How to Clean Car Headlights

Lights are possibly taken for granted more than any other component on a car. We all flick that little switch as it’s starting to get dark knowing that our vision will be improved tenfold because of it. But what happens when the light coming out the front of your car isn’t quite as bright as expected? When was the last time you stopped and thought about cleaning your headlights? Let us talk you through everything you need to know about making sure the path is clear.

Why it’s Important to Keep Your Headlights Clean

Having clean headlights, plain and simple, makes you safer on the road. The more dirt and grime that’s on your lights, the less effective they’ll be at lighting the road ahead of you, and if they are particularly bad can even make it harder for other road users to see you coming towards them. If they are bad enough to be considered a major safety hazard, the police can pull you over and issue an on-the-spot fine.

What do You Need to Clean Car Headlights

You have a couple of options when it comes to what you use for cleaning your headlights, the first being to pick up a specific headlight cleaning kit. These usually come with special cleaning compounds and also sanding discs that should be used with a high-speed drill. However, the price of these kits can vary from brand to brand, so it’s best to shop around.

Alternatively you can clean your lights without paying potentially expensive rates for bespoke cleaning products. If you already wash your car with car shampoo, that will be able to clear any dirt and grime – just make sure you wipe off any excess residue or you’ll be going back over it again as soon as it dries. Do not use washing up liquid or acidic cleaning products as these can damage your car.

Can I Clean my Headlights With Toothpaste?

As mad as it sounds, yes, you can. While using an actual car cleaning product will provide the best results, if you were to run toothpaste onto your headlight and rinse off with warm water and a cloth, then you will be able to get a clear light. Again, just make sure that you buff afterwards or you’ll be making twice as much work for yourself. Alternatively, a paste made from baking soda and water will yield similar results, as it is the baking soda found in toothpaste that clears the dirt for you.

How to Clean Dirty Car Headlights

Cleaning dirty headlights is quite a simple task, no matter whether you go for a bespoke purpose-built cleaning kit, or you’re squeezing a tube of toothpaste out onto your car. Simply put your preferred cleaning solution onto the light, and begin to rub it away in a circular motion until you see the dirt begin to remove itself, this can either be done by hand or with the aid of a rotary buffer. Once you’ve removed the dirt, use warm water and a clean cloth to wash away the residue and any excess cleaning product, and buff afterwards to ensure no lasting marks remain once it’s dried.

Some people choose to use sandpaper to clear their lights, and while this does work, it can be incredibly risky and if not done properly, can result in you causing irreparable damage. With headlights in most cars now being sealed, a unit can easily cost hundreds to replace.

How to Clean Condensation From Inside Car Headlights

If you’ve noticed condensation appearing inside your headlights, then there’s a strong chance you’ve got an issue with the sealing around your lamps or a blocked headlight vent (used to allow cool air in to cool down the heat of the fixtures). Most condensation will disappear pretty quickly once you start moving, but if it doesn’t, there are a couple of options open to you to get it sorted. 

If you only have a small amount of condensation around the lens, then putting a silica gel packet (those DO NOT EAT packets you often find in a shoebox or with a new phone) should do the trick as it will absorb any water within its vicinity – this is a particularly popular technique if the car is kept in a garage. Alternatively, if you have a small amount of moisture in the headlight, you can try giving it a good blast with a hairdryer. The heat from the dryer – aimed through the headlight vent – will help kick off the evaporation process and remove unwanted water.

If you have heavy moisture, then you may find the only way to sort out your issues is to remove the headlight entirely. Once removed, you can have a good look to see if you have any underlying issues, such as a broken seal, and get the necessary repairs made before heading back out on the road. Once the lamp is removed, and any sealing issues repaired, simply soak up any excess moisture with microfiber towels, and you should be good to go again.

For more car care hints and tips, make sure to visit our maintenance nerve centre, where anything and everything you’ll need to know about keeping you and your car on the road is covered.

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