Foggy headlights being cleaned properly

Foggy Headlights: Common Causes and Best Restoration Methods

Whether you have halogen, LED, or HID lights, sooner or later every truck owner is going to struggle with foggy, hazy headlights. It’s a fact of aging, and nothing stays new forever, but it’s something that needs to be addressed.

Foggy headlights can cause decreased visibility while driving, posing a hazard not only to you but also to other drivers on the road. You may notice your headlights starting to turn yellow, or it may appear as if a film has developed on the inside that you can’t wipe away no matter how hard you try. This is an indicator that it’s time to clean your headlights beyond the usual car wash.

Generally, headlights will need to be restored every 1 to 3 years to keep your truck looking its best while also maintaining safety on the road.

Causes of Foggy Headlights

RECON manufactures top tier truck headlights and aims to help you maintain their prime condition. Before you can effectively clean foggy headlights, it’s important to understand the underlying causes so that you can help delay the process in the future.


If your headlights have an acrylic or polycarbonate cover, as most do, they will start to deteriorate when exposed to UV rays over time. This process is caused by oxidation and is not one that can be avoided.

After all, it’s impossible to stay out of the sun when driving. UV rays are strong enough to break down chemical bonds, such as sealants or protectants that you use on your headlights to prevent damage. Exposure to UV rays will eventually lead to foggy headlights and will require headlight restoration.


Water is another environmental element that cannot be avoided, no matter how hard you try. With water comes condensation, which can make its way into your headlights as time takes a toll on the sealant, reducing its effectiveness. This leads to clouding of your headlights and, again, is something that you will not be able to simply wipe away from the outside. Once water has made its way into your headlights it’s time for a headlight restoration.

Dirt and Debris

What’s the point of having a truck if you don’t get it dirty now and then? Over time that dirt builds up, along with chemicals that can be on the surface of the road or in that mud you drove through last weekend. This will cause a foggy buildup on your headlights that will need to be cleaned.

Similarly, flying debris can damage your headlights. Rocks kick up on the highway, branches scratch your headlights when you’re pulling out of the driveway or off-roading, and salt on the roads in the winter makes its way to your lights. This causes damage to your headlights and will require a thorough cleaning to retain optimum visibility.

Cleaning Foggy Headlights

There are many ways to clean foggy, cloudy headlights. There are do-it-yourself methods that can save time and money, though they may not provide a long-lasting or top-notch solution to the problem. Professional methods may be worth investing in, especially if your headlights have sustained heavy damage and you are looking for a serious headlight restoration.

Do-It-Yourself Methods for Headlight Restoration

Household Cleaners

Truck enthusiasts often turn to household cleaners for headlight restoration at home. Vinegar, baking soda, or a mixture of both can be used with a microfiber cloth or toothbrush to clean a foggy headlight. This method works best when the fogging has been caused by dirt or chemical build up and is not effective at restoring scratches on a headlight.

After scrubbing the headlight down, give it a rinse with clean water and polish dry with a microfiber cloth. This is the least expensive option when it comes to headlight restoration. Just don’t expect the results to last long-term.


People swear by toothpaste as a cleaning method for all sorts of products. From cleaning sneakers, to removing scuffs on leather, to shining jewelry, there seems to be an unlimited use for toothpaste in cleaning processes.

Cleaning truck headlights is no exception, and this is another low cost method you can do yourself at home. Use a toothbrush to scrub the headlights with the paste for several minutes before rinsing with clean water. Again, don’t expect this fix to be a long-term solution.

Professional Restoration of Foggy Headlights

The professional restoration of foggy headlights is recommended to achieve the best and longest lasting results. Methods that professionals employ may include sanding, polishing, waxing, and resealing the headlights to provide not only the deepest clean but also lasting prevention against future fogging.

The cost of a professional headlight restoration can run anywhere from $75 to $150 for both lights, but is generally worth the investment.

Preventing Foggy Headlights

After foggy headlights have been cleaned or restored, the ultimate goal is to maintain that brand new appearance for as long as possible. While avoiding foggy headlights forever isn’t possible, there are steps that you can take to delay the process:

  • Parking in the shade whenever possible.
  • Wash your car regularly, focusing on the headlights.
  • Purchase a UV protection coat that you can apply yourself at home.
  • Use glass cleaner on the exterior of your headlights to remove outer layers of dirt.
  • Wax your headlights post-wash.

Foggy headlights are one of the least pleasant parts of car and truck ownership, but there are steps that can be taken to restore and delay the process. RECON is here for all things headlight related. Contact us online or call our Customer Support line at 877-377-3266 for more information.