Headlight covers over time can become yellowed or hazy. This is a guide about cleaning foggy or hazy headlights.
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Someone was just asking about a remedy for yellowed dingy headlights so I thought I would share with everyone what ended up working for me. My car headlights were horribly yellowed after 12 years of ignoring them. I could barely even see when driving at night because that's how bad they were!
Headlight lens restoration kits are $20.00 or more and contain enough supplies for a one time only use. For about the same price you can purchase the items in larger quantity separately and will then have enough supplies leftover for future restorations, and even to use on other projects, plus you might already have some or all of the items needed already on hand to do the job.
Just follow these steps:
By Deeli from Richland, WA
Recently I noticed the headlights on both my car and especially my son's car were quite hazy, thus reducing visibility at night. I purchased a cleaning kit at the automotive store, (not cheap,) which involved several steps, but didn't notice much difference in clarity of the headlights on either car.
Two weeks ago, I was washing the cars and decided to use one of those white scrubber sponges you see advertised on TV. (Not mentioning any names, as the generic type work just as well, and are a good deal cheaper.) It looks like a little brick, and cleans just about anything. I had used one to remove tar and bug residue from my car exterior before, so thought I might give it a try on the headlights while I was at it. What a great idea! It did a wonderful job on the headlights of both cars, and took just a few minutes. My car was parked in the shade, so these pictures don't do justice to the before and after difference, but trust me, the small investment you make will be well worth it!
By Donna from San Diego, CA
If your automotive headlights get yellow or dirty, try to clean them with some rubbing compound. Just make a past and rub it into the headlight plastic covers and then wipe off. They will come clear like new. I have done this for many of my customers who were going to buy new headlights because the cover is so dim they could not see clearly at night.
The rubbing compound is also great to make old paint look new. Make a paste and wax your car with it and the when the shine returns, use some good wax to keep it looking new.
By Jackie the Lemon Pro from L.A., CA
I wouldn't do this unless your headlights are old, very yellowed, and foggy. If your headlights are already damaged as in you've used sandpaper and/or restorer and NOTHING is bringing them back from the fog, you can use baby oil on a paper towel and buff until clear after you wash them well.
By htbass 
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Here are questions related to Cleaning Foggy or Hazy Headlights.
Does anyone else have a problem with the inside of your windshield fogging up? It almost looks like a haze. Turning on the defroster does not help. I've tried water and ammonia. That works for a few days, then it's back again. Maybe I put too much water or ammonia in the bottle.
By Andy (Guest Post) 12/27/2008
Hi folks, I bought a used 2002 Montana in December when it was very cold. Windows fogged up so much I couldn't see out the side windows at all. No smell of coolant. After spending many hours of investigation, I finally discovered the problem. In the back of the glove box there is a compartment which contains air filters. I removed the air filters and looking inside with a flashlight I saw in the very back, a little higher on the firewall, a plastic door which was shut. I gently opened it. Now fresh air gets in and NO more FOG. I hope I just saved you some time so you can spend it with your family. -Andy
amolter2002 AT yahoo.com.
Could a Brillo pad be used to remove the film and oxidation that is on the headlight lenses? I have used the toothpaste method and the baking soda method and neither helped.
If is on the inside why have companies made a product to restore the outside of the lens and not the inside of the lens.
Could a Brillo pad be used to remove the film and oxidation that is on the lens? Also, I would not use much pressure, but the cloudiness seems to remain. I have used the toothpaste method and the baking soda method and neither helped. Thanks if you could answer this question.
The cloudiness is caused by sun damage to the outer surface of the plastic lens which has to be removed. You could use 2000 grit, wet and dry paper auto cutting compound or auto cutting polish, and a bit of elbow grease will bring them up like new.
How you do remedy the dingy yellow film on vehicle headlight lens?
Clean a clouded headlight lens with toothpaste. Use a soft cloth.
How do I clean automobile headlights? Mine are really stained. I know they have the kits, and the pros, thanks!
By Bella B from Houston, TX
I have read about cleaning them with brake fluid. Have not tried it but I will try it first when need to. Good Luck.
What can be done for interior cloudiness of headlight covers?
By Kacky from Wrightsville Beach, NC
The yellowing you see is oxidation from sun exposure. There are degrees of oxidation, and the degree to which it can be removed depends on how much work you are willing to do. The only way to completely restore a yellowed headlight is to remove the oxidation, exposing new live plastic.
If there is extensive micro cracking deep into the plastic, the headlight may not be restorable, but surface oxidation and micro-cracking can be successfully removed. The trick is to remove just enough plastic to make the lenses clear again and then protect them from future damage.
Yes, the creams and pastes will work to some extent in making the lens look clearer temporarily, but this is mostly a result of filling in the micro pitting / cracking on the damaged lens, and doesn't last. They are a quick cheap temp fix at best. The kits such as the ones made by Permatex, Meguires and Turtle Wax do work really well, but you have to follow the instructions exactly, or you will damage the headlight, as some here apparently have. One trick I have found that helps is to if at all possible, remove the headlight from the vehicle, as it makes it a lot easier to do a proper job.
Now to the kits. They are all basically the same in that they have 1) Abrasive sheets, pads, or sandpaper, usually in grits of 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500, and 3000. 2) Some sort of polishing fluid or paste. The trick with the abrasives is to start with the FINEST one that will remove the oxidation (1000 grit is the coarsest I'll start with) and to keep the headlight and the sandpaper pad very wet. Soak the paper for a few minutes in water, and keep a spray bottle of water handy to keep the headlight and paper wet.
