Headlight Restoration - What's the Big Secret?
Over time, plastic headlight lenses can become cloudy, dull and yellow. This reduces light output and visibility, creating a serious safety concern for drivers, especially at night. Most cars come from the factory with a protective coating. The OEM headlight lens coating will oxidize and deteriorate when exposed to the environment on a daily basis.
Sometimes it is possible to do lens restoration with a buffing pad and polishing compound. In many cases, however, it is necessary to remove the OEM coating by wet sanding. This doesn't require much elbow grease if you use a rotary buffer or a dual action random orbital polisher. Once the factory coating has been removed, headlight maintenance becomes an ongoing car care task.
It is always recommended to use the least aggressive method. Often, a kit will include everything you need, including sanding discs or sand paper and a sealant with uv protection. If you prefer not to use a headlight restoration kit, follow these steps to get your headlights looking like new for up to two years:
- Thoroughly clean the headlight surface. This may be done while washing the car. Do not work in direct sunlight.
- Tape off the edges of the headlight to prevent scratching the paint. Pop the hood a to give you better access.
- First try a medium compound or polish, either by hand or with a buffer to see if the clarity comes back. Use a wool buffing pad or a foam cutting pad. Work in a side to side, up and down motion. Do not work in circles as this can create swirl marks
- If this method is not effective, you will need to use sanding discs or sand paper to remove the oxidized coating. This may be done by hand or with a polisher. We recommend the Griot's Garage 3" Random Orbital Polisher for best results. Use a clean microfiber towel to remove any residue.
- Once the OEM coating is completely gone, go back to the compound or polish and try again. This should make the lenses look clear again.
- Finally, apply a headlight sealant with UV protection. These come in a variety of formulas including wipe-on aerosol and liquid.