Car Headlight Restoration: A Complete How-To

General

Car Headlight Restoration Steve's Detailing & Hand Car Wash DenverOver time, ultraviolet light from the sun can cause your car’s headlights to yellow and become cloudy, foggy or just dingy-looking.

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find countless “hacks” and “secrets” for cleaning headlights, as well as a wide variety of car headlight restoration kits for sale.

Here at Steve’s Detailing, we make it even easier. Not only are we superb detailers, but are experienced at getting your headlights looking brand new – no elbow grease required.

Still want to try the DIY route? Well, set aside a good chunk of your weekend and read our step-by-step guide on how to handle car headlight restoration.

STEP 1, CLEAN WITH SOAP AND WATER:

Use a good quality car soap to get off the road grime and debris. From here you will get a much better idea of the damage.

Look for signs of hazing. This will happen when the hard coating has worn off the headlights, and the soft polycarbonate is exposed; the light will start to absorb scratches that create hazing. The lens will also be covered, if it isn’t already, in a rough dark yellow crusted surface.

Yellowing is a sure sign that all of the hard coating is beginning to thin out and lose its adhesion to the polycarbonate lens. Peeling and cracks will need to be dealt with by a professional detailer or replaced. You may see flaking, peeling, and spotting. These may just need a resurfacing. Once you have concluded the level of damage, here are the options you can choose from to help repair the issue.

STEP 2, SANDPAPER:

You will need a few different grades of wet/dry sandpaper. 3M is a good starting point and a coarser grade such as 1500 or 2000. Tape off the areas of paint around the headlights to avoid damaging the paint and clean the lights once more with rubbing alcohol.

Next, wet your sandpaper using coarse grit first and sand in a circular motion, paying attention to areas where the coating may be lifting and flaking off. Use pressure until you have an even, dull finish. Then change to a finer grit and continue sanding until you get a satin-like finish.

STEP 3, CHOOSE A POLISHING COMPOUND:

Now you will determine the buffing compound that will best suit your needs. You can run to the auto parts store and pick up McGuire’s, M105, or others.

Aluminum compounds are the best for headlights, or you can use a more natural and cheaper approach by opting for bath and sink cleaners or even blue toothpaste without whitening additives or peroxides.

When it comes to car headlight restoration, there are some other natural options to choose from for you DIY-types:

  • Baking Soda: Yup, just like your mom told you…this stuff works for almost everything. Just rub it on and rinse off.
  • Vinegar: Besides its great cleaning qualities, it works like a charm on headlight covers. Just take them off and soak for a few minutes and watch the crud crumble off.
  • Bug Spray: Good old “OFF” brand will work wonders in taking off bug grime and the UV plastic that is yellowing on your headlights. The chemicals in the spray do a great job.
  • Joy Dish Soap and Salt: Mix the two together for double duty cleaning and removing power.
  • Denatured Alcohol: Be sure to clean your headlights well with soap and water first, then dab some denatured alcohol on a rag and rub in a circular motion. Rinse and dry, and add some car wax for added protection to finalize.

STEP 4, POLISH:

Get a nice clean microfiber cloth and add your choice of cleaning compound to it, about the size of a quarter to start. Use small circular motions and a small patch to start. Repeat this cycle until the whole light is done. You can also use an automatic buffer for faster results.

Keep buffing and polishing until you get the clear car headlight restoration results you’re looking for!

STEP 5, PROTECT:

To prolong the life of your hard work, there is a product called Bulldog, which is a plastic adhesion protector that will aid in keeping your lights protected. It is kind of like applying a top coat on nail polish to add long-wearing shine and coverage.

Can Headlight Fogging Be Prevented?

The environment is the major issue in the deterioration of your headlights. The UV light exposure from the sun is probably the worst culprit, followed by road grime and chemicals. Road debris causes pits and marks in the lenses, water vapor trapped inside the lens also causes damage over time.

So, what can you do to protect your vehicle and prevent needing car headlight restoration?

Well, it is wise to park your vehicle in the shade or a garage to avoid as much sun exposure as possible, and the second-best option is to have a professional clean and protect lights quarterly.

There are also several products available that can help prevent UV damage. These products create a unique co-polymer and acrylic resin shell over headlight lenses to prevent oxidation and fading. Your headlights remain clear and sharp as well as improve visibility and ensure your lights look like new.

Should You DIY Car Headlight Restoration?

While the steps for restoration may seem simple, they do take a bit of time and could be a challenge for first-timers. We strongly recommend that you research available products before using them and watch a few videos on the various techniques before attempting the work on your own vehicle.

Things can quickly go sideways and require you to spend even more money completely replacing your headlights. Trust us when we say that we’ve seen more than a few DIY nightmares roll into our shop.

Bottom line, if you want your car headlights looking and performing their best, your best bet is to count on Steve’s Detailing for quality products, experienced detailers and proven techniques to perform your car headlight restoration. Call us today to set up your appointment.

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