Polishing Headlights How To Guide: Plastic Lens, Sandpaper & Toothpaste And Headlight Restoration

Have you ever wondered why your headlights are not as bright as they once were? When driving along unlit country roads, do you need to slow down considerably because you cannot see all that far in front of you? If both your high beams and low beams function properly the problem may lie with the headlight covers, as they might be fogged over. Fortunately for you polishing headlights is very quick and easy, and you can even do it yourself without having to rely on professional services.

A Quick History of Headlights

A couple of decades back, car headlights were made of clear glass that easily got chipped or shattered when hit by a pebble or by a rock kicked up by the vehicle in front of you. These kinds of accidents are quite commonplace so the glass headlights got replaced with clear polycarbonate plastic. Plastic headlights are tougher than glass; it is able to withstand impacts that would make glass headlights crack, which is why by the 1990’s all car headlights are made from durable polycarbonate.

But even though polycarbonate plastic is a whole lot tougher than glass, after a few years of use the lens will start to blur significantly. Constant exposure to debris in the wind will result in the plastic getting sort of a mildly sandblasted; the headlights will also get minute, yet very noticeable scratches. Fortunately, if the headlights are not cracked or heavily damaged in any way it can still be restored easily.

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Polishing Headlights on a Budget

Fogged over headlights can be quite dangerous for any driver, as there is an unspeakable amount of risk when you drive around in a car that has poor headlights. If your headlights do not let you see as far ahead as you might like, you may not react quickly enough when you see something in the road in front of you.

By polishing headlights you can restore the clarity and brightness of your car’s headlights; almost like it is still brand-new. Polishing plastic headlights is quite simple and there is a couple of ways that you can go about it – you can use the services of a professional headlight restoration service, buy and use a commercial headlight cleaning and polishing kit, or you can save a lot of money and just do it yourself using simple tools and materials you can find in any hardware store.

3 Easy Steps on How to Polish Headlights

Most people would choose the last option, and if you are included in that group then here are the simple steps on how to polish headlights like a professional:

Step 1 – Clean and mask off the area around the lights

Before you go ahead and start any headlight cleaning you need to prepare the surface and make sure that it is clean. Yes, you will need to do more than just clean the headlights to make them shine brightly again. Thoroughly scrub the headlights and make sure that you get rid of any dust particles and dirt on the lenses.

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After cleaning you should mask off the edges of the hood and fender that surrounds the headlights to avoid scratching them, it is also a good idea to apply automotive wax in the areas near the headlights so that it is protected; if ever a bit of rubbing compound gets on the metal parts it will just wash right off without doing too much damage. Once you have prepared the area you can start working on it.

Step 2 – Wet Sand the Headlights

If your headlights are not that badly fogged over, you can just directly use a simple rubbing compound and thoroughly scrub the lens until it is clear once again. But for severe damage you will need to use a couple of sheets of fine grit sand paper of gradually decreasing grit size. When polishing headlights, sandpaper of 1000 grit is the best one to start out with since it is just rough enough to grind off a small part on the surface.

Dip the sand paper in water and proceed to scrub the surface of the lens, use a steady amount of pressure to avoid gouging out the lens with the paper. Keep the surface wet and dip the sandpaper in water to avoid it from getting clogged, continue scrubbing until you have covered every square inch of the headlights. Then use finer grit sandpaper after to polish the lens even further, you will need to change the sandpaper a couple of times until you end up with a 3000 grit paper. Decreasing the grit size of the sandpaper will make sure that the scratches left behind will be smoothed out and polished gradually.

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Step 3 – Use Rubbing Compound to Finish the Job

After scrubbing the headlights with sandpaper you will notice that there are still some dips and pinholes in the lens, there will also be some small scratches left by the sandpaper. The next and final step in polishing plastic headlights is to apply liberal amounts of rubbing compound.

You may have heard that you can achieve the same effect if you polish headlights with toothpaste, but it is definitely not true and you may just damage the polished surface of the headlights that you have just painstakingly sanded down; just use rubbing compound.

Rubbing compound contains miniscule abrasive particles that will polish the lens to a smooth finish. To use just put a liberal amount on a rag and then polish the lens using a steady circular motion. After a few minutes of polishing you will find that your headlights will be clearer and shine brighter like it just came out of the dealership.

Now you do not need to fear driving along those long and dark country roads, now that you know how to polish headlights like a professional you will now be able to see everything that is right in front of your car. You do not need to spend a lot just to get the shine back in your headlights; with just a couple of dollars you will be able to do an incredible job polishing headlights.

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