Headlights open up the world at night to a driver after dark. They illuminate obstacles and the trajectory of the road while also indicating to other drivers that your car is there. Headlights are an essential part of driving at night or in inclement weather, but unfortunately they don’t stay perfect forever. Sometimes headlight restoration is necessary to keep you safe on the road.
Why Do Headlights Get Cloudy?
Obviously, headlights work best when the beam can shine through unimpeded. A clear headlight is an effective headlight, yet overtime headlights tend to become yellowed or foggy. Why is this? The change is actually a chemical one.
The polycarbonate plastic of headlight casings is durable on the road but not a team player when it comes to UV radiation. To protect it from the sun’s rays, manufacturers coat it with a special UV-resistant film. While it does its job for at least three years (per national code), over time the constant exposure to radiation oxidizes the film, leaving a cloudy or yellow haze over the headlight, impeding its usefulness.
Correcting Hazy Headlights
When this oxidation occurs, drivers have a few options for how to fix the problem. The best solution for you will be determined by the immediacy of your need, your budget, and how much work you are willing to put into the process.
Replace the Headlights
Perhaps the most straightforward is to simply replace the headlights. Unfortunately, this is usually the most costly solution, especially proportional to the vehicle’s age. The newer the car, the more expensive new headlights will be.
Cleaning the Housings
Cleaning your headlights may do the trick if your headlights are merely dirty. If your headlights are just coated with road dust, without the chemical breakdown of UV protective film, you may be able to clean them with an unexpected cleaning agent. Toothpaste with baking soda can really clear up dirty headlights. Just buff the stuff into the headlight—with an old toothbrush of course—and apply wax afterwards if you are satisfied with the results.
However, if your headlights have begun the oxidation process, cleaning is only a preliminary solution. If you plan to manage your headlight restoration yourself, clean the headlights and the surrounding area with warm soapy water so the painters tape can stick to the vehicle effectively.
Headlight Restoration at Home
Headlight restoration is usually less expensive than replacing headlights, and doing it at home can be a quick fix if you are on a tight budget. There are many kits available with the tools needed to complete the process, but vehicle owners should know that these kits do not offer a permanent solution. They require a lot of preparation, elbow grease, and tools (including a drill for some kits). The hazing effect does return, often after only a year.
If you choose to complete your headlight restoration on your own, make sure that after you clean the headlights, you tape around them well. This will protect the surrounding paint job during the next step in the restoration process: sanding. Start with the most abrasive sandpaper in your kit (the lowest grit value), wet it and the headlight, then begin sanding using straight strokes parallel to the ground. Keep both the headlight and the sandpaper wet as you do so, perhaps with a spray bottle or hose, so you don’t gouge the headlights accidentally. Repeat with the other pieces of sandpaper in the kit, most to least abrasive, working in a perpendicular direction to the last run.
Once the oxidized layer has been scraped away, it is time to polish your headlights. Remove all shavings by a thorough wipe down, make sure your headlights are dry this time, and using a microfiber towel, apply the polishing compounding in circular strokes. If you have a buffing tool, you may also use that with the polish. Once the polish is on, apply the wax in the same way.
Last but not least, it is time to reapply UV sealant. Since you just sanded off the sealant the manufacturer added, it needs to be replaced to postpone further sun damage to your headlights. Sealant should be applied with a wet paper towel and usually only in one layer. Consult the instructions on the kit for exact directions, and allow the sealant to dry before using the vehicle.
Headlight Restoration with Layton Car Care
Headlight restoration can be a tedious chore that requires a bit of elbow grease, so if you think your headlights still have some life in them but you’d rather a professional handle the restoration, Layton Car Care is here to help. We can save you time and energy while providing you with renewed headlights. We have the proper tools and experience to perform the task properly in a small time window.
Hazy headlights limit your vehicle’s performance and can be a safety risk to you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road. Let Layton Car Care give your headlights the clarity and UV protection they deserve to optimize your experience on the road.