Imagine driving down a dark, stormy highway – visibility is low, and you’re having a hard time seeing the road in front of you. To make matters even worse, your headlights seem to be growing dim. They’re not producing the kind of brightness that’s necessary to navigate clearly during a time like this. Sounds like the opening scene in a ghoulish horror movie, right? You’ll be surprised to know that this scenario isn’t very uncommon at all, and is usually caused by built-up dirt on your headlights.
According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), grimy or damaged headlights can cause troubling safety issues due to the decreased level of light illuminating the roadway. This causes lowered visibility and is particularly dangerous when driving at night, during winter, or other less ideal weather conditions.
But why does this happen?
The plastic covering of your headlights, crafted from polycarbonate plastic, sacrifices impermeability for added strength. This makes it particularly porous. As an added layer of protection, car manufacturers cover the headlights with a thin film of laminate. Because of harsh weather conditions, this layer gradually becomes degraded, allowing dirt and muck to congeal on its surface like barnacles on a ship.
Before taking your car to an auto-shop for headlight replacements, it’s usually more cost-effective to see if you can clean the built-up stains and grime. Typically, washing both headlights with warm and soapy water, followed by a good scrubbing, will clear up these issues. For tougher blemishes and spots that won’t disappear from just good old fashioned rinsing, here is a list of three tips and tricks to make your headlights glow like new again.
1. Using the bug spray technique
If you’re using this method, make sure that you’re doing it in a clear, open space. The DEET chemical in most household insect repellents clears up any oxidation forming on the surface of your headlights. Always use a paper towel when applying the substance, and never spray it directly on the glass.
A minimal amount of bug spray will be more than enough to give your headlights a cleaner, spotless appearance. Take note, however, that these results can vanish over time, and the cloudiness of your headlights might return within a few weeks or so.
2. Scrub them with baking soda and vinegar
Usually, the simplest solutions are often the best ones. If you have a box of baking soda and a bottle of vinegar lying around the house, you can use them to clean your headlights instead of the bug spray method. Apply a generous amount of baking soda, vinegar, or a mixture of both to both of the headlights’ lenses, then gently scrub them using a toothbrush or a microfiber cloth.
3. Use toothpaste
Just like the baking soda and vinegar combination, using toothpaste to clean your headlights is a tried and tested technique. Take note that regular toothpaste containing baking soda as an active ingredient will produce the best results.
First, scrub and rinse away any solid formations of mud or dirt on the headlights, then apply the toothpaste to the plastic with your fingers. Afterward, use either a kitchen sponge or an unused toothbrush to gently remove the blemishes on the surface of the glass. You can then rinse the paste away using warm water and repeat the entire process until you gain the desired level of cleanliness.