Driving after dark can be a relaxing experience, with just you and the road and the night sky. It can also be an anxiety-inducing experience if you can’t get enough light to accurately judge distances or detect obstacles in time. If your headlights don’t put out as much light as you’d like, it might be time for headlight restoration.
What’s Happening to My Headlights?
Headlights are a critical component of any vehicle, allowing drivers to see hazards and the trajectory of the road when the ambient light isn’t enough. Unfortunately, headlights are not infallible. Many tend to make the shift from crystal clear to cloudy without us realizing it is happening. So why does it happen?
Headlights are generally manufactured with a polycarbonate plastic. This makes them more durable on the road which is crucial since they are the casualties in most accidents. Unfortunately, for all its strengths, plastic (like most things) does not hold up well against UV radiation. For this reason, headlights are coated in a UV-protective film at the time of manufacture, but prolonged exposure to sunlight causes even that to break down. As it does, the sun’s rays chemically react with the plastic, oxidizing it.
Correcting the Cloudiness
The changes this oxidation causes are not just a cosmetic problem. Hazy headlights can make it difficult for drivers to see at night or when the weather conditions are poor, making them a safety hazard. Fortunately, there are a few solutions to reversing the damage. The best one for your car is up to you.
Replace the Headlights
One way to have crystal-clear headlights is to start fresh and replace the ones you have. This is usually the most expensive, depending on the make, model, and especially year of your vehicle. Unfortunately, sometimes replacing your headlight housings cannot be avoided, especially if your headlights have been restored multiple times.
Good Old Soap and Water
You may simply be able to clean your headlights off if the oxidation process isn’t very far along. Toothpaste with a bit of grit (make sure it has baking soda in it) can do wonders when rubbed deeply into the plastic and then wiped off. Apply wax for a brighter sheen. If the chemical change is well underway, cleaning won’t fix the problem but should take place before you start using a headlight restoration kit. Clean the lights and the surrounding area with warm soapy water so the painter’s tape needed during a restoration will stick properly.
DIY Headlight Restoration
For those on a budget, there are many kits on the market for restoring your own headlights. These include the tools you will need, usually sandpaper in multiple grits, polish, wax, and UV sealant. DIYers will also need painters tape, microfiber cloths, and sometimes even more extensive tools like electric drills.
The restoration process involves a lot of sanding in different directions, making sure not to gouge the plastic housings. Once oxidized plastic is worn away, a series of polish, wax, and new UV sealant is applied. The process is involved and is not for the faint of heart, but it can save budgeters a lot of money, especially if they already have some or all of the tools needed.
There are two big drawbacks to restoring your own headlights: energy and efficacy. The headlight restoration process requires more than a little elbow grease, sanding and buffing and waxing until the lights are just right. It is time-consuming and tedious, and for all that work, the results usually do not last for more than a year. The hazing effect does return, and then it’s time to do it all again. Repeating the process too many times also wears down the plastic housings.
Professional Headlight Restoration
Here at Ray’s Muffler, we want you to enjoy the safest and brightest experience possible on the road. Cloudy headlights can make driving at night or in inclement weather even more dangerous to you, your passengers, and the other people on the road. This is why we suggest professional headlight restoration services for your vehicle.
While you can brighten up your headlights’ performance on your own, professional headlight restoration services give better and more lasting results. A professional detailer can restore your headlights’ clarity and provide lasting UV protection without you having to break out the drill or dremel. They already have the equipment and the expertise to make your headlights shine like new in no time at all. Save yourself time and energy and let a professional car detailing service manage your headlight restoration today.