After my failed attempt to defog the headlights on the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcar a couple of weeks ago, my mom mentioned something she’d read on one of those Facebook clickbait posts that suggested spraying the headlight covers with bug repellent and simply wiping away the fog and scratches.
I’d heard of doing this, but the people who had tried it gave very mixed reviews. Some people swore by it. Some people said it did nothing. And several people said it produced nice results, but only on a very temporary basis, as the chemical softens the surface of the plastic, essentially melting away the scratches and leaving the lenses much more vulnerable to future damage.
Based on those reviews, I was reluctant to use that approach, but after the other methods failed, I figured I might was well give it a shot. If I didn’t do anything, I would have to buy new lenses. If it didn’t work, I would have to buy new lenses. If it worked, even temporarily, I might buy myself a few more weeks — perhaps even long enough to finish paying off that dead Subaru — before I had to sink money into replacements.
I really had nothing to lose, so I grabbed the bug spray and headed out to the driveway.
Y’all. Y’ALL. I have never seen anything like this in my life. I can’t decide whether this is beautiful or terrifying.
Here is one of the headlights before I started:
Here is one after I treated them with toothpaste, Scotch-Brite pads, olive oil and lemon juice, WD-40, and a sock stretched over a belt sander:
And here they are after I sprayed them with bug repellent and wiped them off:
They’ve held up for at least two weeks, and I noticed as I was leaving work the other night that the reflection of my headlights in one of our office windows was MUCH brighter and clearer than it had been before I treated them.
There is no question the bug spray melts the plastic. You can feel it when you’re wiping it down. It’s sticky. There is absolutely no way I would recommend using this method on a car with a nice factory paint job, because if this stuff will melt plastic, there’s no telling what it will do to your clearcoat. And I’m not sure I ever wanted to know that the bug repellent I put on my arms to ward off mosquitoes is capable of dissolving hard plastic.
That said, if your headlights have gotten so foggy as to reduce your visibility at night, and you just need to keep them going long enough to save up a few bucks to replace them, this is a fast, cheap way to do it.
Protip: If I were concerned about my paint, I’d apply masking tape around the edges of the headlights, wipe the bug repellent on with a rag to eliminate the risk of overspray, and follow up with a quick trip through the car wash.