Spray the headlight, the, sand back and forth in one direction with the 1000 grit (keep it wet) until most of the oxidation is off and you have a smooth surface. Then wipe the residue off with a wet terry cloth towel, and switch to 1500 grit, sanding 90 degrees to the direction you did with the 1000 grit. (Again keeping everything very wet.) Wipe it off again and now go to the 2000 grit, 90 degrees from the direction of the 1500 grit. lastly, wipe it down one more time and repeat with the 2500 or 3000 grit.
Now wipe off all the sanding residue, take a clean terry cloth rag and use the polishing paste or liquid liberally, and polish in a circular motion, until the lens becomes clear and shiny. Step back and admire your hard work.
The Turtle wax restoration kit comes with a lens sealing wipe, that you apply in one direction, then let cure for 24 hours which will prevent re-oxidation. If you aren't using their kit, you can apply Plastix polish or one of the aforementioned cremes with UV protectant. Then, whenever you wash the car, take a few minutes to touch up the headlights, and you shouldn't have to do the heavy duty cleaning/restoration again.
How do I make frosted headlights clear?
After my 1st post to you I went to as seen on TV and found the product to clean car headlight lenses...it's called Fast Brite Lens restore and costs $10. plus shipping. Good luck. I'm going to try it too.
Gale in Ca.
What is the best and easiest way to clean the headlights on your car?
My husband and I, cleaned the headlights on my car just last week, using the toothpaste idea. Just keep in mind that it must be a toothpaste that contains a whitener. Worked great and my car is almost 8 years old!
Does anyone have any idea on how to get the fog off of the inside of headlights? I really don't want to buy new ones. The outside is clean, it's just the inside of them that is foggy. Thank you.
I agree with foxrun - it is on the outside. The product that does the cleaning is actually an extremely mild abrasive that is applied and polished. You need to use the product from the automotive store, anything else is too harsh.
Does anyone have a DIY solution to cleaning the dirt and yellow off headlight covers on cars? Mine are just so bad!
By Mary P
How do you get hazed over looking headlights on a used car to look clear again? Thanks.
What is a good, simple way to clean a car's headlights?
By Linda P.
If your headlight covers are plastic, you could spend 10 or 20 bucks on a fancy headlight cleaner kit, but I've heard that toothpaste works just as well as the expensive kit. You probably shouldn't use a blue minty gel, I'm sure that won't work too well. *L* I'd use a white paste on a microfiber cloth and scrub away. Be sure to rinse well.
I have glass lenses on my old car, so soap and water works just fine.
I tried toothpaste, the kits from the auto store and nothing helps! It's $1200 each to replace them do you think a deoxidizer will work?
I have an '88 Mercury Cougar and my headlight covers are so bad, as far as being cloudy. I can no longer drive at night! I have looked and tried all the things I've heard and read about with no luck. Why if manufacturers make them for the cars, then why can't we buy them when something happens to them? Seems the car companies could stand to win in this situation!
By Lisa S. from Mt.Vernon, WA
My husband and I recently purchased a Turtle Wax headlight cleaning kit and cleaned them as directed and now our headlights have a foggy film on them. What's the best way to remove the film?
By Leanne D.
Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the comments that were provided then.
The plastic head light covers on my '98 Chrysler Town & Country van have developed a heavy film covering over them.
Why won't toothpaste clean my headlights? I have a friend who cleaned his headlights on his '72 Chevy with toothpaste and they looked great but when I tried it on my '89 Mustang they just clouded up. Why didn't it work for me? How can I get them back clear again?
The '72 Chevy probably has glass headlights. Your '89 Ford very likely has plastic, which is cheaper than glass, but will get etched with road debris, sand/salt mixture, etc. When I got my son his first car, the headlights were fairly heavily etched - we took it to a body shop and had them "wet-buffed" to improve the light projection. It cost about $75, and did improve the appearance and functionality of the lights. But be aware that they can only take off so much of the etching, as it's basically sanding down the plastic protecting the light. If it really bad you can replace the entire headlight housing - for my son's Escort, it would have been about $100 per light! (08/13/2008)
They might need buffing. My headlights were really foggy all the time even after a wash. The dealer told me they needed buffing bad. They offered to do it for $75.00, I went to Wal-Mart and got a buffing kit. It worked great for less than 10 bucks. Try buffing I bet that it what is wrong with them. It sure sounds like mine. Mine looked scratched and you couldn't even see the bulb until after they were buffed. (08/13/2008)
By Connie H
There is a deoxidizer you can buy to take the cloudiness away. I learned this from the site called eHow.com. Hope this helps. (08/13/2008)
The answer is simple. The chevy has glass headlights while the ford has acrylic or plastic. Glass can be cleaned with toothpaste and polish.
Plastic is much softer and cannot be exposed to abrasives without suffering the damage you describe. You should only use a pure liquid non abrasive acrylic lens deoxidizer on plastic / acrylic headlight lens. Once you cloud them up with abrasive cleaners its a long multiprocess way back to clarity. (08/14/2008)
By William H
I just recently got my first car. To my surprise, my new car's headlights weren't the best. They were foggy and didn't look the way I thought a new car's should look. My dad shared a tip with me. All you need is to put a little bit of brake fluid on a soft cloth. Make sure you don't get any fluid on the paint. Rub the cloth in circles on your lights. When you're finished, give your lights a good rub down on every area you wiped with brake fluid. It should do the trick. If you want, repeat as desired.
By Rachel from San Antonio, TX
A small amount of toothpaste will do the job also! (01/11/2011)
By Teresa Kay
Actually for a small fee, a body shop will polish all the scratches off your headlight covers and they will look like brand new ones. I had mine done and it is amazing. (01/11/2011)