What Causes Car Headlight Condensation? 4 Ways to Remove It

  • By: Jeremy Jacobs
  • Date: September 4, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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If you’ve noticed condensation in your car headlights, you might be wondering what causes it and how it gets there. Does it mean you have to replace the lights? The fogginess decreases the amount of light you’ll get and it doesn’t look very nice, so let’s explore why it happens and what causes condensation in car headlights.

Condensation in car headlights is caused by moisture getting trapped inside. When the outer lens of the headlight cools faster than the unit of the headlight, the moisture in the air condenses on the colder surface – which is when you will see condensation.

What Causes Condensation In Car Headlights?

Headlights are not sealed; they have vents that allow the heat to disperse more effectively. These vents often suck in moisture from the outside air when you turn off your car, and this then condenses after the bulb has cooled.

A crack in the headlight’s casing or damaged seals can also allow moisture into the unit. If you’re noticing a lot of condensation, you should check for this. Small amounts are likely just due to the vents. 

You may find that a little condensation will clear up on its own, but if your lights are getting a lot of condensation inside, you’ll have to take action to get rid of it.

How Do I Get Rid Of Condensation In My Headlights?

There are a few tricks to rid your car headlights of condensation. A very simple one involves going for a drive with the headlights on. The increased airflow and heat from the bulb are often enough to dry the inside of the casing out, and all the condensation will disappear.

You should check your vents are clear if you’re noticing condensation on a regular basis.

Blockages might mean that the moisture is struggling to escape once it has got inside. Use a brush or cloth or even compressed air to clean out your vents if necessary. This might be enough to stop the lights from misting over. Just make sure you don’t blow debris into the light, rather than out!

Removing Headlight Condensation With A Hair Dryer

Hair Dryer
This may be able to dry your car headlights out

If you don’t want to take your headlight unit apart, you might be able to tackle condensation using a hairdryer. Try putting your hairdryer against one of the vents or even just the front of the light, and turning it onto a low heat.

The warm air should help to evaporate the moisture, encouraging the inside of the light to dry out. However, you will have to allow it to cool again before you can see if this has worked.

It might work temporarily by evaporating the water and turning it back into steam, but if the water can’t escape from the headlight easily, it will simply re-condense on the light as the unit cools down again.

Using a Moisture Remover to Reduce Car Headlight Condensation

If you’ve got any small packets of silica gel from products you’ve bought, you can use these to dry your lights out a bit. Just put one or two inside each lens, not touching the bulb. They will absorb a good amount of moisture from the air, and then you can remove them, dry them in the oven, and use them again.

Reducing Car Headlight Condensation with Drill Holes

Some people recommend drilling small holes at the bottom of the headlights to allow moisture to escape. This may work, but should be used cautiously as headlights don’t come with holes near the base – and there’s probably a reason.

If you drill a very small hole, you can then gently heat the bulb (by turning it on, using a hairdryer, etc.) to get the moisture out, and then seal it over again with a suitable sealant. However, this should be done with care, and you may decide that it’s better to use other strategies.

Is Condensation In Headlights Normal?

Yes, condensation in small quantities is fairly normal. If you notice a lot of condensation and water building up, you should be concerned, however. Lots of water could mean a damaged seal or a crack somewhere.

Don’t worry if you see small amounts of condensation, especially early in the morning – but take action if you’re seeing a lot on a regular basis.

Here is a pretty awesome video on how to dry out your car headlight:

Can You Clean The Inside Of A Headlight?

Yes, you can, but it can be a challenge. You will have to remove the lens and be careful not to damage the seals in the process. Once you’ve taken it apart, you can wipe all the inside parts dry and check for damage that could be letting moisture into the light.

Do so with care, and if in doubt, take your car to a mechanic instead. They should be able to easily deal with headlight issues and get them mist-free in no time.

Final Thoughts…

If your car headlights are starting to get a lot of condensation in them, first check for damage, and then focus on clearing the condensation out. A little bit can usually be dealt with just by using the light; a lot may need you to remove the casing and replace damaged seals or unblock vents.

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