Expert car headlight restoration tips

We’ve all seen cars that aren’t that old but have headlights that are cloudy and yellow. It can make a car look much older than it really is and have a massive effect on the value of a car, plus it can also be a safety issue when driving at night.

The problem is caused mostly because the plastic headlight covers are constantly being attacked by the sun’s harmful UV rays and over time this causes hazy and cloudy appearance on clear plastic headlights. But constant heating and cooling, rain, harsh chemicals, and other factors can accelerate the affects of oxidation, quickly dulling and degrading a cars headlights.

So what are the options to keep your headlights clear and looking like new?

Restoration kits

Restoration kits are are the most common answer to the problem and often are the only product you will need. These kits are designed to quickly and safely restore all types shiny plastic and acrylic headlights to crystal clarity. They are normally easy to apply easily clean away clouding, hazing and yellowing, and can even buffs out hairline scratches and flaws in a single step.

The kits normally included a specialised abrasive lens polish, applicator pad and some sealant that when applied leaves a tough protective layer to guard against future decolorisation and clouding. Some kits also include a sanding disc for badly damaged plastics and masking tape to protect the surrounding bodywork.

Most kits utilise a drill-mounted foam polishing pad to quickly and safely apply polish to the plastic headlights covers, bringing them back to full clarity. The polishing process can be completed in just minutes. Then a sealant is applied either by cloth or spray.  Once finished the headlights are often like new.

​On cars with very light clouding and fogging, you can simply use a machine polisher and compound to achieve a similar result. But in almost every case a restoration kit or specialist polish is better.

Toothpaste is an old trick for cleaning up headlamps without purchasing a kit. But the results don’t match the results achievable with a proper kit and you will only see minor improvement.

Using a car bodyshop

If a cars headlights are particularly bad and a restoration kit hasn’t done the job. You may need to employ the services of a professional bodyshop. They will be able to apply a clear coat acrylic paint finish to the lights restoring them to an as new finish. 

These clear coat finishes are available in spray can form, but the finish is always better when applied by a pro sprayer using a spray gun and car oven. 

Replacement lights

If all else fails you will need to source new lights. This should really be a last resort and hopefully you have allowed for this possibility in the purchase price. Secondhand headlamps are normally easy enough to find either online on sites such as eBay or Gumtree. However lights for rarer or specialised cars can be very expensive even when secondhand.

Conclusion

Almost 100% of the time a good quality restoration kit will bring cloudy and hazy lights back to passible if not new condition. But if you aren’t confident always allow for this before you buy the car. Obviously badly faded headlights can sometimes be an advantage when buying a car. Often a private seller will be unaware that headlight repairs can be carried out easily and economically allowing you to squeeze a bit more profit out of a deal.

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