Over time, a vehicles headlamps may become cloudy, resulting in a significant loss of nighttime visibility. Yellowed, dull, or hazy headlights can potentially cause unsafe driving conditions or even vehicle collisions. Once upon a time, replacing your cars headlights was a simple and inexpensive project, but no longer. Older vehicles were usually equipped with headlights separate from the glass covers. A few dollars and a few minutes later, even if you were changing headlight bulbs, you were back on the road.
Unfortunately, todays vehicle headlights are modular, requiring purchase of the entire headlight system. These lights can be extremely difficult to replace, and potentially cost several hundred dollars (some even range into the thousands). Changing the bulbs in your cars headlights if its even possible may be simpler and less expensive; however, it wont fix the hazy problem.
Causes of Cloudy Headlights
Todays vehicle headlights are made of polycarbonate plastic, rather than the glass used in older cars. This material, while highly durable, is also naturally porous. Auto manufacturers apply a protective coating to offset this porosity, and it is this protective coating that fails eventually. At that point, the porous plastic becomes oxidized from exposure to the suns UV rays and other environmental conditions. In some cases, the seal of a vehicles headlights may also fail, allowing water, dust, and other environmental and road pollutants to penetrate the lights structure. Light emitted by the headlamps can become so diminished by this degradation that driver visibility may be reduced by as much as 50 to 60 percent.
Types of Plastic Headlight Restoration
The internet offers many products for DIY plastic headlight restoration for your car or truck, but consumers must exercise care when considering this kind of repair. Many of the products available for consumer purchase do little more than clear the haze for a few weeks, only to have it return again. Car washes and mobile auto detailers may also try to sell headlight restoration services, but beware of these shortcuts as well.
Professional headlight restoration is typically available through auto body or collision damage repair professionals. This professional headlight restoration service will use commercial-class products to eradicate the yellowing and scratches in your headlights. The difference between this and the do-it-yourself headlight repair kits is that the professional service includes replacement of the UV filter that preserves the headlights clarity from the factory.
How Do I Know if My Headlights Need Restoration?
If you have recently noticed a reduction in nighttime visibility, you may be a good candidate for professional headlight restoration. To best check your headlights, inspect them both in the daylight and at night. Start by using a good glass cleaner or degreaser to clean your vehicles headlights thoroughly. If you detect scratches, yellowing, or condensation in your headlights, check them again at night. If they emit light that lacks focus, is overly diffuse, or yellow in tone, its likely time to call on a headlight restoration professional in your area.