I’m going to show you how to restore your car headlights to as good as new! It’s an easy process that can yield amazing results for your ride and it doesn’t cost a lot or take too much time to do. If you’ve had people recommend using toothpaste, baking soda, WD-40 or bug spray with DEET, then STOP. Save your time, money and energy because these are only superficial and temporary solutions that don’t last long at all. A few car washes will wash the results away. Plus, those results will not even come close to doing it the right way.
Watch the video to get the full experience!
Some people like to buy the sand paper and sanding blocks to do the sanding by hand and that is perfectly fine. But, I recommend using one of these kits that uses a drill as it will speed things up and make it a lot easier for you. Always use the right tools for the job at hand and it will simplify your life!
If you want to purchase these products, check out the links to them here!
What's the cause?
Before we get started, let’s understand why headlights get like this to begin with.
Today, pretty much all cars come with headlights that use poly-carbonite plastic for the headlights. It makes them easier to manufacture than glass ones and easier to mold into all kinds of shapes and designs to fit the current styles. The drawback of using plastic is it scratches easily.
Over time as you drive, the sand and particles blowing in the air hit the headlights and scratches the surface (Similar to sandblasting). Eventually, enough large scratches form and the surface is damaged to the point it looks hazy and light output is drastically decreased. Not to mention making your car look bad. Then add to that the UV damage from sunlight and you may even get yellowing or discoloration of the plastic.
With headlight restoration kits like these, you are basically sanding away a thin layer of the lens thereby removing the scratches such that the surface is smooth and almost like new.
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I’ve purchased and used restoration kits from both 3M and Mothers and while they both work great, they each have different steps and different pros and cons. Check out our comparison if you’re interested.
If you’re interested in picking up these products, check for the links below.
Let’s get started restoring these headlights using the Mothers NuLens Headlight Renewal kit.
Step 1 – Prepare the lens & Surroundings
Start with a clean and dry surface for the lens and surrounding painted surfaces and trim.
This will make it so that the sanding discs do not get clogged up with dirt and debris when you start sanding.
Then mask off surrounding areas to cover any painted surfaces and trim with 2 layers of masking or painters’ tape.
The clean and dry surface allows the tape to stick properly.
Step 2 – Remove major scratches
Install the backing plate adapter to your drill and centrally attach the 800-grit sanding disc.
Set the drill to 400-600 rpm then wet the lens and sanding disc with water and start sanding.
I like to use a pressurized spray bottle as it makes things easier.
- When sanding, hold the drill at a very slight angle and this will help you control the drill. If the drill is kicking a lot then you should reposition so that the motion is smooth. This depends on which way the drill is spinning [Set drill to forward drilling].
- Use even and light to moderate pressure. Do NOT use excessive pressure.
- Sand back and forth, overlapping as you move in a steady pace.
- Always keep the drill moving or excessive heat can generate on the lens causing it to burn or smear. When this happens the plastic overheated and started to melted. It can be hard to remove. So try to avoid this by following the previous tips. You can also prevent more damage by paying close attention and stopping as soon as you notice the lens smearing.
- I will show you what a mistake like this looks like and how to remove it later in the post so check for that as well. Click here to go now.
- Throughout the process, regularly spray water to clean the lens and sanding disc of debris
After sanding the entire surface, rinse and wipe the lens dry to inspect. When you have an even haze it is time to move to the next step. Otherwise, repeat this wet sanding process with the 800-grit sanding disc.
Step 3 – Reduce the haze
Remove the 800-grit sanding disc and centrally attach the 1500-grit sanding disc.
Set the drill to 400-600 rpm.
Wet the lens and disc and start sanding using the same procedure as from Step 2. Make sure to follow all the tips from step 2 as well.
Step 4 – Prep for Polish
After sanding the entire surface, it should look clearer than the previous step. If everything is even then it is time to move to the next step. Otherwise, repeat this dry sanding step.
During any of the sanding steps, if you have areas that don’t seem to be improving then you might have to move back to previous sanding steps and work your way back up the steps.
Up next… Step 5 – Polish
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We purchased these products ourselves and are not sponsored by anyone.
Step 5 - Polish
Remove the 3000-grit finishing disc and centrally attach the PowerBall foam polishing tool.
Set the drill to 1300-1700 rpm.
Apply a nickle-sized amount of plastic polish to the center of the ball and spread on the lens evenly.
Then polish using moderate pressure but make sure to keep the drill moving back and forth, overlapping at all times.
Add more polish as needed and repeat as needed.
Here’s the end result. As you can see, it made a big difference for these headlights.
If you want, you can also add an additional step to coat your newly restored headlights with a UV blocking clear coat or headlight protectant to prolong the restored headlights.
Repairing – Light smears
As promised, let’s look at what happened when I created some smearing of the plastic during the sanding process using the 3000-grit foam disc. Luckily, the damage was only minor as I did not let too much heat to build up or continue to create deeper smears. This can happen, for example, by applying too much pressure or sanding in one place for too long.
All I had to do was repeat the previous sanding step with the 1500-grit sanding disc to remove the smears, then run through all the remaining steps again. I also used the center of the 3000-grit pad instead of the edges by not angling the pad on the lens as much.
Note that if the smear was bigger, I would have had to start from the first sanding step. I did not have to do that and as you can see, this was easily fixed.
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