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Why Do Headlights Get Foggy?

A car's headlights are discolored and foggy.
Nor Gal/Shutterstock.com

There are so many car maintenance tasks to keep track of that it’s easy for the headlights to go forgotten. Even so, the last thing you want is to embark on a nocturnal journey only for your misty headlights to limit your visibility.

Your headlights are meant to shed light on the shadows on the road, but this isn’t possible when they get too foggy. Initially pristine and crystal clear, headlights can fall victim to a variety of cloudy-causing problems.

The four main culprits that lead you to deal with misty headlights are oxidation, flying debris, dirt and chemicals, and water vapor.

Fogginess due to oxidation occurs when acrylic headlights are exposed to too much UV light. Many headlights are designed with a protective coating to help keep them clear, but even this coating can wear off over time.

Cerakote Ceramic Headlight Restoration Kit

Keep those headlights sparkling.

If your headlights come into contact with flying gravel or other dirt from the road, it’s normal for any protective coating to wear down. This can lead to scratches that make your headlights foggy. Also, chemicals from the road can develop a cloudy film over your headlights.

Lastly, if water gets inside your headlights, it’s common for water vapor to cloud them up and limit your visibility.

Keep in mind that foggy headlights aren’t safe for nighttime driving. If you notice your headlights are getting a bit misty, a good clean or a replacement is in your future. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to clean them. You can use toothpaste—yes, toothpaste. And of course, there are always headlight restoration kits.

No matter the reason your lights aren’t as clear, though, it’s time to take care of it before your next road trip. 

Abbey Ryan Abbey Ryan
Abbey Ryan is a storyteller, preferably of stories in written form. Across the 5 years of her professional writing career, her work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Amazon, The Medical News Today, and more. When she's not writing (which is rare), she's likely traveling, painting, or on the hunt for a good snack. Read Full Bio »
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