Are you having trouble seeing the road when you drive at night? Have you noticed your headlights don’t look as clear or as bright as they used to? Modern cars have plastic headlights with halogen bulbs that are replaced separately from the rest of the assembly. While this makes replacing your headlight easier and cheaper than it used to be, the plastic assemblies are unfortunately vulnerable to UV rays from the sun, not to mention more susceptible to tiny pits and scratches from being hit with sand and rocks on the road. Over time, the factory UV coating on the headlight assemblies degrades, causing a cloudy or yellowed appearance that also drastically reduces the light emitted by the headlights.
Luckily, you don’t have to replace your headlights in order to fix this problem. An auto cosmetic repair specialist can restore your headlights for you, or — if you are willing to put forth the time — you can do your own headlight restoration.
Polishing Your Headlights
If your headlights aren’t very bad, you may be able to use the least abrasive technique, a polish designed for restoring headlights, in order to restore your headlights’ original clarity and luster. There are a number of polishes on the market, or you can buy one of the many headlight restoration kits available.
It is the outer surface of the plastic that has become hazy from exposure to the sun, so in order to restore your headlights, you will need to remove this surface and polish the plastic headlight assembly to a shine.
- If you bought a kit, read and follow the instructions that came with it.
- Clean your headlights first. Use a glass cleaner and remove all debris from the surface of the headlight assembly.
- Mask around the headlight. Some kits come with tape for this purpose, but if yours didn’t, or you bought the polish separately, you can use electrical tape or masking tape to protect the chrome or painted surfaces surrounding your headlight assembly.
- Use a clean cloth to polish the lens. Rub the polishing compound into the plastic with a firm circular motion, polishing evenly across the headlight’s surface. Headlight restoration requires a lot of elbow grease, so plan on spending five or ten minutes per headlight.
- Remove all of the polish. You will be able to tell when you are done because the plastic will look clear and shiny underneath the polish. Use a clean cloth to make sure you get all of the polishing compound off of the plastic.
Wet Sanding Your Headlights
If your headlights are extremely cloudy or yellowed, or if you tried the polishing compound and it didn’t restore the headlights well enough, you may have to wet sand them in order to fully remove the damaged outermost layer of the plastic and get down to clear plastic again. There are several commercial headlight restoration kits available that provide the different grades of sandpaper you will need.
- Read and follow the instructions in the kit.
- Start with the coarsest sandpaper,usually 600 grit, and wet sand using straight strokes.
- Continue sanding with increasingly finer grade sandpaper, keeping the surface of the headlight wet while you work.
- Finish with a polishing compound. Apply polish with a clean cloth, using a circular motion, as described above.
Protecting Your Headlight Restoration
When you have polished your headlights to a crystal clear shine, be sure to protect your handiwork by waxing the lenses or applying a sealant, such as the ones that come in the commercially available headlight restoration kits. Although there is no way to keep them from getting yellowed or cloudy again, a new UV coating will prevent it from happening as quickly.
ColorMate Auto Appearance Specialists provides same day cosmetic auto repair services including paint and bumper repair, headlight restoration, rim repair, paint perfecting and car interior repairs in Miami-Dade, Broward, and West Palm Beach County. Schedule an appointment for a free estimate on quality car interior and cosmetic repairs.