How To Clean Car Headlights

how to clean car headlights

How To Clean Car Headlights

So, are your headlights like mine? Frosty, cloudy to the eye and poor visibility when driving down the road? 

Well I have the tips for you. 

Before you go and spend loads of money on a professional kit to do this, there are a few things you can try first. 

A lot of the time you will already have a few simple products lying around the house for you to get the job done. Whether it’s some toothpaste from your bathroom or a bit of car polish from out of the garage. 

Both of these products have had great proven results. If these don’t work, don’t worry, there are plenty of professional kits for you to purchase.

The most common reason for headlight damage is the UV rays from the sun, another common factor is all of the cars,vans and trucks driving in front of you spraying up all of the loose chippings in the road.

Are you looking to do this yourself because you are a car enthusiast like me? Or maybe you are doing it to save yourself a little bit of cash. That’s fine too. 

The first thing you are going to need to do is roll up those sleeves, be ready to get dirty and use a bit of good old fashioned elbow grease.

Let’s get stuck straight into this…

Table of Contents

how to clean car headlights

Why It’s Important To Clean Your Car Headlights...

Well the most important reason to clean your headlights is so that you don’t cause an accident to you or another road user. Let’s be honest, no one wants to crash when it can be prevented…

According to AAA, when your headlights are foggy/yellow this can cause a loss of up to 80 percent visibility. Not only will it help you see your side of the road clearer it also helps oncoming traffic to see you.

Most people wouldn’t even think about cleaning their headlights but this shows just how important it is. Up to 80 percent visibility can be lost, can you believe that? 

It’s safe to say it’s a good idea to take an hour out of your time to give them a good clean and keep you, your family and other road users safe.

Foggy or unclear headlights can prevent your vehicle from shining bright enough to show you the way at night. This makes it harder to drive and more risky as well. 

its important to clean your headlights to make sure you can see when driving your vehicle at night, without putting yourself and other drivers at risk.

How Often Should You Clean Your Car Headlights?

So, we would strongly recommend you to be cleaning your headlights at least once every six months. You don’t want to overdo it and burn holes through your headlights 😆

No, but seriously it also depends on what product you use and how well you do the job in the first place. If you only spend a few minutes on the prep work, it’s probably not going to last long. Make sure you are thorough and follow the step by step guide I have provided.

If you follow all the steps correctly and you use the correct products, the process can last anywhere from 1-3 years. This obviously also depends on what climate you live in, whether your car is garaged overnight and how much you use your vehicle.

If you neglect cleaning your headlights this could lead to you having to do the process much more often, which is time consuming and repetitive. 

Most importantly, it could also lead to failing your roadworthy inspection when it is due or decrease the value of your car when it comes time to sell. So keep on top of it guys it’s a simple process that only has to be done once in a while.

What Will You Need To Get Started Cleaning Your Headlights…

Apart from your own sweat and tears, there are a few things you will need to get started cleaning your car headlights. I’m going to run through the most important ones now.

Now as I mentioned earlier you might be able to get away with cleaning your headlights with a few products lying around the house i.e. toothpaste, or a generic car polish. Once you have grabbed one of these items you are going to need a clean bucket of cold water, a few clean cloths and a towel.

Sometimes the cheaper options may not work and you may have to invest in professional kits that are available on the market, these are quite inexpensive and it still saves you from hiring a professional to do it for you. 

Here’s the full list of things you’re going to need:

  • Bucket of cold water
  • Tool kit for removing headlight
  • Masking tape 
  • Microfibre cloth/rag 
  • Light polishing product 
  • Sealant or wax for aftercare
get the correct tools you are going to need to clean your headlights

Step By Step Guide On How To Clean Car Headlights: 8 Simple Steps

Let’s get started cleaning our car headlights. We’re going to walk you through our simple 8 step process to give you brand new, shiny headlights on your car… Wooo how exciting! 

Step 1: Get a bowl/bucket of cold water

So, the first step is pretty simple. Go into your kitchen or garden and fill up your bucket/bowl with cold water. You don’t need much, I’m all for saving the planet.

Step 2: Wet and wash the headlights

Wash the headlights with cold water and make sure you get into every crack and small area, you don’t have to be gentle, most headlights are made from a pretty strong material. Then dry off with a towel.

