How To Protect Headlights From UV and Other Harmful Elements?

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headlights affected by uv rays

I see so many cars on the road with yellow and oxidized headlights, meaning that barely anyone protects car headlights from UV rays and other harmful elements and contaminants. In this post, I’ll show you the top three ways I use to protect car headlights.

Key Takeaways:

  • To protect car headlights from UV rays, apply paint protection film, ceramic coating, or a layer of special clear coat to headlights.
  • The best and easiest way to protect headlights is to apply ceramic coating. Anyone can do it, and you can re-apply it very quickly.
  • The sturdiest protectant for car headlights is paint protection film, which protects headlights literally from everything.
  • Applying a clear coat to headlights is a budget-friendly version for protecting them.

3 Best Ways To Protect Headlights From UV

Aside from regularly washing your vehicle, there are some crucial steps you should take to protect your headlights from UV rays. Luckily, you’re not limited to only one solution – and that’s great.

There are three fantastic ways to protect headlights from UV rays:

  • Apply ceramic coating on headlights.
  • Install headlight protection film on them.
  • Apply UV clear coat for headlights.

1. Ceramic Coating – Best Overall Headlight UV Protection

For most of us, ceramic coating is the best UV protection for headlights. The reason for that is the ease of application, availability, and the price tag. Everything’s on the lower end of the spectrum.

Ceramic coating benefits for headlights:

  • Protection from UV rays, rock debris, and minor scratching.
  • Keep headlights from yellowing.
  • Keep headlights clear for perfect night vision.
  • Adds a hydrophobic layer to headlights, so it’s easier to wash them from bugs and dirt.
  • Ease of application.
  • You can apply a ceramic coating on both plastic and glass types of headlights.

When it comes to longevity, you can expect ceramic coatings to last anywhere between two and three years on car headlights.

If you’re applying a ceramic coating to the whole vehicle, apply it to the headlights, too. However, most people want to apply it to headlights only, and for that purpose, I recommend you get a CERAKOTE Ceramic Headlight Restoration Kit. It’s probably the best ceramic coating kit for headlights that you can get out there.

CERAKOTE® Ceramic Headlight Restoration Kit – Guaranteed To Last As Long As You Own Your Vehicle...
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How to apply ceramic coating to car headlights:

  1. Wet sand headlights (if needed)
  2. Compound and polish car headlights to make them as clear as possible
  3. Thoroughly wash and dry headlights.
  4. Apply a thin layer of ceramic coating.
  5. Let it cure overnight (keep it in a garage)

Here’s a video that thoroughly explains the whole process:

2. Headlight Protection Film – The Longest Lasting Headlight Protection

Headlight protection films are types of PPF products specifically designed to offer the best and longest-lasting protection for car headlights. Paint protection films protect your headlights from road debris, sun damage, UV degradation, and all other harmful elements.

Headlight clear bras are the thickest and toughest protectors out there, and they’ll probably outlast any other method unless you’re using some low-quality film. Some of the best brands out there are 3M, XPEL, VVivid, and Llumar. You should expect them to last anywhere between 3-5 years, sometimes even longer.

The fantastic thing about headlight films is that you can also choose some smoke or tinted films. So, if you ever wanted to get that smoke effect on your headlights or taillights, by getting high-quality protection film, you’ll also protect your lights from UV and other harmful things.

All PPFs have similar cons, and headlight protective films aren’t different by any means. Some of the most important disadvantages of headlight protection films are:

  • You have to be careful when using high-pressure washers.
  • Low-quality films may start yellowing.
  • Low-quality films may reduce the clarity of headlights.

To fight those disadvantages, you should always make sure to install high-quality headlight vinyl wraps only. The one I recommend to you the most is the 3M VVivid Extra-Wide Headlight Protection Film. They have high-quality wraps that’ll last very long.

3M Clear Extra-Wide Headlight Protective Scratch-Proof Wet-Apply Tint Vinyl Wrap Film 15 Inch x 48...
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When it comes to applying headlight vinyl wraps, it’s pretty delicate if you’re doing it 1st time. However, since the headlights aren’t large, it shouldn’t be a problem to place the film properly. Here’s a quick video guide on installing PPF on headlights.

3. UV Clear Coat for Headlights – Cheapest and Easiest Solution

Long story short, headlight clear coats are a type of clear coat specifically designed to withstand heat, UV rays, and other things that usually damage car headlights.

You may ask why I put it in the 3rd place then. Well, these kinds of protectants don’t last long – you can expect them to last up to 1 year, and mostly, it’s around 6-to 8 months only.

When it comes to clear coats for headlights, I recommend this product:

  1. Meguiar's Keep Clear Headlight Coating

Application may look similar to ceramic coating, but it requires less preparation and less knowledge to do it properly. That’s why I usually recommend this method to complete beginners. And re-applying clear coats every year isn’t a problem for most people.

I’ve seen some people apply headlights clear coats on hazed headlights; don’t ever do that. If your headlights are oxidized, make sure first to fix it by wet sanding and then polishing, and then apply a clear coat. It’ll last longer, and you’ll get much better clarity.

Here’s a video on how you SHOULD NOT apply a clear coat on headlights:

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common FAQs I get asked about protecting headlights from UV and maintaining them to stay like-new for longer.

How Long Are New Headlights Protected From UV?

All new headlights come with some type of clear coat applied in the factory. Usually, these clear coats will keep headlights protected for around 5 years. If you regularly apply protection to your headlights, they’ll easily last 10-20 years without ever becoming yellow, faded, or oxidized.

Should I Apply Protection To New Headlights?

You should apply some type of headlight protection as soon as you buy new headlights. That way, they’ll last longer, probably much more than you’ll own the car.

What Are Other Ways To Protect Headlights From UV?

Ceramic coatings, paint protection films, and protective clear coats are the best ways to protect headlights. However, there are some other ways too: waxes, sealants, glazes, plastic restorers, ceramic sprays etc. But I don’t recommend you any of them.

Will Car Wax Protect Headlights?

Car waxes will protect headlights but only for a few weeks, and not all waxes are suitable for glass application. That’s why I don’t recommend you do it.

Are There Differences Between Plastic and Glass Headlights When It Comes To Applying UV Protection?

Mostly, there won’t be any differences, especially if you apply ceramic coatings or headlight protective films. There may only be some differences in wet sanding and buffing headlights (plastic ones tend to be easier to buff).

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