Repair options and materials for fogged headlight lenses
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Photo 1: The complete materials kit
The complete kit contains the sandpaper grits you'll need plus polishing compound and a cloth.
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Photo 2: Individual components
You can also buy the supplies you need individually.
Seems like everything these days is made of plastic, and headlight lenses
(capsules) are no exception. Although these plastics have a special UV resistant
coating, your headlight lens can become dull, yellow and hazy
from exposure to pollution, sunlight, harsh chemicals and road salt. This damage
reduces the effectiveness of your headlights, making driving at night less safe.
Rather than spend up to $500 (plus labor) to replace fogged headlamp lenses,
you can restore your vehicle's yellowed, cloudy headlamps in 30 to 45 minutes
without any special tools or skills. And the results are fantastic. You can buy the
supplies you need at a well-stocked auto parts store, or you can get a kit online (one is
made by Permatex). The kit contains four
grades of wet and dry sandpaper (1,000 to 2,500
grit), plastic polishing compound, latex
gloves and a flannel polishing cloth.
Note: The following procedure
will not repair damage to
the inside lens of the headlamp.
You should replace a
headlamp if the reflective
coating is peeling
The Headlight Lens Fogging Problem
Plastic lenses can become dull, scratch and yellow over time. Polishing them will clear the haze.
How to polish the lenses
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Photo 1: Sand horizontally
Start with the coarsest grit, soak the paper and then sand in one direction.
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Photo 1A: Sand vertically
Switch sanding directions with each successive grit, on through the finest.
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Photo 2: Buff the lens with polish
Rub polish onto the lens, moving the cloth in a circular motion.
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Photo 3: Polish the lens
Rub off any remaining polish residue with a clean cloth.
Wash the headlamp with warm
soapy water. Rinse with plenty of
clear water, then dry. Then mask
the area around the lens so you
don't scratch the paint. Soak the
sheets of sandpaper in water, then
start with the grit that suits your
situation (Photo 1). If the headlamp
is just dull or yellowed, start
with the 1,500 grit and work up to
the 2,500 grit. If there are light
scratches, start with the 1,000-grit
paper. With sandpaper, the higher
the number, the finer the grit.
Sand one direction with the first
grit, then rinse and change direction
with the next (Photo 1A). Keep doing this
until you're finished with the
Wash the headlamp with plenty
of clear, cool water and dry. Wet
one corner of the flannel cloth
with the polishing compound.
Using firm pressure, polish the
headlamp in a circular pattern
until it becomes smooth and clear
(Photo 2). Allow the polish to dry,
then use the clean end of the cloth
to buff off any polish residue
(Photo 3). Repeat the polishing
process. Depending on the damage
to the headlamp, small areas may
still appear foggy. Try repolishing
only those spots with polishing
compound. Buff the area again
and inspect. The lens should look
To keep your headlamps clear,
wash often with a mild detergent
and a soft-bristle brush or sponge,
flush with plenty of water and dry.
Never clean clear plastic with wax,
polish or any chemical that's not
formulated for the task.