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Defog Headlight Lenses To See More of the Road and Keep Your Family Safe

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If you’re driving your RV on the way to Cypress Trail RV Resort and your night view doesn’t seem quite what it used to be, your headlight bulbs may not be the problem. It might be that your headlight lenses have clouded over.

Philips, which manufactures headlight bulbs, says clouding can block as much as 40 percent of your headlight illumination. Don’t be alarmed. Fogging of headlight covers, which are made of plastic, is not unusual. Some headlight covers yellow more than others. The sun’s ultra violet rays are the biggest culprit, and clouding may intensify in sunny places, including Florida.

A headlight assembly includes not only the plastic headlight lens, but also the reflector. It’s the reflector, which has an opening for the headlight bulb, that forms the shape of your headlight beam and determines how far ahead your headlights illuminate the road. The lens just keeps everything dry and dirt-free.

To eliminate cloudy lenses, you can replace each headlight assembly, but that can be expensive. The most expensive replacements would be those on Class A RVs that have custom-made headlight assemblies. Replacements for Class B and Class C RVs with standard truck or van cabs would cost less but still could run into the hundreds of dollars.

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A far less expensive solution is to clean the headlight covers yourself. Headlight cleaning kits typically cost less than $25. They usually provide multiple grits of sandpaper, emery paper or abrasives loaded onto pads. You must rub the lens, starting with the coarsest grit and ending with the finest. Some kits may require you to place the sandpaper on an electric drill and use the drill to clean the lens. The kits also probably have a cleaning/sealing solution to use when you’re done.

After about an hour of work, your headlights will be brighter. The treatment is likely to last a year or longer, after which you’ll have to do it again.

Here are two other do-it-yourself solutions:

  • Remove the headlight bulb, and without touching the glass bulb itself, set it aside. Then remove the headlight assembly. Immerse it completely in a bucket of white vinegar for at least an hour. It should be clear when you remove it. Thorough rinse, allow to dry, and reassemble.
  • Mask the paint and trim around the lens. Apply an insect repellant containing DEET onto a paper towel or rag. Rub the lens, applying pressure, until the clouding disappears. Then clean the lens and remove the masking tape, and you’re good to go. This method takes little time and costs only a few dollars, but in about six months the clouding will reappear and you’ll have to clean the lenses again. Warning: Don’t skip the masking step and don’t spray the insect repellent directly onto the headlight lens; insect repellant can damage car finishes. 

There is one other way to clean headlight lenses. It’s easy, and the cost falls somewhere between replacement and DIY methods. Just have your mechanic defog your headlights. He’ll probably charge $80 to $100. Because he’ll use a professional-grade sealant, the treatment should last for years.  

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