’s paint job.

Step 3: Sand the affected area

Firstly, it’s important to use a very fine grit sandpaper. Fine grit sandpapers will remove the minor damage, while coarse sandpaper will only do more damage. Look for 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 grit sandpaper

Wet the coarsest sandpaper (1000 grit) and gently sand horizontally across the headlight. What you want to do is slowly work off the foggy layer of old UV sealant.

Make sure you sand in the same direction and you keep the paper and headlight wet. If either dries out, grit can build up and you may end up scratching your headlight irreparably.

After a few minutes, you can then use the 2000-grit paper. Make sure both the paper and headlight stay wet. Sand diagonally in one direction.

When you’ve done this for a couple of minutes, switch to the 3000-grit paper. Sand across the other diagonal. Don’t forget to keep the headlight and paper wet. A spray bottle or damp microfibre cloth can be useful here.

Step 4: Clean and dry

Once you’ve finished sanding, wipe the headlight down with some water and a microfibre cloth or paper towel. Dry them as well.

Step 5: Apply polish

When your headlight is dry, put some car polish on a clean microfibre cloth or paper towel. Rub this on the headlight in circular motions. Your headlight should now look clear.

Step 6: Apply wax

Next, wax the headlight. Use circular motions again.

Step 7: Apply UV sealant

This is the crucial step. UV sealant will stop the headlight from going foggy again.

Apply the sealant to a wet paper towel or cloth. Rub it over the entirety of the headlight. Depending on the brand, you may need to apply more than one layer. Check the packaging for instructions.

Once the sealant has dried, remove the painter’s tape. You can now try out your headlight.

If it isn’t back to its brightest, you may need to repeat the process or something else may be causing the dim headlights. You may need to talk to a professional, have the headlight cover replaced or the bulb may not be working properly.