Headlights help you see and be seen, and as such, you need to keep them clean. Dust, dirt, and tar can find their way onto the light’s lens, and allowing them to build up is a recipe for full-on headlight restoration.
A full restoration or even a replacement will cost you a significant amount of money down the line, so to keep that from happening or to prolong the life of your motorcycle’s headlight, it’s good practice to clean it properly. Emphasis on the word ‘properly’ because you don’t want to scratch up your lens, either. This guide doesn’t only apply to the headlights, but also the taillights. Also, this guide can also help you with cleaning your windshield in case you're on a sportbike or adventure bike.
Start with a good bike wash
First thing’s first, you need to properly wash the bike and include the headlight in your process. Be sure to use shampoo so that you don’t end up scratching the surfaces on your bodywork.
You will need:
- Two buckets
- Car or bike shampoo
- Clean water source
- Sponge or microfiber cloth for touch washing
- Microfiber cloth for drying
It’s a fairly standard process with some extra tips thrown in for good scratch and swirl-free cleaning.
- Get two buckets, fill both with water but the other with a decent amount of car or bike shampoo
- Mix the cleaning solution into one of the buckets until it lathers up
- Give the bike a nice rinse with a hose or a bucket, but make sure that the water is clean
- Dip your microfiber or sponge in the bucket with shampoo
- Lather all the surfaces of the bike with either an up-and-down or side-to-side motion
- Periodically rinse your sponge or microfiber cloth by wringing it out and dipping it in the bucket with just water
- Rinse off all the shampoo with the sponge
- Dry off your bike with a clean microfiber
Deeper headlight cleaning
After a wash, it’s likely that your headlight could still be a little dirty. A standard bike wash will remove most of the dirt, but you will have a hard time removing tar or other stubborn dirt. At this point, dirt that refuses to cooperate with you can be classified as contamination and will require a little more effort to remove.
Tar used to keep the road together. You will likely encounter this type of material on your bike if it frequents asphalted roads often, so that means highways and other similarly-paved thoroughfares.
For this, the best and safest way to remove these contaminants is to use a clay bar kit along with a good serving of water and your car shampoo. A clay bar can also come with a quick detailer if purchased as a kit, so that’s also a valid option to use as your lubricant.
- Post wash, start by applying the lubricant to the area
- Grab your clay bar and start rubbing the surface
- Reapply lubricant on the area, or on the clay bar constantly as needed
- Repeat the process until the contaminant is no longer on the surface
Scratched beyond belief?
Eventually, your headlight will suffer a few scratches, especially if it’s seen a lot of miles. While you can clean dirt off, you can’t heal scratches with shampoo. That being said, a quick fix will be to apply a layer of wax on your headlight if you just want to get rid of some of the imperfections.
- Use an applicator pad on the headlight’s lens to spread out the wax
- Wait a few minutes for the wax to cure
- Use another clean microfiber cloth to buff out the substance, otherwise known as waxing off
A more permanent solution would be to get your headlight restored. You can purchase automotive scratch remover, headlight restorer, or you can even resort to toothpaste.
It’s important to take your time with this process. Make sure to get two clean microfiber cloths, keep clean water handy, and prepare for manual labor. If you are using toothpaste, make sure that it is of the white variety and not the gel type.
- Start by applying the abrasive solution onto one of your microfibers
- Apply the abrasive onto the entire surface in a circular pattern
- Rub the compound in repeatedly for about 5 minutes
- Use some water to clear the excess (skip this step if you’re using a headlight restorer unless otherwise indicated on the instructions)
- Buff out the surface with your clean microfiber
- Inspect the surface and repeat until satisfied
Following the process, you want to apply a layer of wax on your headlight to keep it from scratching again. Just remember the wax-on-wax-off method, and you should be good to go.
Still not good enough?
There are plenty of professional shops that will restore your headlight for you. You can take it to a professional detailer and they will have the necessary tools to make the process go by faster whether it’s with rotary tools or otherwise. It will cost you more in a shop because you will have to pay for labor and expertise, but either way, your motorcycle’s headlight should look spotless by the end of the trip.