How-To: Polishing your headlights

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Cloudy Headlights

Cloudy headlights can be a dangerous safety problem. Image: Flickr / puuikibeach / CC-BY

The headlight assembly on most vehicles usually includes a lamp, a reflector and a lens. The lens, which faces dirt, grime and bugs on a daily basis, needs to be cleaned in order to stay safe.

When headlights go bad

Headlights that are especially dim or difficult to focus could be an indicator that the lens cover needs to be cleaned or buffered. Especially old headlight lenses can also turn yellow, which can turn the color of your headlights yellow, which does not illuminate dangers on the road nearly as well. Headlight lenses could also have a thick layer of bugs or road grime, which would diffuse and darken the light put out by the lamps.

The easy steps

The first and easiest thing to try for cleaning your headlights is simple – cleaning solution. A mixture of vinegar and water or dish soap and water, applied and cleaned off with a soft cloth, can fix a multitude of sins. You should wash the headlights at least as often as you change your oil, and pay attention to washing the headlight lens every time you use a car wash.

A bit more work

If your headlight lenses are cloudy or yellowed, they may need a bit more attention in order to be safe to use. You can purchase commercial headlight lens cleaner that can be wiped on and wiped off easily. Commercial lens cleaners range from mildly abrasive to mid-range abrasive. These cleaners sometimes require quite a bit of elbow grease, but the cleaners and abrasiveness can help clean off the cloudiness that dulls your headlight lens.

Heavy duty options

If you’ve washed your lenses and tried polishing them, but cannot find a product that will polish the lenses to a practically new finish. Try using a metal polish or silver polish, which can usually be purchased at a grocery store or high-end kitchen supply store. Use a buffer wheel to rub the polish into the lens, but not to work it in to the point that it creates deep scratches. Keep the buffer wheel moving. Once the polish has been buffed in, wash it off using a mild soap.

The last ditch effort

If buffing the lens does not clean the cloudiness off the lens, it is worth considering purchasing a new headlight lens. At a pick-and-pull junkyard, you can pick your own materials off junked vehicles in order to get a deal. If you have a difficult time finding the lens cover you need, search online.

[Atlanta GA Toyota is a great place to find new headlights, attached to a new vehicle.]


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