Don't Replace Those Headlamps

arcticfunarcticfun Member Posts: 11
edited April 2014 in Ford
I took my 91 Escort GT to the dealer last week for a State inspection, emissions inspection and oil change. The car passed emissions, but was rejected on the State inspection because the headlamps were "too cloudy" and they weren't putting out enough light. Granted, they were pretty bad but I never have trouble driving at night. I was informed that it would be $450 to have the two headlamps replaced, at which point I promptly told them to reject the car and I'd find other options (used from the junk yard, after market, etc.) The Service Manager said they would install the used ones for $70/piece.

A couple days later I was talking with a friend of mine and found out his car (88' Mustang GT) had also been rejected this year for the same thing. He laughed at me when I told him what the dealer wanted to replace the headlamps (he works on his on car) and then let me in on a secret that he learned from a friend of his:

Take rubbing compound or a fine cut paint cleaner made for clear coat finishes (Mequire's is what I had on hand) and apply it to the headlamps. Buff off the residue. Repeat 2-3 times.

I was in total disbelief after I was finished. The cleaner removed about 90% of the built-up salt, grime, etc. that had "clouded" up my headlamps over the last 10 years. They looked almost brand new. To keep them that way, I then applied a light coat of wax and will continue to do so in the future.

Just thought I would share this secret with my friends at Edmund's Town Hall....


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Thanks and a good suggestion. I've actually restored old red tail lamps that way, too. You can't get 'em perfect, but as in your case, good enough to work.
  • rm250rm250 Member Posts: 5
    I have a 99 Dodge Intrepid and the check engine light came on while driving to work and has since stayed on. I haven't noticed a lack of performance from the engine and all fluids are at proper level. I bought the car approximately 10k miles ago and I do my own oil changes so I'm wondering if I was suppose to reset something that concerns the check engine light or not.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Sorry, the check engine light on your vehicle requires a scanner to reset it.

    The good news is, if you have a digital dash, You can retrieve the trouble codes.

    Chrysler code retrieval Will show the procedure.

    Once you retrieve the trouble codes, let us know what they are and we can try and help determine the source of the problem.

    To make sure we are on the smae page, it is the "Check Engine" light and not a "Service Reminder" light. Right?

  • 98monte_ls98monte_ls Member Posts: 117
    I have noticed this too...on Ford cars mostly and some Chryslers. The headlamp lenses get cloudy even on cars that aren't 10 years old. Why?

    I've had GM cars and they never got cloudy.

    Why is this?
  • jvirginiajvirginia Member Posts: 65
    My '88 Taurus also failed state inspection for the cloudy headlight covers. I tried several cleaners and buffers which worked just as you say on the cloudy discolored problem. Unfortunately, my assembly had one additional problem. The chrome reflective coating inside the assembly had worn away (possibly from moisture building up inside the covers all the time). Even with the covers restored back to 'like-new' clear, the headlamp could not produce a bright concentrated beam to pass inspection. I did find a replacement at a junk yard for $30. Worked fine and passed. The inspection mechanic also gave me a tip for a quick fix on headlamps. Just prior to taking your car in for the inspection, apply a coating of WD-40 to the lens cover. It does work too. It practically doubled the beam intensity on my other headlamp and it had passed inspection without it.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    Articfun makes a good point -- if the lenses are cloudy, we should follow his advice and try to clean them. Even without encouragement from a state safety inspector, it's worth the trouble to improve lighting performance.

    However, I also agree with Jvirginia that some lenses won't clean up and deterioration of the inside reflective surfaces can ruin lighting performance.

    If the lens cleaning doesn't help, it may be necessary to replace the headlamp assembly - and many of these are expensive. Very few auto parts stores carry them. However the lesser-known "crash" parts suppliers do have them. One national US supplier is Eagle Automotive at Their prices seem to be 35% to 50% of the dealer prices.

  • pblevinepblevine Member Posts: 858
    Airborne oil and poluntants will coat the glass and/or plastic covers which then permits metalic brake dust to embed into the surface. And over time it builds up. And that first inspector/dealer knew it too! He just wanted to make some bucks.
  • sailorbeavissailorbeavis Member Posts: 14
    or several hundred dollars for a new set of lamps at the dealer. My '86 Topaz with aerodynamic headlamps suffers from the same clouding problem, but a few coats of rubbing compound cleaned it significantly. Re-aiming the lights was also a definite improvement (people forget to do this so often).

    All in all, about 150% improvement in visibility through your suggestions. I recommend all my friends to check out Town Hall when they have little issues like this!

    -Josh R.
  • adc100adc100 Member Posts: 1,521
    Someone on this board put me on to this: Meguiar's #10 Clear Plastic Polish. If that doesn't, work start with the #17 Clear Plastic Cleaner and then finish with the #10. I used the #10 on new covers and it really shinned them up.
  • C13C13 Member Posts: 390
    Can the microscopic scratches in windshields be buffed out? I know there have been products made for this purpose but I don't know if they work. Seems to me that rubbing compound ought to contain abrasives of about the right size.

    Weird as it may seem, I've also seen toothpaste used as a polish quite successfully on small objects. Very fine abrasive.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    Novus #2 works wonders on all plastic surfaces. The bikers use it on their helmet visors, I used it on my cell phone screen, pinball machine, watch crystal, and a faded and yellowed old yard thermometer. The stuff works wonders! I am 100% sure it will restore almost any plastic headlamp lens. It can be had at most motorcycle dealers, and online, do a search for Novus.
  • saintvipersaintviper Member Posts: 177
    $400 or more for headlamps? $30 for used ones? I can get replacement lamps for my MR2 at any auto supply store for $7. I'm talking the whole sealed lamp, not just the bulb. Does Ford have some crazy assembly that makes them so expensive? I'm sure they aren't any brighter than mine.
  • zandorzandor Member Posts: 67
    He's talking about the plastic housing for the
    bulbs. You can get the bulbs for most Fords at
    any 'ol auto parts store for a few bucks unless you've got HID/Xenon lights. I haven't figured out how to get those aftermarket yet.

  • jodar96jodar96 Member Posts: 400
    I have a 97 Dodge Caravan and I had the same problem with the light staying on. I disconnected the battery for about 5 minutes, and then connected it. I guess that reset it since it is coming on only at start up.

    I checked all vacuum hoses, and they seemed connected. The engine runs fine and the gas mileage is still good. One mechanic told me that some times a piece of cabon gets lodged in one of the the O2 sensor and triggers the check engine light.
  • oldharryoldharry Member Posts: 413
    The computers in modern cars can compensate for problems that would cause a miss or loss of performance in the past. While the light will sometimes set for a minor temporary problem such as bad gas, often it is the only warning you get before your get to walk. If you can retrieve the codes and find the problem, it gives peace of mind.

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