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Headlight Lens Cleaning

Updated on December 30, 2012

Clean Headlight Lens

13 Year Old Headlights - Cleaned & Polished
13 Year Old Headlights - Cleaned & Polished | Source

Dull Headlights Can Be Cleaned Effectively

Have you noticed your headlights aren't illuminating the road like the used to? Are you thinking it’s time to replace the bulb? Before you go to the hassle and expense of replacing the bulbs (or entire light fixture depending on what model car you have) try cleaning the lens first.

Now-a-days headlights don’t dim as they used to. A Halogen headlight bulb can last five, six, seven or even more years. Both of my vehicles still have the original halogen bulb in them. One vehicle is a 1989 model year and the other is a 1996 model year. The 1989 bulbs are more than twenty years old and they’re brighter than the 1996’s!

Clear Plastic Cleaner is Good for More Than Just Headlights

There are several products that are manufactured specifically for headlight lens cleaning. These products work just fine, but a basic plastic cleaner works great too and cost’s less. Plastic scratch remover can also be used to repair scratches in CD’s, DVD’s (very, very good at fixing scratches on DVD’s!), bluerays, flashlight lens covers and anything else made of plastic that has a few scratches you want to remove or just put a nice polish on.

Is It the Bulb or the Lens

The headlight bulb itself does not suffer in the elements. The bulb is encased in a constant, stable environment. Not water, wind, sleet, snow or mud penetrates the plastic lens protecting the bulb. On the backside of the headlight a rubber grommet, boot or an o ring seal the compartment to protect the bulb from the environment. In this perfect environment a bulb can last a very long time unless damaged by a rock tossed up by another vehicle or other various methods of physical damage.

On the other hand the lens takes a brutal beating every time the vehicle is taken out for a drive. Baking in the sun, enduring speeds of up to seventy five miles an hour on your daily commute, bugs of every shape size and color mashed onto them at high speed and low speed, rain beating down on them, sleet bashing away at them, it’s a taxing life the lens goes through! So it should come as no surprise that maybe it isn’t the headlight bulb that is dimming, but maybe it’s the lens.

You'll Need a Few Rags

You will need:

  • A clean cloth to apply the plastic scratch remover.
  • Another cloth to for the final polish.
  • A bottle of plastic scratch remover.

Notice the Haze Across the Top of the Lens Cover.
Notice the Haze Across the Top of the Lens Cover.
Use Firm Pressure and a Circular Motion.
Use Firm Pressure and a Circular Motion.
After Cleaning You Have a Nice Clear Lens Cover.
After Cleaning You Have a Nice Clear Lens Cover.

Step by Step Instructions

To clean the lens you don’t have to remove it.

When you have these items together, this is what you do:

  1. Clean the lens first with water to get any bugs and road grime off the lens.
  2. Then apply a grape size bead to the cleaning cloth and starting at one end of the light fixture.
  3. Use a circular motion and press firm, even pressure. Rub the section for a couple of minutes with the firm pressure.
  4. Add more plastic scratch remover to the cloth and move to the next section and do the same thing.
  5. Remember to use firm, even pressure.Continue adding and buffing in circles until you've covered the whole lens.
  6. Go back with your soft polishing cloth and wipe off the residue left from the plastic scratch remover, again, using firm, even pressure.
  7. Flip to a fresh side of the cloth and buff the whole lens for half a minute making sure to get all the plastic scratch remover off or it will leave a haze of its own defeating the purpose of the cleaning.
  8. When you’re done with that headlight move on to the other headlight.Tail and signal lights can also be cleaned in the same exact fashion.



Now turn on your headlights and see if they are any brighter than they were, I have a feeling you’ll be surprised and how bright they are now!


Submit a Comment

  • Msmillar profile image

    Joanna 2 years ago from Valley Springs

    Lol, I know right. It's so easy and helps a lot!

  • Kelsey Farrell profile image

    Kelsey Elise Farrell 2 years ago from Orange County, CA

    Extremely through and easy to follow hub--I think even I can handle this! Thanks for sharing!

  • Msmillar profile image

    Joanna 3 years ago from Valley Springs

    Hi odido, I'm glad you found this hub helpful!

  • odido profile image

    odido 3 years ago

    This method is easier and very fast to understand this

  • Msmillar profile image

    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    Hi Maren Morgan M-T, You're so funny. I know you can handle it! I'm always amazed at how good the headlights work after cleaning them, they're like new!

  • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

    Maren Elizabeth Morgan 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

    I think I could handle this! Thanks for the clear, easy lesson!