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What is Headlight Condensation and How to Prevent It

Updated on September 25, 2014

What is headlight condensation?

One of the most irritating things a car owner can experience is condensation developing in the headlights. Condensation occurs when the headlight housing does not have enough air circulation to properly vent and in turn, traps water inside of the headlight. Condensation appears in two forms: as a thin film of mist that coats the headlights and even as a more severe case where actual drops of water run down the headlights to collect at the bottom of the assembly. This tutorial would most benefit people who like to modify their cars with aftermarket LED lighting.

What causes headlight condensation?

What should normally happen when the temperature falls and the engine shuts off, is the air being filtered through the housing vents. When the temperature rises, the condensation evaporates and the process repeats itself. Sometimes, housing vents may be particularly small and the condensation fails to evaporate. Sometimes, loose bulb covers and debris like insect eggs and dirt block the vents and prevent condensation from evaporating.

How do I remove headlight condensation?

While condensation is not a serious issue, it is pretty unsightly and may even damage the components inside your headlight, like the LED bulb.

You will first need to remove the housing from the car first. Don't be too rough with the assembly or else you will damage it and cause hairline cracks. You may think that getting rid of headlight condensation is something of a feat, but all it takes is a little bit of patience and some time for the condensation to evaporate. If your incidence of condensation involves the most serious kind with a puddle of water at the base of the housing, be sure to pour the water out to expedite the drying process.

To blow out the moisture, you can use an air hose compressor if you have access to one. If not, a hairdryer will do just fine. The process may take a little bit longer, but the results will still be the same. Set the temperature to low so you don't risk damaging the housing. You can even leave all of the caps off and put the housing in a location with adequate air flow to slowly allow the condensation to evaporate. However, this would take upwards of 5 hours, so if you don't have the time for that, a hairdryer is a good option. Stick the nozzle of the hair dryer to the opening of the socket to dry out the moisture in the headlights. You will be able to witness the gradual drying out of the headlights and the lens will become clearer.

Gradual condensation removal

Once the condensation has properly evaporated, you will need to inspect the housing to see if there are any cracks. These cracks are what contribute to the condensation so you must seal them to prevent this from happening again. Take a syringe that you can find at your local drugstore like CVS and fill it with silicone caulk. You can even go to an auto specialty store to buy a package of pre loaded silicone already inside the syringe. Either option works great. Run the tip of the syringe across any cracks you see to seal them. If you see any opened sockets, you have to cap them. You can even use duct tape or silicone to cover up the opening if you have lost the adapters.

Place the headlight housing somewhere that allows it to properly dry, like a garage. Do not leave it somewhere moist, since that would be counterproductive, or leave it directly under the sun. The direct sunlight will cause even more cracks to form on the headlight housing.

How do I prevent headlight condensation?

You can prevent condensation in your headlight housing by periodically checking for clogged vents. Remove the bulb covers and clear any clogged vents and replace the bulb covers. Make sure they are snug and properly lined up.

You can also park a vehicle that is prone to headlight condensation somewhere warm and dry. This could be in a garage or even just an area away from too much shade. Condensation occurs when the conditions are moist, so any effort to keep the car as dry as possible helps to prevent this issue. Otherwise, you would have to remove the headlights in order to be rid of the condensation once it sets in. This will prolong the lifespan of the car's LED bulbs inside of the housing to its maximum potential.


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