3 suggested methods for cleaning the oxidized headlights of your car

Article by Christian A., on August 20, 2018

Over time, you might have noticed that your car’s modern headlights have become foggy or cloudy and yellowish. Now, they don’t look as presentable as before. However, the round headlights of your father’s old car don’t seem to be affected by this phenomenon. Why is this so? How do you get rid of this issue with the headlights?

Classic headlights, especially those in vehicles made in the 1980s and prior, are made from glass that can be easily broken. Then, carmaker started using headlights made from polycarbonate plastics, making them stronger and more durable as well as easier to produce. Likewise, the use of polycarbonate plastics allowed carmaker to create headlights with contoured and shapely forms that match the face of the vehicle.

Polycarbonate headlights, however, are porous, which means it is permeable to air, water or other liquids. To prevent air or water from permeating, headlights are applied with a special protective UV coating. But this thin layer eventually breaks down no thanks to external radiation, heat from the bulbs, natural elements and road debris. Once the coating is gone, the UV rays do its destruction and oxidation occurs.

Oxidized headlight can be a safety issue, since it causes high light dispersal, thereby affecting the range of the beam and reducing nighttime visibility. Nonetheless, there are things you can do to clean your oxidized headlights and return them to their clear state.

For instance, you can use toothpaste to clean your headlights. Toothpaste features a mild abrasive that rubs out the surfaces of the headlights, removing the stains while smoothing them – just like how it works on your teeth. First you need to wash the headlights with water and soap using a cloth or sponge. Then rinse them with water and let them dry.

After the headlights have dried, cover the surrounding areas with a masking tape to protect them from accidental scuffing. Then add a dab of toothpaste onto a clean, dampened cloth, and firmly rub the surface of the headlights in small circles. Do this until all surfaces have been cleaned. Thereafter, rinse them with water and leave them to air dry. You may apply wax on your headlights to protect them from future damage.

You can also use glass cleaner and automotive polish to clean your oxidized headlights. The glass cleaner prepares the headlight surfaces while the polish contains abrasives – a bit coarser than on toothpaste – that rubs them to remove the stain.

First, you need to cover the surroundings of the headlights with tape to protect the trim or paint. Then spray glass cleaner on the headlights, wipe the surfaces with a soft cloth in a circular manner. Next, rub automotive polish – using a soft cloth -- the headlight surfaces. After rinsing the headlights with water, apply car wax.

On the other hand, you can also use a polishing compound kit to clean your headlights, especially those heavily oxidized one. A polishing compound kit typically contains what you need to clean up the surfaces of your oxidized headlights and make them clear once again.

Just like with the toothpaste and automotive polish methods, you need to cover the surrounding of your headlights with masking them to protect them from the abrasives in the polishing compound. Then wash the headlights with the cleanser in the kit using a dampened cloth, and rinse with water. Next apply the polishing compound with a cloth in circular motions.

Afterwards, you need wet the coarsest (smallest grit number) sandpaper and rub the headlight surfaces in a back-and-forth motion. The sandpaper needs to be wet at all times, which means you have to dip it into the water as required. Repeat the process using less coarse sandpaper until the smoothest (largest grit number) sandpaper is used up.

Then, you have to rinse polishing compound off with water and apply car wax to add a new layer of protection.

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