Carbon Fiber Headlights: A Lightweight and Durable Automotive Upgrade

Carbon Fiber Headlights: A Lightweight and Durable Automotive Upgrade
Table Of Content

An Introduction to Carbon Fiber Headlights

Carbon fiber has become an increasingly popular material in the automotive world in recent years. Known for being extremely lightweight yet very strong, carbon fiber is used by many enthusiasts and professional builders to reduce weight and enhance performance in their vehicles. One area where carbon fiber has started to gain traction is in headlight housings. Carbon fiber headlights provide many benefits over traditional plastic or glass headlight housings, making them an attractive upgrade option.

What is Carbon Fiber?

Carbon fiber is a material made up of incredibly thin strands of carbon that are woven together to form a unique pattern. The carbon atoms bond together to form microscopic crystals that align in a way that results in the carbon fiber material being extremely strong for its weight. While carbon fiber started out being used primarily in high-end racing and aerospace applications, it has become more affordable over time which has led to it being used in consumer automotive parts. When used for headlights, carbon fiber allows for a housing that is incredibly lightweight yet also very durable and resilient.

Benefits of Carbon Fiber Headlights

There are several key benefits that carbon fiber headlights provide over traditional headlight housings:

  • Weight reduction - Carbon fiber headlight housings can weigh 60-70% less than standard plastic or glass headlight housings. This reduces overall vehicle weight which improves handling and acceleration.
  • Strength - Carbon fiber is incredibly strong for its weight. Carbon fiber headlights are very resilient against cracks, chips and scratches.
  • Thermal stability - Carbon fiber does not get hot like plastic headlight housings. This allows the headlights to remain stable even with prolonged use.
  • Customization - Carbon fiber can be produced in various weaves and colors, allowing for customization options.
  • Premium look - The exposed carbon fiber gives the headlights a high-end, race-inspired aesthetic.

The combination of extreme strength and low weight makes carbon fiber headlight housings stand out from the crowd. They are lighter than standard headlights yet can hold up better against impact, scratches, heat, and wear over time.

Installing Carbon Fiber Headlights

Installing carbon fiber headlights requires some custom fabrication compared to standard headlight housings. Here are some tips for installation:

  • Take accurate measurements of your existing headlight openings and headlight dimensions to ensure proper fitment.
  • You may need to modify the mounting points in the vehicle to securely attach carbon fiber headlights due to their low weight.
  • Use a heat gun to shape the carbon fiber housing to match your vehicle's contours if needed.
  • Seal, prime and paint the housing for an optimal finish.
  • Wire in projector retrofits or LED bulbs into the new headlight housings.
  • Aim and align the headlights properly to ensure safe beam patterns.

While carbon fiber headlights require some upfront effort to install properly, the end result is a headlight housing that is lighter, stronger and more stylish than stock plastic or glass.

Popular Options for Carbon Fiber Headlights

There are a few main options when choosing carbon fiber headlights:

  • Bare carbon fiber housing - This is an exposed carbon fiber housing that showcases the woven carbon pattern. They have an race-inspired look straight off the track.
  • Painted/Gloss clear coated - Many choose to paint or clear coat their carbon fiber headlights for a more subtle look. The carbon weave is still visible through the coating.
  • Hybrid carbon/fiberglass - Some companies offer hybrid housings that blend layers of carbon fiber and fiberglass. This combines light weight with a glass-like outer finish.
  • Replacement inserts - Convert stock headlights to carbon fiber by replacing just the plastic inserts with lightweight carbon fiber pieces.

The choice comes down to preferences on aesthetics, cost, and installation complexity. Any of these carbon fiber headlight options will be far lighter than stock plastic or glass.

Are Carbon Fiber Headlights Legal?

One question that often arises surrounding carbon fiber headlights is whether they are street legal. In most cases, carbon fiber headlight housings are legal for street use. As long as the headlights are properly installed and aimed, have DOT approved light bulbs, and do not cause any dangerous glare, carbon fiber housings are legal. However, there are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Always check your local state laws to ensure carbon fiber headlights are not explicitly prohibited.
  • Avoid blue, purple, or other colored tints on headlights as those may fail inspection in some states.
  • If bare carbon is exposed, applying a clear coat or paint may help headlights blend in better and avoid issues.
  • Properly aim housings and use projector lenses and bulbs to avoid excessive glare.

With the right installation and materials, carbon fiber headlights can pass vehicle inspections and be legal for street use in most cases. But be sure to verify legality for your particular state just to be safe.

