DIY: How to Keep Your Headlights Shiny and Bright

If you’re driving at night and you can’t see the road ahead of you, it might be time to clean your headlights.

If you’ve just driven through a swarm of mosquitos, it might be time to clean your headlights. 

If approaching cars keep flashing their brights at you, it might be time to clean your headlights. 

Cleaning your headlights is considered routine maintenance on a car. Here’s how to do it.

The Toothpaste Method

Believe it or not, you can clean your headlights with one household item that everyone has — or at least we hope they have — toothpaste!

I know, it sounds crazy, but don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. 

Before you start, run your hand over the headlight. If the light is bumpy and you can see spots on the external glass, then find the extra toothpaste tube.

If the headlight is smooth, the fogginess is coming from the inside which a different issue that toothpaste can’t fix.

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to do a quick at-home headlight fix:

  • Toothpaste (make sure it’s actual paste and not gel)
  • Baking soda (add to the toothpaste to make it a bit more abrasive)
  • Toothbrush
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Wax
  • Cloth

Scrub Away

Rub the paste onto the headlight then start scrubbing with the toothbrush. The older and more yellow the headlight is, the more elbow grease you’ll need to use. You may also have to repeat a few times to get it clean.

Spray some water onto the headlight and wipe clean. Make sure the headlight is completely dry, then apply the wax onto the headlight to prevent it from getting dirty again.

Sandpaper Method

If the toothpaste method doesn’t do the trick, you may need to step up your game and get serious about cleaning your headlights.  

What You’ll Need

  • Wet/dry sandpaper of 1000, 2000, and 3000 grit
  • Polishing compound
  • Paste Wax
  • UV sealant
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Microfiber towels

Or, instead of taking the time to gather up all the tools, you can buy headlight cleaning kits. These kits will make sure you have the brightest headlights on the road.

Get Cleaning

Before you start, give your headlights a good scrubbing with car soap and water. Also, wash the surrounding area.

Use the painter’s tape to completely block off the headlight from the rest of the car. 

Start with the most abrasive sandpaper. Wet the sandpaper and headlight, then sand in straight horizontal strokes. Makes sure to keep the surface wet and sand in the same direction, this will prevent any scratching. 

Repeat the process with the less abrasive sandpaper, but change the direction of the strokes. If you used horizontal strokes the first time around, sand diagonally the second time. 

Use a hose or spray bottle to ensure the paper and the headlight stay wet.

Polish, Wax, and Seal

Wipe off and dry the headlights. Squeeze some of the polishing compound onto a clean microfiber towel and rub the polish in for a few minutes using a circular motion. 

Once the lens is clear again, you can wax it. Wax the glass like you would a car. This will thoroughly clean and protect the lens.

The last step is the UV sealant. You’ll need to apply a new protective layer since we sanded off the old sealant. This will prevent the lens from getting cloudy all over again. 

Apply the sealant with wet paper towels and sweep in broad strokes. Generally, you’ll only need one layer, but be sure to follow the directions on the product.

If your headlights are still cloudy, you may need to replace them entirely. 

Clear Headlights Mean Safer Driving

If your headlights are cloudy, don’t wait to clean them. It’s easier than you think and you will have bright headlights again in no time. 

And while you’re at it, come check out all our other DIY tips for fixing your car in the comfort of your garage. 

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