• Share:
How to Clean Headlights

Clear up a cloudy headlight lens with a special polish kit. We also tell you how to evaluate it in case you have to replace it.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Evaluate your headlight lens and buy a restoration kit

Road grit and the sun’s UV rays can really do a number on your headlights. The grit literally blasts off the factory-applied protective coating, and the sun takes care of whatever coating is left. Then the lenses cloud over, dramatically reducing the amount of light they project. You’ve got two choices to see clearly again. You can either restore the old headlights with a restoration kit (Photo 1) and a spare hour, or spend $40 to $250 each on new headlights. Tough choice, huh?

We used a $25 kit from Sylvania to show you how it works. But before you buy a kit, make sure the cloudiness is on the outside of the lens (Photo 2). If you see moisture droplets on the inside of the lens or hairline cracks, the problem is on the inside and the headlight can’t be restored. Buy a replacement at the dealer, auto parts store or an online source such as our affiliation with Amazon.com or odonnellsautoparts.com.

All headlight restoration kits include sandpaper and polishing compound, and they all do a decent job. But the better kits also include a bottle of clear coat remover solution and new UV-blocking clear coat (Photo 1). That makes the job go faster and the results last longer.

Restore a frosted lens

Start by masking off the areas around the headlight to prevent paint damage. Then apply the “activator” solution to soften any remaining clear coat. Wipe the lens clean. Next, wet-sand the lens, starting with the coarsest sandpaper, and work your way to the finest grit (Photo 3). Dry the lens and then polish the surface with the clarifying compound and the polishing cloth. Finish the job by applying the new clear coat (Photo 4).

Back to Top

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

Lens restoration kit

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 1 of 1 comments
Show per page: 20   All

December 06, 3:17 PM [GMT -5]

Save your money if you have some rubbing compound, I used Meguiar's ultimate compound on mine, in a few minutes it was like new, mine started very cloudy with little surface erosion.

+ Add Your Comment
closeX

Add Your Comment

How to Clean Headlights

Please add your comment
closeX

Log in to My Account

Log in to enjoy membership benefits from The Family Handyman.

  • Forgot your password?
Don’t have an account yet?

Sign up today for FREE and become part of The Family Handyman community of DIYers.

Member benefits:

  • Get a FREE Traditional Bookcase Project Plan
  • Sign up for FREE DIY newsletters
  • Save projects to your project binder
  • Ask and answer questions in our DIY Forums
  • Share comments on DIY Projects and more!
Join Us Today
closeX

Report Abuse

Subject
Reasons for reporting post

Free OnSite Newsletter

Get timely DIY projects for your home and yard, plus a dream project for your wish list!

Follow Us