A Guide on How to Clean Headlights

By CarMoney May 21, 2021
A Guide on How to Clean Headlights

Headlights are a car’s eyes – without them, you can’t see at night. So it’s vital to keep them clean as even a thin layer of grime can reduce how effective headlights are. It’s not hard to do, though there are several methods you can use. Here’s CarMoney’s guide for cleaning headlights: 

Why Keep them Clean?
Put simply, dirty headlights don’t cast as much light, so you won’t be able to see as far at night. They appear dimmer from a distance, as well, so you won’t be as visible to oncoming traffic, either. It’s also worth remembering that, since headlights are ‘safety critical’, the police can stop and fine you if they think your car’s headlights are so dirty as to be dangerous.

What if I have headlight washers?
Many modern cars do have built-in headlight washers that spray at the same time as the windscreen washers. But don’t get complacent. Most headlight washers don’t have wipers, so only the loosest surface dirt gets taken off.

The Cheapest way to clean Headlights
A quick wipe over using a cloth and warm water works just fine. In fact, any water-based liquid will do so long as you buff away any residue the liquid itself leaves behind. For a more thorough version of the quick wipe, use car shampoo. If you don’t have any in the cupboard, any non-abrasive household cleaner will do the trick.

How to clean car headlights with toothpaste
Yep, you can use ordinary toothpaste to clean tougher dirt off your headlights! Toothpaste usually contains baking soda which is perfect for cleaning some of the worst gunk.

  1. Tub the toothpaste onto the headlight with a small brush
  2. Keep rubbing until you see and feel the grime coming off
  3. Use water warm and a cloth to wipe away the residue
  4. Buff to a sheen

Can I get a Dedicated Cleaning Kit?
Many makers of car cleaning products – Autoglym, for example – produce kits specifically designed to machine-clean headlights as thoroughly as possible. These generally include a cleaning compound and various sanding discs, to be used with a high-speed drill.

What if Cleaning the Headlights didn’t work?
If your headlights still aren’t shining brightly after a thorough clean, there could be another problem. The cover could’ve gone cloudy, have condensation, or the ‘silvering’ on the headlight bowl could be deteriorating. There are restoration kits available to sort these problems, but in severe cases replacement might be the best solution.

Just clean the whole car regularly!

If you went round your car cleaning all the lights, windows, number plates, cameras and sensors, it would only serve to highlight how dirty the rest of the car is and probably wouldn’t save much time anyway!

Better, then, to regularly wash the whole car as thoroughly as possible. That way, you avoid layers of tough grime building up in safety-critical places that then need a lengthy and potentially expensive cleaning process to sort out.

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