Headlights become foggy, yellowed or hazy over time due to oxidation and the accumulation of dirt and grime. Fortunately, restoring them is relatively easy with the right supplies and a bit of elbow grease. With a few simple steps, you can restore them yourself and make them look as good as new. In this article, we’ll show you how to clean and restore your car’s headlights so they last.
Best 2 Methods to Restore Headlights without a Kit
There are two main ways to restore your car or truck’s headlights:
- Sanding and Clearing Method and;
- Buffing and Polishing Method.
In this article, we will cover the Buffing and Polishing Method.
BUFFING AND POLISHING RESTORATION METHOD
Polishing and buffing your car headlights can be an incredibly beneficial process for restoring their original shine and performance. The buffing and polishing method should last between 6 months and 2 years depending on the quality of the protective layer.
TOOLS AND SUPPLIES
- Painters Tape or Masking Tape
- Sandpaper with grits ranging from course to fine. A range of 800 to 2500 is a good rule of thumb
- Water source such as a water hose or spray bottle
- Microfiber towels
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Rotary tool, Buffer or Polisher
- Buffing compound
- Polishing compound
Step 1: Prep and Tape.
Masking the headlight is an essential part of prepping a headlight for cleaning and restoration. Before tackling the project, it’s important to cover any surrounding areas like the hood and side panels with tape so that you don’t damage them with chemicals or other materials.
Step 2: Clean headlights
Next, clean your headlights with car soap and dry the headlights and area around them with the microfiber cloth. Once the headlight is dry, use a clean microfiber towel and some rubbing alcohol to wipe away any oils that may be left on the surface.
Step 3: Wet Sanding Process
Wet sanding is a necessary part of headlight restoration. It is the process of using a wet material, such as sandpaper, to remove oxidation and other blemishes from the lens surface. When done right, wet sanding can completely transform foggy or yellowed headlights into bright, clear lenses that will last for years.
Start by using a coarse grit sandpaper between 400 and 600 – the lower the number, the coarser the paper. Apply light pressure and sand in a circular motion, working your way up to finer grit sandpapers between 1,000 and 2,000. Make sure to keep the sandpaper wet.
As you sand the headlight, you should notice the oxidation coming off of your headlight.
Step 3: Buff out the Headlight.
Now, you are ready to buff your headlights. Use a polishing compound and a buffing wheel mounted on an electric drill or rotary tool to restore the surface of the headlight. Start by applying light pressure and moving the wheel in circular motions from left to right. Increase the pressure as needed, but be sure not to apply too much or else you risk causing damage.
We used 3M’s “cutting and polishing in 1,” with a SnapOn Buffer Polisher and Cutting Pad. The speed was set to 2 to try to avoid burning through the plastic and cutting into the clear coat.
Once you have finished buffing the headlight, it is important to clean the surface with a clean microfiber cloth or a soft towel. This will help remove any leftover residue and make sure that the headlights are as clean as possible. To avoid scratching the lenses, use a circular motion when wiping them down.
Step 4: Polish the Headlight.
This final step is to remove the finer scratches and bring out the shine with polishing. Polishing after buffing is an essential step to bring back the clarity that has been taken away by oxidation, scratches, and other wear and tear. Car polishes are available in both liquid form or as a wax-type paste that comes with an applicator pad. Apply the polishing compound to the headlight and with a clean pad.
We used a 3M’s Perfect-It EX Machine Polish and a polishing pad with our Snapon Buffer Polisher.
Here are the results we got:
Keeping your car’s headlights clean and clear is essential to ensure you get the most out of your driving experience. With regular maintenance, restoring car headlights is an easy and effective way to keep them looking like new. If you would rather have a professional bring your headlights back to life, contact our car restoration shop today.