Notice fogging or moisture in your headlights? Condensation in headlight may reduce your nighttime vision when driving. Just like debris and fog on the outside of the headlight housing, moisture inside the headlamp seals can dim your lights and even create blind spots. Or worse, it can erode your assembly over time. Mild moisture can sometimes build up inside the headlights as the temperature suddenly gets colder outside.

It should disappear after an hour or two of usage, owing to the vented design of most headlights. However, if you notice regular condensation build-up or a puddle of water in your vehicle’s headlight, we have compiled a detailed guide below on how to get condensation out of headlights.

Condensation In Headlight

What Causes Moisture or Water Gets in Your Headlights?

The headlights in a vehicle are sealed in a way that is near impossible for moisture to leak inside. However, water droplets can still be found on the inside, which can happen due to a few reasons: 

Blocked Vents

It is a common misconception that headlights are vacuum sealed. On the contrary, vehicle headlights have small vents built into the design to allow air circulation. Whenever headlights are in use, they generate heat. The tiny vents provide ventilation to disperse the heat effectively.

And they also usually come with a vented rubber cap that redirects the vent downwards to prevent water from directly entering the headlight. If the vents or the rubber cap are blocked by dust, debris, or a spider web, the air will have no way to escape, and moisture will start to build up inside.

Crack in the headlight

The glass shell and the plastic housing are designed in such a way that no water seeps through the covering. However, if a crack forms due to a rock chip or the headlight gets damaged in an accident, moisture seeps through, and you get foggy headlights. In this case, you may see a water pool inside the headlight, known as water ingress. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for such an issue. You have to replace the damaged outer shell or attempt to repair the crack. The former is recommended as it is the easiest and surefire way to get rid of moisture.

Cracked Headlight bulb O Ring, Gasket, or Rubber Cap

Headlight bulbs are installed in the housing with sufficient sealing around the bulb to prevent any moisture from coming in or out. A worn-out O-ring, gasket, or rubber cap can allow water to sip inside the housing when exposed to water splashes.

Humid Climate

People in cities like Atlanta understand how humid climates can cause moisture trapped in the headlights. Whenever a driver turns on the headlight bulbs at night, it heats the humid air in the headlight unit. Once the vehicle is parked, and the headlight is turned off, that air cools down and turns into moisture.

How To Get Moisture Out Of Headlights

How To Remove Moisture From Headlights

You first need to check if the headlight has a big leak to allow water inside or if it is mist forming on the inner layer. The solutions for both cases are different. Let’s talk about condensation first and water ingress later.

Normal Water Condensation

Sometimes water condensation in headlights is a natural process that must occur. Condensation happens when there is a temperature difference between the inner and outer shell of the headlight. The chamber on the inside is hot, which subsequently heats the outer shell. When that happens, there is no condensation since both temperatures are pretty much even. But the story is different when you go in for a car wash or when it rains outside. The water cools the glass shell, whereas the temperature on the inside remains hot. The temperature difference that occurs, as a result, causes condensation and mist.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do anything to clear this off from the headlights. There are several vents hidden in the design that allow temperature regulation. So, once the temperatures are even up, the moisture goes away.

How to Remove Mild Moisture in Headlight

To get rid of mild condensation inside your vehicle’s headlight, you can follow the steps below. You will not require taking out the whole headlight assembly.

  1. - Open the vehicle’s bonnet and get access to the back of the headlight with condensation build-up.
  2. - Remove the Rubber cap on the headlight bulb and disconnect the bulb wiring.
  3. - Remove the bulb from the housing, and make sure you do not touch the glass on top of the bulb filament. (The oils on your hand can cause premature failure of the bulb)
  4. - Use a hairdryer or a hot gun at low temperature to blow air through the orifice that you just took the bulb out from. Give it 10-15 mins to completely remove the moisture.
  5. - Keep an eye on the hairdryer or the heat gun for overheating due to prolonged use.
  6. - Reseat the bulb with the O ring in place. Reconnect the wiring with the bulb and install the rubber cap up on top to secure the connection.
  7. - Silica gel packs can also be placed inside the housing instead of blowing warm air. Although it will take up to 2-3 hours to completely remove the moisture from inside.

How to Get Major Water Out of Headlight

To get rid of the accumulated water inside the headlight housing, you would require removing the headlight assembly. It is worth noting that removing a headlight unit might be easy, but putting it back and making sure that it is appropriately sealed might be a challenging task.

  1. - Refer to the service manual of your vehicle to remove its headlight first.
  2. - Pour the accumulated water out from the headlight.
  3. - Rinse the headlight from the inside with distilled water or IPA to avoid getting water marks after its dried.
  4. - Now again dry up the headlight by either using a hair dryer, heat gun, or silica gel packs. (Note: Do not apply too much heat as it can damage the headlight).
  5. - Install the headlight back following the service manual procedure for your car.

Prevent Further Condensation build-up in Your Headlights

Clear the headlight Vent

Headlight vents can be found on the back side of the headlights on the headlight housing. These are usually covered with a vented rubber cap. Removing the cap and blowing some air through it with clear out any dirt build-up inside.

Reseal The Headlight Lens

If you are frequently facing headlight condensation issue, it is recommended to reseal the headlight lens with transparent silicone caulk, which is resistant to high temperatures and inhibits moisture.

It would require first taking the headlight out. Cleaning the edges for the silicone to adhere. Applying the silicone/ PVC caulk on the edges to reseal it from moisture contamination. Most caulking sealants take an hour or so to harden and 24 hours to cure completely.

Treating The Rock Chip or Cracks

Applying a transparent vinyl wrap or paint protection film to seal the chips and cracks is effective in keeping the moisture out. You can also apply transparent silicone sealant on small chips, but that’s the lazier way of doing.

FAQs About Condensation In Headlights

Q: Will condensation in headlights go away?

A: Condensation inside the headlight doesn’t always indicate an issue. It can be due to a sudden ambient temperature change and can go away on its own after 2-3 hours of usage due to the vented design of modern headlights.

Q: How soon does moisture in headlamps go away?

A: It depends on the weather and the climate. If you live somewhere with damp weather all around, the moisture will take some time to go away. Usually, 2 to 3 weeks depending on the weather. However, if you live in an area with a hot & dry climate, the moisture should go away almost instantly.

Q: Can condensation ruin headlights?

A: Occasional condensation or mist build-up doesn’t ruin your vehicle’s headlights and will disappear after some usage. But if your vehicle headlights frequently have moisture build-up, or you notice that the water is actively leaking inside the shell, this may damage the entire headlight system.

Q: Can I remove water from the headlights?

A: Yes. In most cases, you don't need professional help to remove moisture from the headlights. The mist usually disappears on its own, unless the headlight is damaged and there is much more water inside. You may need external help if you need to replace the headlight entirely.

Q: Can I drill a hole in the headlight to fix condensation build-up?

Drilling a hole inside your vehicle’s headlight is not recommended. It will fix the condensation issue for a while but will expose the headlight to dirt on the inside. And worse, your headlights lens blur out due to the dirt exposure after a short period.

Final Words

Headlights are an essential ingredient when it comes to nighttime driving. Driving can become difficult if they aren't in the best shape. Hopefully, this article can help you solve the problem of condensation in headlights.

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