Driving with cloudy or foggy headlights doesn’t diminish the appearance of your sweet ride, it is dangerous. Your headlights are one of your greatest tools for being able to see and be seen while driving at night or during serious weather conditions. When they are hazy, it impacts your ability to see objects in your driving path, and also other drivers and pedestrians’ ability to see you.
What we’re saying, is if you love how sweet your ride is, and — more importantly — if you love safely getting from one point to the next, you need to take action when your headlights start looking foggy.
There’s a Right and a Wrong Way
It might come as a surprise, but headlight lens restoration is a tricky science. DIY headlight restoration kits are not all created equally. A lot of the old wive’s tales about headlight cleaning tricks are next to useless. Some headlight restoration sprays are great and get the job done effectively, but some of those instant “headlight restoration sprays” can do more harm than good if you don’t know what you’re doing. We could write a novel on the best ways to do headlight renewal yourself, but today we want to focus on common mistakes people make turn their headlight restoring project into a headlight destroying project.
Four Common Headlight Restoration Mistakes
- Using glass cleaner.
Your grandma might have told you that Windex is interchangeable with headlight restoration spray. It seems logical; headlights and windows are both clear. Windex is awesome for taking the smudges and fogginess out of the your window, so that it is good as new. It would do the same for you headlight, right? WRONG.
Your window is made out of glass, while your headlights are made out of plastic or acrylic. Glass cleaning sprays use ammonia to do their magic. Ammonia is fabulous on glass but not so much on plastic and acrylic. Best case scenario, you’ll end up with yellowing headlights that are just as foggy.
- Using sandpaper.
It might be tempting to take some sandpaper to your headlights and just knock the oxidized buildup off. It makes sense and it’s a simple solution that you have laying around in your garage at is. No need to buy a fancy headlight restoration spray that only serves one purpose.
FALSE. When you use a fancy headlight restoration spray, the tiny robots who live in the spray are trained distinguish between the oxidation and the headlight itself, so they remove the buildup without harming your headlight (this is a theatrical depiction of what headlight restoration spray does, not a scientific description). On the other hand, sandpaper is devoid of robots and destroys everything in its path. Even the lightest grit of sandpaper is too abrasive of the acrylic material your headlights are made out of. Oxidation can be easily removed (with the proper supplies), but once the sandpaper does its damage, those scratches are here to stay.
- Using toothpaste
If you’ve never heard of toothpaste being used to clean your headlights, you’re probably scratching your head right now. However, this is a very common car-beautifying practice that dates back to when headlights were made out of glass and did not have ultra-violet (UV) protection, and thus the UV film couldn’t be damaged.
Modern headlights do not fair well with toothpaste though. The toothpaste gets into the microscopic crevices of the acrylic headlights and give them a milky appearance, far worse than the headlight was to begin with, before you tried to clean it. What’s worse, is that the toothpaste ninjas that get rid of the plaque on your teeth treat the protective UV layer of your headlights with the same ferocity. Like the previous points, once the damage is done, it cannot be undone.
- Elbow grease.
If you think you can scrub, buff, polish or sand the murkiness out of your headlights, stop yourself right there. You will scratch and scuff the delicate material of the lens, and the damage will be there forever, as a reminder of the time you tried to save a few bucks and ruined your headlights in the process.
Do you have any headlight cleaning tricks and tips? Please share them below!