Cars

Is there any hope for fixing my car’s cloudy headlights?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who hasn’t been able to clear the haze from his car’s headlights.

EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:01 A.M., WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2016 - In this photo provided by the The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, from left, a BMW 3 series, Honda Accord, Toyota Prius V and a Kia Optima are seen at the institute’s Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Va. A new study that rates the headlights of more than 30 midsized car models found only one model earned a “good” rating. Of the rest, half were rated “acceptable” and half were rated “poor.” The difference between the top-rated and bottom-rated model in terms of a driver’s ability to see down a dark road was substantial. (Russ Rader/Insurance Institute for Highway Safety via AP)
Russ Rader/Insurance Institute for Highway Safety via AP

Q. The headlights are so cloudy on my car that I need to use high beams to see at night. I went to the dealer and was told it would cost $750 to replace the headlights. I tried toothpaste and bug repellant with little change, but nothing much. What can I do? 

A. If the headlights aren’t too far gone, you could try having the headlights professionally buffed out. A shop will use a high-speed buffer, mask off the painted area, and using various compounds buff away a small layer of the plastic until they get the lenses clear. This can usually be completed for about $100. If this isn’t an option, replacing the headlight assemblies with a quality aftermarket part can be a cost-effective repair. 

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Q. I own a 2014 Ford Shelby Mustang convertible with extremely low mileage. It has some symptoms of bounce steer. On roads with ruts, it will move steering in that direction, and on some bumps, there is mild movement in the steering wheel. I recently had the alignment checked  and everything was right on the numbers. Would you have any suggestions or ideas?

A. Bounce steer – sometimes referred to as bump steer – happens when the suspension is compressed and the angle of the steering geometry changes. Your Shelby Mustang may be slightly lowered compared to the stock model, but still uses stock suspension parts. As the suspension is lowered the angle of one of the alignment adjustments (toe-in) will change and when you hit a bump will cause that angle to change and the steering to turn. There are kits that you can install that keep the tie-rod ends parallel and help eliminate this undesirable condition

Q. My 2020 Honda HR-V’s dash display freezes whenever I get an incoming Bluetooth phone call. It doesn’t happen every single time, but when it does, everything on the center console besides the clock freezes (screen, dials, buttons). The only way to fix it is to pull over, turn the car off, and turn it on again. I’ve brought it to my dealership’s attention, and they have no clue how it even happens. They’ve checked for software updates, but nothing is done to fix that problem.

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A. Honda did issue a technical service bulletin — 20-094 — that addresses a very similar issue. The repair is a software update. In addition, if you are using a USB cable, some generic phone cables can cause issues. Also make sure your phone software is up to date. Readers have told me that if their toll transponder is close to the phone, it can cause odd issues. 

Q. A few years ago a vinegar and water solution was used to clean the interior of my car along with the leather upholstery. Shortly after, the driver’s seat and left arm rest started to deteriorate and began to shred. This car is not garaged.  Could the vinegar and water have dried out the leather and caused this, along with the intense heat and cold weather changes?  I just started using a leather conditioner. Will that help? 

A. Full-strength vinegar can certainly dry out the leather upholstery, but when diluted with water, it shouldn’t have caused a problem. Most interior materials are pretty resistant to vinegar cleaners, soap, and alcohol. I suspect the problem is just due to age, exposure to sunlight, and other environmental issues. Depending on the damage, a good quality leather conditioner may help bring back the overall appearance. 

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Q. I am storing my Porsche Cayman in my unheated under house garage. I will be using a battery maintainer. Is there a brand you like? Should I lock the car?

A. In some vehicles I have found that unless you lock the car, the electronics never fully go to sleep. Although the battery maintainer should be able to keep the battery fully charged, locking the doors makes sense. In addition, clean the car, fill the fuel tank, add fuel stabilizer, change the oil, check and top off the fluids, and air up the tires to the maximum inflation pressure on the sidewall of the tires. Finally, a good car cover will prevent any possible damage from moving things around in the garage. Regarding battery maintainers (float chargers), I use the Battery Tender, but CTEK seems to be the brand favored by Porsche owners.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at johnfpaul.podbean.com.

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