How to Clean Car Light Covers

by Drue Tibbits

Car light covers, or lenses, are made of molded polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate is a better material than glass for car light covers, as polycarbonate can withstand flying road debris that would chip and crack glass lenses. A downside to polycarbonate lenses is that, being plastic, they are susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays. This damage shows up as cloudy or foggy light covers. Replacement car light lenses can be expensive, but you can clean your lenses and restore their clarity at a fraction of the cost.

Clean the car light covers with a flannel cloth and a commercial car wash solution. Rinse them well, making sure to remove all sand and grit. Wash and rinse them again, as any sand or grit remaining will cause more damage to the lenses during the cleaning process.

Dry the car light covers with a flannel cloth.

Mask off the trim and car exterior around the car light covers using blue painter's tape. Run a second line of blue painter's tape next to the first line to provide extra protection for the car surface. Remove the trim before masking the area, if the trim around your car light covers is easily removable.

Apply a small amount of polishing compound to the light cover with a flannel cloth. Work the compound into the plastic, using circular motions, until the light cover is shiny. Check the condition of the blue painter's tape often as you work, and replace it with fresh tape as needed to provide protection to the car's surface.

Wash the car light cover with car wash solution to remove any polishing compound residue. Rinse the light cover well, and dry with a flannel cloth.

Examine the light cover. If the light cover is clear, apply paste wax to the light cover. Work the paste wax in with a clean flannel cloth, allow the wax to dry, and then use a clean flannel cloth to buff the surface. Proceed with the sandpaper process if the cover is still cloudy.

Place 1000-grit sandpaper in a sink or bucket and cover the sandpaper with water. Allow the sandpaper to soak for 10 minutes.

Fill a spray bottle with water and spray the car light cover. The polycarbonate car light cover must remain wet during the sanding process.

Sand the light cover with the 1000-grit wet/dry sandpaper, using side-to-side strokes only. Do not use circular motions. Wipe the light cover with a clean flannel cloth occasionally to check on your progress. Spray the light cover with water to keep it wet. Keep an eye on the blue painter's tape and replace as needed. Continue sanding until the light cover is clear and free of pits.

Repeat the sanding process, but use soaked 1500-grit wet/dry sandpaper with up-and-down strokes only. Do not use circular motions. Keep the light cover wet. Check your progress often, and sand until the heavier sanding scratches are gone.

Sand the light cover again, using soaked 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper with side-to-side strokes only. Do not use circular motions. Keep the light cover wet. Check your progress often, and sand until the scratches left by the 1500-grit sandpaper are gone.

Continue the sanding process using soaked 2500-grit wet/dry sandpaper with up-and-down strokes only. Do not use circular motions. Keep the light cover wet. Check your progress often, and sand until the scratches left by the 2000-grit sandpaper are gone.

Sand the light cover one more time, using soaked 3000-grit wet/dry sandpaper with side-to-side strokes only. Do not use circular motions. Keep the light cover wet. Check your progress often, and sand until the surface of the light cover is smooth and shiny.

Wash and dry the light cover. Use a clean flannel cloth to apply paste wax to the light cover. Allow the wax to dry, and then buff the light cover with a clean flannel cloth.

Repeat the process from the beginning to clean any remaining cloudy car light covers.

Items you will need

About the Author

Drue Tibbits is a writer based in Central Florida, where she attended Florida Southern College. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur and Your Home magazines. She has also been profiled in the Florida Today newspaper and the Writer's Digest magazine. In addition to writing brochure copy for local businesses, she helps new start-up companies develop a local image presence.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera headlight image by Tammy Mobley from Fotolia.com