Cleaning Cloudy/Foggy Car Headlights With Bar Keepers Friend

before and after cloudy headightsCloudy car headlights not only look bad, but they are also dangerous for two reasons:
  1. Reduces the amount of light which makes it out of the headlights and onto the road, where you want it.
  2. It impairs the all important scattering of the beam, causing glare for other road users.
It is possible to fail an MOT for cloudy headlights as it ruins the light scattering. A local garage tried to charge us £60 just to clean our cloudy headlights so it's well worth looking at alternative methods and doing it yourself!

There are many ways of cleaning headlights which have gone foggy and using Bar Keepers Friend is just one of them which I have used with good success so I thought I would share.

Bar Keepers Friend vs. Brite Powder Power

To avoid confusion from my photos, Bar Keepers Friend recently re-branded to Brite Powder Power, so they are exactly the same product, just a different label.

Bar Keepers Friend is a more familiar brand which has been around for quite a while and has many uses around the home including cleaning kitchen pans, toilets and as covered in one of our previous posts, it is also excellent at cleaning car windscreens.

How to clean your headlights

Cleaning cloudy car headlights with Bar Keepers Friend (Brite Powder Power) is very quick and easy and in a few minutes you will have lovely clear headlight lenses again.

The advantage of using this method to restore headlights instead of wet sanding them is that Bar Keepers Friend does not scuff up the lenses so much that you need to polish them back clear again.

For really badly cloudy headlights it may not be enough but for the price of Bar Keepers Friend on Amazon (£3.10 with Free Delivery) it's certainly worth a go.


  • Polishing pad or cloth
  • Bucket of water
  • Bar Keepers Friend

Step-by-step guide

Step 1. Lightly wash the headlights and surrounding area with the polishing cloth and water
This is just to remove any grit which might be sitting on the headlights. Even though the plastic used in headlights is generally very hard-wearing, you don't want to risk accidentally creating scratches in the lenses or paintwork around the headlights when you rub in the Bar Keepers Friend.

Step 2. Pour a small amount of the Bar Keepers Friend onto the damp polishing pad and work into the headlight lens. The moisture from the polishing pad will turn the powder into an abrasive paste and you should be able to feel that it is rough against the headlight lens.

You should apply a good amount of pressure and polish in a circular motion being very careful to avoid touching the paintwork as this could mark your paint.

Depending on how badly fogged your headlights are this could take up to 15 minutes of constant polishing for each headlight and you will need to re-apply the powder to the polishing cloth every couple of minutes. Who said saving money would be easy?

Step 3. Once you are satisfied that the headlights have been restored then you need to gently wash all the powder residue from around the headlights and bodywork. This is easily done with some water and sponge.

Step 4. Stand back and admire you restored car headlights.

Tried this out and impressed (or unimpressed) with the results? Please leave your comments below.

restored car headlights

Why does my car squeal?

If you are wondering why your car is making a squealing noise then this quick guide should help you find the cause of the squeal. Don't let it annoy you any longer...

99% of high pitched squealing noises from cars are likely to be caused by either:
  1. Fan belt
  2. Brakes
Identify the cause of the squeal
When the engine is cold and the car is parked, open the bonnet and then start the engine. The fan belt is often located on the left side of the engine and you should be able to see it moving when the engine is running.

Listen for noise coming from this area, particularly when the belt is under extra load.

You can put extra load on the fan belt in a few different ways depending on your particular model of car:
  • Increase the engine revs
  • Put the alternator under load e.g. turn on full beam headlights, heated rear windscreen etc.
  • Turn on the air conditioning
  • Turn the steering wheel to full lock and then back again
Cars most often squeal after the car has been left overnight, particularly if it is damp - this is because the alternator is putting extra load on the belt as it's trying to re-charge the battery and also dampness can reduce grip, causing the belt to slip.

If you can hear the squealing noise when the car is stationary, then the problem is probably your fan belt (also known as alternator belt, aux belt or accessory belt) and you should check out our guide on how to fix it.

A worn fan belt on a Honda Civic Type R
If you cannot hear the squeal noise when the car is parked with the engine running then it is quite likely that the noise is related to your brakes. Go for a drive with the windows down and determine if it happens when you are driving or only under braking.

Unless you have a seized brake caliper then any squealing is only going to occur when you apply the brakes to slow down. If you car squeals when you apply the brakes then I would strongly recommend taking it to a professional.

