How to clean car headlights to help reduce accident risk

Advance Auto PartsYou may not even think about cleaning your headlights except for a quick wipe during a manual car wash. However, it’s important to clean your headlights regularly, especially when they look foggy.

Having dirty headlights filled with buildup can dim your light brightness and place you at risk for accidents. You may even get ticketed by a highway patrolman if he feels your lights are dulled enough to warrant a risk to you or others on the road. Fortunately, cleaning your car headlight bulbs is simple, something you can get done on a Saturday afternoon.

Here you’ll find a couple home remedies, plus a few fast and easy solutions that are available at Advance Auto Parts.

A popular home remedy to clean car headlights is with toothpaste.

While you may find it to be an odd solution, toothpaste does work.

First, make sure you are using regular white toothpaste. Mint paste or those that are designed for whitening or other special purposes can actually damage your headlights.

Take the plain white toothpaste and squeeze it onto a soft dry cloth. Wipe your headlights in circular motions in small sections until the dulling grime is removed. Don’t try to cover a large area. Instead take on small portions of the bulbs and concentrate on them until you get a clean shine.

Rinse the area with water and wipe with a clean, wet cloth. You can then apply some polish specially designed for headlights if you wish.

You can also purchase sandpaper to clean headlight bulbs and do what is known as a “lasting clean” method.

This will not only clean your bulbs, but prevent them from becoming dirty again in the near future.

Start by purchasing three pieces of sandpaper:

  • 400 grit
  • 1200 grit
  • 1500 grit

Clean your lenses twice with rubbing alcohol and then with either clean paper towels or a clean, dry cloth towel.

Use a spritzer bottle of water to wet sand your headlights. Do this thoroughly with the 400-grit sandpaper. You will likely begin to see the factory coating come off of the lights. Keep on sanding until the coating is completely removed.

Then, you will have to eliminate any scratches left behind by the 400-grit sandpaper by using the 1200- and 1500-grit paper. If your car headlight bulbs have an interior texture (you will know because you won’t be able to see the light bulb inside), then you can usually finish the job with the 1200-grit paper.

Finally, wipe them off with more dry paper towels or a clean, dry cloth.

Complete headlight restoration may require a little more than a home remedy can offer.

Over time, the plastic lens casing around your headlight can get cloudy and diminish your visibility. Why go to the dealer when you can do it yourself for a fraction of the cost? On top of that, most restorations can be done in about an hour.

Advance Auto Parts can help, with a wide selection of headlight restoration kits to fit every budget, plus resources and videos to help you tackle the job.

For the ultimate headlight restoration kit, check out the 3M Headlight Lens Restoration System.

Advance Auto Parts

Editor’s note: with the days getting shorter, it’s important to always ensure your headlights are in top working order. Count on Advance Auto Parts to help you see clearly all season long.


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  2. Hi Jim,

    We just cited your article entitled, “How to clean car headlights to help reduce accident risk” in our article entitled, “How To Wash The Weather Off Your Wheels.” Do you think this would be of interest to your readers?

    I do enjoy shopping at the local Advance Auto Parts store in our area. Your company has saved my bacon on more than one occasion. Thank you.

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