Why Is There a Film Over My Headlights? - Bulldog Detail
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Why Is There a Film Over My Headlights?

There is a certain amount of wear and tear that is expected once you’ve driven your vehicle off the lot and on roads and highways for an extended period of time. The new car smell is gone, your paint may lose some of its luster or you may notice a cloudy or film-like appearance over your headlights.

Cloudy headlights are caused by plastic oxidization from UV ray exposure and/or a compromised seal of the headlight’s exterior. A broken seal can allow water in, which may create a film on the inside of the plastic. In the early stages of the oxidation process the plastic can even appear yellow.

As a vehicle owner, you likely understand the importance of properly functioning headlights in terms of road safety, so you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to ensure that your car’s headlights stay clean and protected for as long as possible.

Can I Protect My Headlights?

There are a few steps you can take to prevent the discoloration or fogginess of your headlights and to protect them from extensive damage.


  • Park in the shade, in a covered parking structure or, if necessary, even under a tree to limit UV exposure
  • Wash your car often to make sure caustic liquids, chemicals or debris are not creating a film over the plastic
  • Polish your headlights with a nonabrasive agent and a microfiber cloth to help prevent yellowing
  • Pay attention to water vapor or condensation, as it can break the watertight seal and gather on the inside of the lens, fogging the plastic

Can I Restore My Headlights Myself?

Although there are many DIY headlight restoration instructions and kits out there, they involve multiple steps and offer mixed results. If these steps are not completed correctly it could lead to further damage for your vehicle.

For example, if the area around your headlights is not properly protected by painters’ tape or some other covering, you could damage your vehicle’s paint when using sandpaper to remove film on the exterior of the headlight, which is one of the first steps in most DIY methods.

If the film is on the inside of your headlight, DIYers need to fully remove the headlight in order to assess and attend to the film or discoloration. This could damage the watertight seal even further. If not properly reinstalled, the seal could be broken again and again, which (you guessed it) will lead to more fogginess and can affect your ability to properly use your headlights at night or during inclement weather.

You will also need to polish and wax your headlights after you’ve sanded the plastic’s oxidized layer. Some methods may require you to use a type of electric buffer to do so.

The next step would to be to apply some sort of UV sealant to the plastic since you have essentially sanded away the original protection from the headlight. This sealant will need to be applied carefully, properly and allowed to fully dry for best results. Again, DIYers need to exceedingly caution to avoid applying sealant to any other parts of the vehicle, as it could damage things like paint or vinyl.

There are some home remedies that are less invasive that you can try to get rid of fogginess or discoloration, including household products such as toothpaste, baking soda and vinegar, but the results are not long lasting and the fogginess or discoloration could reappear in as little as a month.

Let Us Help

At Bulldog Detail we have an experienced staff who are well-versed in the area of vehicle restoration. We aim to correct, protect and maintain the quality of all the vehicles that come through our garages. We are incredibly meticulous in the work we do to ensure your vehicle looks as good as possible and is protected in the long term.

Call 602.653.3935 to make an appointment or ask about the extensive list of detailing services we offer.