Oxidized Headlights

"My car's headlights have turned cloudy and yellow and the car's only a few years old. There's got to be a way to fix them, right?"

oxidized headlights - before
What you have are called oxidized headlights. There's a couple of ways to restore and clean oxidized headlights. Some ways pretty simple, other ways a little more complicated, but doable for most people. It depends on the level of damage and how much time, effort and money you're willing to spend to fix them.

Almost every car from about 1990 on up (except for a few luxury models) have used polycarbonate headlights instead of glass. This has created quite a few problems because over time, as polycarbonate hazes over and yellows from long-term exposure to pollution, sunlight, road salt and salty air.

Hazy, yellowed, oxidized headlights not only make you car look terrible, they can actually impair your nighttime vision by 75% or even more. You may have even noticed it - objects are harder to see than  they used be. This is because the light beams just don't penetrate the headlight lens like they used to. Oxidized headlights aren't only dangerous for you, but also for everyone else on the road - pedestrians included.

And beside the increased safety hazard, oxidized headlights tend to decrease a car's potential resale value. Often times they can cause a car to fail annual inspection. Costs for replacement can reach hundreds of dollars depending on make and model. These factors make DIY headlight restoration something you should try. It really isn't that hard - or expensive.

Lightly Oxidized Headlights

You want to check first if the problem isn't simple condensation inside the lens. If you look really close and see tiny water droplets, take off the lens and dry it. 

Barring condensation, there are some really quick ways to deal with the oxidation. It really depends on how quick and easy you want to go.

Quick Fix 1: WD40. Apply some of this miracle stuff to a rag and rub it right on to clean your oxidized headlights. You should see an immediate improvement. Of course, a couple of rains and a car wash later, it's gone. This might be your answer at least until you can try something else.

Quick Fix 2: Car wax. Mildly abrasive car wax is great for the oxidation that can occur on your car's finish and the same can be said for the headlights. A little grit can do wonders.

Quick fix 3: Toothpaste. The grit principle applies here as well. Just avoid whitening toothpaste or toothpaste with mint flavoring. These have additional chemicals which the plastic doesn't tolerate well. You might do more damage.

Moderate to Heavily Oxidized Headlights

The next method requires a lot more elbow grease and a little more guts to do. You'll have to be comfortable with using some sandpaper on your headlights. Don't worry, it's very, very fine grade sandpaper and you'll progressively use finer and finer grades. And the results can be excellent. It has to be noted, however, that many people have mixed results with this method. It tends to be a very temporary fix and after a few months you can end up with oxidized headlights again. This is because once the protective coat of the lens has been removed the plastic is naked to the element. Yes, you will be removing the clear-coat of the headlight also, but you will be replacing it with a substitute one and this will give much more lasting results.

Basic equipment:
  • Masking tape. If you can get the wide blue kind, this is best. You'll need to protect the area around the lens.
  • Progressive grades of sandpaper - 1000 grit, 1500 grit, 2000 grit and 2500 grit
  • Car Polish
  • Terry cloth towel
  • Water in a sprayer bottle
  • UV inhibiting sealant. This will replace the clear-coat. An excellent choice is Solaray Headlight Lens Clear Coat


Mask-off the area around the oxidized headlight.
Take the 1000 grit sandpaper and with a generous amount of water sprayed onto the lens, sand lightly but evenly in a circular motion. Rub for a few minutes and then go a few more minutes than you think you should have - it takes time and time and elbow grease makes all the difference. After this, rinse well to get rid of the residue and any loose 1000 grit. Now use the 1500 grit and do the same procedure. Always rinse after each grit change. When you've finished with the 2500 grit, rinse well with water and wipe off. All the while you should have been noticing the continual improvement of the clarity of the plastic. Now, apply polish onto your terrycloth towel and work that for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly and dry thoroughly. 
oxidized headlight - after
At this point your previously oxidized headlight should look remarkable! You could stop here, but you need to apply the sealant. UV cured sealant is normally cured using a UV lamp, but you can achieve a satisfactory result by leaving your car in full sun for a few hours.


  1. When your headlights are foggy, cloudy or yellowed means that Oxidation is building up in your plastic lens. Replacing headlight lenses can cost several hundred dollars. Having a detail shop or Auto repair shop professionally restore your headlights can run $75 to $150 per car. No headlights covers remain clear forever. All plastic headlights become cloudy, foggy or yellowed over time. Enjoy Crystal Clear Headlight Covers In Minutes WITHOUT Sanding, Buffing or using Masking Tape with LTC Headlight Cleaner. Headlights treated with LTC Headlight Cleaner will maintain clear for 8-12 months or more, it varies where your car is parked; garaged, streets, *remember that sun is one of the biggest factors why your headlights get oxidized.

    Sanding and polishing eventually will scratch and reduce thickness of your plastic headlights. Toothpaste will semi-clean your headlights and leave it without any kind of UV protection. Why pay for something you can do at home for less. Like everything else, there are good and bad 1 step headlight cleaner products and this is considered the Best Headlight Cleaner.

    You're 6 steps away to remove Headlight Oxidation from your headlights with LTC.

    1. Wipe off dust from headlight
    2. Shake bottle for up to 30 seconds first time, consecutive applications up to 10 seconds.
    3. Apply 1/20 oz in a cotton cloth rag.
    4. Start rubbing cloth rag with some pressure, chose your desire rubbing pattern and don’t stop rubbing until you see the difference and you’re satisfied with the results.
    5. With a clean cotton cloth rag start wiping off until is dry to the touch.
    6. Clean edges around headlight removing excess fluid in non plastic surfaces.

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