Restore cloudy headlights yourself
Over time, your car’s headlights lose their clarity and develop a white or yellowish color and turn into cloudy headlights. The cloudiness can reduce headlight output by almost 60%, making it much harder to drive at night. That’s when it time to restore cloudy headlights yourself with a headlight restoration kit.
What causes cloudy headlights?
Aerodynamic headlight lenses are made from clear polycarbonate plastic with a clear coat layer. Car makers chose polycarbonate because it’s scratch resistant and can stand up to car wash brushes and blasting road grit. However, since plain polycarbonate oxidizes when constantly exposed to UV, the clear coat layer is designed to filter out UV and provide extra scratch protection. It’s that clear coat layer that degrades, allowing the underlying layer to turn cloudy.
How to restore your headlights
Restoring headlights is a three step process
• Remove the degraded clear coat with an abrasive
• Polish the polycarbonate lens until it’s clear
• Re-apply a UV inhibiting clear coat
If you do an internet search you’ll see lots of post that recommend polishing with toothpaste. Ignore those stupid posts unless you want to turn a 1-hour job into an all-day affair. Toothpaste has some grit in it, but not nearly enough to remove all the clear coat. Instead, buy a headlight restoration kit. You can make your own headlight restoration kit by buying an assortment of wet/dry papers in various grits (8-100, 300, 600, 1,000 and 2,000), plastic polishing compound, UV inhibiting clear coat DESIGNED for headlights.
Which headlight restoration kit to buy?
Headlight restoration kits come in two varieties; hand sanding and polishing and drill sanding and polishing. The hand sanding kits come with various grits of wet/dry sandpaper, a soft cloth and a packet of polishing compound. The drill sanding kits come with a
foam pad that fits into your battery powered drill. You attach different grit sanding pads and then install a buffing/polishing attachment to get the lenses to a clear state.
The most popular brands are made by name brand car wax companies like Mothers and Mequiers or by specialty companies like 3M and Sylvania. All the kits work, but they vary by whether they contain clear coat. For example; the Mothers and 3M kits contains a polymer UV inhibiting WAX, while the Sylvania kit contains a bottle of UV clear coat. You’ll have to reapply the UV wax from time to time to prevent oxidation.
I’ve used the Sylvania kit and can tell you from personal experience that their clear coat lasts for several years.
Tips for headlight restoration
• Mask off the headlight to prevent damaging the surrounding paint.
• Don’t rush it or you’ll wind up with scratch marks in the lens and have to do it all over again
• Sanding too hard with a drill can leave flat spots in the lens that distorts the light. Follow directions!
All the kits will work. BUT, if you don’t apply a UV absorbing clear coat afterwards, the restored headlights with turn cloudy again in about 6-months
Or replace the entire headlight assembly with a new unit
Don’t want to spend time restoring your old headlights? You’ve got another option: replace the entire headlight assembly. Find replacement headlight assemblies on Rockauto.com
©, 2018 Rick Muscoplat
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