Ripped off at Inspection?

I took my 1999 Dodge Neon to be inspected the other day and I was told that the headlight intensity was not bright enough. They suggested that I let them buy a kit for $70 to clean them and then wanted to charge $120 in labor for the cleaning and then to readjust the lights as cleaning them would cause them to be misaligned. I think they are trying to rip me off, so I had them put the rejection sticker on it, any suggestions on how to do this myself?

There are do-it-yourself headlight cleaning kits available in most auto parts stores. They sell for much less than the price you were quoted for this work. You can also use regular polishing compound to clean plastic headlight lenses.

You haven’t told us your state so we cannot confirm their claim of headlight intensity as an inspection item. In my state the headlights simply have to come on. There is no pass/fail test for intensity. It is possible the inspector is making a false claim. You should check with another inspection station on this matter.

It is quite common for modern headlights to become very dim over time because the plastic headlight lens eventually becomes scratched and cloudy. Replacing a headlight assembly (not just the bulb) can be expensive, maybe $125 for the part.

Most owners attempt to clear the lens themselves by various means. I use wet sanding with fine sandpaper. Others claim success by polishing with Brass-O, toothpaste, or a specialty polish by Meguiar’s sold in most auto parts stores.

I am in the State of Virginia


Once my 98 Windstar was about 6 years old, I had to start polishing the headlight lenses every couple of months. I used a mild polishing compound and a foam pad attached to a cordless drill. You could use a mild rubbing compound (white) and do it by hand, it would just take a little longer. I then finished up with a coat of Meguiars Cleaner wax. I wouldn’t worry about the headlights getting knocked out of alignment.

Meguiars sells a product called PlastX specifically for clear plastic.

Good luck,

Ed B.