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lou's garage

Hi, I have a 2018 Honda CRV EX. After driving it only 3 or 4 times, I noticed that the headlights totally filled with condensation. After I took it back to the dealer, they said that’s normal because the lights get so hot nowadays, and I guess water gets in the tiny holes meant to cool it off? Wouldn’t that ruin the car after time? Is that really normal?

– CZ

Due to the significant amount of heat generated by the bulbs, most modern headlights will have a built-in ventilation system to allow for expansion and contraction. With that in mind, we have to recognize that the air located outside heats and cools at different rate than the air on the inside of the headlight. Just like on your windscreen, this will cause condensation to build on the insides of your headlights. Naturally, the amount of condensation will vary as seasons change. The condensation should dissipate when the vehicle is in motion and fresh air can get in there, but as the headlights heat the air up again, the cycle starts over. I would consider this to be normal and will have little long-term impact.

If the lenses are damaged however, this may allow additional road moisture to penetrate, leading to water build-up within the headlight. As the headlights age, the excessive heat generated by the bulbs will also cause the seal between the back housing and the lens to shrink and crack, adding to the moisture problem. This is not normal.

As cooler-running LED-based headlights become more common, I believe this problem will be minimized.

I have a 2006 Nissan Altima, and both of the headlight lenses have a very bad haze/foggyness on them that causes my lights to not be as bright. I asked around and was told by many to just go buy new headlight lenses, but they are too expensive for me. I’ve seen headlight-restore kits at my local parts store but am skeptical about trying one. I don’t want to waste money on restore kits unless they actually work and buying new lenses is not an option for me.

Thank you for your help.

– Paul M

There is no permanent cure for this. As you have discovered, a costly complete headlight has to be purchased and replaced to get the lens. In the quest to manufacture things more cheaply, glass is rarely used in headlight production. In most cases, they are made of plastic with acrylic-based lenses, and, unfortunately, acrylic oxidizes when exposed to UV light. Most headlights have a clear coat applied at the factory in an attempt to minimize the haze, but eventually that wears off due to weather elements and road debris. Restore kits will work, but results vary depending on your patience and skill level. Make sure that you buy a kit that includes a top-coat product to minimize how quickly the haze will return. But rest assured, it will return, and you will have to do it again. There are lots of tutorials and product reviews online that you can utilize.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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