How to Solve That Squeaky Fan Belt Noise

squeaky fan belt noise
A worn fan belt on a Honda Civic Type R
Fed up of that annoying squeal from your fan belt every time you start the car? Yep me to. That's why I wrote this article.

Luckily, the most common cause of squealing is the auxiliary belt/fan belt which can normally be fixed relatively easily by the home mechanic, the good news is that even if you do have to take the car to a garage, the cost is likely to be low. Before calling a garage, make sure you read our blog post all about the causes of squeaky/squealing fan belts and how you might be able to fix the problem by yourself for free!

Fan belt vs alternator belt vs auxiliary belt vs serpentine belt vs vs accessory belt
Confusing eh? 99% of the time these terms are all referring to the same thing, which is a belt powered by the engine to drive auxiliary components such as the cooling fan, alternator, power steering pump or air conditioning compressor.

To minimise confusion, for the rest of this article I will refer to this belt as the 'fan belt'. One because that's what most people still tend to call it, and two because it's quicker to type. ;-)

Why does the fan belt squeal?
The squeal/squeak noise is caused by the fan belt slipping on the pulleys. There are several possible reasons for why this happens.

When electrical load is applied to the alternator (e.g. turning the steering wheel in a car with electric power assisted steering) it takes more force to turn and so there is a greater amount of friction the fan belt must overcome to turn which makes it more likely to slip.

Fan belts are designed with V shaped grooves which run the entire length of the belt. This allows the belt to slip a certain amount, this is because the load on the accessories driven by the fan belt can suddenly increase, and without this ability to slip then they would likely snap.

You are more likely to hear that annoying squeaky noise on damp mornings if the car has been left overnight. This is because the dampness can cause the belt to have less grip and also because if it's cold, the alternator will have more load on it.

Five possible causes:
  1. Worn fan belt
  2. Incorrect fan belt tension
  3. Oil leak in engine bay
  4. Seized components driven by the belt
  5. Pulleys/components are out of alignment

1. Worn fan belt
Fan belts are made with rubbers which degrade and glaze over time. Moisture, oil and heat cycles all contribute to this process and once the belt is glazed it is more likely to slip and cause that annoying squeal sound.

2. Incorrect fan belt tension
Quite simply, if the belt is too lose it will 'slip' on the pulleys which will cause that annoying high pitched squealing noise.

A crude way to test the tension of the belt is to press on the belt between two pulleys with your thumb - you should get about 1/2 inch of deflection. This should give you a rough idea of whether your fan belt is tensioned correctly.

Depending on what car you have, the tension of the fan belt will either be set manually or by an auto adjusting tensioner.

If the tension can be manually adjusted then refer to a Haynes manual or similar to find out how to carry out this procedure.

If your engine uses auto adjusting tensioners then these should be replaced along with the fan belt.

3. Oil leak in engine bay
If your fan belt belt or the various pulleys which it runs through become contaminated with oil, even just a fine mist coating, this will reduce the grip the belt has and will cause it to slip and squeal more than usual.

Oil leaks in the engine bay are more likely to occur on engines with a turbo because any small leaks in the intake system or intercooler pipework (which are under pressure on boost) are likely to spray fine droplets of oil all over your engine bay.

To rectify this problem you need to find and fix the oil leak (which can be easier said than done) and then replace the fan belt being sure to also clean any pullies, tensioners and guides to remove any oil residue.

I have also heard of 'other fluids' such as power steering fluid or coolant causing belts to slip so it is worth checking for leaks from the reservoir as well.

4. Seized components driven by the belt
If the alternator bearings or any of the pulleys are seized/sticky then this could cause the belt to slip simply because it is creating more drag than the belt can handle.

5. Pulleys out of alignment
If the belt guides are out of alignment the belt cannot sit properly and will cause a noise. Normally, fan belt noises which are caused by misalignment of the pulleys will be more of a chirping noise than a squeal.

Before spending money on new belts or professionals, the cheapest and easiest thing to try is cleaning the belt and pulleys with carb cleaner or even a mild detergent mix. In some cases the slipping belt is caused by contamination from oil or other fluids from the engine bay and simply cleaning this off will stop the noise. In any case cleaning the belt and pulleys should help increase friction slipping and causing that irritating squeaking sound.

