Depending on the car, the materials/process used to make the headlights, and where you live (i.e. weather conditions, the strength of sunlight/UV etc) you might find your headlights going “cloudy” or “foggy”.
The primary cause of this is oxidation. Car headlights (for anything reasonably modern) are made from polycarbonate, which is coated with a UV-protective layer. Polycarbonate is chosen for headlights because it is very resistant to damage from detritus and debris that might kick up from the road as you are driving along. For comparison, rear lights/tail lights are often made from acrylic, which is generally not so strong but has superior resistance to the damaging effects of UV.
Over time this UV-protective layer wears away. Once this layer is sufficiently worn, UV light can penetrate into the underlying material and cause tiny cracks and imperfections in the surface of the polycarbonate. It is this process that causes the “cloudiness” to develop.
This diagram from Guide To Detailing is fairly basic, but does show how UV light affects the headlights on your car.
Not only does this make your headlights look ugly; it could potentially be a safety issue as the effectiveness of your headlight beam could be diminished. In some jurisdictions, driving with severely cloudy/foggy headlights could even result in you receiving a fine!
As such, you’ll want to find a way to remove this imperfection from your headlights, and get them looking and working as well as possible.
Introducing CRC Headlight Doctor
As (bad?) luck would have it, the headlights on my 2010 Subaru Legacy were starting to look a bit rubbish.
There was a noticeable yellow cloud/haze on the headlights.
While I was around at my parents’ house the other day, I noticed an unopened bottle of a product called “CRC Headlight Doctor” sitting in the garage (no doubt another episode of dad buying something from the auto shop just because it’s on discount).
In the past I have had headlights professionally restored. In fact, I mentioned this on an article about the maintenance woes and reliability issues of my 2006 VW Touareg; I had taken the car to a headlight specialist near me to have a bulb replaced and the lenses restored.
However, the so-called specialist managed to break the headlight retention “buckets” that VW use to secure the headlight unit into the car, and then denied all responsibility for the damage.
As such, I was eager to see how I might get on having a go at improving the headlights on my Legacy without turning to professional help.
I liberated the bottle of CRC Headlight Doctor from dad’s garage, and headed home to try it out.
Before & After Results
Below are some before and after shots of my results testing CRC Headlight Doctor on one headlight of my 2010 Subaru Legacy.
I took these photos with a 2 year old Samsung Galaxy Note 10, so they aren’t the best quality (and also this website compresses images to save web hosting disk space) – but hopefully you can see some definite improvement.
Certainly, when I look at the car in person, there is no doubt that there has been some benefit from using Headlight Doctor.
I wouldn’t call the finish “as good as new”, but considering how quick and easy it was to use, and how affordable the product is, I am happy with the result.
CRC Headlight Doctor Review – Conclusion & Recap
Overall, I was fairly pleased with the results I got from my test of CRC’s headlight doctor product.
A quick (as in less than 5 minute) test job on the headlight of my Subaru Legacy showed definite improvements.
This is a very easy product to use, and you only need the bottle/tube, as well as two cloths – one for application and one for buffing off the residue.
Back when I bought the car – in the middle of 2020 – I had polished/cleaned the headlights using a different product (they were very clouded when the car was imported from Japan) so the before and after wasn’t as dramatic as it could be.
However, I could still notice a definite improvement. I took the comparison photos using a fairly old smartphone – as I didn’t have my proper camera handy – but the results are still noticeable.
The selling point of the CRC Headlight Doctor product is that it is a simple, inexpensive, one-step system. Although I swiped my bottle for free from my dad, to buy your own should be about $15-20 NZD.
There are superior DIY headlight cleaning products out there, such as a kit from Meguiar’s, that combine multiple components/steps including things like wet sand papering. A kit like this will almost certainly yield better results.
But if you’re like me and want a product that takes no more than a few minutes per headlight to use, then CRC Headlight Doctor is worth a look.
I don’t believe this product is available outside of New Zealand, but there are plenty of similar options for international buyers (I hope to review some more in the near future).