Over time, the headlights on your car will degrade and you will notice that they start to cloud over. If you find that your headlights are not shining like they used to, you might need to clean them. If you are unsure about how to do this, there are a number of steps that you can take to accomplish this at home and with a fair amount of ease.
Wash Your Car
The first step to cleaning your headlights will actually be to clean your car. When you wash the car, you need to ensure that you are removing all surface dirt. You should also look at waxing the car, but you do not have to do the entire car if you do not want to. Waxing only a foot or 2 around the headlights will be enough for this process.
The reason why you have to wax the car is simple, you are protecting it from the headlight cleaning process. The polishing compound used for cleaning your headlights will be abrasive and less likely to adhere to a freshly waxed surface. Waxing around the headlight will stop scratches and damage to the paintwork.
Mask Off The Headlights
Before you actually start the foxbody headlights cleaning process, you should head to the store and get some low-tack painter’s masking tape. This can be bought at most home and hardware stores and will generally be blue in color. This masking tape should be used because it is easy to pull off your car when you are done.
Once you have the masking tape and have waxed the car, you need to apply this around the headlight that you are going to be cleaning. The yellow, red and clear lenders for the markers and backup lights on your car will generally not become as clouded as your headlights. This means that you can mask them as well because you will not be cleaning them.
When you are masking off the headlights, you should remove any trim on your car which is nearby. This will include any chrome-finished plastic or chromed metal. This is due to the fact that you are going to use an abrasive in the cleaning process which is known to destroy chrome.
Sand The Headlights
The outer layer of haze on your headlight will generally be removed with an abrasive such as sandpaper. Sanding the headlight is actually a very important step with some people arguing that it is the most important step in the process. This is why you need to take the time to be as thorough with the sanding as possible.
To start this task, you will need to soak a piece of 1000-grit wet and dry sandpaper in some cold water. You should leave the sandpaper in the water for around 10 minutes before removing it. This wet sandpaper should then be used to lightly sand the lens of your clouded headlight. When you do this initial sanding, you should work in straight strokes.
Using these straight strokes, you should methodically work across the entire lens surface. The lens surface should be kept wet while you are sanding, and you need to work in the same direction at all times. It is very important that you take care to not damage any of the trim or paint on your car when sanding.
To ensure that the sandpaper is conforming to the curved surface of the lens, you need to use the palm of your hand to cradle it. It is recommended that you not use a sanding block when you do this. Once you are done sanding, the entire headlight should be clear of any signs of yellowing and should have a dull and rough surface. When all the scratches, pits and discoloration are gone, you need to clean and dry the surface.
Once the surface is dry, you need to start the second sanding with 1500-grit wet/dry sandpaper. The same process should be used, but you need to sand the surface at right angles to your previous sanding. This process will then have to be repeated at right angles with 2000, 2500 and 3000-grit wet/dry sandpaper. While you are sanding, you may have to touch up the masking tape when it starts to look a bit tattered.
Polish The Headlight
After sanding the headlight, you need to polish it. This will clean up the scratches from the sandpaper and will make the headlight lens clear again. If your headlight was only moderately obscured, you should smear some of the polish onto the lens and polish with a microfiber cloth in a circular motion. The haziness of the lens will lift off as the polish is ground into the cloth and dries out.
It is important to note that most of the polish will actually end up on the cloth. It generally takes around 10 minutes of polishing per lens to complete this task. To make this process easier, you can use an orbital polisher, if you have one. Of course, you do need to be careful when using this and ensure that you do not polish any of the paint off your car.
After polishing the lens, you will need to wax the lens with a past car wax. This will stop dirt, acid rain and road salt from attacking the plastic of the lens. Of course, this will only work for a limited amount of time and you may have to top it up.
Apply A UV Sealant
The sanding of the headlight will remove any protective layers that were originally applied to the headlights. If you do not replace these layers, your headlight is going to cloud over again in a matter of weeks. There are a number of UV sealants on the market that you can use, but you might want to consider those that promise extended protection. The method for applying these sealants will vary and you need to follow the instructions provided.
Cleaning your headlights is something that you can do at home. However, you do need to be careful as the cleaning process is an abrasive one. You need to take care to not damage the rest of your car when doing this.