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DIY clean discoloured headlights

Updated April 17, 2017

When a car is new, its chrome and glass surfaces appear bright and shiny. Over time, scratches, rust and other build-up can cause these same surfaces to become dull. When the headlights of a car begin to age, the surface will begin to oxidise, leaving a hazy white or yellow film. Not only is this dull finish unattractive, it can also impair the release of light onto the roadway, compromising safety. Fortunately, cleaning discoloured headlights is a quick do it yourself project.

Wash the headlights

Before attempting to remove oxidation, it is important to wash the headlights with your usual car wash, water and a sponge. This will remove surface dirt from the lights, leaving a clean surface for removing the discolouration and haze. After washing the headlights, be sure to rinse and dry them thoroughly before moving onto the next step.

Polish the headlights

Dip a microfibre cloth into a polishing compound made specifically for automobile surfaces. Rub the compound into the headlights in a circular motion. This will help to break up the oxidised particles, leaving the headlights clear and shiny. Rotate the cloth, as dirt builds up onto that section and apply more compound to the cloth. Take your time during the polishing phase, as it is important that the compound begin to dry on the cloth. As it does, the particles will become more abrasive and better able to remove the haze and discolouration.

Sand the headlights and finish

Place a piece of 1000-weight sandpaper in water for 15 minutes. Rub it into the headlights in a circular motion. This will remove any fine scratches that can cause a hazy or discoloured appearance when dirt becomes lodged into them. Do not use any heavier weight of sandpaper, as it could cause scratches rather than removing them. When you are finished, polish the lights with the compound one last time. Wash the lights with the car wash soap to remove grit. Rinse and dry the headlights with a lint-free towel.

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About the Author

Gail Logan is a magazine editor and freelance writer based in Atlanta, AL. She received her B.A. in Journalism from Patrick Henry College. For the past four years, she has written home design, travel and food features for national magazines, including "Coastal Living," "Texas Home and Living," "Log Home Design," and "Country's Best Log Homes." When not writing, she mentors inner-city children.