How to restore your headlights

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How to restore your headlights

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If your headlights are scratched, fogged and hazy, your ability to see what’s in front of your vehicle may be severely reduced. With minimum effort, cost and about an hour of your time, you can have your headlight lenses looking like new. Plus, beyond safety, headlight restoration may increase the value of your vehicle.

What you’ll need:

  •   Whenever you work on your car, make sure the engine is off, the car is in park or gear and the key is removed from the ignition.
  •   Put on latex gloves and safety glasses before starting any work.
  •   Park your vehicle in a shaded area or in a garage. Allow your car to cool down if it has been driven, and make sure the headlights are at room temperature.
  •   Check for moisture inside the headlight—it’s a sign of damage. If this is the case, replace the lens; it is not restorable.

    Evaluate the current condition

    Assess the finish of your headlights to help you determine the level and method of headlight care you may need.

    New or like-new: Apply a headlight protectant or sealant.
    Very light oxidation and yellowing: Use a one-step solution that requires only hand application.

    For even better results, use a buffing tool.

    Moderate oxidation and yellowing: A one-step hand restoration could work very well but take more time to deliver the same results as a multi-step process that includes an easy-to-use tool.

          Severe oxidation and yellowing: To achieve a like-new headlight finish, you’ll want               to use a multi-step restoration that includes hand sanding as part of the process.

Tips for one-step restoration

Set up your one-step restoration for success by starting and ending the right way.

Washing headlights

Clean the headlights inside and out with soapy water, rinse and dry with a clean towel.

Using protectant or sealant

Keep your headlights looking newer longer by applying a protectant or sealant.

Tips for multi-step restoration

Making the extra effort to get a like-new appearance is worth it—and easy—especially if you go about it the right way. Before you start, apply automotive masking tape to protect the areas around the headlights

Sanding headlights

Once the headlights are clean, sand down the face of the headlights. Take care to not damage the paint of the car. Sandpaper should be soaked in water to soften it. Always sand in straight lines, never in circles. Next, wipe headlights with another clean towel. Don’t reuse the towels, as this may cause damage to the headlight surface.

Applying rubbing compound and buffer

After sanding the headlights, apply plastic polish on them, and allow the headlights to haze. Use a buffing pad until the headlights become clear. To speed along the process, you can attach the buffing pad to a standard household drill. Multiple steps and grits of sandpaper might be needed to achieve a like-new finish. Using a headlight sealer afterwards is also a good idea.

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