How To Clean Headlights On A Car

Don't waste your time trying to clean your car's headlights the wrong way. Here's the definitive guide on how to clean headlights on a car.

Cleaning your headlights might seem impossible. If they’re dull, yellow, or foggy, aren’t they condemned?

In most cases, no!

Restore your headlight covers using Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer. In my experience, it’s the only one that works.

Toothpaste, Coca-Cola, and similar DIY ‘hacks’ won’t cut the mustard for severely yellowed headlights. Neither will most kits if I’m honest.

But Turtle Wax? Yeah, that’ll do it.

In this walkthrough guide, I’ll show you how to clean the headlights on a car. I’ve restored the foggy headlights on my old Crown Vic farm car and included my own original photos in this guide.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included a video timelapse of the whole process from start to finish.

Table of ContentsShow

What You Need To Clean Yellowed Headlights: Turtle Wax

How To Clean Headlights On A Car With Turtle Wax Headlight Rens Restorer

I’m not in any way a sales rep for Turtle Wax. But, when it comes to cleaning your badly fogged-up headlights, Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer is the only option.

I’ve attempted using toothpaste, and I’ve given Pepsi a go as well. They do work if you have a slight haze coating your headlights.

However, if your lenses are yellow and severely UV-damaged, you need Turtle Wax (original!). It’s by far the best kit because of its abrasive pads.

Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer Contains:

  • Two double-sided abrasive pads (#1, #2, #3, and #4)
  • Spray Lubricant
  • Lens Clarifying Compound
  • Two wipes for finishing
  • A plastic glove (PPE)

Alongside This Kit, You Will Need The Following:

  • Car wash mitt
  • Bucket
  • Plain old warm water in said bucket
  • Masking tape
  • Dry cotton cloths
  • Buffer (optional)
  • Something to kneel on

Step 1: Wash The Headlight Lens

First of all, park your car in a safe location, apply the parking brake, and turn the engine off.

Use a car wash mitt to wipe dirt and debris off one lens. Just water will do.

Step 2: Prepare The Car And Yourself

After that, wrap masking tape around the headlights.

I haven’t used it in my example because it’s a farm car (hence the cat and the chickens), and we didn’t have any masking tape available. Instead, I focused on washing the product off every few minutes.

I recommend putting a foam knee pad or similar contraption on the ground. Kneeling off to the side is the easiest position to work the abrasive pads.

The set includes a plastic glove. It is meant for polishing, but I wear it all the time. Similar to lots of mechanics, I have eczema on my hands, and the water + solution blend bothers them.

Step 3: Use The Headlight Lens Clarifying Compound

Using Turtle Wax Headlight Rens Restorer

According to the Turtle Wax instructions, you should now use the Headlight Lens Clarifying Compound. Put it on a clean, dry cloth and buff it in.

In non-severe cases, this will sort the problem immediately. The headlights will instantly look clearer.

In cases of extreme yellowing, this simply isn’t enough. You might notice a little extra shine, but the headlights will still be yellow.

Step 4: Use The Lubricant And Abrasive Pads

Using Turtle Wax Lens Restorer Lubricant and Abrasive Pads

First, spray the lubricant onto the yellowed headlight lens. Use plenty.

Now, unwrap the abrasive pad with sides labeled ‘#1’ and ‘#2’. Use #1 on the headlight first – side #1 should be facing the lens, and side #2 should be visible to you.

Now, get to work scrubbing! You’ll hear the pad cutting the plastic and see the lubricant turn a creamy color.

Remember to cover the entire visible surface. It’s easy to forget about the edges and corners.

Turtle Wax shoots itself in the foot a little here. The official instructions say you should use each abrasive pad side for a minute or two.

That’s not nearly enough for cleaning old, yellowed headlight lenses. Try 10 minutes per side and probably 20 minutes for pad #1.

Of course, this depends on your lenses’ conditions, but that’s what I did in this case study.

You’ll know the abrasive pad has done all it can when the lubricant stays clear as you rub it across the plastic.

Next, move on to pad #2. This has a finer grain and removes the microscopic ridges left by #1.

Once the solution runs clear, move on to pad #3, which is finer still, and finally, pad #4.

Step 5: Wash

Use the sponge or mitt to wash the lens and remove any streaks on the surrounding paint.

Dry the surface. Now, take the Clarifying Compound and buff it into the plastic. Let it dry for a few minutes before wiping it down with a clean cloth.

Step 6: Polish And Protect

Polish Headlights After Using Turtle Wax

Now, repeat steps 3 to 5 for the other headlight lens.

After doing this, go back to the first one. Put the plastic glove on your hand (if you haven’t already) and take the first wipe out of its packet.

This one is the Lens Base Wipe. Rub it over both headlights (ensuring they’re both dry), then open and apply the Lens Sealing Wipe.

That’s it! How do they look? Are the headlights shinier?

Fairly good, I hope! Check out what mine looked like before and after.

There’s no better way to clean dull, yellowed headlights than Turtle Wax! (And it’s probably what your garage will use to restore them if you take your car there, too!)


You can reuse the lens restorer once. You run out of lubricant after two in-depth restorations. You could keep the Clarifying Compound for more minor cases to keep your headlights in good condition, though.

Restoring Headlights On A Car: Timelapse

Here’s a timelapse of me restoring the headlights on my old Crown Vic farm car.

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Benjamin Kitchen

Ben is an IMI-qualified light vehicle technician from England with experience in a fast-fit garage. He aims to help drivers worldwide with common automotive problems. You’ll often find him working with his 1.2 Vauxhall Corsa. It may have a tiny engine, but in eight years it's never once let him down!