How to clean rust from car headlights

Every car owner knows how unpleasant oxidation can be. However, metal parts and contacts are not the only possible victims of this process. This could already be happening to your headlights right now as you read this article.

Just as rust corrodes metal, oxidation deteriorates acrylic lenses, making them less transparent. It looks like hazy plastic with a white or yellow tint. But aesthetics is not the only problem that arises from headlight oxidation.

Sometimes this happens due to faulty wiring or improper installation. Sometimes it’s because your light bulbs are nearing the end of their useful life. In that case, you can visit any car lamp guide to find a replacement. But replacing an entire set because of a few fogged up lenses can be very expensive. So here we are going to take a closer look at some ways to restore your lenses and prevent oxidation in the future.

What causes headlights to rust

Originally, headlights were made with a special protective layer on the lens. It deteriorates slowly and gradually, exposing the lens to the elements. There are some factors that accelerate this process. For example, dust and small debris constantly bombard the surface and sometimes leave small scratches. Even the light itself affects the opacity, as UV rays come into contact with the plastic and cause it to oxidize.

Another rare case of oxidation occurs on the inside of the headlight assembly. Lamp light can also, under certain circumstances, cause fogging. Older headlights are more prone to this type of deterioration. They are more likely to have small cracks and sealing issues that allow moisture in. The risk increases if you use lamps with high burning temperatures, such as halogens or HIDs. They heat up plastic lenses and damage the plastic, however, this happens very slowly.

See also  How to tow a rear wheel drive car without damaging it

Other factors, such as harsh chemicals on the road during the winter and bad weather, also contribute to faster oxidation. “It’s always a good idea to clean mud off the headlights,” says Ben Collins, content editor for the LightningLab project. “And you should do it outside before it melts in the garage or indoor parking lot. It is more aggressive when it warms up.”

How to remove rust

The decayed layer has to go. It’s dead”. Usually, restoration starts with a good cleaning and proceeds with gently removing the cloudy crust from the surface. When the oxidation isn’t too bad, a simple deoxidizer can be a good solution. Just follow the instructions to a T, and your headlights will thank you.It’s the laziest, gentlest way to fight oxidation.

Unfortunately, mild means can only help with light cloudiness. For heavy oxidation, you will have to use abrasive treatment with special restoration products, sandpaper or DIY methods. This additional step will help remove the layer affected by oxidation and reveal the clear plastic underneath.

Both approaches will leave your headlights empty and vulnerable to adverse conditions. Ideally, the last step should include a special coating that will protect acrylic lenses from ultraviolet radiation, pollution and moisture. This could be a specially formulated headlight product, car wax, or a thin protective film.

Can toothpaste really restore headlights?

If you’ve ever looked for a way to remove oxidation or just buff your headlights as a preventative measure, you’ve surely seen this DIY method. Toothpaste seems harmless enough, we use it every day, we hope, and it doesn’t do any harm. Fortunately, it’s also true of headlight lenses.

See also  How to get mold out of a car seat

Toothpaste contains very small abrasive parts that act as a mild polish. It literally does the same for our teeth. It takes about ten minutes to rub the oxidized layer with a cloth, a little toothpaste and water. It all depends on how bad your case is.

Do DIY defogging methods work?

A mixture of baking soda and vinegar or lemon juice will also work in a similar way. Same goes for Magic Eraser and even Coca-Cola. However, toothpaste, homemade mixtures and other popular DIY methods will be ineffective when oxidation turns the lenses yellow or brown. Indicates fairly heavy oxidation that requires something more potent.

This technique will also be ineffective if oxidation is caused by scratches and cracks due to wear. In that case, you can use toothpaste to clean the lens before the actual treatment. It will remove dirt and wax residue.

Will WD-40 ruin the headlights?

We all love quick fixes and the WD-40 is one of them. Makes lenses look almost perfectly clear right away. Just protect the seams with duct tape to prevent the product from damaging inside the car, and spray WD-40 onto a clean cloth. Then rub the product until you are satisfied with the result and carefully wipe with a clean cloth or turn the cloth to the side that is not soaked in WD-40.

It’s a quick fix that works instantly, but it works for a few weeks if you’re lucky and the weather is right. WD-40 is a gamble if you intend to use it as your primary defog method. It can enter the light assembly and cause the headlight bulb to burn out. Therefore, it is not recommended to use it frequently.

See also  How to Fix a Broken Auxiliary Port on a Car - Solved

It works as an emergency measure. Using it every few weeks to maintain light output is tedious, ineffective, and may do more harm than good.

How to prevent oxidation

Preventing something is always easier than dealing with the consequences. As for problems with oxidation, you can avoid this nuisance with timely car care. Regular washing and polishing will remove dirt and even out the surface, keeping the lens clear for a long time. But this alone can only partially help.

As the original protective coating wears off, replace it with different products that work better for you. It could be car wax, hydrophobic sprays, and headlight films. Just don’t forget that they also need to be cleaned and replaced from time to time.

Written by Charles Farrel

Go home

Leave a Comment