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Clearing Up DIY Headlight Restorations

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On: Mon, Jun 6, 2011 at 3:18PM | By: Clay Ritchings


Clearing Up DIY Headlight Restorations

Car headlights sometimes become cloudy and less effective than they should be over time. Why? UV rays, vehicle exhaust, ozone, acid rain, chemicals, and road debris take their toll on the plastic and cause them to get cloudy. This cloudiness caused by degradation can reduce and diffuse the light going through the headlight lens. This makes it difficult to see when driving in the dark and creates an unsafe situation for many drivers; most of whom don’t even realize it’s happened. In fact, if you are out cruising at night, the odds are good that you can’t see anywhere near as well (or as far) as you could when your car was new.

This happens to all plastic headlight lenses over time, and some cars seem to experience it faster than others, depending on many, many factors. Take a walk outside and inspect your cars plastic lenses; if the car is a few years old, chances are there are visible signs of weathering and hazing. Folks who live in warm climates like me are likely to experience the problem much sooner. That is why my 2007 Nissan Sentra Spec-V is in need of some headlamp TLC.

I am not about to waste money unnecessarily by purchasing entirely new headlights because this happened. But can I easily and inexpensively restore my headlights and make them look like new without spending $100 or more to replace them?

There is a solution—and it’s a simple one. A headlight restoration kit that can be found at almost all large auto parts stores and even Wally-World (Wally-World after dark—bring your camera). There are many brands that will do the job, and from my initial research, not all of them are permanent.

I found myself staring at several kits, comparing prices and trying to remember everything that I read online to help make my decision. Many of the cheap brands will look really good when you’re done, only to turn ugly in a month or so. I found that the better kits have several stages of wet-sanding to remove the oxidation, and finish with a polishing compound. I also found a few actually claim to prevent it from happening again by applying a polymer coating (clear coat) with UV protection at the end of the process.

In the end, I went with the Sylvania Headlight Restoration kit. After all, who knows more about headlights than Sylvania? I found it at Advance Auto Parts for $20, the same price that was posted online. All too often the prices you find online are ONLY for online, and when you go to the store they don’t carry the product or the price has changed; but that’s a topic for another post in a different blog.

The kits are simple; takes only about 30 minutes per lens and you do not need to be a mechanic. You don’t even need to be mechanical. If you can wash your car, you can clean and restore your headlights. I would normally walk you through all the steps, but the attached video is far better than anything I can type to explain.

Watch the video to see how you too can restore your headlights or taillights easily.


The kit worked great for me, but I would recommend spending a little more time wet sanding with the finer sand papers and polishing compound to get the desired results. I was also able to restore my other vehicle that had some slight hazing with the same kit. If you like the way it works on your headlights, try it on motorcycle shields or boat windshields, or nearly anything made out of plastic or acrylic. How long will the nearly new look last? Only time will tell.


Photo Gallery (click a thumbnail to enlarge)


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