Most of us have tried and failed to restore the perfect clarity of our headlights in a pocket-friendly manner or indeed replacing the headlight itself. There seems to be a lot of confusion on the internet on how to do that, so today I’ll be talking you through the best way to clean foggy headlights.
What Causes Foggy Headlights?
As we all know our headlights are at the front of our exterior, which means they are subject to some pretty harsh conditions and the big killer; UV light from the sun.
In the past cars were built with glass lights, remember that? But nowadays they are fitted with hard plastic headlights with a clear coat to protect the surface, over time the conditions, salt and pollution cause the clear coat to fade and leave your headlights vulnerable to deteriorate. So this is most commonly found on relatively newer cars.
As time goes on the continuous exposure to the elements causes the headlights to become oxidized, giving them the foggy, cloudy appearance.
How To Clean Foggy Headlights
In this section I’ll be talking you through the process of restoring your headlights, step by step.
Let’s start with what we need for this method.
- Compound Polish
- 3 x Sandpaper (1 x P1500, 1 x P2000, 1 x P3000)
- Spray Bottle That You Can Fill With Water
- Rubbing Alcohol
We also need some household items for this method;
- Masking Tape
- Bin Bags
- Roll Of Paper Towel
With everything we’re going to need ready to go, let’s get straight into the steps.
Step 1 – Cover the perimeter/edge of your headlight with the masking tape, the idea of this is so we don’t cause any harm to the paintwork surrounding the headlights while cleaning.
Step 2 – Lubricate the surface of your headlight by spraying the water bottle generously. Grab your P1500 sandpaper and spray the water all over it, so it’s lubricated too.
Step 3 – Begin sanding your headlight, rub the sandpaper in a circular motion covering all of your headlight, spray the water on the headlight as you use the sandpaper to keep the surface lubricated.
Once finished, repeat this step but instead of a circular motion we want to rub using a horizontal motion, doing this will make our lives a lot easier later in the cleaning process.
– As you complete this step there is likely to be yellow liquid coming from the headlight, this is good, it means that the old, original clear coat is coming off.
Step 4 – Now, move up to the P2000 sandpaper and repeat the previous step using the P2000 sandpaper instead of the P1500. The liquid running off the headlight should now be a hazy, milky, white colour.
Keep in mind sandpaper is abrasive so be conscious of that and don’t apply too much pressure.
Step 5 – Wipe all excess liquid from your headlight using some paper towel. Now we can switch up over to our P3000 sandpaper. Again, same process as with the 2 previous sandpaper, firstly rubbing in a circular motion and then switching over to a horizontal motion. After this step you should see your headlight clearing up.
Step 6 – First, dry your headlight using the paper towel. Now, pour some alcohol onto a paper towel and rub onto your headlight, again, in a circular motion. Whilst your doing this you will see the haze disappear.
Step 7 – Put a bin bag over the area surrounding the headlight, use scissors to cut around the masking tape so that only your headlight is visible. The point of this is so we don’t get any over spray on the surrounding paintwork.
Step 8 – Grab a microfiber cloth or scrubbing pad and dip it in water, we need it to be reasonably wet but not dripping. Rub the Compound Polish onto the headlight and next you need to quite vigorously rub in a circular motion.
You need to really put your back into this step, spend about 7 minutes rubbing per headlight for best results.
Step 9 – Finally, we need to rinse off any excess polish so make sure you’re scrubbing pad or cloth is wet and rinse your headlight. Once it is nice and dry, grab a clean, dry microfiber cloth and buff it out and watch it shine!
If you learn better by watching instead of reading this video could be of great help! However, the grade of sandpaper he uses in the is much too abrasive to use on our headlights.
I highly recommend you stick with the grades I have provided you with.(P1500, P2000, P3000)
What Products Work Best?
In this section I’ll tell you a little bit about the products we used today.
Meguiar’s is a very well-established and high quality brand, their compound polish being no exception!
It can be used on surfaces such as headlights like we talked about today, or it can also be used on paintwork to remove oxidation, scratches, swirl marks and water spots.
You can find Meguiar’s Compound Polish on Amazon for as little as £12.99. To check it out click the link below.
Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound Colour & Clarity Restorer 450ml – £12.99
Sandpaper can be found at your local DIY or trades shop, you are looking for grades P1500, P2000 and P3000.
Rubbing Alcohol Spray Bottle
The alcohol is a very important part of this, not because I’m Irish but because it evaporates very quickly which is how we eliminate the remaining haze on the headlights. Click the link below to grab yourself a bottle.
Using a spray bottle to apply the water to lubricate the surface makes life a lot easier for us on this particular job, by all means you can still clean your headlights using a hose to lubricate the surface but I recommend finding a spray bottle. If you can’t find one click the link below to find one.
Considering that a new headlight goes for anywhere between £200 -£1000 these days so you are saving an astronomical amount of money!
Hope I helped!
I really hope you have enjoyed reading this tutorial I have tried to be as thorough as possible but if there’s anything you would like to add or if you have any experiences cleaning headlights make sure you leave a comment! We love hearing what you have to say.
That’s it for today, have a good one!