Headlight restoration: Need to know
- Headlight restoration works on cloudy, discoloured headlights.
- Headlight restoration is an easy, one-hour job.
- You can do headlight restoration in the driveway at home, with essentially no tools or training. All you need for headlight restoration is a $30 self-contained kit, some masking tape, and elbow grease.
- To restore your headlights you don’t need to remove them from the car (we just did that for the video above).
- Headlight restoration could save you thousands (think: old European prestige car). It will certainly save you hundreds of dollars compared with the price of two replacement headlamps, even on a basic car.
Here's the detail on headlight restoration:
Headlight restoration: The problem
Plastic headlights don’t age gracefully. They go cloudy - and when that happens they’re not exactly efficient at illuminating the road at night. UV radiation and chemical attack form a crusty, cloudy layer of oxidation on the outside of the lens.
(Nearly all headlights are plastic these days.)
Headlight restoration at home makes good financial sense. Replacement headlights can be very expensive – but you can restore weather-beaten headlights to their former clarity. All you need is a $30 headlight restoration kit.
Headlight restoration: The solution
The GlassyLite headlight restoration kit in this video cost $30 (it was on special at Auto1.) It’s a self-contained headlight restoration kit for two headlights – and the headlight restoration instructions are dead simple.
Degree of difficulty for this headlight restoration job is about three out of 10. So, frankly, your grandmother could do a competent headlight restoration job.
If you’re doing headlight restoration on your own car, leave the headlights in place and protect the surrounding paint and bodywork with masking tape.
It’s no good restoring the headlights and damaging the paint.
We restored only half a headlight in the video above, for comparison. So we could better demonstrate to you whether these headlight restoration kits are a waste of time and money - or not. (Clearly, they’re not.)
Headlight restoration step one: The basic headlight restoration process is to wet sand the lens with the two grades of abrasive paper supplied in the kit (‘fine’ grade, and ‘really, really fine’). Just keep the surface lubricated with a wet sponge or a spray/mist bottle, and follow the written instructions about sanding direction.
Headlight restoration step two: After sanding you apply the polishing compound – followed by a quick smear with the supplied sealant. (Polishing is where you’ll need most of your elbow grease.)
The restored headlight in the video came from a geriatric Commodore, and I selected it because it was the most oxidized, cloudy headlight in the entire wrecking yard. After 20 minutes with the headlight restoration kit (which was probably 10-15 minutes minus setting up the camera) it started looking … maybe not brand new, but it’s certainly roadworthy. And much safer to drive with at night. Headlight restoration works.
The headlight restoration process is a real winner in cost-benefit terms. You spend $30 on a headlight restoration kit and save hundreds or more on the cost of a pair of replacement headlights.
The headlight restoration kit we tested contained enough sandpaper, polish and sealer for the complete restoration of two headlights.