Maintenance Tips for Carbon Fiber Headlights

Like any automotive part, carbon fiber headlights require some periodic maintenance. Here are some tips for keeping your carbon fiber headlights looking their best:

  • Use quality UV protecting clear coat to prevent fading of exposed carbon from sunlight.
  • Wax or seal bare carbon fiber to protect against oxidation and environmental contaminants.
  • Gently wipe with microfiber cloths to remove dust and dirt from the housing surface.
  • Check for hairline cracks in the resin after impact and address any issues immediately.
  • Reapply protective coatings after cleaning to maintain the finish.
  • Check headlight aim and realign if needed after impact or vibration.

With proper maintenance and care, the durability and longevity of carbon fiber headlights can match or exceed that of stock headlights. They simply require some additional attention to keep the carbon fiber looking its best.

Carbon Fiber Headlights: FAQs

Are carbon fiber headlights worth it?

Carbon fiber headlights are worth it for drivers looking to shed weight, add custom styling, improve durability, and gain premium appeal. The lightweight yet strong material reduces mass for better handling while resisting cracks and scratches. Carbon fiber also withstands heat better than plastic or glass. The exposed carbon weave adds customization options too. While carbon fiber headlights have a higher upfront cost, they can be worthwhile for those seeking performance, personalization and longevity from their headlights.

How much do carbon fiber headlights cost?

Carbon fiber headlights typically range from $800-$2500 for a full replacement set, with some premium options running even higher. This is considerably more expensive than stock plastic or glass headlights, but you are paying for the exotic carbon fiber material and custom fabrication required. The cost also depends on whether you purchase bare carbon fiber or opt for a painted/clear coated finish. Overall, carbon fiber headlights are viewed as a high-end upgrade and their pricing reflects the advanced materials and construction.

How durable are carbon fiber headlights?

Carbon fiber headlights are extremely durable compared to plastic and glass. While they can crack like any rigid material, carbon fiber is far more impact resistant thanks to the strength of the woven carbon material. Carbon also withstands flexing and vibration better than plastic. And it holds up against environmental factors like UV rays and heat much better than other headlight housing options. With care and maintenance, carbon fiber headlights can last just as long, if not longer, than OEM plastic or glass.

Do carbon fiber headlights yellow over time?

Bare exposed carbon fiber does not yellow or fade appreciably over time. The carbon material itself is highly stable and UV resistant. However, the protective resin coatings used on some carbon fiber headlights can yellow or fade from UV exposure. Using a high-quality UV-resistant clear coat can minimize yellowing. Keeping the resin coating well-maintained with wax and sealants also helps prevent damage from sunlight. With proper preparation and maintenance, carbon fiber headlights can stay looking new for years before needing refinishing.


Carbon fiber headlights provide a lightweight, durable, and stylish upgrade over stock plastic housings. The woven carbon material is incredibly strong for its low weight, resisting cracks and heat much better than plastic or glass. Exposed carbon fiber also gives a high-tech, race-like look. While the upfront cost is higher, dedicated enthusiasts find the benefits well worth the investment. With careful installation and some routine maintenance, carbon fiber headlights can be a great modification for owners seeking improved performance, customization and longevity from their vehicles' lighting.


How do you repair a crack in carbon fiber headlights?

Small cracks and chips in the resin can be repaired by sanding the area, applying new resin, and recoating with clear coat. For cracks in the actual carbon fiber, the headlight may need to be partially disassembled so new carbon fiber patches can be bonded over the cracks. Sanding and recoating the resin will blend the repair.

Can you paint over carbon fiber headlights?

Yes, carbon fiber headlights can be painted, although the paint application process requires careful preparation. The headlight must be sanded and cleaned before applying primer, paint coats, and clear coat. This allows paint to adhere properly. Painting carbon fiber headlights allows you to customize the color and finish.

What is the difference between dry carbon and wet carbon fiber?

"Dry" carbon refers to exposed bare carbon weave with no resin, while "wet" carbon has a coated resin layer over the fibers. Wet carbon is most common for headlights since the resin protects the fibers from damage.

Do carbon fiber headlights get hot?

Carbon fiber headlights stay significantly cooler than plastic housings. The carbon material dissipates heat better, while its strength allows for more ventilation openings to further reduce temperatures.

Can you DIY carbon fiber headlights?

DIY carbon fiber headlights are possible but challenging. The carbon fabrication process is complex and custom-shaped molds are required. Most opt for premade housings, but some take on DIY projects for added customization.

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