Are your headlights under the weather?
I drive a late 1990’s sedan, and I’ve gotten used to driving my wife's much newer car on the weekends. This week, however, it rained on my commute to work in my old sedan. I was amazed and concerned at the same time at how poor my headlights performed in the rainy darkness. Especially compared to the other cars on the road. If this sounds like an issue that you might be having, I have a 10 minute fix that will brighten your dull or foggy headlights.
This technique to reinvigorate your headlights is usually called brightening your headlights or polishing your headlights. Over time the plastic cover in front of the headlight bulb dulls and grays from the constant bombardment of highway debris and simple oxidation. Cars newer than about 2007 do not seem to have this problem (or at least not as noticeably).
This headlight is foggy and dull when you look at it. That foggy plastic reduces the amount of light that passes through it, making your headlights less effective.
You will need some metal polish like Brasso or Mothers, and either a rag or some paper towels. When using a rag, I recommend using a cotton cloth because some artificial fibers do not absorb the polish. The are common polishes that you can find at any Walmart or most grocery stores.
Making the old new again
With a wet paper towel or rag, wipe any dirt, grime or bug debris off the headlights. Once the plastic is relatively clean, add about a quarter-sized drop of polish to your rag and begin rubbing it into the headlight making tiny circles with a little bit of pressure. Start in the center and moving outward to ensure you don't skip any patches.
Add more polish as needed. Be very careful when you get to the edges that abut up against car paint, because the polish can remove paint. You will know when you have polished the whole surface evenly, when the rag moves smoothly over the whole surface without any chalky or rough-feeling patches. Once you finish polishing, dampen your cloth and wipe the whole headlight to remove any left-over residue.
Don't feel like polishing by hand?
There are some powered-alternatives to hand polishing the plastic. I prefer hand polishing because I feel like I have more control over where the polish goes. I have seen people use electric buffers or wrapping a drill bit in a rag and mounting it to an electric drill.
I have found that a solid 10 minutes of polishing will improve my headlights significantly. They usually wont dull a noticeable amount for two years or so.
If you do not have the opportunity to conduct a side-by-side comparison of your headlights like I did, I highly recommend looking at your headlights periodically, to see if they are dull or foggy. Safety is always worth an extra look!
I hope that this technique helps you out, and if you try it, please let me know how well it works.