How To Restore Headlights Using a Headlight Restoration Kit

For years, sealed-beam headlights were the industry standard, and if a headlight burned out or was damaged, you'd just replace the whole unit. In the '80s, Euro-style halogen lamps and plastic lenses started becoming more prevalent. These headlights were great for designers, who could incorporate them into more-aerodynamic styling, but they came with drawbacks.

Source | Rich Ellis

On the plus side, today's headlights require a simple bulb replacement that's an easy DIY fix when it's time to replace or to upgrade to brighter light. On the downside, exposure to UV rays, road grit, and other factors causes the plastic covers to gradually degrade and lose their clarity.

You've probably seen it before when a vehicle's headlight lenses become cloudy, exhibiting a milky or yellow color. In addition to being a cosmetic problem and detracting from the vehicle's value, the discoloration is also a hazard, as the cloudy lenses prevent light from reaching the road, where it needs to be. Even headlights that you think look pretty good at first glance can benefit from the improvements delivered by using a headlight restoration DIY kit. The results delivered by this 30-minute, no-tools-required job will surprise you. Here's how to restore headlights.

Vehicle System
Wipers & Lighting
Skill Level
Beginner

This is a good project for new DIYers

Time to Complete
1 - 2 Hours
  1. Choose a location that's not in direct sunlight and pick a dry day when it's above freezing.

  2. Using painter's tape, mask off the vehicle's painted surfaces that surround the headlight lens. This will help protect the vehicle's finish from the sandpaper used during the headlight restoration DIY job. The kit's compounds are formulated not to harm a vehicle's paint.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  3. Apply the surface activator generously to the headlight. It removes any yellowing and/or original UV clear coat that remains. Let it sit on the surface for about 30 seconds. Wash it completely with water to remove the activator and corrosion.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  4. Cut the sheet of 400 grit sandpaper (indicated on back) in half—you'll use one for each headlight.

  5. Wet the headlight and sandpaper, and sand the surface using even, circular motions and medium pressure, until the headlight surface feels smooth. Make sure to keep the surface wet at all times. Rinse with water, and the headlight should have a uniform, light hazy appearance.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  6. Repeat Step 5 using the 1,000 grit paper, sanding for approximately five minutes.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  7. Repeat Step 6 using the 2,000 grit paper.

  8. Open the Clarifying Compound packet. Apply half of the package's contents—about a quarter-size dollop—to one of the white rags provided in the headlight restoration DIY kit.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  9. Wet the headlight lens, and rub the compound over the entire surface, using even, circular motions and firm pressure for about five minutes.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  10. Rinse the lens thoroughly with water and completely dry it using paper towels or clean rags, but don't use the rags supplied with the kit. After completing this step, it's normal for the headlights to still have a light, white haze.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  11. Using the surface activator, repeat Step 3.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  12. Remove the painter's tape, and using the other white towel in the kit, completely dry the headlight and surrounding surfaces. A dry surface helps ensure optimal bonding of the UV Block Clear Coat in the next step.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  13. Locate the bottle labeled UV Block Clear Coat and the blue towel provided, and put on the vinyl glove if you haven't already. Thoroughly soak the folded edge of the blue towel with the Clear Coat—the thicker the coating, the better.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  14. Beginning in the headlight's upper corner, wipe the towel's wet edge across the lens from side to side, using a smooth, continuous motion. Re-wet the towel with Clear Coat as needed, and repeat the cross ways motion with strokes that move down the headlight's surface, with each pass slightly overlapping the one that preceded it. Do not repeat or reapply to treated areas.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

  15. Allow the coating to dry for at least one hour before touching it, and protect it from moisture for four to six hours, at which time it will be fully cured. Avoid driving during this curing period. The headlights should now have a crystal-clear, new-car look.

    Headlight Restoration

    Source | Rich Ellis

Last updated January 18, 2019

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