A few high-quality headlight restoration products are available on the market, and each has its pros and cons. When choosing the best headlight cleaner for your car, you’ll want to consider a few factors.
Why Do Headlights Get Cloudy?
The cloudiness that appears in plastic headlight lenses comes from exposure to the elements. While plastic lenses last longer than the glass headlights that used to come in vehicles, the downside is that continued exposure to the sun’s UV rays causes oxidation and clouding. Manufacturers put a clear coat on the headlights to protect them from UV rays, but this breaks down and becomes less effective over time.
If your headlights are cloudy, you may simply need to wipe them down with a lens-clarifying compound. However, you may need a heavy-duty headlight restoration kit for more severe issues.
Few headlight restoration kits cost more than $30. However, you may want to purchase an orbital sander if you don’t already own one (though sanding can be done by hand if necessary). You can also pay to have a professional restore your headlights for you. Even the most expensive of these options will be cheaper than buying new headlights.
When we asked Robert Harper, Director of Product Development and Tech Support at Ziebart International, at what point a person should restore their own headlights, hire a pro, or simply buy new lenses, he advised that restoration is often the cheaper option.
“You’d be really surprised, especially at how expensive [a] new car’s headlight lenses are. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars. So it’s always, always cheaper – whether you do it yourself or have somebody else do it – to restore them.”
This calculation may change depending on your vehicle and the extent of headlight hazing. Newer vehicles (manufactured within the past three to five years) may be especially pricey.
Single Product Vs. Full Kit
Depending on your level of experience with DIY automotive projects, you may only need a bottle of polish to restore your headlights if you already have items such as microfiber applicator cloths or sandpaper readily available. If not, you’ll likely want to purchase a full headlight lens restorer kit.
Time And Labor Commitment
Restoring your headlights can be fairly difficult, and you may have to repeat the cleaning process a few times to get your desired results. Using a drill attachment can speed up the process, but you may have trouble cleaning hard-to-reach areas such as corners. At any rate, you should probably block off a few hours for restoring your headlights.
Some products do a great job of restoring headlights from severe discoloration, but the main cause of discoloration is UV rays from the sun. If you don’t buy a product that offers a strong headlight coating, you could end up repeating the process in a few months.
Tips For Headlight Restoration
After you’ve chosen the best headlight restoration kit for you, it’s time to begin the real work. You should consider a number of things before you start taking sandpaper and chemicals to the front of your car. Here are a few tips for avoiding vehicle damage and making the most out of your headlight restoration:
- Wash the car beforehand: While easy to overlook, this is an important step since you want to avoid sanding any grime or debris into your headlights. Use a high-quality car wash soap and wipe it with a good car-drying towel before working on your headlamps.
- Protect the area around your headlights: This will ensure you don’t damage your frame when sanding or applying chemicals. Some of the materials in headlight restoration kits can damage paint, so you’ll want to line any surrounding areas with masking tape.
- Protect yourself: Cleaning solutions can be harsh on the skin and cause eye irritation, so wear gloves and protective eyewear as directed.
- Follow the directions: You’ll be working with materials that have the potential to damage a headlight lens if not used properly, so follow the product’s directions carefully.
- Pay attention to sanding: Be sure you know the difference between wet sanding and dry sanding. Wet sanding works by water lubricating the surface of an object, and it removes tiny particles that could clog dry sandpaper or create deep scratches.