Step 3: Masking up and prepping the headlights

Next up, if you are going to leave the headlights in situ then place some masking tape around all of the bodywork around the headlights so you don’t end up getting any excess product onto the bodywork and cause potential paintwork damage.

Step 4: Choosing your product

Grab your choice of product whether this is toothpaste or car polish and use either an applicator pad or smooth, clean microfibre cloth you have around the house. Make sure it’s one you are willing to get rid of afterwards.

Step 5: Applying the product

Apply a small amount of product to the applicator pad, take your pad over to the headlight and in circular motions start removing all of that old dirt. Make sure you use a good amount of pressure and keep going like this for around 15-20 minutes per headlight or until the headlight is clean. Then, using a dry towel, remove any excess toothpaste/polish.

Step 6 : Waxing/protecting the headlights

Right, so the next step is the easiest part but also the most important and the one you don’t want to forget. Grab a nice new clean cloth/rag and apply a penny size amount of car wax to the headlight.

Repeat the same circular motion as you did in the last step, you don’t need to be as rough this time. Gently apply making sure you don’t miss any of the area, remember the reason you are doing this is to protect from future damage.

Step 7: Leaving the wax to do its work

What I find best whenever using wax is to leave it on overnight. However, only do this if you have a garage, or have a shaded area in a cool environment. Don’t worry if you don’t have this option, leave the wax on for maybe 30 minutes to an hour. You want to remove it once the wax has dried but don’t want to leave it on so long that it ends up being very difficult to get off.

Step 8: Removing the wax & cleaning up

The final part is to get the last clean cloth or even just turn over the one you used to apply the wax and buff off the remaining excess of the dried wax. If you used masking tape, also remove this after this step. Clean up any mess and you’re ready to go! 


This is going to slow down the process of your headlights turning yellow and fogging up again. It will also help protect the headlights from the UV rays of the sun and any dirty being kicked up from those cars in front.

Now you have finished and you have perfectly clean headlights that will have increased visibility and safer to drive for you and other road users and hopefully once your roadworthy inspection is due it is one less thing that will cause a failure.

cleaning an older vehicle headlights using 8 simple steps

What About Using A Professional Kit?

If you end up using a professional kit just follow the step by step guide that comes with it. Be very careful when using one of these kits though as a lot of the time they come with different types of sandpaper. 

Some are quite coarse and you could end up doing more damage to the headlights than before you started, but don’t stress, just take your time and follow the instructions that come with the kit.

What Makes Your Car Headlight Go Yellow And Fade?

Nothing lasts forever, right? 

Well, headlights are the same, they fade and discolour with age. With the amount your vehicle is parked in the sun for hours on end or the thousands of miles you are travelling up and down the motorway.

The UV rays and the constant loose chippings flying up from all of those cars in front are going to cause ongoing damage to the protective lens on your headlights.

Especially in Australia where we face some of the highest UV ratings around the world. This means we might see faster degradation of our car headlights. Also driving on dirt roads may lead to a buildup of dust and dirt on your headlights. 

Over time this can wear the plastic down and stain it yellow or foggy. If you regularly maintain your car headlights you can prevent this from happening, even in our climate.

How To Prevent Your Headlights From Fading Quickly

The best thing you can do to prevent your headlights from fading and yellowing is to park your car in the shade where possible. What I would recommend is every couple of months after washing your car. 

Take a bit of extra time on the headlights and give them a gentle polish and wax. This will prevent them from becoming like they were before.

If you leave this type of issue to occur, it could result in failing to pass your roadworthy inspection, it could also cause you problems if you are looking to sell your vehicle and potentially fail a pre purchase inspection.

Prevention is important for holding the value of your vehicle as the less safe, or more dirty it is then the lower the value will be. By simply spending a few hours every 6 – 12 months you can ensure your vehicle passes its roadworthy and maintains its value.


So there we have it. That’s exactly how long car tyres last for and how you can ensure your tyres last above average as well. 

Just remember to maintain your checks and drive carefully. This is also important if you’re looking to sell your vehicle as any pre purchase inspections or potential buyers will be checking your tyres. No one wants to be left with a huge bill for tyres after buying a new car. 

Again this is super relevant for anyone who is required to get a roadworthy certificate over the next few months as if your tyres are unsafe or worn out, you will fail your roadworthy inspection

It’s best to get your tyres checked and inspected or changed. Either way, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. How long do your tyres usually last?

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