How to Clean Car Headlights in a Few Quick Steps

We can’t see if you can’t. Let’s put those headlights back in the fight.

So you want to clean your car’s headlights? Well, you’ve come to the right place as your headlight lenses may have gone yellowy over time, become fogged or filthy, or might have found new purpose as a terrarium for indigenous worms and insects.

Luckily, The Drive’s crack How-To department is here to help get those lights luminous once again. Driving with crappy headlight lenses isn’t just unsafe for you, tootling along in the inky blackness of night, but also for others on the road. Restoring your headlights to fresh-from-the-factory clear is also one of the easiest ways to make your aging ride look like new.

The bottom line is your lenses need a good polishing, and here’s how to do it.

Headlight Cleaning Basics

Estimated Time Needed: 30 minutes to 1 hour

Skill Level: Beginner

Vehicle System: Lighting
What Is Cleaning Headlights?

How mad would you be if we went through all of this just to tell you to make sure you hit the lights with some soap and water during the next wash? While trolling can be funny, that sort of content has very little value to you. Thankfully, that’s not what we’re talking about.

We’re talking about how you can get headlights with some mileage on them looking as good as new. You know, the hazy, faded housings your buddies always knock you for? We’ll walk you through how you can put their hazing behind you.
Headlight Cleaning Safety

Working on your car can be messy, especially when you’re cleaning surfaces you’ve never bothered to clean before— hello, bug-splattered headlight lenses—so here’s exactly what you’ll need to ensure you don’t die, get maimed, or lose a finger and that you keep your jeans, shirt, and skin spotless— hopefully.
Everything You’ll Need To Clean Your Headlights

We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to get the job done.
Tool List

Paper towels
Spray bottle of water
3 microfiber towels
A bucket for soap and water
Sander/polisher—optional

Parts List

Headlight restoration kit
Painter’s tape
Sandpaper in a selection of grits (i.e., 1000, 2000, and 3000)
Polish and wax

You’ll also need a flat surface, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking that’s also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of the clink.

Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. ( You won’t need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

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