What Can I do About Foggy Headlights?

Tropical Chevrolet Collision suggests all car owners take a few minutes to inspect their headlight lenses. This is the outer, clear protective plastic or glass that covers the headlamps and electrical connection. Even if you have new or recently replaced headlamps, you still may not be getting full brightness because your headlights may need cleaning or replacing.

According to AAA, headlights that are fogged, yellow, or clouded will reduce road illumination by 80% In other words, only 20% of the light that should be cast with new headlights is actually penetrating the damaged plastic. The result is difficulty driving at night, risking an auto accident.

How Headlights Become Foggy

Most cars will have headlights that are constructed of clear polycarbonate plastic. While this is a very strong plastic, it doesn’t fare well with constant exposure to direct sunlight. So, if you live in a very sunny climate, have had your car for many years, or if you park your car outdoors instead of in a garage – chances are you will experience the progression of foggy headlights.

The damage starts when the UV rays of the sun break down the surface coating of the headlights. After that, the sun continues to penetrate deeper into the plastic material causing cloudiness or discoloration to form within the plastic. If you keep a car with foggy headlights long enough, you can expect the damage to continue through 3 phases:

  1. Headlights begin to turn yellow, but the UV protective coating is still intact
  2. Cloudiness penetrates deeper into the material and has a major effect on the visibility
  3. Plastic is damaged all the way through, even for headlights that have been cleaned before

At Tropical Collision, our expert mechanics have seen all these phases of headlight damage due to sunlight exposure. One thing we can say for sure, once that UV protective coating has been compromised and the plastic starts to oxidize, no amount of cleaning or polishing will prevent headlight fogginess from returning.

Natural Remedies to Clean Headlights

You can surf the internet and find a wide variety of remedies to clean headlights that are starting to become cloudy. You will always start with cleaning the headlights with either Windex or soap and water. Next, you may need to wet sand the headlights with a low grit sandpaper (1000 grit). This will take a lot of elbow grease, sanding in straight, horizontal strokes with progressive rounds of finer grit sandpaper.

Other options use cleaning solutions that range from baking soda and vinegar to abrasive toothpaste to a mixture of coarse salt and water. Here, use a soft cloth or micro-fabric to apply the remedy and allow the mixture to sit. After scrubbing and rinsing, you may want to apply a wax coating (Turtle Wax) or a sealant to maintain the clearness of the plastic.

Do Store-Bought Products Work?

With any of these remedies – natural or store-bought, the yellowing, fogging, or cloudiness will return and is seldom completely removed. If your headlights were in phase 2 or 3 of damage, these DIY solutions probably won’t work. Yes, you can purchase an off-the-shelf product to clear foggy headlights that are in phase 1.

But, not all products are created the same. Some, simply do not work at all. No matter what product you choose, you will still have a lot of manual scrubbing, sanding, cleaning, and polishing. If you get stellar results, it won’t last unless you take certain steps to prevent damage:

  • Annually, apply a thin coat of wax or sealant onto the headlights
  • Park your car in a garage or a shaded area during the day
  • Replace or fix any cracked, scratched, or broken headlight lenses


If you are attempting to prep your lease for turn-in or looking to put a used car up for sale, your best option is to have the headlights professionally cleaned (if in phase 1 or 2). Next, if the headlights’ protective coating is gone and the plastic has started to yellow, then you’re in phase 3. Then, it is best to have the headlights replaced.

If you are doing a DIY headlight cleaning and something goes wrong, contact Tropical Chevrolet Collision at(305) 908-5548 or schedule an appointment for headlight replacement.

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