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HOW TO: Cleaning the inside of headlights

Discussion in '2nd Gen. Tacomas (2005-2015)' started by Agent Smith, Oct 24, 2010.

  1. Oct 24, 2010 at 7:38 AM
    Agent Smith

    Agent Smith [OP] Always outnumbered, never outgunned

    Oct 4, 2010
    05 TRD Offroad Ivan Stewart Edition
    Toytec lift,FJ Anthracite wheels wrapped in BFG A/T 265/75/16's,WAAG Brush Guard, IPF 868's,sleeved fog lights
    Hey guys, new to this forum, but not to forums in general. I've picked up alot of great mods here, so here is my shot at being helpful in some way.

    Years ago, sometime in 2005, I did the BHLM when it first was posted. If you've done it, you know what a bitch it is getting the lens off of the housing. I completed the mod in less than a day, sealed up my lenses well and I was GTG for about 6 months.

    In the warmer months of 2006, I noticed a film developing on the inside of my lenses. It wasn't condensation, but more like the haze or greasy type shit that gets on the inside of your windshield when you don't clean it for awhile. After thinking about it for awhile, I surmised that I reassembled my headlights before the black paint had a chance to cure, so this was residue from the chemicals making up the paint.

    To be perfectly honest, I was too lazy to take my lights apart again, especially since I re-sealed them so well after doing the mod. I just took my lights out, stored them in my attic and put new stockers in. I forgot about them until recently, when three guys at my work bought Tacomas, and I needed to set my truck apart again.

    After searching the web about how to clean the INSIDE of the headlights and finding very little information about it, I decided to try my own way of doing things. These are the steps I took to clean up my lights, and while it is not perfect, it is 98% better than it was before. I didn't take any pics. cuz there isn't anything special you have to do. All these steps are with the lights removed from the vehicle, but you knew that.

    To get the best possible spot and lint free finish, I cut a strip of material from my synthetic chamois cloth. The cloth has no lint at all, which is why I used it. It also is not abrasive in any way. I had this anyway, so cost was zero dollars.

    All light bulbs and sockets were removed (three of them) to facilitate draining and drying.

    I then used warm water and poured it into the main headlight housing. I also used Simple Green as the cleaner. I tucked the strip of chamois into the main housing as well. There is a reflector cone here, but there is plenty of room to work around it and get the cleaning materials into the housing.

    Obviously with the housing facing down and the holes facing up, I swished the materials around (over my head so I could see where the chamois was) until I was satisfied that I covered everywhere. I emptied the housing and repeated several times until I felt good about it being really clean. Turn upside down to drain and shake to get most of the water out.

    Now, how to rinse without getting spots? I bought two gallons of distilled water at Wally World for this process. Again, I rinsed several times until the bubbles were gone and I felt satisfied I had removed all traces of cleaner. I gave one final rinse as my "spot free finish" by using distilled water and a few drops of "Jet Dry" dishwasher drying agent. The Jet Dry lowers the surface tension of the water, making it sheet instead of bead. I did see some people mention using rubbing alcohol as a water displacer, but I didn't want to "de-silver" my reflectors, so I played it safe with the Jet Dry. Cost was zero again, since I had it on hand for the dishwasher.

    Repeat with the other headlight housing using the same methods.;)

    Now, I put my headlights in my basement for about 4 days next to my de-humidifier and it dried the residual water inside them right out. You could put them in the sun or run a hair dryer through the main headlight hole, but I wasn't in a hurry.

    After the four days was up, I checked my headlights. Perfectly clean and clear lenses, with no water stains! I did notice that the mirror like reflector for the main headlight had a few water spots on it, and that bothered me. Again, what to do for this small problem? If you're like me you want them gone. If you're not, you could live with them this way.

    I used the rest of my chamois cloth (clean and lightly damp) and a piece of 12 guage Romex for this part. It takes some patience, but you can reach all areas of the reflector this way.

    I wrapped the Romex with my chamois cloth. This guage Romex is flexible enough to bend anyway you need to, but rigid enough to retain its shape and not bend inadvertently. Using the main headlight hole again, you can work around the reflector "cone" and slowly work your way around the mirrored part of the headlight housing, wiping away any spots there. Since it is so highly mirrored, I think spots here would have happened anyway.

    Total investment was more time than money. About 2 to 2.5 hours total, and that includes installing the lights back in the truck (even the fourth bolt!) I think this beat buying new lights, especially the non Toyota ones of questionable quality, or busting open my lights to have them not seal right ever again. Not to mention I can't stand throwing perfectly good equipment away.

    Like I said, it is 98% better than it was, there are some minor spots on the mirrored reflector, but I'm pretty anal and notice them whereas other people would never notice.

    Light output is like new, and now my Tacoma is one step apart from the other three at work again!
  2. Oct 24, 2010 at 7:47 AM

    chris4x4 With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. Moderator

    May 8, 2008
    First Name:
    Tenoe, AZ
    2013 Rubicon Unlimited,
    4.10 gears, sliders, and lots of buttons.
    Good post!
    ANother option to use for drying the inside of the lights, is to use a Silica Gel packet (tied to a string, or wire for easy removal).
  3. Oct 24, 2010 at 7:53 AM

    rbeezy Well-Known Member

    Sep 15, 2010
    First Name:
    Bay Area
    2011 Tacoma SR5
    i dont think i'll have to worry about cleaning the insides for awhile. they usually stay clean for a pretty long time. this post made me look at my dads 1st gen tacoma, and it still looks sqeaky clean after all these years.
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