If you’ve driven at night, you’ve noticed it. Whether it’s the dim yellow-ish headlights of another vehicle, or the hazy “not-quite-bright-enough” light coming from your own car or truck, you’ve seen headlights that needed cleaning. While some may consider dim headlights (or more accurately, the headlight covers) just an appearance problem, in reality, it’s a serious safety issue that should be taken care of sooner rather than later.

In our quick guide, we’re going to dive in a little deeper about how your headlights get dirty and dim, and why it’s important to clean them. Plus, we’ll give you a few DIY methods to brighten your headlights on your own. Let’s go!

WHY DO MY HEADLIGHTS GET DIM?

While we’re talking today about “headlights”, what we’re really discussing is the plastic covers for the lights themselves. These covers are made of polycarbonate plastic that is actually very strong but is porous (meaning it has tiny spaces or holes in it). Because it’s a porous material manufacturers cover this plastic with a film that keeps dirt and water out of these tiny spaces. When it’s new, the film does an excellent job of keeping most road gunk off of our headlight covers. However, over time, and as it’s exposed to UV rays, this film will degrade. And as it does, our headlights get dirty, hazy, and dim.

WHY SHOULD I CLEAN MY HEADLIGHTS?

The answer to this question is pretty simple. Nighttime driving is challenging enough when conditions are perfect. Driving at night with dim or non-functioning headlights just makes night driving even harder, and more dangerous.

But did you know that dirty or dim headlights actually pose a second problem to other drivers? A study by the National Transportation Safety Board showed that these dirty headlights may, in some cases, actually make the light seem brighter to oncoming drivers. Dirty or hazy headlights don’t diffuse the light from the bulb correctly. This means that the light may seem more bright which can cause problems for oncoming drivers.

So as you can see, cleaning or restoring damaged or dirty lights is an important part of your vehicle’s maintenance.   

HOW CAN I CLEAN MY HEADLIGHTS?

Luckily, if you do need to clean or replace your headlights you have options. 

As with most car maintenance, you can always take to your vehicle to either your dealer or a quality repair shop. In some cases, this may be a more costly option. But you can be sure the work will be done professionally and using proper parts and techniques.

Another choice is any of the headlight restoration kits that are currently on the market. These DIY kits will generally cost you anywhere from 10 to 30 dollars, require an electric drill, and require a little elbow grease. While this is a cost-effective option, Consumer Reports testing has shown that these kits are effective for about a year, before any haziness begins to reappear. 

Lastly, for the true DIY’ers, there is any number of “home remedies” for cleaning headlights that can easily be found on the internet. Whether you use baking soda toothpaste or bug repellent, you can find any number of videos and articles explaining how these options work. If you choose one of these “home” options, though, make sure you’re using the right type of cleaner and sealant so you don’t do more damage to the headlights or the car’s exterior itself.

Regardless of how you do it, don’t wait to either clean or replace your dim, hazy headlights. Keeping your headlights clean and clear means safer nighttime driving for both you and the folks you’re sharing the road with.

If you have questions or are in need of Nebraska’s best collision repair services contact Eustis Body Shop! Either visit eustisbodyshop.com or pop into any of our six locations across Nebraska.

Reference links:

https://www.consumerreports.org/headlight-restoration-kits/do-car-headlight-restoration-kits-really-work-a5764894774/

https://www.washos.com/blog/clean-headlights-guide/