One diagnosis method is to spray a bit of water on the ribbed side of the belt when the engine is running and making the noise. If the noise stops then this is likely cause by an alignment issue. If the noise gets worse then it is likely a friction issue.

Please feel free to leave any comments or tips you might have for other readers below.

[Solved] Honda Civic both headlights not working on dipped beam

I turned the headlights on my 2005 Honda Civic EP3 Type R to drive home the other evening and both bulbs went out after about half a second on dipped beam. Strangely, main beam was still working perfectly.

Full symptoms:
  • Dipped beam not working for both headlights
  • Full beam working as normal
  • Sidelights working as normal
  • Dash lights working as normal when combination light switch is toggled to the dipped beam position
Great, I thought, what were the chances of both bulbs going at the same time? I always jump to the worst case scenario and assumed the alternator must have surged and blown both bulbs, or I was going to be cursed with some nightmare intermittent electrical fault requiring hours of diagnostics (electrics isn't my strong point).

At best I thought I was going to have to try and track down a blown fuse or relay.

So I started looking through my service manual and found the Honda Civic Type R headlight circuit diagram.

Headlights circuit diagram

Click to expand
There is some misinformation online, where people are posting that the fuses are separate for main and dipped beam, but what this diagram clearly shows is that the right and left headlights each have their own relay and fuse which "control" both main and dipped beam.

So the fuses and relays are split into the right and left headlight, rather than dipped and main beam - from a safety perspective this makes perfect sense as you wouldn't want to be driving down a country lane and have a fuse blow which wipes out dipped beams on both sides would you?

The good news is that this eliminated the relays and fuses as the cause of the fault, as if either of them had gone then full beam would not be working in the affected headlight either.

On the next probable culprit - the combination light switch aka the 'stalk' on the steering wheel which controls.

Faulty combination switch on Honda Civic
After some googling, I found that lots of owners have reported faulty combination switches and I believe there was even a recall in America for them. Basically the terminals get corroded and don't make a connection when you

Luckily, it looks quite easy to remove the combination switch to test it:
  • Remove 3 x screws holding lower steering wheel surround in place
  • Separate from upper steering wheel surround
  • Remove 2 x screw from on front of combination switch to allow it to be removed from the steering column
However, I didn't have to do that as I thought I would test to see if the headlight bulbs were actually getting power first.

Check the dipped headlight bulb is getting power

The dipped beam headlight harness connector is really easy to access and can be pulled off to access the plug.

To test the lights are getting power:
  1. Turn on the ignition (no need to start the engine) and turn the combination switch so the headlights should be on.
  2. Set your multimeter to measure DC voltage.
  3. The light harness connector only has two terminals. Put the red multimeter probe on one and the black probe on the negative terminal of the battery. You should get a reading of around 11.9v. If you don't get anything, try the other terminal on the headlight harness.
  4. Once you have found which terminal is live, set your multimeter to continuity mode and check the other terminal against the negative terminal on the battery.
If you have 11.9v on live and a solid ground back to the negative terminal of the battery then congratulations, both your bulbs are just blown.

If you don't, then i'm sorry but I can't help you. More investigation would be needed, my first port of call would be checking the combination switch, lots of owners have reported obvious visual damage to the terminals.

Both dipped beam headlight bulbs are blown! Well at least that's an easy fix. I was still curious as to how this could have happened so I did a bit more research which I thought I would share.

1) It is fairly common that both headlight bulbs blow within a short time of each other. The reason behind this is probably that bulbs are made to tightly controlled specifications and so you could assume that under almost identical operating conditions, and in the absence of manufacturing defects, you would expect them to have a similar service life.

2) Many times where people claim both bulbs blew at the same time, what actually happened was one bulb was already blown but they didn't notice until the only remaining bulb went, when it becomes very obvious. This ties in with the above point about headlight bulbs blowing within short periods of each other.

3) The other possibility is that they really did blow at the same time and as the first one went it caused a change in voltage which blew the other one. I have no idea how mechanically sound this theory is but it seems plausible.

The Fix
I can't say I'm best pleased as these bulbs were relatively expensive Osram Nightbreakers which were  only just over 12 months old (and conveniently just out of warranty). After reading some reviews online I decided to get some cheaper Bosch Pure Light bulbs (based on their excellent review by Which?) and I honestly cannot notice the difference between them and the premium Osram's.

2005 Honda Civic Type R bulb type for dipped beam is H1 55W 12V if anyone is wondering.