A Guide to Headlight Maintenance

A Guide to Headlight Maintenance

Can you remember the last time you changed your car headlights, or even just gave them a deep clean? Headlights are one of the most important safety features on a vehicle, and neglecting them can lead to some serious visibility issues on the road.

Take a look at the three guides below to find out exactly how to keep your headlights in tip top condition.

How to clean your headlights

Headlights gather dirt gradually, so it may not be as easily noticed as a blown bulb, for example. This makes it one of the most common aspects of headlight maintenance that people let slip. The dirt that builds up on headlights is natural, and the solution is neither difficult nor expensive.

You will need:

  • Toothpaste (ideally a gritty paste containing baking soda)
  • Cloth or paper towel
  • Toothbrush
  • Warm water
  • Wax

Cleaning your headlights is probably one of the easiest aspects of headlight maintenance, and it’s likely that you’ll find most of the equipment needed somewhere around the house if you’re lucky. The below process shouldn’t take longer than ten minutes.


  1. Cover your headlights in a generous layer of toothpaste.
  2. Using a toothbrush, scrub the toothpaste into the headlights until the dirt begins to lift and the toothpaste becomes discoloured.
  3. Spray the headlights with warm water and buff away the toothpaste with a cloth or paper towel. Repeat if necessary, to remove all residue.
  4. Apply wax and buff away excess using your cloth or towel. The wax will keep your headlights looking their best and avoid yellowing and clouding for as long as possible.

Restoring your headlights

Headlights made from polycarbonate plastic can become cloudy over time as the result of small scratches, UV rays and atmospheric chemicals. If your headlights have become cloudy and oxidised, follow these steps to restore your headlights back to near-new condition.

You will need:

  • Sandpaper: 400 grit, 600 grit and 2000 grit
  • Clear plastic headlight spray
  • Cloth or paper towel
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Painters tape
  • Warm water
  • Bin bags

Although cleaning your headlights using the method above may provide a short-term solution, the instructions below will give you crystal clear headlights that stand the test of time, by helping to avoid further scratching and hazing.


  1. Cover the area around the headlights with the tape, to ensure the polish or sandpaper doesn’t come into contact with the car’s paintwork.
  2. Spray both headlight and sandpaper with water.
  3. Use the roughest sandpaper (400 grit) to make circular motions across the entire surface of the plastic. Apply more water if needed to keep the surface lubricated. Finish with horizontal strokes.
  4. Repeat steps two and three with the 600 grit sandpaper.
  5. Spray on your water and remove any plastic and dirt residue with a cloth.
  6. Repeat steps two and three with the 2000 sandpaper.
  7. Dry off the headlights and apply rubbing alcohol with a low lint paper towel.
  8. Cut along the edge and bottom of your bin bag so you can open it up and increase the surface area.
  9. Cover your bonnet and the area surrounding your headlight with the bin bag, before cutting a hole to reveal the headlight itself.
  10. Use more tape to ensure that the bin bag is secure and only your headlight is exposed.
  11. Spray on a thin, even layer of clear plastic across the headlight’s surface, wait five minutes and repeat this step four times.

Remember: while headlights may still appear cloudy initially, it will take 24 hours for the polish to dry to full clarity.

How to change your headlights

Changing your headlights may seem like a job for an expert, but it doesn’t always have to be. Make sure you always replace headlights in sets of two. Replacing one headlight at a time cause an uneven field of vision, making it dangerous for both the driver and any oncoming traffic.

You will need:

  • Your new bulbs
  • Rubbing alcohol and wipes
  • A screwdriver

Follow the directions below carefully, and if the inside of your bonnet looks different to the setup descried below, consult your vehicle’s user manual.


  1. Open and secure your bonnet so you can find your headlight bulb. The bulb holder will have three wires attached to it.
  2. Disconnect the plastic cap or metal clip that hold the wires together, either by pushing down on the plastic lever or holding the clip and pulling the wires away.
  3. When the wires are disconnected, you can to remove the light bulb from the base.
  4. Wipe down the new light bulb with the alcohol solution and a clean cloth and attach it to the base.
  5. Reattach the wires and return the light bulb holder to its original position.
  6. Test your headlights and if they appear to be working correctly, secure your bonnet.

And there you have it – keeping on top of your car headlight maintenance needn’t be a difficult or costly affair. That said, if you’re ever unsure about a car headlight issue, be sure to get an expert opinion from your mechanic.

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