It may take a while to notice your RV headlights aren’t clean. This detail is easy to overlook if you don’t see any bugs on the lenses. But not all discoloration and dirt are easy to see during the day.
If your RV’s night eyes are foggy and yellow, you won’t see the road well. And if your lamps get bad enough, you may assume they must be replaced.
The good news is you just need to get the muck off. So what’s the best way to eliminate that thick yellow film and fog on your RV headlights?
Let’s get scrubbing!
Clean RVs, Are Your Headlights Cloudy?
Back in the day, all cars used glass-sealed beam headlights. Sizes were limited and used by all manufacturers. But Ford changed that in the mid-80s. They petitioned the Federal Government to allow cheaper PVC plastic lamps in variable sizes. Ford won & introduced proprietary bulbs to the world.
Although plastic allows for brighter bulbs, it also fogs and stains. PVC lenses turn yellow over time, like a piece of paper or an old photo. In addition, it’s easier for plastic to get tiny dents and pits from the road. Dirt, dings, and water vapor can create fog on your beams.
Your camper may be sparkling clean on every surface but the lamps! Since the damage can appear slowly, you may not immediately notice it. So it’s best to clean your RV headlights regularly.
Dirty RV Headlights Can Be Dangerous
Nearly half of all fatal car accidents happen at night. One big reason for this is poor visibility. Although many circumstances can make it hard to see at night, some factors are within your control. And one of the most important is keeping your RV headlights clean!
Foggy yellow headlights decrease visibility. In fact, you can lose up to 80% of the beam with a dirty lens. The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association states that lamp problems cause 26% of night car crashes.
And even if you have some kind of superhuman night vision, dim beams will cost you. Drivers can face up to $1000 fines for cloudy headlamps!
How to Clean Your RV Headlights
Luckily, you don’t need to toss out your rig eyes when they get dirty. We’ve got plenty of ways to clean RV headlights. But before we get started, make sure to have car wash soap, wax, and microfiber cloths as part of your overall RV cleaning kit.
Believe it or not, toothpaste makes for an excellent non-scratch cleanser. You’ll spread it on with an old toothbrush or cloth, and you’ll need gloves and masking tape.
Clean your headlights with your RV cleaning kit and let them dry. Cover the area around them with blue masking tape. Scrub each lamp for about five minutes with toothpaste and either your brush or cloth. Rinse with water and air dry.
Next, you can buff the lenses and polish them off with some car wax to seal your work.
Pro Tip: Use our guide on how to use toothpaste to clean your headlights.
#2 Vinegar and Baking Soda
Another DIY cleaning method involves baking soda and white vinegar, two standard kitchen items. In fact, some folks use the combo to clean grout, polish silverware, and do general non-toxic house cleaning.
Prep your lights as you did with the toothpaste method. Mix two tablespoons of baking soda with enough white vinegar to form a paste. Dip some on your microfiber cloth and scrub the lamp in small circles. Add more as you go.
You may have to rinse and repeat a few times for this RV headlight cleaning method to work.
#3 Window Cleaner and Car Polish
Our following three methods take cleaning RV headlights up a notch. For the window cleaner method, you’ll need cutting polish and a rotary buffer in addition to the window cleaner.
Your first step is to tape off the outer edges of the lights. Heavy spray one with window cleaner. Let it sit and soak for two minutes, then swab it with a clean cloth.
Buff the headlight with your electric buffer and polish. You can use a cloth instead, but the results may be uneven. Rinse and dry with a fresh towel. Repeat on the other side.
#4 Sanding Your Headlights
Although sanding your RV headlights takes time, it may be the best cleaning method for really dirty lenses. Grab your masking tape, gloves, flannel polishing cloth, and sandpaper. You should have 1000, 1500, and 2500 grit on the ready.
Wash, rinse, and tape your lamps. Soak your sandpaper in water and sand in one direction with the lowest grit. Rinse, then sand in the other direction with the next grit level. Repeat one more time with a higher level if need be.
After rinsing and air drying, gently polish it and let it dry again. Repeat if necessary. Buff away any express polish with your flannel cloth.
#5 Headlight Restoration Kit
If all of these options make you want to toss your hands up in uncertainty, then a restoration kit is better for you. The methods are essentially the same. Some kits work with drills, and others involve hand scrubbing. But at least there are precise instructions.
Look for kits with UV protection. Some even come with a lifetime warranty. But whether or not you choose an electric sander kit vs. a hand kit boils down to time. Electric drills and sanders work faster but can be tricky. It’s a personal preference. Either way, spending around twenty bucks on a kit may give you peace of mind.
Pro Tip: Headlights can come in different colors. Find out Why Are Some Headlights Blue?
Protect Yourself With Clean RV Headlights
Cleaning RV headlights takes time but is more than worth the effort. And no one likes the look of dirty beamers. Not only can you avoid a ticket, but you’ll actually be able to see.
Doing it yourself is much cheaper than going to a car detailer. You may need to try a couple of methods before you find the one that’s right for you. No matter what works for you, doing it every few months is worth the peace of mind.
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